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Berlin art label - Iris Van Dongen

The Dutch painter, boutique founder and one third of the Kimberly Clark artist girl group on Berlin life

In her life as a Berlin artist and store owner, Dutch expat Iris van Dongen sits on the art/fashion apex, producing drawings and paintings whilst also opening a boutique shop recently in increasingly-chic trend-focused Mitte. In her practice having decided she wanted to start a band, she opted instead for a parallel creative outlet and now frequently collaborates with Ellemieke Schoenmaker and Eveline van de Griend in impulsive and high-energy girl trio 'Kimberly Clark'.

As a group, they produce videos and installations that use the languages of fashion and display and utilise designer logos and fabrics to create a dialogue, rather than a critique of contemporary culture, societal must-haves and high design. Past performances have included dressing up in as a beheaded woman and walking around a shopping arcade and pasting 'wild stickers' around Holland with poetic phrases adorning billboards for passers-by.

Dazed Digital: Why did you choose to be an artist in Berlin?
Iris Van Dongen: I lived in different cities, but since 2000, I kept coming back to Berlin. In the end I decided to stay here. It was not love at first sight, it took me a while to get used to Berlin, but in the end I realised that it fitted me best. Why? Because it is a moving city, with no definite direction yet. That fits artists - I love meeting so many people from abroad that are searching for their direction, coming here for the same reason.

DD: What's good about working as an artist in the city?
Iris Van Dongen: You can make whatever you want of Berlin, it's like a small village where you can hide, as well as a metropole. I feel free here. Also Berlin is not pretentious, it's laid back, so it's sweet... Places like Amsterdam, London or Paris are very fixed and set and 'finished', and therefore feel 'closed'. Berlin is still open for impulsive behaviour which isn't only about making 'big bucks'.

Where's the best place to eat / drink / party / see a show?
Iris Van Dongen: There are many places to go, mostly I find myself going in circles between an artist bar called Luxus in Prenzlauer Allee, Soho House - which is fun if you want a completely different feeling and mood from Berlin, and Bar 3, an artist bar at Weydingerstrasse... eating Thai food at YamYam in Alte Schonhauserstr. Or ordering food from Siam in Rykestrasse... or good sushi from Fuku in Husemannstrasse. But that is just because those places are close to where I live [Mitte/Prenzlauerberg]. There are more exciting places in Kreuzberg and Neuküœln – for example the Filmkunstbar Fitzcarraldo in Reichenberger Str. 133, or the artist bar Tannenbaum at Sonnenallee. If you want good food, but a bit more expensive, go to Chez Maurice in the Bötzowstr. 39. Shows you can see anywhere, but if you want to be updated, sign up for the Bpigs independent guide that is a artist-run communication network from my friend Despina Stokou. 

DD: How has the city inspired and changed your work?
Iris Van Dongen: It hasn't really, my work comes from my own dreamworld, which doesn't really relate to my direct surroundings.

DD: What's the best thing you've done in Berlin?
Iris Van Dongen: Meeting my Norwegian husband Martin Skauen, opening a fashion store called Isobel Gowdie in the alte Schonhauserstrasse, working with my friends as artist group Kimberly Clark...

DD: What's the best show you've been to?
Iris Van Dongen: There are sooo many shows...I like the old museums at Museum Insel, I also liked the Wunder Kammer of the collection Olbricht. The museum I enjoy most is the Deutsches Historisches Museum... the stuff in that museum is all from before 1900. They have a Dürer in there that I like.

DD: How do you fill your time?
Iris Van Dongen: Mostly with working and listening to classical music. Next to that, going out with friends to whatever places for drinks, openings or to see bands perform.

DD: Why stay?
Iris Van Dongen: Don't know where else to go...

This is a series of pieces inspired by Beck's Art Label and their recent activities in Berlin