Eline Boerma is a Dutch painting and installation artist whose works have been exhibited in multiple art galleries in The Netherlands and will be part of the upcoming exhibition ‘IN MOTION’ at
Enari Gallery, opening on November 19th. Last week I visited Eline in her new studio in
the outskirts of Amsterdam, where she’s currently doing a one-year residence
that was granted to her by the Dooyewaard Foundation.
by Carolina Castilho
For those who don’t know you: who are you and how did you become an artist?
I just graduated from HKU, in Fine Art, and before that I had always painted and drawn but had never really thought of it as a career choice. I studied Russian for one month, and then I decided that it was not for me and started looking at art academies. I think it was important for me to go to art school because it freed me from a lot of things, as in it made me explore mediums that at first I didn’t necessarily want to. I think it really expands your idea of what art is, and you get so many references of what is being done in contemporary art and are encouraged to go to shows and galleries and see as much of it as you can. You also get a lot of important critical conversations with teachers and classmates. For example, I had never really thought about making installations, and now I make light installations. I probably wouldn’t have started doing that if I hadn’t gone to art school, also because of all of the materials available there. Now I’m in the Dooyenwaard studio, it’s a one year residence, and it’s really nice to have this space.
How different is the process between creating a painting or creating an installation?
For me it’s almost like a completely different world. With light installations, it is a much longer process, it’s more conceptual. I first think about what the experience will be like, what it’s based upon, and then I start experimenting in different ways. I use different programs like TouchDesigner, and then I try out all kinds of things that I think could work somehow. Then I have to try it out in a room with a beamer and see, “okay, does this work? Should I add something like mist, to project upon?” So it’s definitely a longer process. And sometimes it’s exactly as I thought it would be, but a lot of times it also just changes with the process.
With painting, it really happens on the canvas, each painting is kind of a snapshot of a moment. And they’re made fairly quickly, for me it’s really about the physicality as well. And of course, it’s a 2D surface, but I also try to create an experience with the painting as well, to create depth so you can sort of dive into it as a viewer. So, I guess it’s really different, but at the same time they share that element of being about an experience. And because I usually work with big canvases, it’s almost like you can fit inside them, as the viewer.
Do you paint directly on the canvas or do you sketch first?
Sometimes I sketch a little at first to get looser or work on some smaller works, since I’m always working on different paintings at the same time and I rotate between them. But mostly I don’t have an exact idea in mind, or an exact sketch of what I am going to make. It’s more like, maybe I have some things in mind, maybe some things I’ve tried on other canvases before and that I want to explore further. It’s always a process.
The titles of your artworks come from music. Other than that, are there other ways in which music influences your art?
Even though I don’t use music in the title of my paintings so much anymore, it is still really important. I always listen to music when I’m working to really enhance the physicality and the movement on the painting as well. Also I want the viewer to experience the painting, just like music. So if you could go to concerts to experience music, I want you to look at a painting fully for the color, the composition, the movements, the lines.
Any particular kind of music you like to listen to while you paint?
It really depends, classical, drum & bass, techno, it varies.
What other things do you look for for inspiration?
Well, my work is kind of on the border between abstraction and using elements of nature, so nature is a big influence on my work. And sometimes poetry, I’ll keep some lines or verses in my head when I’m painting. I think music, nature, poetry — it’s all close to painting, because more than telling a story it’s really about an experience—.
And what influence do you think art can have on people, whether they’re artists or not?
I think art can make you think differently about the world, or appreciate the world in a different way. Same as music, sometimes you really resonate with a certain art piece or with a certain song. And you think like, damn.
What would you say a typical day in your studio looks like for you?
Um, yeah, there’s not really a typical day, some days are really about preparation, stretching the canvases, things like that. And some days I’m like “Okay, now I’ve got everything in order”, and then I start working and spend the whole day painting. I also like to have breaks and see what I’ve done, so I take breaks and then I go again, and that’s the whole day.
So you’ve been here for a month. Did you have a studio before that? And how important is it for you, and in your art, to have a studio space?
Well at school we always had a studio, and then during this summer I was a bit stressed about exhibitions and wondering if I had enough work, so then I also got a studio in Utrecht. For me it’s really important, without a studio I can’t really work. If you make smaller paintings, maybe you could do it in your house, or if you have a really big house then I guess everything is possible. But with big canvases, the studio space is really important for me. I need it to experiment and to work on my projects. It’s like an ongoing process of research, visual research, and the space is very important.
What things make you feel at home in your studio?
For me I’m living here right now as well, so my bedroom is upstairs. So it’s been interesting, because before I had always had a separate place and now it’s all in one space, but I kind of enjoy being immersed in my paintings and in art all the time. You get a lot of time to reflect on your work, and even while you’re doing other things you look at the painting and you think, “Oh, maybe I could try something like this?”. I think having all of the materials around, this couch to sit on and reflect on things, all the paintings, older paintings that I’ve finished, … all of those things make me feel at home.
What is your favorite object or corner in this space?
That’s a hard one… I really like this side, with the window, where I have all of my paintings, and also this wall where I hang the paintings I’m working on, especially because it’s so high and the light is great.
If you could visit any artist’s studio (living or not), who would you choose?
I would choose Joan Mitchell, one of the abstract expressionists, because I really like one painting of hers in particular, La Vie en Rose. It’s made of four panels, and I love the emptiness but also the physicality, the movement, the energy, and it’s sort of a melancholic painting. Yeah, I really like her work.
Do you feel like there is a difference between seeing an artist’s work in a museum versus seeing it in their studio?
Yes, definitely. Yeah, I mean, the context where art is shown is really important, and it can add a lot to a work or it can detract a lot. Well, it depends on the work, of course, and what works best. But for most paintings, the white cube environment with no distractions, nice lighting, white walls, works the best I think. And also not having too many paintings next to each other, because that can be distracting.
I think when visiting a studio you learn a lot about the process, you see the work when it’s not finished yet. Or maybe it is finished. They say the artwork is never finished until it leaves the studio, but I don’t know, it’s not like that for me. But yeah, seeing all the works together in the studio makes it less precious, more down to earth. And also with the sketches or with the other works, it can add to it, I think.
So when do you know when a painting is finished?
It’s more of a feeling. So mostly it’s either when I don’t know what I could add or it could be that it just feels finished. It usually takes a few days for me to realize that “okay, now it’s really done”. So I have to just put it somewhere, don’t touch it and leave it for a few days, and then I can decide if it’s done or if it still needs something. Mostly if I keep looking at it and I get the feeling that the painting can breathe, then it’s mostly done.
What are you currently working on?
Well, for me it’s always an ongoing process. But I’m working on a series between abstraction and elements of nature. And there’s always the visual research. So I’m looking at composition with colors, what looks good next to each other, and it’s just an ongoing thing.
Within your own work, do you have any favorite pieces?
It changes. Right now I like this one the most, that’s why I hang it. And I like it because of the emptiness and the disappearing and appearing. And also the bodily movements, the physicality. So now this one is the one I like the most, but it changes during the day.
Finally, what advice would you give to emerging artists?
I think if you want to, it’s always good to go to art school, because you’re pushed in so many ways. Also, I think it’s helpful to have a lot of critical conversations about your work, with people that inspire you or are maybe a little bit further in their career. And it’s good to see a lot, see what is happening in contemporary art right now, to go to a lot of exhibitions, and yeah, especially to just keep working.