Astrid Vlasman – NL – Painting
I love the vibrancy of paper; of the function it has had as a vegetable bag, test, envelope, shopping bag or wrapping paper. With this material that I come across every day; I stick my canvases. I cherish the volatility of old paper and appreciate it as an expression: it takes on a new shape because of me. For me, paper in my hands means freedom, an endless space full of possibilities. It’s material I experimented with playfully as a toddler. This creates work in which people and their environment are central. Often it is women in uncomfortable situations or attitudes, who look lost and dreamily into the world at an unwatched moment. I make the uncertainties and vulnerability of man visible. Due to the layering of the paper, you get into the skin of the subject. In the interiors I make you can still see the traces that people have left behind, a glass on the table, a book on the floor. They are out of the picture themselves. They are abandoned spaces. Rooms and kitchens where it look like someone else was present.
Astrid Vlasman is a visual artist and lives and works in Leiden, the Netherlands. She studied at the Vrije Academie in The Hague. For years she has been working on large collages with used paper and mixed media. In recent years she has regularly worked as an artist in residence abroad. She also exhibits there. Last year she won the New Collection Prize through Malamegi in Venice. Furthermore, she has won the audience award at the “limits of freedom” exhibition in Leiden. Interviews have also been published in newspapers and a column by her about her work and travels in an artists’ magazine. Her work has been included in several private collections. In recent years she has exhibited her work in the west of the Netherlands. She also had exhibitions in Hungary, Belgrade and Venice last year.
! Missing children
Last weeks I worked here in this school building and I was there all alone. Although it has been a long time since children walked and received education in this building, I missed the children. I could imagine what it was like. The crowds, the chatter, the running in the schoolyard. Somehow I felt that the building was still supported by everything that happened in the past. There is also a lot of material in the school that refers to this. What I found, and which immediately inspired me, was the education material about fire prevention. The illustrations refer to another time and have a real Eastern European feel. I took two figures from the series and worked them out on paper. I used paper that I found in the school. I cut the shapes to match the original figure on the print as much as possible. So from the beginning I had the children around me every day.
2 The communitycenter
During my introduction to the village, I also ended up in the community center. I was surprised at the multifunctionality of the building. There is everything a community can bring together; a meeting place, a library, theater and museum. Great to come across that in a village and that it is being put to such good use. It’s great that even the children can get their books here in the long summer. In order to make my connection with the people in the village, I started to copy it from paper with the intention of having it hung here, in the community center. That in this way I also added something to the community here, shows my connection and that my arrival has not been invisible. I hope that the work can hang here for years to come and that the villagers realize how important such a building is. During the event, I bring my community building to the actual community building and officially hand .
During my time here in Gorna LIpnitsa I drank bottled water daily. Bottles of water were everywhere in the house and at the school. Because of the heat, the school’s water pipe that needed repair, the quality of the water here, the water bottles were important to me. As a change from the precise work at the community center, I started making paper water bottles. In a loose way, by tearing and pasting, I tried to shape something as ordinary and everyday as a water bottle and give it an atmosphere. In total I made eighteen bottles. That’s more than I’ve used myself!
4 Making a woman
While exploring the school I came across a folder with black and white portraits of important people in the history of Bulgaria or socialism (I think). In any case, I noticed that there are many old portraits on the wall in the school but also in the community center that refer to the past and history. This is how history is kept alive. Now these are all men. I assume that the women also did important things in the past, but that is not visible on the walls. The sight of the folder with black and white photos of serious, sometimes stern-looking men that I personally don’t know and of whom I don’t know what important things they have done, made me think what it would be like if these were all women. What does this mean for the image? So I decided to turn those men into a woman. I used charcoal for this. It was not easy to soften and round the hard features and jawline. It was an interesting search for the right woman behind the man for me. It also felt a bit like I was doing platic surgery on the spot. I had a lot of fun crafting. Sometimes it is also good to reflect on how things could be different.
5 Morning pages, evening moves
During my stay here I came across the book “The artist way” by Julia Cameron. As an audiobook I heard her ideas about creativity. One of those ideas for not getting blocked is writing morning pages. You get up in the morning and the first thing you do is write three pages full. It doesn’t matter with what. Among other things, it clears your head of the night. It is not the intention that you read those pages afterwards, or that someone else reads them. You just throw them away. What you write is completely pointless. I faithfully started doing that every day. nice and early outside at a table overlooking the garden. Although it is not my intention to use those pages, I have done so here. But here it’s just scribbling and it’s not about the content. I started to combine these pages with a series of dried plants I found in the school. I found this educational material to fit well with the intuitive nature of the morning pages. I used the evenings to add movement and color with watercolors. The method was the same. Without purpose, completely intuitive, sometimes sitting half in the dark, I just did what came into my mind. I ran my hand over the paper. It was doodle, scribbling and letting colors flow and move. This is how this work came into being and for me the day was connected with a morning ritual and an evening ritual