Interview: Ellen Grael | ITSLIQUID

Interview: Ellen Grael

Interviews | February 8, 2018 |

Interview: Ellen GraelImage courtesy of Ellen Grael

Interview: Ellen Grael

Luca Curci talks with Ellen Grael during VISIONS of ANIMA MUNDI Festival in Venice.

Ellen Grael started drawing at a very early age. When she was eight years old, she made her first attempt in serious model drawing. In her teens she followed private classes with a number of different artists, they gave lessons in all kinds of techniques like oil-painting, landscape-drawing and most important the washed ink technique. When she was seventeen, she visited Italy for the first time, admiring the work of Renaissance artists like Michelangelo, Botticelli, del Sarto and many other famous artists. Then a new world opens her artistic eye and it was of great influence for her career. At eighteen she went to the Academy of Art at Groningen, a good old classical academy where she learned for instance making her own oilpaints, acrylic and inks.


Interview: Ellen GraelImage courtesy of Ellen Grael


Four years she ran a gallery, and having her studio in the backhouse, on the Prinsencanal in Amsterdam. Beside the organisation of a lot of exhibitions of her drawings she learned to give directions to other artist and gave them the opportunity to show there art works in her beautifull art gallery. One of her frequent visitors was a journalist of an art magazine. Each time they discussed her drawings he commented that they were Romantic. Unconsciously, she took “Romantic” to mean “sentimental” – the gipsy girl with tearful eyes. The comments haven’t left her, and she now realize, loving nature, that she have been drawing in the wake of Romanticism as an art movement….quit normal and having an average appreciation level in history for the Italiën art lovers.

Luca Curci – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the festival or as a part of preexisting works?

Ellen Grael – This was a part of preexisting works in the series of ‘Sounds of Nature’, drawings on paper.


Interview: Ellen Grael
Image courtesy of Ellen Grael


L.C. – Please tell me what are you working at right now…

E.G. – The technique I am working with is mixed media on paper, named Pastel paintings: washed ink with pastel and acrylic paint. There are three series I am working with; Landscapes, Sounds of Nature and Being an Artist. In my new series of “Sounds of Nature’, natural sound is translated on paper into lines that suggets movements, as well as into areas of colour. I have the feeling that the realm of plants produces imperceptible specific sounds that override those of the human world and I hope that they are ultimately more persistent. About ‘Being an Artist,’at this moment I have some thoughts and ideas about the history of the Venetian Doges. Because, for instance, I like the beautifull bright red colour of there clothing in acient painted portraits. And I just finished a drawing between these two themes ( sounds of nature and being an artist ) named; ‘Good Nature’.


Interview: Ellen GraelImage courtesy of Ellen Grael


L.C. – What is art for you?

E.G. – Everything, breathing it in and breathing it out. Born as a very sensitive child being afraid of all kinds of strong elements of nature, like the depth of waters, darkness and heights trying to understand through making art. In general art gives richness to the mind, makes it wider and perhaps more generous.


Interview: Ellen Grael
Image courtesy of Ellen Grael


L.C. – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?

E.G. – I started drawing at an early age and my first serious modeldrawings were when I was eight years old. My father gave me a lot of stimulans and when I was eleven he gave me some artbooks; Michelangelo, a book about Pop- Art, Miro and Kadinsky. I still have them.In my teens I followed private classes with a number of different artists. When I was seventeen, I visited Italy for the first time, admiring the work of Renaissance artists like Michelangelo, Botticelli, del Sarto and many others. This early art study-tour was of great influence. I was raised in boring Dutch villages and the beauty of art and architecture of Rome, Milaan and Florence was overwhelming to me. It gave a feeling of coming home. A natural beauty nearly every where arround. There are more art streams that has a great influence in my development like the compositional form in the Renaissance where the human individual is centrally placed in a landscape, this creates a sense of peace that I like very much and see mirrored in my work. Beside the significant importance of the Japanese wash ink technique with masters like Sesshu Toyo and Hasegawa Tohaku, I have a great affinity with artists in the 18th century like the Italien famous female Italien pastelpainter Rosalba Carriera and the French pastel artist Quentin de la Tour.


Interview: Ellen GraelImage courtesy of Ellen Grael


L.C. – What role does the artist have in society? And the art?

E.G. – Live of an Artist is hard. I depict the artist as an explorer eager to discover unknown territories and traverse the oceans. In the creative artistic mind destinations are dark, captivating and new. The road that leads to them, from creative design to the end product, is strewn with difficulties: loneliness, concentration, depth, perseverance. Every artist who goes through a creative process is familiar with them. An artist is an explorer. But also an alchemist and an inventor. It’s invention at last brings out a new creative world.


Interview: Ellen Grael
Image courtesy of Ellen Grael


L.C. – What is your creative process like?

E.G. – In the same way as artists in the wake of Romanticism, I have a great affinity with nature. The inspiration for my landscapes is close to home: the beautiful dunescapes that border the Dutch coastline and the many natural flowers in my neighbourhood, by the wayside, along canals, in gardens and in public parks. I make snapshots and use those to create a personal impression of this natural beauty, not a realistic image. For example, I like the photographic, interesting, abstract effects of the wind when it moves branches and stalks.
My drawings are a mix of Eastern and Western techniques that yield picturesque effects. Ink wash drawing is originally from China, from where it spread to Japan. I start with a charcoal background drawing on a piece of chucked paper, to which I add a base layer of washed ink. In this layer, while it is still wet, I make scratchings in some places, simply by using my nails. In some places, I carefully dry some of the ink by pressing tissues against the surface. All this must be done comparatively quickly, before the ink has dried, to achieve dashes and line patterns that suggest movement. To some works, I add a thin layer of white acryl paint. As a last phase, I apply pastel.


Interview: Ellen Grael
Image courtesy of Ellen Grael


This technique features great density of colour because it uses pure pigments. In summary, the means I choose are minimal: ink, water, chalk. Except for the base layers, for which I use brushes, I draw as directly as possible with my hands, especially when I apply the last pastel layers where I must use my fingers to achieve a delicate blend of colours. The combination of this technique and the prepared background results in strong-bodied, colourful pastels with a picturesque effect. Pastels keep their colours perfectly because they are made with pure pigments and very little binding agent. Even in a hundred years’ time the blue, yellow and red colours will continue to have the same radiating brilliance. I like that.
As a rule I make very few preliminary studies because they would lessen the spontaneity of the moment. But I do actively use the many photos that I take myself of natural subjects and human models. All the details are stored in my mind before I get to work. Lines and amorphous shapes stimulate my imagination as they appear. Since my time at art school, my affinity is with paper – the specific characteristics of paper I cannot translate directly to other materials such as linen.


Interview: Ellen GraelImage courtesy of Ellen Grael


L.C. – What do you think about It’s LIQUID Platform?

E.G. – I like your concept about Liquidity and your philosophy very much. And giving artists a platform to show there work to a large number of artlovers. In my pastelpaintings I see the concept of Anima- Mundi projected in my series of ‘Sounds of Nature’ and Body Language in ‘Being an Artist’.

L.C. – What do you think about our organization of the event?

E.G. – It was my first experience with the art event Anima- Mundi / Visions at the pallazo Ca’Zanardi with three of my pastelpaintings but physically during this event I wasn’t personally present. Therefore at this moment it’s difficult to give a thorough reaction of this specific question.
I have the intention to visit Venice soon to get aquinted with the space, light and atmosphere of the new gallery The Room and the beautifull Palazzo’s.

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