Interview: Ellen Grael
Luca Curci talks with Ellen Grael during FUTURE LANDSCAPES, 3rd Appointment of BORDERS ART FAIR 2021, at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
“I am a Dutch artist living and working in Amsterdam. My artistic career is influenced by the many famous Italian, French, and Japanese art masters. I started drawing at a very early age. When I was eight years old, I made my first attempts at serious model drawing. In my teens I 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 I was seventeen, I went on a study trip to Italy for the first time visiting Rome, Florence, and Milan, admiring the artworks of Renaissance artists like Michelangelo, Botticelli, del Sarto, and other famous artists. I was impressed by the overwhelming beauty and a new world opens my artistic eye and it was of a great influence on my techniques, career, and my inner world of experiences. Inspired by this master’s I finished art school with myself invented technique on paper, a mix of washed ink, charcoal, and pastels. A technique with a picturesque effect I’m still using today. Since my time at Art-school, my affinity is with paper because of the specific characteristics of paper I cannot translate to other materials such as linen. Another strong influence on my artworks is the well-known 18th-century pastel masters like the Italian Rosalba Carrièra and the French Maurice Quentin de la Tour. And famous Japanese Ink wash masters from the late 15th-century like Toyo Sesshu and Hasegawa Tõhaku continue to impress me. In my childhood, I made many walks with my family into the nearby woods, and later when I went to Amsterdam long walks along the seashore and the dunes. I partly owed this interest in nature to my education. Through the years my love for plants and nature grew and I recorded it on paper. Being an artist I think I’m sensitive to vibrations and influences to nature trying to capture her influences in my pastel paintings in a more atmospheric way. I participated in a small Group-show “Beauty2” by Amsterdam Art Rooms with a delicate selection of well-known artists. I received great applause for my Landscapes by the upper class of the art scene in the Netherlands. And I succeeded in having within four years positive results with connections in France, United States, and Italy. With new decisions resulting in participation through a social media campaign by ArtTour International NYC. Last few years I connected with a large interested audience through my Facebook business page Ellen Grael Art and many Art publications like the French Code L’Art, ItsLiquid Anima Mundi Art magazine, WE Contemporary 2018, the Italian publishers Russo with I Segnalati, World of Art Magazine 58, La Biennale di Venezia, Everemerging Mag, Bruxelles Art Vue etc. Furthermore, I managed to catch the attention of the Culture Sector of Unesco, World Heritage Centre in Paris with my Green Art Project ‘The waters of Venice’ series, Dutch Culture, Creative Europe desk, and the Dutch Ambassade in Rome.”
Luca Curci – What are you currently working on?
Ellen Grael – My speciality is Pastelpaintings, mixed media on paper. Besides my series ‘The waters of Venice’ about environmental issues of this ancient historical city with the subject of the rising sea – level and with the acknowledgement by UNESCO, the Culture Sector based in Paris, I’m dealing with several other subjects and never working at one only. Other series are for instance: ‘The Sounds of Nature’, ‘Being an Artist’ and Landscapes.
LC – What are your thoughts while you paint? Do you have any habits or rituals while you work?
EG – While starting working it’s trying to have the right concentration and being just in the process. And taking with me a ‘history’ of feelings, experiences and observations. A higher concentration is needed with therefore a lesser thinking and more being in the actions. But indeed, I have one rather strange habit. That concerns an old big tin pot with some spoons and forks I found, when I just finished art school, at the attic of my aunt. This pot was obviously from soldiers staying there during the second world war. Before starting a pastel painting I always need to fill up first that tin pot with water, put my material around the floor close to the paper and get my brushes absorbed…Just in fact a ritual I need to start with and a habit I can not get rid of.
LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
EG – That’s the start of a new art piece. When starting I’m nearly always in a kind of hurry and I can not get working fast enough. At first, it can be a sketch in the continuous process or some coloured areas or firm brush strokes with washed ink. Then sometimes it can take a year to wait for the right mood for the necessary details to finish the pastel painting. It’s always a challenge to stay patient and rather difficult for me to handle.
LC – What is your creative process like?
EG – My Pastelpaintings are a mix of Eastern and Western techniques that yield picturesque effects. The materials are minimal using pastels such as pure pigments, washed ink, chalk and adding sometimes a thin layer of white acryl paint. 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. This combination of techniques and the prepared background results in strong-bodied, colourful artworks with a picturesque effect. My affinity has always been with paper because of its specific characteristics I cannot translate to other materials. Pastel paintings were first mentioned in the 18e century while artists made portraits of the elite only using pastels but like paintings.
LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the festival or as a part of preexisting works?
EG – It’s part of a preexisting series, it just fit into your subject by coincidence.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
EG – Many of my artworks are close to the theme ‘Future Landscapes’ and the philosophy of ‘ITS LIQUID’ that refers to the water where life begins. Climate change will be a challenge for thinking in other directions meaning: dealing with the rising sea level, different kinds of buildings will appear and getting adjustments in landscaping. Perhaps faster than we expect. In the Netherlands, the low lands, they have been dealing over centuries with flooding managed by water control. The Dutch water- management is worldwide well known.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
EG – Yes, very lovely assistance. The presentation on the walls of the artwork is very professional and well presented.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
EG –Its Liquid is a platform for artists which gives the opportunity to show their works to a wider audience. Always artists feeling happy showing their artworks in a beautiful venue like the exhibition space ‘The Room’ or other venue and getting, therefore, a better overview which issues they are dealing with or talking about.