We are all a little faulty
interview marieke warmelink by Çigdem Asatekin, Grizine.
Last week we were at Mixer, interviewing the first guest of the ArtLab: Marieke Warmelink. For those who wonder what on earth that ArtLab is, Mixer explains is through: ‘’ArtLab offers this usually-unseen aspect of an artist’s production process to a constantly rotating audience, offering them the opportunity to interact with the guest artist, and vice-versa.’’
If you want to know more, you can reach more info on this project here. We spoke to her about her beautiful artworks, working process and open studio, and had a very good time. Don’t miss her! In case you do, here’s something you can read:
First question is about the process. So how did you end up here? What made you say yes to this kind of offer?
It all started when I was in Maumau, August – September 2012. I got to know people through the openings at that period, I also met Mehmet (Kahraman). We kept in touch and he invited me here to Mixer. He just started to work here and he knew my working methods, because at Maumau I was working with painting but also a lot with audience participation, like performances, a combination of media. Mehmet thought it was a good idea to cooperate with Mixer that they’re searching for the same thing, to involve the audience with the creation process, to have this combination. I think that’s why they were happy to host me and I was happy to have this opportunity work within this project. As long as I can work and have this process, I am happy.
Have you ever experienced something like this before? Creating before the audience and letting them see see working process?
I never had it so much focused on. I had some previous projects like this. For example, I took part in a project with the collaboration of four other artists. We had this whole space for ourselves and we were building the exhibition while we were still working. That was kind of a similar idea. The idea was to have this involvement with people coming in, entering. I think there were less people coming in because they thought we were still building up the show. The difference of working here is that there are works in the gallery and there is my work as well; so it’s more focused, more specific. And in that sense, it’s also new of course.
And you like the process, I think?
I think the process in my work becomes more and more important, so I want to make that visible in my final result. Either it means that my process becomes a fundamental for my final presentation or the work process actually is my final presentation. So, at the moment I’m just doing paintings but next week a friend from Holland is coming, she’s a coordinator, curator and founder of an artist initiative. And she’s gonna help me with the second phase of the project: The public part of it where I’m gonna form the mobile walls to be painted and turn them into a set where the people who are gonna visit will take part in my artwork – almost take a role on my painting, but this will become three dimensional. More like live performers. That’s the idea. Either from that material that’s going to be documented on video or photos will become an artwork within itself or I can decide that the participation was the real work. Or maybe it’s a video that’s gonna turn into the work. But my ultimate goal is to have all the media coming together. That’s the challenge- always to have the right balance of the media.
What is the main difference between you doing all these paintings on your personal studio and doing it here in Mixer, with viewers around?
At some point in my work process here, I really invite people to participate. But at the moment I really work on my paintings, I am quite focused and I don’t want any involvement apart from someone saying that it’s great. But no one comes up to me and say ‘‘Don’t you think you should make that red stripe yellow?’’ or something.
That’s what I was really wondering!
At the beginning of my work process I really want it to be private. But then the second phase is really about inviting people and giving them conducted roles. Within that role, they are free to have opinions, in that sense I create a setting that they can actually propose an opinion.
Is there anything really weird that someone ever told you while working here?
No, actually not… Unless I really invite them to do it, they don’t feel that they are allowed to say something I think. They don’t want to disturb me. I also think that maybe it’s interesting to see how the producing process works, looking at it. You know, there’s always this sort of myth about the artists’ studio and people always wonder what does an artist do in the studio, how it works. So yes, people see that development of my work. In that sense I open up my work process.
Exactly. I think it’s really private and personal, and very courageous.
Sure. Especially in the beginning, as an artist, you’re not sure about your idea, it’s still transforming, still changing. But my process starts maybe two months before, when I’m at home and reading newspapers. I think now people can have a look into my producing process, but the process really starts in your head. It can even grow when you’re walking on the street, making a scribble at home in the middle of the night. So still, the viewer can not see everything out of it. In that sense I’m quite set, I know my working routine, did my pre-work, and here I’m doing the producing part.
How would you describe your works to someone who doesn’t know you at all?
Some people look at art from a really old-fashioned way, asking ‘’Do you paint abstract or figurative?’’ And if you think in those two specific techniques I always say that I paint figurative. I think most important thing about my art is my subject. I’m reacting on the social-political situation in the surrounding and I deal with authority, even kind of struggle with authority. It could be either on a personal level, local level or a global level. That’s my subject. So in my opinion people already have an idea of the main importance. Style-wise, I’m a figurative painter but I don’t paint realistic. One of my painting methods is that I paint upside down, 180 degrees. By which I can get rid of my ratio of looking at a subject, the way it should look. And that’s actually something that I’d like the viewer to do: To be able to get the feeling, to switch this kind of thinking mode and the relation between the thoughts and the feelings. Somethings I paint are not probably physically nor realistically right; but I like this kind of ‘‘goofy’’ and naive sort of positions. Then they get more human, more vulnerable. It almost shows the mistakes of people. We’re all a little bit faulty, you know? I’m looking for that in my work. I also think my work is quite colorful, at least I try to break more serious subjects with a sense of irony, or maybe by simplifying things. I often use some collages to work with, these collages are my starting point. They are really flat, so I like this kind of cutout feeling and that’s also something that you see in all my works.
(We start looking at her works from her website. You can find all of them right here. When I point my favorite one, we start to talk about that.)
I started with this painting. It’s kind of a series that started two years ago. I started with painting a lot of people from the military. It was the time when all the revolutions started in the Middle East, fights with military were also happening. The military, at least the level of authority was trying to hold on to their power, but they were also loosing power at the same time. So it was almost like new ways of governing, dealing from above were arising. Something had to come up but nobody really knew how. They’re really searching but the old structures are falling apart. So I think in my work, I deal a lot with global patterns and structures. We all feel that something is changing and everybody’s searching for new alternative realities but nobody really knows yet what it is. I think in my work I’m searching for this alternative realities, but even I don’t have the right and immediate answer for it. I use a lot of patterns, the stripes and also now the triangles. They symbolize the patterns that we try to hold on to, or trying to let go of. The triangle for me is also a symbol of male and the female energy. And I think in the world’s new order, what we see changing now is this male dominance. It is changing to more female power, more rising. You really see that struggle at the moment. It’s not there yet, but it’s the beginning.
(We switch to another painting.)
This one: here, you see a woman with a man upside down. This is kind of the beginning of the process I am talking about, on a more personal level between the man and woman. The power or the struggle with this role-play. On a more global level it’s about how we deal with our freedom, and here it’s still centered, unfree and covered. In this painting, the woman is already standing up and she’s bigger than the man, she’s already making a movement towards the viewer.
How do you decide on a theme? Does it come first or after you produce your artworks?
I think it’s both. First, I research a lot about the situation, news or specific themes I’m interested in. But I have my very specific theme that I’m already interested in; so whatever I will read will be close to that. But it depends on where I am or which situation or moment I am in. For example, I make collages mostly from local newspapers. Later when I look at my collages, at some point I decide whether it suits me or not, or that I can fit that into this moment here and now. But when I start painting, I still can be unhappy with it. So, when the painting process starts, things come up and I let it go. I don’t control much and I don’t try to make a rational decisions about them, it’s just really something more from the inside. In the end I have, depending on the time period, a series of paintings or other works that will form the exhibition.
I am really excited to see the end!
Last question is about social media. Do you think it’s effective? Do you use it personally or professionally?
I use Tumblr as a portfolio. And I find Facebook the easiest way to update people of what I am doing and share information, or invite people to the events. When I need something, it’s efficient too. For example, I need a man’s suit for a performance, I just write it down and most of the times I always get what I wanted. It’s so easy. In that sense I find it really handy. It really helped me to make my platform bigger also. It is a huge network. Maybe in that sense LinkedIn is also useful but I don’t use that actively. And Mixer is really great with their PR. So through them it also started to have its own life. These articles on magazines and all. It’s the best way to get visibility.
(At this point Serhat from Mixer comes along and asks if people come and ask questions to Marieke.)
Marieke: She just asked the same thing!
Serhat: A random visitor just walking by, comes to Mixer, just to check out the artLab?
Marieke: I don’t know because I’m normally quite focused. I don’t ask them ‘‘did you come for me?’’
After some personal information transfer and chit chat about Amsterdam, we are good to go. I strongly recommend you all to visit and see Marieke Warmelink’s amazing paintings. And to be part of her working process, don’t you miss Shared Voices on 23rd! Here’s all the information you need. I should mention that this project is made in collaboration with Manzara Perspectives. She will be around at the artLab till the March 30th, you might want to grab your coat now.