Persona March, 25th 2021 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 308 - Carmen Schabracq

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World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 308 – Carmen Schabracq
Carmen Schabracq makes colorful paintings in which she can often be seen herself. She also likes to disguise herself, sometimes as a different person, sometimes as an animal.
I visit Carmen in her studio in an artists’ incubator next to the Lloyd Hotel. Her building used to be part of the centuries-old Lloyd building, the style is identical to the main building. Carmen: “It was the place where migrants left and immigrants arrived. This was the disinfection building. It was later squatted, people lived there.” Now they are all artists ateliers, there is a café on the ground floor.

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The atelier is right up in the attic. It is completely full of stuff. Various masks and paintings hang on the wall. A rescue swimming doll hangs over a beam – “I used it at an exhibition in Zeeland.” A major painting is in the making. A face of a lady with a lot of frizzy hair. “It is part of a new series I’m working on: ‘Heroines’. I portray strong women in my circle just a little larger than life-size and give each of them their own super strength.”

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She partly made the masks herself, partly collected them. From faraway places, such as Bali, Cambodia, Mexico. The mask is important to her, even her main theme, she says. “I’ve been making them for a long time. It is an interesting subject that can be found all over the world, in all cultures. It is an art form that can take many guises. It goes back a long way, even to the time before the major religions. It has to do with dealing with life and death. ”


A mask is something universally human. “People recognize each other by their faces. You derive your identity from your face. When you cover your face, you temporarily become someone else. It’s a game. It is also used in rituals. It tells a story about the ancestors, nature gods. Important themes are winter, death, harvest, life and coming of age. Ancient Greek theater also used masks to portray characters. It is a great way to tell stories. Ever since I was a kid, I enjoyed dressing up and assuming a different identity. This gave me the idea of a layered identity. I am also a theater and costume designer. ”
“A mask is a means, an instrument,” she says. “It can take on so many beautiful shapes. I’ve been researching masks for years. At the end of 2019, I was in Mexico for three months as an artist-in-residence. I started looking for rituals around the Dia de Muertos, the day of the dead. This summer I will be an artist-in-residence in Bulgaria. That’s where I am going to look up mask makers.” By the way, she has been familiar with it from an early age. Masks used to hang on the walls of her home. “My father is also a visual artist. There was / is a lot of art in the house, including masks from different parts of the world. ”

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Van Gogh House
Last fall, she was in the Van Gogh House in Zundert, where, in addition to paintings, she also made a mask. “For a month I lived and worked in a beautiful studio with large skylights. I started reading Van Gogh’s letters and studying his work. In line with that, I started making portraits. I pretended that I was Van Gogh and made a Van Gogh mask. There is a story that he ate his own paint. In the performance ‘Becoming Vincent’ I eat paint from a palette while wearing the Van Gogh mask. (can be seen on the attached video). That way I temporarily became Van Gogh. ”
The corona time has done her well as far as work is concerned. “I could spend so much time in the studio. I painted for a year. Fantastic. I prefer to do that. I worked in two studios, here and in a large space on the Hembrug site in Zaandam. ”

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Key work
Does she have a key work, a work that marked a turn, or a work that is etched in her brain? “Usually I am most content with my latest work. I always strive to make the best work.”
She shows a work on the phone. “It is based on medieval Italian paintings in which Mary is breastfeeding with a trickle of milk. This painting is a self-portrait where I breastfeed myself. It took me a long time. In terms of composition, I looked at those Medieval paintings with vistas. In the painting I feed myself, as it were, by making art. With this I place myself in an old tradition. And it also reflects my private situation. I am a woman in my early 30s, many of my friends now have children. My head is haunted. The biological clock starts ticking. ”

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Carmen Schabracq has been an artist for nine years. She graduated from the Rietveld Academy in 2012. Before that, she spent a year at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma. During the Rietveld training she spent six months in Ghent at the Academy. “There was a painting department there, there was none at the Rietveld. It was very nice. I found out how different the Dutch and Belgians are. The Dutch are super direct, Belgians are not, they are very polite. But sometimes it’s hard to figure out what they’re really thinking. And there are also many small differences, Dutch people who talk and laugh loudly, for example. My (Zealandish-Flemish) grandmother felt more related to the Flemish. ”

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In 2014/2015 she did a master in theater costume design at the Antwerp Art Academy. “With the theme ‘What is the naked mask?’, based on a book by Pirandello, he has written several plays. In his book ‘Someone, Nobody and a Hundred Thousand’ the main character finds out that his nose is crooked. He had never noticed that before. Then he started to concern himself with how others see him, he started to behave differently than expected. As a result, he was declared insane. Based on this story I did my Master’s research and made my thesis, where I started from the idea that that each person consists of many masks or faces, all seen by the perception of the other. ”
What is her experience of art life? “It is a very nice life, but not always easy. It is difficult to make money, you have to work very hard. I like to do that. You have to have a lot of perseverance and be able to handle rejection. But still: a lot of freedom, playfulness and travel. Fantastic!”

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Finally. Does she still have a nice philosophical thought? She has. “My work is colorful. I think color is one of the most interesting parts of painting. Because of the bright use of color people often find my work cheerful, while it sometimes also concerns serious matters such as death. Only then do they discover the layering of a work. Layering is an important thing in all forms of art. ”
Her work can be seen from 12 March to 11 April in the exhibition ‘Extravaganza’ at Galerie Fleur & Wouter (by appointment with the gallery), during her open studio on the Hembrug site in Zaandam from 2 to 4 April ( by appointment with her via Instagram) and during This Art Fair 13 to 16 May in the Kromhouthal in Amsterdam Noord.

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1)Self portrait smokin Vincent’s pipe, 2020, 2) Screenshot 2021-01-19 at 13.33.34, 3) Extravaganza, Gallery Fleur en Wouter, 4) Memento Mori, 2020, 5) Portrait of a devil, 2020, 6) Portrait of Quita, 2020, 7) Heroine I, feeding myself, 2021, 8) jaguar & perro, 9) el jaguar, 10) ) Photo Carmen


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