Persona May, 30th 2024 by

  World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 468 - Saskia Risseeuw   

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World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 468 – Saskia Risseeuw
I saw work by Saskia Risseeuw at two exhibitions in the Art Center Schiedam. Still lifes of vegetables in the Nieuwe Impuls exhibition and a shaky vegetable greenhouse constructed with photos of a vegetable greenhouse in the Inspiration Food Garden Rotterdam exhibition.

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These still lifes of vegetables resembled the Dutch nature still lifes from the 17th century, with flowers, plants and cheeses. Saskia was triggered by the food bank phenomenon, where people with a low income can collect free food, she says when I visit her at the Art Center on the occasion of the food garden exhibition.

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Our Golden Age
“I didn’t know anyone who used the food bank. How would I go about it? I could photograph those people, but that seemed like a lesser option. I focused on the food parcels. What is part of that? And how could I turn that into art for (hopefully) a wide audience?” ‘Our Golden Age’ showed photos that also made it to the press. No fewer than two pages of photos in the NRC, plus an interview and a photo in the Volkskrant.
For the food garden project, she was a guest for a year at the Rotterdam food garden of Atelier van Lieshout, now called Brutus. She did this with 11 other artists. “One was inspired by the beauty of color of the flowers and plants in spring and summer, while the other preferred winter or wanted to show the vulnerability of the area. Vegetable waste was used to make paper, photographed, there were people who worked in and with waste materials, others messed within compost bins and made paint from vegetables.”

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The Food Garden in Rotterdam must compete with the commercialization of the Municipality of Rotterdam. Sandwiched between advancing concrete, there may soon be no room left for growing healthy food. How long will the greenhouse be able to withstand wind, climate change and municipal policy?

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How would she describe her theme?
Her theme/angle can easily be summarized with the term ‘Negative Capability’, she says. “The talent to live in uncertainties, to draw strength from limitations, mysteries and setbacks. John Keats, the famous English poet from the Romantic period, thought it was important not to always look for rational certainties. Those who possess this negative capability are more receptive to the complexity, contradictions, doubts and mysteries of existence. It fits perfectly with the work of artists.”
When creating art you start from what is there. “Nothing is perfect. You will discover what lies ahead of you. I also started working experimentally in the garden.” She focused on the greenhouse. “’What should I make of this?’ Then you discover things you haven’t seen. It is important to give chance a chance.”

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She doesn’t have any key work, she says. She does have a key photo that is only created afterwards. “I have been to the garden ten times. It’s searching, looking, selecting and throwing away. I hang the selection on the wall and then I look for the key photo. I group the rest around that.”

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How long has she been an artist?

Since 2021, when she graduated from The Hague Royal Academy of Visual Arts. Before that, before 2017 when she started at the Academy, she was mainly a sociologist, specializing in Work and Organization with many projects in education. “I used to be creative as a teenager. I took photographs and danced intensively at a dance academy with former dancers from the Nederlands Dans Theater as teachers.” At the Royal Academy she chose the photography department. She learned a lot there, she says. “I worked in the DoKa (darkroom), attended graphic workshops. The teachers, especially the foreign teachers, were good.”

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What is her experience of art life?
It is good that she has become a member of KunstWerkt, the artists’ association, she says.” I have been a member for a year now. You meet other people, it is inspiring. I wouldn’t have done certain things without those others. It also provides an opportunity to experiment. This year I have no fewer than three exhibitions. It’s hard work to be seen.”
With the poet Jan Dullemond she participated in ZigZagCity, the architecture route in Rotterdam. Especially for ZigZagCity, artists and designers let you take a look at their view of the city. If you follow the route (OMI route) you will automatically come across the works. She also worked with him on the project ‘Farewell to the Tweebos neighbourhood’ and took many photos of peeling wallpaper. The poems and photos were displayed on the outside walls of the Afrikaanderplein.

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She is currently working on another project, also with Dullemond, display cases in cemeteries in Crete, specifically on the south side of the island. “Every dead person has his own display case at his grave. The relatives put all kinds of things in it. Photos, combs, figurines, kitties, candles, cigarettes, and even cans of beer. Every cemetery has it. We are located near a well-maintained cemetery, there are also cemeteries where conditions are less favorable. You see their culture in those glass cases.” Saskia takes the photos and Jan the poems. “We are going to exhibit it, perform and make a booklet out of it. We love paper.”

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Does she have a closing word?
She has: “Everything grows and nothing is permanent. But the seed has been planted.”
1 – 4) Food Garden project, 5 – 8) still lifes of vegetables, 9 – 10) Farewell to the Tweebos neighbourhood

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