HARMEN VAN DER TUIN
To begin, could you tell me a little about yourself and your background?
I was raised in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands. At the age of 16, I moved to Zwolle.
At early age I was really touched by music and arts. I knew even back then, this is what I want. This is my life.
At the age of nine I started studying classical guitar. Later on, I was studying at the high school for the arts (ARTEZ). I graduated when I was 24 years old. From that time on I was starting a living as an artist. When I was 30 years old, I had a profound oneness experience, the falling in your centre, true deep meditation. The Unio Mystica gave me a totally different view. This awakening had a great impact on me. I had to make a long journey to integrate this awakening. Now I am working as a designer, composer, and artist.. I had the privilege to design beautiful commissions, such as the Dutch part of the horticultural world expo in Shenyang China, where I designed the pavilion, and several sculptures. I had several nomination and design awards.
Describe your journey to becoming, (or identifying as) an artist. Has it been easy? Natural? What has been difficult?
In the beginning I found it very difficult to choose which way I wanted to go. I tried all kinds of styles. But the creative process is one of playfulness, to be a child, it’s not complicated when you are not attached to the result. This non-attachment is the end of the journey, of becoming something, to becoming an artist.
It’s the realization that you are an artist with infinite possibilities. You have to give it a chance and not stand in your own way.
How would you describe your work to someone?
The spontaneous gesture of the brushstroke is becoming the subject of the painting. I work in the tradition of abstract expressionism and action painting. What you see is what it is, it’s not referring to other places or other ideas. Through my working with thick impasto I have also brought in another element, and that is light and shadow. I also have the opinion that an art work is a carrier of energy, you can feel the energy in which the artwork is originated. You can feel the energy of the state of mind of the artist.
What is important for viewers to note when viewing your work?
Don’t try to understand it. Just feel, be still and just look with an open mind. My work is from heart to heart.
What is your process like? How important is process in understanding your work?
My works originates from the works I have made before, but in the meantime the works are standing on their own. So, it is not necessary to understand the process but I think it’s interesting to see that some solutions are originated through the process.
I'm interested to know how you arrived at your choice of process, materials, and 'style?' How did this develop?
I have been working abstract for about 30 years now and the brushstroke has become the subject of the painting. Through my 3D sculptures and my designing I feel the need that more and more the paintings had to become a sculpture.
I also arrived at the inner state of simplicity. And that means, not reducing the many, but putting the most necessary together. The works are originated from stillness, from the state of no mind, from the secret, from the state of not knowing and free attention. My works reflect that.
What does your work aim to say?
The content of the work withdraws from every definition, for it is not the material that is used, or anecdotal content, it refers to the un-manifest side of man, the groundless, the heart of perception, and the home of man. Because it is also there, from where the work originated and was sent.
That exactly is the aesthetic experience. The collapse of the egocentric awareness, the awareness of separation, in oneness, in the natural non-dualistic state.
Can you highlight some of your influences and discuss how they have impacted your work?
I think the most important experience I had that confronted me with a true artwork, is the dissolving power it has. For example, I saw an exhibition of 300 watercolours and drawings of Joseph Beuys, and when I saw the pictures, I was struck by that totally free energy it has, and that freedom, is the freedom of me, the freedom of grasping. I recognized the energy. It was not the energy from an ego, it wasn’t egocentric. It was deeper, from a far deeper level.
After seeing this, about two hours had gone by and I was in total bliss, totally high. The normal dualistic state was for a moment gone.
That deep understanding of what art is has become my religion, and that is the impact on my own work.
Where do you find inspiration?
From the process, from works I have done before, and from works of other artists which have touched my inner voice.
When the “me” is not there, the inspiration fills the moment and comes to you. This is the magic of creativity. The result of no-mind.
In your experience, what is the best thing about being an artist? What is the hardest thing about being an artist?
To be free is the most difficult and also the most beautiful thing as an Artist.
If you were not an artist, what would you be?
What piece of advice would you give to a young artist?
Do not listening to anyone, except when it is helpful to find your inner voice.