Should I sharpen my pencil or soften my voice?

DRAWin festival by Draw to Perform, 

Photo by Ram Samocha

Interview with Liesje van den Berk

May 2018

1. How did you get the idea for the project on show?

In 2014 and 2015 I gave a new boost to my project Surrender to the pencil, through an artist in residence at MAE artists retreats, Sesimbra (PT), Cill Rialaig (IR) and Nordiska Akvarellmuseet, Skärhamn (SE). Surrender to the pencil is a series of drawings of a man in the sea. In these drawings I surrender myself to the pencil, as if I’m in the sea and am washed over by a turbulent wave. Through these drawings I search for the possibilities to really be in the moment. These drawings originated from my experience with the sea. In my childhood we would often visit the seaside because of my allergies. The sea is a place where I can breathe the best. The sea creates an openness, freedom, silence and awareness of my body and the surroundings, I feel insignificant yet more alive.

The first time at Cill Rialaig (IR) in 2014 I noticed “light that lives on the sea” and “sunlight cleans the horizon”. My second time in Cill Rialaig (IR) in 2015, I focused on this phenomenon: the influence and change of light on the landscape and space in time. I recorded the light on the water with my video camera, increasing the contrast of the camera to concentrate on the light and dark. I made four drawings of this video in a time sequence of one minute. 5 February 2015 at 13.06.30, 13.07.30, 13.08.30 and 13.09.30, Every drawing is different even if there is just one minute between them. The change of light transforms the perception of time and space.


2. What are you currently working on?

In my recent work I investigate the dialogue of drawing: drawing and the act of drawing as way to communicate. My drawings and performances are actions and interventions in different cultural environments to create social dialogue between the individual, the communal and the surroundings. Through the sensory experiences of material and environment, I react to physical space and participate with the audience. I explore the relationship between a body and the traces it leaves on a surface, such as paper or a floor. The dust of found objects and graphite pencils mark memories of a temporary presence, an expression of identity in a site-specific place.

This search results in introvert work in my studio and/ or drawing on location and drawing performance in public space and organised events. For example in I give you a line (2017) I invited 15 participants to draw a single straight line without using any words. The pencil passed from hand to hand without being lifted off the line. The interrelationship between the lines, the hands and interactions of the participants was broadcast live behind the performers. This created a simultaneous reflexive situation, a mirrored image between real time interaction and its representation.

Or in the performance “Should I sharpen my pencil or soften my voice?” (2018), photo is shown above this interview. In this interactive performance a dialogue was created between the public, the surroundings and performer. Found objects of Brighton were drawn and sanded in a straight line to soften the edges. The objects are filed to dust but also become refined gems. The grand gesture of this intimate one-to-one interaction in the public space leaves minimal remnants behind, just as impermanent as the moment of the personal interchange. Traces of dust lines are a memory of a temporary presence, a dialogue without words.


3. What is the best part of being an artist?

As an artist you can play, search and turn things around. Moments of failure become moments of surprises: gifts of the unexpected.

I discover the world with an open view, mind and heart as a curious child. I use my observations of phenomena to transfer the spatiotemporal experience of a landscape. When I draw from observation I scan the environment looking for confirmation of what I already know. Gradually I discover that what I know is exposed differently. You forget everything except the area that you are drawing; you disappear in the moment.

4. Are there any upcoming exhibitions where we can see your work?

Sunday, May 13, I will perform “trace or erase” in Cacaofabriek in Helmond (NL) during the last day of exhibition GUM. At this exhibition I also show some other drawings of the sea. These drawing are inspired or made during my stay at Cill Rialaig (IR).

One of my drawings is showed in Tekenkabinet, Amsterdam (NL), until June 30. In September I will exhibit and/or perform drawings in Kunstliefde in Utrecht (NL).

If you want to experience time and drawing and its interrelationship yourself, follow the workshop “Lijn van tijd” at Buitenkunst (NL) in July,   

And of course check my website, which I try to keep updated.