Ellen Holleman is a multidisciplinary artist based in the Netherlands, where she trained as a spatial designer at the Utrecht School of the Arts. Her diverse background in urban design and her love for traditional oil painting techniques come together in her creative practice, as she seamlessly integrates the two in her work. Holleman's art is a reflection of her experiences, thoughts, and emotions. She enjoys experimenting and pushing the boundaries of traditional painting techniques by incorporating contemporary elements like digital collage and photography into her work.
In 2013, Holleman was invited as an artist-in-residence at 'tHuisbasis' in Zaanstad, in collaboration with UK-based artist Sarah Spanton. From 2014 through 2017, Holleman served as the creative director of the IFIKZ cultural festival, where she was responsible for building and directing an installation that traveled along the river Zaan. The installation served as a backdrop for a series of storytelling events.
In 2020, Holleman decided to focus on restarting a professional painting practice, shifting her career from the urban design field towards the arts. In 2021, one of her pieces was selected for a group show in the St. Maartens Basilica in Zaltbommel, and she had her first solo exhibition at the cultural center De Poorterij. In 2022, Holleman's works were featured in a number of exhibitions and shows, including an augmented reality pavilion with ArtInside Gallery and an online solo exhibition. Her works were also published in issue #5 of The Huts Magazine and were featured in Cista Art Gallery's ‘Life as a Poem’ group exhibition. In September of that year, Holleman had her second solo exhibition at De Poorterij and participated in the 5th edition of the International Artes Exhibition in Turin, Italy, where she was awarded the third prize in the figurative paintings section.
Ellen Holleman | Artist StatementPainting is a magical journey for me, a means of expressing my thoughts and emotions in a visual and meaningful way. I see the world through a painter's eyes, seeking out its beauty and considering how I can bring it to life on canvas.
The urban landscape is my greatest source of inspiration, a reflection of my passion for exploring the world and capturing the beauty of the human experience. My paintings are a commentary on deeper themes such as loneliness, inequality, and aging, and I use them to express my perspectives and create a lasting impression on the viewer.
Each of my paintings is an invitation to step into the moment and experience it fully. I strive to bring the viewer into the scene, making them wonder and wanting to understand what is going on. My aim is to create a deeper connection between the viewer and the world through my art, and to showcase the beauty and complexities of human relationships.
In my work, I draw upon the techniques of the old Dutch Masters, known for their masterful use of light and color. By layering transparent colors over a white gesso base, I create a sense of depth and richness that brings my paintings to life. This traditional method, combined with my modern perspective, adds a timeless quality to my work and pays homage to the legacy of the Dutch Masters.
How would you describe what you do?
I create mindful visual narratives inspired by the complexity and beauty of our urbanized world. My art reflects my passion for exploring the world around me and my desire to capture the beauty of the human experience.Painting, to me, is like magic. The ability to visualize and recreate scenes using only shades and colors never ceases to amaze me. I view the world through a 'paint filter,' always wondering how to translate the world I see around me onto canvas. Drawing upon the oil painting techniques of the old Dutch Masters, I build my images using many layers of transparent colors. This traditional approach, combined with my contemporary perspective and a more interpretive color palette, allows me to create the illusion of depth and a rich and intense sensation of color. Additionally, I enjoy experimenting and pushing the boundaries of traditional painting techniques by incorporating contemporary elements like collage and photography into my work.
What inspires the themes and subjects in your artwork or curatorial projects?
Is there a particular message you hope to convey through your work?What drives me is my curiosity about how people live and move about and how this is affected or controlled by the urban environment. The themes in my art are strongly influenced by my work and experience as a spatial designer. The subjects I choose for my paintings are usually scenes from ordinary, daily life. I like to observe people in the places where they live their lives. With an eye for quotidian, urban scenes, I am always collecting images from the places I visit, the journeys I make. With my full attention, I recreate those scenes into artworks that spark a quiet energy or emotion that we can all relate to. Wanting to capture just that one person in that one place at that one specific moment in time.One recurring theme in my work is the contrast of human life in desolate urban landscapes. It reflects my views on the mutual influence of urban spaces on people and vice versa, showing how humans relate to the spaces that surround them. Or, how impossible it can be to relate to those spaces at all - thus addressing and questioning the way we build our cities and societies and the existential solitude that most of us experience at some point in our lives. They also show the intimacy that some are able to create anywhere and my compassion for those who lack that resilience. To me, it seems that some people have the resilience to feel comfortable with themselves anywhere, regardless of the circumstances, whereas others seem completely lost, lacking the ability to connect. So as an observant, I try to visualize this in imaginary narratives.
What challenges have you encountered as an artist or creative entrepreneur so far, and how did you overcome them?
Throughout my life, I have faced two significant challenges: my own mind and the limitations of time. My mind often plays tricks on me, causing doubt in my artistic abilities and leading me astray from my creative path. However, it has also brought me invaluable experiences and opportunities. As an endlessly curious person, I yearn to explore all facets of life and continuously learn new things. Balancing the responsibilities of motherhood while pursuing my artistic and professional aspirations has been challenging. The dilemma lies in how to reconcile these diverse pursuits within the limited span of a lifetime.
This explains why my journey to becoming an artist has been a long one, taking nearly 30 years before I fully committed to painting. During this time, I held various roles - muralist, spatial designer, writer, graphic designer, cultural producer, creative director, business owner, and mother - but my love for painting remained constant. Following an intense artist retreat in 2020, I decided to focus on restarting a professional painting practice.
A significant turning point in my artistic development was finding a studio space. This space has become my creative sanctuary, providing the freedom to experiment and bring to life the multitude of ideas that have been brewing in my mind for countless years.Now, I have found my artistic voice and am eager to showcase my perspective to the world. The diverse experiences and challenges I faced over the years have shaped me into the artist I am today.I have learned the importance of embracing imperfection, understanding that not every creation has to be flawless. Allowing myself time and space to experiment and make mistakes are crucial to my growth as an artist.
What do you consider the most rewarding aspect of being a creative?
The most rewarding aspect of being a creative to me is the sense of freedom to pursue what truly resonates with my soul and the ability to integrate multiple occupations into my life.What motivated you to pursue an art career? During my childhood, I held dreams of becoming a fashion designer. However, lacking artistic role models or encouragement for my creative talents, the idea of actually achieving this seemed distant. As a teenager, I embarked on an academic path, only to realize that the world of science wasn't where I truly belonged. It became clear that my mind was better suited for a different journey. This realization led me to apply to Art school, driven by the thought that I owed it to myself to, at the very least, give it a chance. From the moment I made that decision, I have been relentlessly pursuing a career as a creative professional; I couldn't envision any other way of life.
What were the highlights or most valuable insights you gained from participating in "Your Own Art Show" by Gita Joshi and Ekaterina Popova?
As an artist, you inherently possess a vision of what you wish to create and convey through your art. However, the "Your Own Art Show" program offers something more profound—a mindset that seamlessly integrates all the diverse aspects of art presentation. From conceptualizing a theme for a body of work to exploring potential avenues and crafting invitations, the training imparts a systematic approach. Gita and Ekaterina guide you through each step, illustrating how to transcend your personal boundaries and think expansively.