A success story

  • launch

In this section, six young visual artists who graduated from an art school in the Netherlands in 2021 write letters to each other telling how starting their lives as visual artists is going for them and what they are working on. Taking turns, one of the six artists writes to the others what is on his or her mind. The artists who participate in this column are: Lauren Raaijmakers (WdKA graduate), Leonie Fernhout (WdKA), Jelle van Kuilenburg (ArtEZ), Repelsteeltje (WdKA), Hannah Meijer (HKU) and Loes van Reijmersdal (St. Joost).

Hi Lauren, Leonie, Jelle, Hannah and Loes,

We have to admit that the art world in the Netherlands and many other countries is elitist, says Sheilo (NEST). Despite its classism, the art world romanticizes poverty. But is it possible to be poor and make art or are you too busy surviving if you are poor? The artists around me work multiple side jobs, I don't have a steady job and don't work. I have the privilege of not having to pay rent (I live squatted), I am part of a group of people who share free food and stuff with each other and live for the rest of my savings.

Is it even possible to be poor and make art or are you too busy surviving when you are poor?

I have spent the past six months making a drawing that I have sold many times (screen-printed on cotton and as a poster) for one to five dollars and exchanged for beers, food, cigarettes and other people's work. This January it appeared on the cover of the Free Union magazine. People told me they became members of the magazine thanks to my drawing on the cover, which is such a great honor! And I am happily surprised that I consider this 'project', just one drawing, as my most successful project so far. That I was able to sell and give away this drawing to my friends in this way is because of the way I live my life. I am proud of my way of life and even though not everyone sees it that way, I consider it a great success.

Did this show more clearly that I was an artist because I was recognized by an institution?

My days are filled with dragging stuff through different cities, making art, searching on the computer for small precarious jobs in art. The work is so precarious, if I'm sick for a week all kinds of things suddenly don't happen. Sometimes I can't find anything for weeks. Then I'm more concerned with activism, that's what most of my work is about. My balance consists of little things. Fixed activities every week, places where I am expected and appreciated. A sleeping place especially for me, even if others would love to sleep there and I'm not even there half the time: it's for me. For the rest, I don't fall off the edge because I whiz over it. That's how I'm happiest. Believe me, happiness is living in immediacy. In the fever of moment. In the pursuit. (Foxfire 2012)

An important new piece of stability is that I am participating in an art institute Melly project called CLIP. A group of 'young emerging professionals' may cobble together an exhibition in four months. I am then one of the child prodigies between seventeen and twenty-four years old. It is my first job in art because we have a real contract. Four hours a week, twelve euros an hour, four paid vacations, maybe even group outings will be reimbursed.

Do you consider yourself a successful artist?

A woman who wanted to portray me in her documentary on activism was interested in my artistic practice. In the story about the drawing she didn't seem very interested, nor in publications I was making, but she became a lot more enthusiastic when I told her about the project at Melly. Did this show more clearly that I was an artist because I was recognized by an institution? My question to the audience is: do you consider yourself a successful artist?

  • I Beg to Differ - Another Way In. Vimeo, uploaded by NEST, 18 Jan. 2022 Cantet, L. (2012)
  • Foxfire. Haut et Court

Please send your response to redactie@bk-info.nl 

More Articles