Moving Mountains' an extended residency

Visual artists, Loes Heebink, Gejan Stol and Esther Schlebos all worked for a month in various residencies, which also included coaching programmes tailored to the individual artists.

The Push/Pull/Present project, part of the North's Artist in Space talent development programme, was developed by K&C Drenthe and Keunstwurk and implemented by CBK Emmen with the decisive support of K&C. Artists from Drenthe, who responded to an open call, were selected by representatives of K&C, Keunstwurk and the residencies LIA in Leipzig, Het Wilde Weten in Rotterdam and AADK Spain. In December Loes Heebink travelled to LIA in Leipzig. In January Gejan Stol was a guest at Het Wilde Weten in Rotterdam and Esther Schlebos left for Murcia AADK in February 2021.

The Mountain

Our first meeting is online and we immediately have a click with each other. We discover that in our work The Mountain plays an important role, figuratively as a connection between earth and sky, in the exploration of the experience of height or literally through the fascination of rock formations. 

We are literally and figuratively facing a mountain of work. Additional preparations because of the covid pandemic, such as arriving at our destination with an up-to-date health certificate and what to take with us in terms of materials, knowing that the shops are closed. We each leave at a different time and keep in close touch via Whatsapp and Skype. 

We discover that in our work The Mountain plays an important role

Loes is fascinated by pushed up tectonic plates which form mountain ranges and volcanoes. The reverse process takes place in the lignite mines near Leipzig. The excavation of lignite forms an inverted mountain into which the rising sun slowly creeps. Alongside the awakening birds in the morning stillness of the freezing cold, you can hear scraping machines in the distance and sometimes a siren.

Gejan, one day she relates to the heights and the stacks of the city of Rotterdam, another day by bike to the Kop van Zuid where the wind, the water and the Dutch clouds impress. Every change of position in the city produces new faces, reflections and dizzying heights that alternate with unseen elements and moments.

Esther is staying in the town of Blanca. Surrounded by the Peña Negra in the Ricote Valley she comes face to face with black volcanic mountains. When she steps out the back door the mountain puts its foot down. She studies the formations, the structures and the colors of the rock in southern light. In the night she hears the rumble of crumbling rock 'knocking' against her back door. 

Research in isolation 

Working for a certain period in a residency requires a curious attitude and openness to connect with the environment and people. At the time of the limitations of the pandemic, the challenge is to make the most of the scarce opportunities. 

Loes started with a whole collection of sketches and a head full of ideas. She has the opportunity to explore the area by car and the lignite mines south of Leipzig become her domain of inspiration. She elaborates a selection of essential images within the project Sky Kisses Earth.

Gejan always uses existing materials in her sculptures and installations, but the limitation is that she now has to work with rolls of paper tape from the supermarket. Also, the Rotterdam residual materials shop SCRAPXL brings her a wealth of materials and objects that she can return after the project. 

Working in a residency for a certain period of time requires a curious attitude and an openness to connect with the environment and the people.

Esther worked initially with a few materials that she could take with her on the plane. The postal package with canvas, oil paint and medium did not arrive. Her lack of materials forces her to step out of her comfort zone. She returns to drawing and sketching with the ancient product charcoal that fits wonderfully well with the darkness and heaviness of the mountains. 

Wide views 

A work period in an artist-in-residency provides opportunities for reflection as a valuable and essential part of the artist's practice. Going to a place where you can look deeply in peace, alone, but also with others, gives a wide view. Like on top of a mountain. Peace, rhythm and concentration allow us to notice elements that were previously out of focus and things that we walk past or don't have time for to present themselves. 

For Loes, this overview the opportunity to investigate how autonomous her sculptures are as part of installations and to trust the power of these sculptures. And then to come to the conclusion that she is, after all, an installation builder who seeks a connection with the environment and the space. 

A work period in an artist-in-residency offers opportunities for reflection as a valuable and essential part of the artistic practice.

Gejan discovers that the photographs she makes of biomasses in Drenthe are all landscape and horizontal. In contrast to the photographs of urban high-rise buildings in Rotterdam. From here she started an investigation into horizontal and vertical movements in space. Focusing on the observation, she can make increasingly conscious choices and give words to what she sees. The result is an installation. 

Esther is due to the restrictive circumstances back to basics She has been able to research and focus on what she finds essential to capture in her work. Not only to capture but also to abstract and dare to emphasize and or let go. 

The bubble

Living in the 'pandemic bubble' of the residency community on the one hand gives limitations, no possibility to build up a new network, visit museums and galleries, on the other hand it gives more depth to the work process partly due to conversations with the other artists and coaches present. 

For Loes, the coaching conversations and studio visits are the moments to get to know each other and exchange experiences, especially to sharpen her visions. The small group of LIA artists become family for a while. The holidays in lockdown are celebrated with internationally composed Christmas dinners. 

Gejan encounters an international artistic climate in Rotterdam at Het Wilde Weten. She has taken the coronaproof tips on where to go and where to stand in the city to heart. Rotterdam in lockdown is an unprecedented adventure. She has been able to invite coaches and fellow artists for a studio visit and the one-on-one contacts are intense, stimulating and enriching.

For Esther, her coaches are the surrounding mountains in the black landscape. Armed with a magnifying glass, she can focus on the movement from micro to macro, which shows that large and small do not differ much in this world. She also received practical coaching on how to deal with social media. 

Moving Mountains

It will be another three months before we meet live. Despite, or precisely because of the virtual form of communication in Covid's time, we have built up a special bond that is still continuing. The intensity of the conversations and the fine-tuning of ideas and visions have taken shape in a extended residency. Our joint exhibition P/P/P Moving Mountains in the CBK, De Fabriek in Emmen. 

The construction of the Factory has guided our work. We applied a sonar image with calibration, which expresses the alignment of each other's work. In Caryatids of Art We literally carried the roof of the Fabriek on our shoulders and our heads. On the one hand, this was research into form and construction, but it was also a political statement about the importance of art. 

In spite of, or precisely because of, the virtual form of communication in Covid's time, we have built a special bond that still endures today.

Cooperation in the extended residency has brought challenges but also for each of us this period has brought new paths and angles. 

Loes has her project Sky Kisses Earth can be given further shape. Also with valuable additions of existing new site-specific situations such as the Inverted Mountain with new contacts to continue working on her project. 

Gejan has been able to continue her research by relating herself to the vertical movement of the elevator, in the 9.50m high elevator shaft. And by moving vertically on her back over the floor she can compare her speed with the speed of this elevator. 

Esther has during the extended residency put up a wall drawing of 5 metres by 2.80 metres in charcoal and has thus taken a piece of the Peña Negra on a flat white wall. Drawing with charcoal is something that will certainly be followed up.

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