“Both in my design and art I find the role of play a key ingredient. Play, for me, has to do with fantasizing, investigating, experimenting, being creative, exploring and being spontaneous.”Bianca Severijns
Bianca Severijns has a very unique and identifiable style when it comes to creating art with paper as her medium. Dive in to this amazing interview with her and get to know her art as we have at Elements of the Beautiful.
EotB: Please tell us your story and how you began as an artist.
B. Severijns: Before I immigrated to Israel in 2007, I had my own design studio in the Netherlands together with my partner. We designed children concepts for both international and Dutch brands (like Esprit, Jelly Cat, FlikFlak). Our daily existence was surrounded by creativity and creative people. In Israel, the design business was different and difficult. We were forced to make new choices and it was in that time I started my first paper artworks.
During my journey from design to art I discovered the difference between them is that design has everything to do with functionality and usability, while art is all about communication. Art can give the opportunity to question, to provoke, to imagine and to get new insights. Art also communicates to our emotions.
Both in my design and art I find the role of play a key ingredient. Play, for me, has to do with fantasizing, investigating, experimenting, being creative, exploring and being spontaneous. During my design period in the Netherlands my partner and I “played” with various materials like wood, foam, fabrics, and paper. So, it was kind of natural to continue “play” in my art. The difference is that in my art, already for an extensive time, I am focused on one material: paper!
EotB: What was your first piece of paper art?
B. Severijns: My first piece of paper art was a tree I made from hundreds of pieces of hand torn paper. It was a present for my sister, although before that I experimented with paper sketches in small format.
EotB: Please tell us about your inspiration for the Movements & Rhythm Series.
B. Severijns: In my art I am always looking at paper for new possibilities, artworks from ‘The Movement & Rhythm’ series are the result of spontaneous experimenting. This series consists of various contemporary art reliefs, that are formed through a layering, merging, and overlapping technique. I assemble hundreds of individually hand-torn pieces of paper and combine them into rhythmic compositions.
The intricate, organic repetition dominates my contemporary art reliefs inspired by the Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven, who was a master of bare, minimalistic, timeless, abstract reliefs. My mind gets captured by Schoonhoven when I miss Holland and some of these works depict a clear visual affinity with his art and my birthplace.
I grew up next to the Waddenzee, which influence my color palette of mostly white, greys and greyish blues appeal to isolated natural worlds of this area. Within these “paper tiles” I give viewers an abstraction of nature and stimulates their imagination to maybe find waves of sea or a breeze moving dune grass or layers of shells. There is movement as well as rhythm in each image, seeking to inspire an emotional response by its’ viewer.
EotB: What types of materials do you use when creating your artworks and why have you chosen them?
B. Severijns: Paper is my medium to convey my artistic visions. The material itself is full of suggestions: you can cut, fold, weave, tear, crumble and paste it. Rather than regarding paper as merely a support to draw or paint on, I treat paper as a material substance that can be manipulated in new and unusual ways and from here comes in the genesis of my affection for paper. You must listen to paper because it has a memory, resistance, textures, limitations, a charm and so much more. If you roll a piece a paper it can stay in that form for a longtime. Paper just speaks to me, the sound when I tear it, the touch, the smell, the texture, the hardness, and the softness, it mesmerizes, and it always begs to be transformed. Still today, I discover new things or develop new techniques and explore new elements paper related. The play with paper keeps on being endless!
Unfortunately, paper as an art medium is still pushed in the craft or applied decorative arts arena and in the fine art world a difficult medium to be accepted. Despite grand masters like Picasso and Matisse proved us that paper is absolutely a way to express contemporary art.
EotB: Do you have a signature style as an artist and if so, how would you describe it?
B. Severijns: I believe the hand-torn of each piece of paper, creating a rough, ruggedness edge is my signature style.
EotB: Are your pieces created by hand?
B. Severijns: Yes, I approach paper always with my bare hands so that makes my relationship with it very intimate. All my artworks are very labor and time intensive as I tear each piece of paper by hand and then merge them into aesthetic compositions. I am not burdened by the labor and from time to time I find myself in a meditative state, totally engulfed in myself.
EotB: Please explain the artistic process of creating a piece of paper art from start to finish.
B. Severijns: The birth of the ‘idea’ is I believe the most important and first step in the creation of a new artwork. My art begins with a virginal white or colored paper, on its way to become something else. I paint the paper with Amsterdam acrylic, before starting my hand tearing process. I fabricate Konjac powder (made from a Japanese root) into a paper glue. Rarely I make a sketch, as most of my works I create from my stomach.
EotB: What piece is a favorite for you and why?
B. Severijns: I have no artwork that is my absolute favorite. I get extremely excited to start a new project but the moment it is done I put it into the world and let it loss.
The Sisters Series however is very dear to my heart. In this series I used the faces of her three daughters as canvases for paper head vessels. The head vessels carry no symbolism related to either the Netherlands nor Israel and the personal identities are erased as often happens when a person is uprooted. When I uprooted myself, I also uprooted my three daughters who were all born in the Netherlands. They were raised in a bi-cultural environment forcing them to actively form their cultural identity and consciously define it. The portraits were framed to generate an effect of timeless quality. Nevertheless, as a spectator, you feel the remarkable presence of these three unique individuals that are bond by sisterhood!
EotB: According to our research, the ‘Protective Blanket’ art is designed to create awareness and dialogue about tolerance and appreciation, can you please elaborate on why this is such an important cause to you and how it inspired your work?
B. Severijns: Most of my artworks are exploring humanitarian and social themes. I uprooted myself by choice and this subject matter brought me to a deeper and more profound exploration of the displacement theme. I started to examine the fundamental basic needs of people who are displaced, that triggered me to create Protective Blanket series.
Each of the thousands of paper threads that compose my Protective Blanket art symbolizes a micro-level personal story that takes place in our communities, in our countries or on a different continent. The threads imply testimonies of people needing or providing protection whether near or far. For me, these stories and these people serve as a reminder to appreciate and never take for granted any sense of security, dignity, equal opportunities, or freedoms.
Although often perceived as an ordinary object, a blanket is loaded with associations, connotations, and expectations. It holds promise of care, warmth, and protection. We are welcomed into the world in a blanket and we leave it in blanket. In the lifetime in between, we need physical and metaphorical protective blankets for our personal existence and well-being
Within the “Protective Blanket Series” I challenged the physical characteristics of paper and its limits, I made my first Protective Blanket as a totally move-able, supple, yet durable art piece. The micro paper threads form larger woven pieces that stand for macro-scale ideas of human rights of populations at risk locally and globally. As a metaphor, paper is so vulnerable and fragile and easily torn it emphasizes how fragile is our “protective blanket” really is.
EotB: Do you have a current or upcoming show?
B. Severijns: I am pleased to announce that the Tel Aviv Biennale of Crafts and Design 2020 re-opened its doors to the public at the Eretz Israel Museum on 02.06.2020. Just 2 weeks before the planned opening evening the Covid-19 restrictions forced the museum to close waiting for the “day after”. You can believe my excitement when the good news arrived that the exhibition opened to the public. Among the 300 artworks, my Protective Blanket is one of them. Super proud!
EotB: What is next for Bianca Severijns?
B. Severijns: At this moment I am working on the proposal for my upcoming solo show at the Hansen House, Jerusalem. I am challenging myself with a ‘site-specific’ or more accurately a ‘site-responsive’ installation. Before it became a cultural center, the Hansen House building was home to a self-sufficient leper community until 2000. My artworks will respond to the history, former inhabitants, and particulars of this remarkably interesting building. So exciting!
Femicide and environmental issues are the next subjects I plan to dive into, and the Protective Blanket Series remains a focal point as well.
EotB: Please tell our readers where they can purchase from Bianca Severijns.
To keep being informed about my latest exhibitions, insights and recent artworks please sign up for my newsletter at my website.