manuela tjarkina vermeeren | visual artist

manuela
tjarkina
vermeeren
about
manuela
tjarkina
vermeeren

“I was born in 1966 in Hilversum, into a family that was probably relatively liberal and artistic in those days. My early years were spent mostly in Amsterdam, where my grandmother introduced me to all the city’s famous and lesser known museums. I learned to love the arts, basically, before I could walk. But when I turned six, my family moved eastward, where my father would start a new job. This came as a culture shock to my young self: after attending a liberal Montessori school in Amsterdam, I never adapted particularly well to traditional education. My classmates thought I was an odd duck, and an odd duck is what I’d always remain.”

“Towards the end of my secondary education, I’d decided I wanted to enroll in art school. My parents didn’t protest, so after two years of training I was admitted to the University of the Arts (HKU) in Utrecht and moved there. First, I focused on drawing and painting, especially graphic techniques like etchings, engravings, lithographs and monotypes. I soon found that this excited me more than traditional painting. Although I started off with a lot of energy, I gradually found it increasingly difficult to stay motivated and inspired by the classes.”

“My quick adoption of a rather bohemian lifestyle, mostly constructed around long nights in the local pubs, didn’t exactly help. So in my third year I realized it was time for a reset: I departed on a long study tour through the Americas, from the US through Mexico and Bolivia down to Peru. But the result was the opposite of what I’d hoped: ten months later, once I’d made it back home, my skepticism towards art school had only grown. In Latin America I had been overwhelmed by the skill of local young artists, and by artwork that was rooted in a profound, ancient and vibrant visual culture. I felt I had neither the cultural nourishment, nor the requisite talent, to ever achieve that level of excellence.”

“I unhappily forced myself through two more years of art school, but finally chose to leave. What followed was a rapid succession of artistic side gigs. I worked at a studio for murals, restored visual material for the Museum of Image and Sound, and designed logos, corporate identities, folders and websites. Although the internet was in its infancy at the time and serious web design was basically unheard of, I started a brand-new education in this field. It felt like a completely new direction where my creative inspiration could flourish.”

“As a promising web designer, I pretty quickly found a job with one of the Netherlands’ first website developers, CompuServe (AOL). It felt like a huge victory, but the company’s brutal American-style working culture took its toll on my mental health. After a year, I ended up with a serious burn-out, which took multiple years of therapy and rest to escape. Once I’d recovered my equilibrium, I found a job as a web designer with a major commercial broadcaster in Hilversum – first as freelancer, but soon a permanent position.”

“I was much happier here; a good working atmosphere and a wide range of creative challenges led me to stay for twelve years, working on large, visually and technically complex websites. I specialized in web design and UX. The downside was spending long hours in the office and commuting, to the point I had little energy left for my own creative work. Once I’d made it home, I was so tired I couldn’t even stretch a canvas, let alone paint it.”

“This was the age where iPads and digital drawing applications entered my life. I initially considered these mere dalliances, but my feelings evolved. I realized they brought together so many possibilities: the endless range of graphic tools that had fascinated me in art school, the technical design component that I’d mastered in my day job, and the possibility to create visual artwork without a studio or supplies. I got more and more enthusiastic and, finally, infatuated with this new medium.”

“In 2017, a large reorganization at my employer provided me the opportunity to leave my job behind with several months of pay. It was a real relief: I had the freedom and the time to focus on my own work. I decided to start freelancing as (web)designer, as well as pursuing a second career as an artist – using the iPad as a medium. To challenge myself, I took (and continue to take) a number of courses, focussing on the mastery of what I consider to be one of the new and important directions in visual art today.”

“I don’t think I can be linked to a specific movement or style. The work of artists like Tàpies, WOLS, Motherwell, Twombly or Heyboer is my ‘source to go back to’ when I get stuck in my own creative process. But young artists like Oscar Murillo can also inspire me. Abstract expressionism lies close to my heart, though I don’t shy away from the recognizable in portraits. Despite many years of formal training, my work tends tends towards Art Brut or outsider art. Grained. Raw. Spontaneous. Mixed technique. Art Informel.”

“I never knew, but my mother kept a lot of my children’s drawings. A few years ago, she gave me that pile. It was with great pleasure that I discovered that as a kid I already used the same motifs and iconography that bubbled up at the art academy and in my practice since. When I think about it, artistically speaking, everything I’ve learned at the art academy just gets in the way. My best work, like the ‘Moody sun’ and ‘Vein of the City’ series, emerges from a source that has been inside me since my earliest childhood. As the great Pablo Picasso said: Every child is an artist. The difficulty is to remain one when you grow up.”