Meet the artists…Wendelien Bakker

An interview with Wendelien Bakker, the BSR Wallace New Zealand Residence Awardee, in which she speaks about the works she has produced during her residency at the BSR in January–March 2020.

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BSR artist studio. Photo: courtesy of the artist

In your practice, you often use your body in connection with water, sometimes against it. Could you tell us more about this relationship?

Water comes in so many different forms, it can be fluid or frozen, super forceful like waves or a gushing river or it can be gentle and calm. I’m interested in the challenge of trying to change the form or how to fight it as a human being. For example, when I’m sweeping away the pressure of a wave and how I can physically work against it. I enjoy exploring the limits of what my body can do and the determination and ‘wanting’ to change something using physical exertion. To make the water run uphill for example, everyone says it is impossible, but I would say oh yes, I want to try it, there must be way! This particular idea really intrigues me, I’m curious on how you could make water run uphill which I suppose is seeking a limitation of the material.
What I gravitate towards is to see how far I can get with limitations; I have to wait and see. Sometimes it is a success, sometimes it’s really not. But it is also about the journey to get to the point of failure, or of a potential failure. My initial plan when I first arrived here was using water in a way that could break something as hard as marble. It’s mind-blowing to me that you can use such a simple element as water to create such a powerful force that it can break such a hard material. Water can be also that, it can have such a force that it can break a rock.

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Carrara marble quarry. Photo: courtesy of the artist

I am intrigued by the way you use the environment that surrounds you to play with paradox: you build swimming pools where you cannot swim, you attempt to catch the movement of the water, you try to move the horizon. How did you use the environment of the BSR?

I have never really had a studio; I work in my backyard or wherever I find the space to work so this is the first time I have been given such a big space that is very specific in its use. Outdoor spaces have much less restrictions. In the first week I was kind of terrified as I felt I had to fill my studio up with things as it was so empty. I started creating very practical stuff, like a toothbrush holder, jugs out of stones or tool holders with materials that I found in the very close proximity of the BSR. Pebbles from around the tennis court, bits of marble…
I’ve been thinking about how people generally use a studio, people with a studio practice. Experimenting with materials, making things/objects related to other things/objects they’ve made but this is not how I normally work. For me it has become interesting to understand how to use the space of the studio in a way that reflects the different moments and materials I experience within the space.
What I generally tend to do is very site specific and research based: I come up with an idea, like I want to come to Italy and I want to split a rock. But here, now that I have an assigned studio, I feel like I have to use this space. So it is less of a research project but it is more of a kind of filling a space with things. I regularly used the library at the BSR, looking up ancient mining/rock splitting techniques.
I am very very aware of my surroundings, constantly observing my environment and I always want to try and see how I can use it in the most practical sense.

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Untitled, 2020, marble, tape, b&w photo. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

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The artist in her studio at the BSR. Photo credt: Viviana Calvagno

Interview by Marta Pellerini (BSR Fine Arts Adviser)