Dutch artist Esther Janssen examines themes of extreme cultivation, alienation and the conflicting psychology of our most profound spatial needs.
Janssen takes our familiar Western environments and inverts them, depicting scenes of eerie unfamiliarity. Despite this, the works retain a certain radiance, they manage to attract and enchant. Janssen works with artificial leather: painting individual pieces then cutting them out. She then sews them into elaborate scenes of lush, yet strictly ordered, neigbourhoods and gardens. The non-breathable imitation leather, the refined use of clair-obscur and composition, and the absence of people, suffuse her work with a suffocating, intoxicating beauty.
Esther’s approach to painting can be traced back to her educational years at the Design Academy Eindhoven, where she was given the freedom to work outside the official curriculum. She graduated cum laude for autonomous art. The academy had offered a broad range of techniques and media with an emphasis on research and concept. This turned out to be pivotal in developing her own distinctive style and approach as an artist. Her works are informed by extensive research, brought to life by meticulous design, and given heart by Janssen's ambition to challenge technical boundaries and progress as an artist.
Esther regards her works first and foremost as contemplative spaces. In her recent ongoing series ‘The Silence’, she seeks to unite our fundamental need for shelter and perspective in one image. These spatial opposites perfectly mirror our conflicting psychological desires: on one hand we long for security, harmony, control and borders, yet we also desire adventure, possibilities, freedom, discovery, hope, expansion. These phenomena are seemingly incompatible, yet we're not comepletely sated until we have them both. Esther’s works always contain - however small or hidden - a passage that suggests infinite space and possibility, a reference to traditional Chinese art in which large areas are left empty in order to experience the cosmos, the mystery.
About Esther Janssen
Esther Janssen was born in 1976 in Maastricht, The Netherlands. She attended the Design Academy Eindhoven from which she received a BFA (Cum Laude) in 2000. Part of her graduation work consisted of a large scale fake leather sculpture titled ’The Pink House’ which catapulted her from the world of design into the realm of autonomous art. After graduation, Esther chose to continue pursuing art. Her education in design, and the broad range of techniques combined with the conceptual vision the academy had offered, turned out to be pivotal in developing her own distinctive style and approach as an artist. Her works are based on a long design process leading up to a painting and a highly technical execution and level of precision and patience. The academy was also vital in Esther’s early adoption of digital approaches. This led to the start of her series of digital paintings which earned her support from the Mondriaan Fund. After a series of smaller presentations, her work was shown in a museum context: in a large group show at the Gemeentemuseum of The Hague.
Her work has since appeared in both national and international shows and art fairs including Art Rotterdam, Art Cologne and Art Basel. Esther had her first international solo exhibition in Florence, Italy. By that time she had already started to work with fake leather in the shape of sewn objects and later sewn paintings. She had her first museum solo at Gemeentemuseum Helmond, The Netherlands. Her work was also shown in a group show in New York, USA. This displayed three of her ongoing ‘Disaster’ series paintings made out of imitation leather. Esther has received multiple grants from the Mondriaan Fund and Stroom Fund. Her work is part of public collections including the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Municipal Museum Helmond, DSM Art-Collection, the Province of Limburg, and in private collections worldwide.