The AKI…

My name is Christina Jaeger. I am 24 years old and in the last year of my study at the Academy of Arts and Design (AKI) in Enschede. I study painting.

The school is not one of the famous arts schools in the Netherlands, because it is set in the province on the border of Germany. However, it is famous for its openness. Teachers want to give their students as much freedom as possible. After they pass, the first year of orientation students can choose the departments they want to follow. The ones that choose any of the free arts like Mixed Media, Media Art, Sculpture, Photography or Painting use to be surprised about the little instructions they get by their teachers at the beginning of their studies. Some find it difficult to work without getting assignments, which is normal for other schools where t hey came from. It is in deed a big challenge just to start painting without knowing where your first trials lead you. In addition, at the same time it is very exciting to feel the freedom of expression. In our society where it seems necessary to follow instructions that lead you to success strictly, the AKI shows us a study in which we can create our own rules and hence bringing out flexibility. It lays the ground to create the paintings and drawings that form out of our own inspiration.

How it started…

From the beginning of my study, I drew a lot. Mostly I used charcoal. When you press charcoal on the paper while drawing you can make it look very dark and you can erase or lighten parts of it with a tissue. That way you can get many nuances. All those facilities of the charcoal give me the chance to create spaces in the drawing that remind of the way painters use their colours. I can create light points, dark shadows, round voluminous forms and fluffy clouds. At same time, I can draw very stiff forms with edges.
I liked drawing since ever. There is a big difference between drawing and painting. It feels different when you hold a pen or a piece of charcoal in your hand than when you hold a brush. A pen is flexible. It follows the hand and you do not need to discontinue. You have to depose a brush all the time to wet it and to put new colour on it. The colour can dry so you have to plan a composition. All those things make a painting a very conscious creation. For me creativity also means to accept the unconsciousness. When I draw, I use to start without a plan in my head. After a while, I watch the forms on the paper and react on those forms impulsively as I go on drawing. Therefore, the lines I just drew lead me to decisions, which I could not have planed, from the beginning. It is fun to put the pen on the paper without a plan in the head and to follow the inspiration; you get out of your own lines.
Arno Kramer, a teacher of the AKI wrote, “Drawing is thinking on the way to the unthinkable.”
That is what I experienced. You can compare drawing to the writing of a story or a poem. The writer does not know what the ending looks like. His former sentence leads him to the next. He climbs further from one sentence to the other just as the drawer climbs from line to line. Painting I experience as something very different. One needs patience for this medium. The colour must dry before you can put a second layer. You must watch the whole thing from a distance to create a composition. The contrast between black and white always gives an intense atmosphere. To put the same intensity in a painting you need to find out a lot about the colours.
In the beginning of my study, I did not have much experience with painting. I knew that I had a feeling for colour, but I also feared its huge amount of opportunities. Nevertheless, I wanted to learn to handle it and get freer with it.
In the beginning I built the canvas, grounded it with Gesso, put long lines of oil colour on my board and after all those preparation, I stared at the big white quarter. I thought now I have to do something special. I felt I should not waste the time and money I have put into this preparation and paint a good picture. So I became too conscious of it and failed. Then I bought a box with watercolours and a big amount of paper and painted some pictures every day. Actually, they were drawings. I did not think much about those pictures before I started. When there was a good picture among them, I watched it longer and tried to find out why it was good. It was the composition, the not answered question about the meaning of the content, the far view in the perspective, the dizzy background and so on. I filled all the papers and out of each drawing, I learned something knew. It helped me to get freer in handling colour.
Matisse said:”Drawing and painting serve each other.” It is true. My way of drawing influences my paintings. On the other hand, the new things I learn about painting have an influence on my drawings, too.

How it goes on…

Now I draw landscapes with charcoal on big papers. I also still go on with the drawings in watercolour. Sometimes those drawings are pieces of arts by themselves and sometimes I use them as preparation for a painting. My works have lead me to the point where I started to combine painting and drawing in one picture. I want to create a tension between drawing and painting. It is a act of balance. I must look that the drawing does not fix and imprison the painting to much, but instead enforces it. The fixed lines of the drawing should not imprison the free expression of the colours. If all goes well the parts that are drawn can give the painting a second understanding, which creates tension. The drawn element contrasts against the painted one. When I put pencil drawings in the middle of an oil painting, the contrast is obvious. However, I believe that I know how to show the contrast of painting and drawing within a charcoal drawing. Then the pure monumental black form stands against subtle differences of grey tones and the movement within an empty space. The stiff stands against the filigree and the emptiness against the fullness.
In addition, when I work with oil colour I find it more and more important to use the element of drawing as a counterweight to the heaviness and slowness of colour. Then I draw fast lines with the brush and give form to ideas.

The meaning...

Many people use to ask what I want to say with my pictures. They want to know the main idea behind it. I mostly do not start with an idea in the understanding of a content that is just transferable to written text. Unlike the conceptual arts, my focus lays on creating an atmosphere and inventing a kind of theatre of colours and forms. I also enjoy putting symbols and hidden meaning in my pictures, which shines through from time to time. Sometimes there is a person standing in a strange landscape, which he tries to understand. On the other hand, children stand in a place and at same time, they stand in another place. Which is the real one? The places and landscapes I paint are strange and create questions. Are they fragments of dreams of the figure? What is their meaning? Often I do not know the meaning of the symbols I create. There are many question marks in my pictures. Many ways lead to nowhere, unprinted Placates or direction signs in the forest. Those objects are confusing. The person watching my pictures will look and think longer to understand the meaning. As I told you already, sometimes my pictures are about a person standing in a strange landscape, which he tries to understand.

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