The Joy of Pondering New Realities
Updated: Jun 19
How I processed global events with paint and brush ...
Answering the call
During the first quarantine in 2020 I picked up my paint brushes again. Don’t get me wrong. Painting was not a new medium to me. I started out as a painter 20 years ago, but along the way I veered into other media and even graduated with an MFA in photo and video. During this time, I was a "closet painter" … once or twice a year or so.
Like many of us I found myself lost when the world came to a screeching halt, in more ways than one.
Until a coach asked me: “Sieglinde, what is it that you really want to do?” Funny, such a simple question but we rarely stop and ponder it profoundly. My life usually centers around what I “have to do” rather than what I "want to do” – especially when you’re an adult with kids and grown-up responsibilities. Sound familiar?
My own answer surprised me: “I just want to paint!”
So, I did, and I haven’t stopped since.
Re-imagine what else is possible
As always, my work serves as an invitation to expand your mind and open your imagination to the possibilities of a new reality. Even in my photo and video work, I rarely present something realistic or fully representational. Instead, I relentlessly keep asking the question: what else can this be?
This concept is deeply rooted in my immigration experience from Europe to the US in 1998 and I realized I couldn’t just transplant my old identity into my new environment. Instead, I had to find a way to adapt to a new society while staying true to who I truly was at my core. I had to re-imagine not who I was, but who I ‘could be’ on this side of the ocean.
In 2020-21, it felt like the entire world was trying to re-imagine what else is possible 🤷♀️ Some through fear and resignation, others through a courageous journey of deep introspection. And let’s not forget the wild ride of everything in-between.
Back to the canvas
Since my entire body of work is a reflection on or of the dynamics in my own life and my observations of life in general, I was curious where the urge to paint came from.
As my own days quickly became lived on-screen, I thought it was mostly an escape away from computers, phones and other high-tech devices.
Life is to be experienced hands-on!
I had to get my hands dirty again and feel connected, ALIVE, and not “lived” within the boundaries of a Zoom or other restrictive box.
But there was more. I needed an outlet to process the chaos of information, contradicting data, ever-changing rules and regulations … the world outside my front door had gone mad! Moving paint around on canvas felt like peace, sanity, an illusionary yet welcome sense of being in control, a much-needed process-oriented approach to my work.
And then the layers came. Layer upon layer upon layer upon layer upon layer. One more different than the other. Acrylics, inks, text transfers, oil. It was my way to visualize and process the avalanche of information and news overload, sprinkled with the fear of the masses and global uncertainty on top. Remember?
And then a giant tube of white paint took over. I blocked out the built-up layers but not completely. Areas of text, colors, and textures are still visible, like hidden stories peeking through from underneath. What is really going on here? What are the untold truths we have yet to find out?
It was very healing to white out “reality” because I didn’t like what was unfolding outside the confines of my solitary safety bubble. But the white still bears witness of a moment in history lived, a life experienced.
The reset button
Was I really trying to erase or hide reality though? What if I was building a new blank slate instead? After all, the pandemic acted like a giant reset button. Shut down and reboot. Start up in safe mode, assess residual damage before running at full speed again … but wait, do we really have to go back to same old same old? Do we even want to go back to same old same old? Was our old reality really all that great to begin with?
In times of uncertainty you can choose to focus on scary triggers, discomfort and insecurities; or you can embrace a new-found freedom because uncertainty opens the door to new possibilities.
When life as we know it is ripped right from under us, and what remains can be summed up as: wear a mask, wash your hands, stay 6ft apart. Well then … choose before someone chooses or decides for you. Time to set your own new rules, create your own new life, build your own new reality. Don’t wait to find out what will or will not possible. Get out of the self-imposed box, and just ... re-imaging what else is possible.
Art is such a safe space to do so 😉 and serves as a catalyst for more!
After the paint dries
As the chaotic energies of the pandemic settle down and life (and people!) re-emerge. How do we feel and how do we want to feel going forward? We’ve been put through the wringer. We learned, changed, transformed. What’s next?
When the white paint dries, I add energetic lines symbolizing the positive, uplifting potential in the air. The lines represent the road to follow, the confident way out. The lines inspire the internal conversations that bring new revelations. Embrace the shift. Allow life to just. be. well.
Sieglinde Van Damme is an award-winning visual artist with exhibitions spanning the US, Europe, Russia and Japan.
Through abstract paintings and photo-related digital productions, her work reflects on the multi-layered dynamic of life based on the premise: "re-imagine what else is possible;” which translates into a constant process of defining and redefining visual realities.
Sieglinde holds an MS in Economics and a Master in Fine Arts. Her work and writings have been published in both Europe and the US. Her art can be found in private and corporate collections around the globe, including Sotheby’s International Realty in France – Monaco.
Free gift: “Collect Art, The Artist Way” (ebook): http://bit.ly/BuyArtQuickGuide
YouTube/podcast: Art Spark with Taryn and Sieglinde: https://bit.ly/ArtSparksChannel
“Set Me Free,” 2021.
Acrylics, text transfer, and oil on canvas.
36 x 36 x 1.5 inches
Acrylics, ink, and oil on canvas.
30 x 40 x 1.5 inches
Both “Set Me Free” and “Dichotomy” are pieces that mimic the vibe of life, especially the push and pull between opposing roles or desires such as the artist and the economist; the European living in the US; the need for safe nurturing while escaping dulling routines. The need for openness and freedom to fulfill goals and dreams ... Fill in the blanks with your own!
Acrylics, ink, and oil on canvas.
36 x 36 x 1.5 inches
I imagine the energetic red lines as the sky drawing of butterfly wings, as it just freed itself from its cocoon. Transformed, reborn, ready to explore its newfound freedom and the world around ... just like us as we emerge from the pandemic restrictions and quarantines - maybe?
“Coiled Connections," 2021
Acrylics, ink, text transfer, and oil on canvas.
30 x 40 x 1.5 inches
"Coiled Connections" refers to the dynamic of our social connections since the pandemic started. A coiled cable is stronger than a regular one. It can stretch and maintain its strength; when released it naturally snaps back to its original close-knit state... Look around. People may have fallen away from your life, but the connections that truly matter are thankfully still there.