Ilse Van Garderen
"Like many before me I began doing my artwork on the kitchen table. Some time later I graduated to a room in the attic, then a small refurbished building in the garden. 

But more and more I wanted to actually live in my studio and, with that in mind, bought a small partly (read ‘badly’) renovated stone barn in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France. Situated on the edge of the Massif-Central at around 700m altitude means lots of snow in winter - which our dogs (who accompanied us from Australia) love - and warm sunny summers, which we all love too.

Since moving here in 2012 I have spent more time piling stones and building walls then doing any artwork, although I confess that for me building is also a form of art.
In fact my time has always been shared equally between renovating houses, creating gardens and work in the studio.

Ilse van Garderen French studio.

After three years our garden is taking shape, we have a comfortable house and on top of all this I have a wonderful studio, which is a seamless continuation of the living area. At any time I can pick up where I left off or just glance at a work in progress, which to me is the ideal situation.

And now I bid you Bienvenue (it has to be in French, of course!) to my studio where since the beginning of 2015 I have begun to pick up the threads of the Robe series, large charcoal drawings (70 x 100 cm) on Hahnemuhle rag paper.

Robe series

Robe series
I have begun experimenting with still-life paintings, still in embryo stage, and small mixed media 3D pieces which I call ‘Les Petits’. All profit from the sale of these sculptures goes to institutions working for the protection of animals, both domestic and wild.

‘Les Petits 1’

‘Les Petits 2’
I am a lover of stories, myths and folktales, which is not surprising as my maternal grandmother was a storyteller with her own radio show. I have as a precious keepsake  a beautiful Jugendstil necklace presented to her by the grateful parents of a little boy who had been gravely ill. The parents were convinced that his life had been saved by his overwhelming desire to listen every day to my grandmother’s storytelling.
Proof indeed of the power of stories. 

During my childhood in the Netherlands my grandmother lived with us. When she began to recount a tale you simply forgot where you were and entered inside the story, experienced the adventures, tasted the tastes, climbed glass mountains and got lost in forests along with the heroes and heroines. As a result I still see stories everywhere around me. 

‘Les Petits 3’
For instance one time many years ago as we were driving along some misty country roads in France a three legged Borzoi hound ran across the road and we felt compelled to follow him. Although the dog was soon swallowed up by the mist we stumbled upon a ruined castle surrounded by water. As the sun melted the mist a hundred or more crows rose up out of the castle and started circling around. We stood spellbound and watched.

Or another time a small snow white rabbit crossed our path and then stopped, turned and looked at us, reminiscent of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ except for the lack of costume, but then he was after all a French rabbit! 

In my garden in Australia whilst pulling and tugging on a large blackberry vine a small bird began flying around my head chattering and chirping so I stopped to listen and she showed me her nest which I inadvertently would have destroyed had I continued to tug and pull.

It is these sorts of things which inform my ‘serious’ and sometimes ‘not-so-serious’  work.

I was introduced to Gertude Stein’s wonderful book ‘Tender Buttons’ by Ann James and Ann Haddon in 1997. I made my first Artist’s Book in 2000. It was made using handcoloured linocuts and embossing, taking as my point of departure the enigmatic poem ‘Careless Water’ from ‘Tender Buttons’.

We have signed copies of this beautiful Artist book by Ilse available at Books Illustrated. 

I chose to interpret this as an allusion to the condition of women and girls in repressive situations who need to fly away from what is threatening to engulf them.  â€˜Careless Water’ was selected to be shown at the 25th  Annual Shell Fremantle Print Awards. Later I made this into a much smaller, limited, numbered and signed edition with the help of Peter Lyssiotis.

Girl with Balloon, Linocut and blind embossing, $525

Cracked Plate, Linocut and blind embossing, $525 (unframed), $725 (framed)

Since then I have made many Artist’s Books, for example: ‘Hortus Conclusus I-IV’  (2001), ‘As a Fool in a Maze’ (2003),’Only Silence Whispers’ (2005) among others, including two in which I collaborated with Peter Lyssiotis: ‘Views from a Mountain’ (2009) and ‘Ah! Those Thieving Birds’ (2011).

In 2014 two of my books were selected for the 7th International Artist’s Book Triennial Vilnius (and exhibited in Vercelli, Italy in 2015).

I have not illustrated any picture books for a long time - my last book was with Nord-Sud Verlag ‘Mia findet eine Freundin’ (‘Meg’s Wish’ in the English version) in 1999.

Nevertheless in the dim recesses of my mind I have heard the rumblings and seen the vague contours of perhaps a new picture book. The story I have carried with me for over ten years but I have been too involved with other projects. Or perhaps the right way of representing it hasn’t quite manifested itself. But - who knows? - in my new studio maybe I will find a way to bring it into the light of day. "

Ilse van Garderen

Welcome into Ilse's studio... in a renovated stone barn in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France.
Books Illustrated offers a range of limited edition prints and signed books by Isle van Garderen.
Girl with Balloon, Linocut and blind embossing, $525 (unframed), 
vailable for sale at Books Illustrated. 
Cracked Plate, Linocut and blind embossing, $525 (unframed), $725 (framed)
vailable for sale at Books Illustrated. 
We have signed copies of this beautiful Artist book available at Books Illustrated.

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