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 â€˜badlyâ€™) 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.
I have begun experimenting with still-life paintings, still in embryo
stage, and small mixed media 3D pieces which I call â€˜Les Petitsâ€™.
All profit from the sale of these sculptures goes to institutions
working for the protection of animals, both domestic and wild.
â€˜Les Petits 1â€™
â€˜Les Petits 2â€™
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 grandmotherâ€™s
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
â€˜Les Petits 3â€™
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
Or another time a small snow white rabbit crossed our path and then
stopped, turned and looked at us, reminiscent of â€˜Alice in
Wonderlandâ€™ except for the lack of costume, but then he was after all a
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 â€˜seriousâ€™ and sometimes â€˜not-so-seriousâ€™ work.
I was introduced to Gertude Steinâ€™s wonderful book â€˜Tender
Buttonsâ€™ by Ann James and Ann Haddon in 1997. I made my first
Artistâ€™s Book in 2000. It was made using handcoloured linocuts and
embossing, taking as my point of departure the enigmatic poem
â€˜Careless Waterâ€™ from â€˜Tender Buttonsâ€™.
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 Waterâ€™ 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 Artistâ€™s Books, for example: â€˜Hortus
Conclusus I-IVâ€™ (2001), â€˜As a Fool in a Mazeâ€™ (2003),â€™Only
Silence Whispersâ€™ (2005) among others, including two in which I
collaborated with Peter Lyssiotis: â€˜Views from a Mountainâ€™ (2009)
and â€˜Ah! Those Thieving Birdsâ€™ (2011).
In 2014 two of my books were selected for the 7th International
Artistâ€™s Book Triennial Vilnius (and exhibited in Vercelli, Italy in
I have not illustrated any picture books for a long time - my last book
was with Nord-Sud Verlag â€˜Mia findet eine Freundinâ€™ (â€˜Megâ€™s
Wishâ€™ 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
hasnâ€™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