The fleetingness of the everyday
My work is about the fleetingness of the everyday and the idea that only the extraordinary seems to attract our attention. I temporize, to dwell on the things and moments we cannot remember and the things we appropriate, to keep memories alive. In my work I focus on small everyday things that you never look at. Slices of bread, a bush in the garden. My son’s toys. Call it meditation or silence. Art is my freedom. I do it all for myself and that is a luxury.
I am co-founder of Dutch Independent Art Book Publishers (DIABP), founded in 2016. It is a collective of independent publishers of art and photo books. We are present at international trade fairs in London, Paris, Berlin, New York and Tokyo, among others.
About my books
I make a book every year. I like sequences, which I think of as collections. The book gives me the opportunity to arrange these collections rhythmically. I see the book as a dance, with or without a dramatic arc. I like the tactility of paper. Sometimes the paper is part of the concept. For example, in Collection #1 I used different types of paper to emphasize the materiality of the photographed objects and in Arcadia the content of the work is translated into the way in which the paper is folded. For Wallpaper I made paper myself, which I printed and photographed.
I produced the first two books (Monochrome and Sequences) together with a designer. I also had these books printed. I designed the books that followed myself; a designer adds something to the work and that was not what I ultimately wanted. I also started making the books myself. The manual work suits the content of my work.
The book gives me freedom; I can decide everything myself and I don’t have to take anything and nobody into account.
From text accompanying the presentation of my books at ArtisBoook in Groningen, November / December 2020:
Bartels’s work fits within a trend that is once again on the rise. This is a close relationship between the artwork and the collection. These “artist-collectors” create presentations consisting of everyday objects that are arranged and archived in their own way; the objects are taken out of context and placed in a new system with a different hierarchy. This all started with Ed Ruscha in 1963 and then with Hans-Peter Feldmann, Annette Messager, Sol Lewitt, herman de vries and Christian Boltanski. In recent years, you can see it reflected in works by Anne Geene, Martin Brandsma, Vibeke Mascini and Luuk Wilmering, in addition to the work of Bartels. These artists investigate, experiment and question existing meanings. They investigate how the environment is experienced and from what perspective it is viewed.
THE GARDEN, THE YARD AND ME (2020)
This book is about abstraction, language and the inability to influence the course of history. During the Corona epidemic, Bartels was forced to lock herself up in her home and garden and started working on this book. She photographed plants and used them to make paper, which she then coloured with berries and fruits from the garden. She photographed the result and processed it in grids. This is how the abstract images were created. She says: “I wondered where these abstractions came from. Was it the unreality of the whole situation or was I just tired of all those voices screaming to be heard? I think it was the latter and now I see these images as a temporary checkout.
“The title Millefleurs refers to a design of flowers that was used for wall hangings in the Middle Ages. These wall hangings had two purposes: decoration and insulation. The rise of wallpaper in the 18th century eventually made wall hangings superfluous. My “Millefleurs” are scarves, the main theme of which is suburbia. Suburbia is my home. In the late 1950’s, a new neighborhood was built in my hometown, in which a house was built for us. They were semi attached houses with a garden, a driveway and a garage. In the same period, the garden cities were developed in my current hometown. Space, greenery, water and playgrounds made these suburbs special. The modern family lived there. Advertisements from that time promoted the very latest household equipment. It was a new time. A time of progress. This is where the modern consumer society began. In my memory, the skies in suburbia are blue and the houses under construction. Everything new is embraced. The future is celebrated. The threat is excluded. As for the shape. I often use the grid and sequence. When you put the grid over a photo, you have a sequence in one photo. It thus becomes a design. In Millefleurs I used a photo of the view of my neighbors as a background. This photo is the last in a series. The previous photos are bundled in Arcadia (2017) ”.
In 2019 Bartels also made La Mer (2019). With this publication Bartels celebrates the summer holidays in France with the locations Adéodat Vasseurlaan in Quend Plage (2016) and the coast at Ploemeur (2018).
“I finish a bag of M & M’s and think about ornaments. If you look closely you will see them everywhere: on cupboards, chairs, doors, on window frames and as floral motifs on wallpaper and on clothing. The list is almost endless. Why are they there? Who likes them? During my second year at art school, I went to a portfolio meeting and had my school-acclaimed photo work commented on by a complete stranger. According to the organization, the joke of this meeting was that the reviewer was a mystery guest. Wrapped unrecognizable in cloth, she commented and asked me, “What is the necessity? A question that has occupied me ever since ”. In her search for the necessity of ornaments and floral motifs, Bartels consulted various sources. “Art is decoration; it has become something beautiful for above the sofa. It’s the outside that counts. Peter Sellars (theater director) says it all in an interview in the 1998 FD (Dutch newspaper): “When nothing touches us anymore, when everything slides off the outside, we lose the ability to distinguish. It is one of the greatest ills of our time that we are fixated on the outside”.
The vacant land next to my house was sold in 2014 to two self-builders. One built his dream house in 1 year. The other is not ready yet. I followed the process from 2015 and recorded the result in the book Arcadia. This publication is about ambition and the impossibility of realizing it; the feeling that it will never work and may never work again. Arcadia consists of three parts: 2015, 2016 and 2017. Each part consists of separate sheets. The further in time, the more desperation strikes, the more complicated the folding of the sheets that make up the parts.
Collection # 1 (2015) and The Complete Collection (2016)
About Collection # 1, Bartels says: “Do you know that feeling when you were little: that you are very happy, and suddenly the fear that one of your parents is going to die and that you are losing all that happiness? I had that feeling last year: that death would end my happiness. My own death. Or my husband’s. And I thought: when you are gone, your clothes are left. Personal imprints of yourself, substances that have moved towards your body, where your scent lingers. And someone then has to clean up. And so the idea of Collection was born. But then my husband became seriously ill. I had to get on with my book, he said immediately, and I did. Collection #1 was followed by The Complete Collection (2016). He was so sick. The hospital had almost given up. I went twice or sometimes three times a day. It was summer 2015 and incredibly hot. I dressed in my best clothes every day. My collection consists of 469 items. 148 winter and 176 summer. The rest is underwear. The vast majority comes from China. I don’t know the exact number, but it’s about 19%. I suddenly realized how much of this clothing comes from countries where child labor exists. Even if I know that the garment is ethically manufactured, what about the fabric, the dye, the lining? ”
Sequences consists of 3 separate bundles in a folder: “One week”, “100 days” and “12 going to 13”. “One week” is a conceptual, playful quest for the way in which Bartels associates a certain time, object or action with a certain color. The moments and their duration are always first described, including a schematic arrangement of these numbered activities, and then the same diagram is “translated” into color areas on the next page. Bartels also photographed a plant in her garden for 100 days. That is to say, we see a rehearsal of “close up” photographed leaves that are then processed into “grids”. With the title “100 days”, Bartels refers to the tradition in which CEOs in the business world usually have to exert their influence in a hundred days. Or, as she describes it herself: “The work is about the pressure we put on ourselves to perform in the short term”. The enclosed text shows that this is a conceptual translation of an idea: the images are cut at the top in such a way that they correspond with the development of the AEX index (stock market). Finally, in “12 going to 13”, Bartels portrays the emotionally “valuable” belongings of her twelve-year-old son. She is specifically concerned with the relativity of that value: in a year’s time he may be interested in completely different matters.
Monochrome is a complete exhibition in a book. Each chapter has a unique focus. Bread, but not as you normally see it. Meat, but not like you’ve ever seen it. Outside, but not as you normally see it. The daily routine becomes intrigue through the use of photography and color. Bartels embarked on a journey to discover “nothing”. Capturing nothing is her ultimate goal. Her quest has led her to explore and reinforce the overlooked. In this way nothing becomes something.