This week we will be talking to philosopher and artist Clara Bolle, exploring her practice where she questions what it means to be your body instead of having a body. We also look at her recent range of paintings that depict the human hand, using it as a symbol of identity and empowerment.
Image description: a landscape image depicting a a detail of an expressive painting of hands in bright yellow tones. On the right surrounded by a black frame is a rectangular painting of 2 distorted hands with curved fingers. In bold white and black on the right side reads Clara Bolle. The bottom right reads clarabolle.com.
Can you briefly describe yourself and the artwork you make?
I'm a philosopher and I see my writings and paintings as expressions of my thoughts. Philosophy has its limits and creative expression gives me the possibility to use a 'different language'. My research (r)evolves around the question what it means to be your body in stead of having a body. I want to explore my body as being.
What is your process for creating a new piece of artwork?
As an abstract thinker my work starts with ideas and words. I love the process of translating thoughts into images because you always gain new insights. I start with simple sketches and drawings before moving it to the canvas.
Clara Bolle, Hands 16, 2021, 100 cm x 70 cm, acrylic paint on paper
Image description: a soft portrait painting showing layered hands reaching to the bottom of the frame. The delicate fingers are painted in cool purple, yellow and orange tones.
Many of your artworks make use of a variety of media such as soft pastels and charcoal. Why do you choose to work with these materials?
Charcoal and soft pastel but oil pastel especially is very sensual in the sense that it has a distinct smell and you can move it around. I love how oil pastel melts in my hands.
Could you name any artists that have inspired your art practice?
So many! Jaap de Vries, a late friend of my fathers, Willem de Kooning, Karel Appel, Francis Bacon, Henry Moore, Egon Schiele..... the list goes on and on.
Clara Bolle, Hand 18, 2021, 100 cm x 70 cm, acrylic paint and charcoal on paper
Image description: a rectangular portrait painting depicting layers of spindly hands reaching to the top of the frame with elongated and curved fingers. The palette consists of right yellow, blue and orange tomes, with a thick black outline defining the fingers.
Your recent range of work all depict the human hand, why have you chosen to explore this?
I guess it's because of the current situation. We are all wearing face masks and it's hard to see the person and the emotion behind the face mask. Also, the BLM movement showed me how powerful a hand can be as a symbol. I look for hands to see emotions, identity, a connection.
What projects have you recently been working on?
I just got divorced, got a new job and moved house so I've been only drawing a bit. The Etty Hillesum House (a new museum in The Netherlands to commemorate the Dutch Jewish writer Etty Hillesum) has asked me to do a set of post cards based on hands. The next couple of months I want to work on this set of postcards.
Clara Bolle, Hand 17, 2021, 100 cm x 70 cm, acrylic paint and charcoal on paper
Image description: a rectangular painting of 2 distorted hands with curved fingers painted in light tones of white blue and yellow. They sit upon a busy background of block colours of beige, green and blue.
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