Sanne Vaassen grew up in a little village between Heerlen and Maastricht, called Nuth. Now she lives and works in Maastricht where we pay her a visit. When we arrive Sanne offers us some tea and starts passionately telling about her work as an artist. She tells us that she was interested in many study fields as a child, like history, physics and biology, but especially drawing kept her interest. She also loved to observe and analyze things. “I remember we used to walk often and during these walks my father would point me to things that were there yet not clearly visible. He learned me how to look. I think it was a first important step for me to look at things differently.” Luckily, Sanne also manages to incorporate her other fields of interest into her art and to even dig into them further. “I can research anything I like, so everything comes together quite nicely.”
Sanne’s art work revolves around capturing processes. “I often try to freeze moments in time. I choose moments that mostly start from something outside the field of art. They are natural as well as cultural processes and changes.” External factors and contingency are two key concepts in Sanne’s work. The external factors are the above-mentioned natural processes such as rain, wind or water, entities that already exist but are not controlled by us. Sanne puts these external factors in controllable conditions. So the controllable and uncontrollable factors are brought together. Additionally time and motion are two important concepts inextricably linked to these processes or changes. As such Sanne refers to her work as “a small capture of a time that will fade away again”.
To make all this more understandable Sanne describes us one of her works, called Cumulus, which is a portrait of the rain. Sanne prints out different sheets of A4 paper in the colour of the sky at that moment. Then she puts those sheets in the rain one by one after which she immediately removes them again one by one. As such she captures the progress of rain on the sheets of paper. “Actually I make a kind of framework to capture the rain or to show the rain.” Within this framework (the controllable factor) contingent processes (the uncontrollable factor) are at work, like how the rain falls. Sanne has already repeated this work multiple times and every time the outcome has been different, because of the uncontrollable factor. She furthermore has captured different currents in rivers in plaster, collected all the leaves of one tree and mapped all the birthmarks on her body.
When we ask about Sanne’s hobbies it is clear that all of them are related to her work as an artist, except maybe for swimming. “I’m often outside, not as much in my atelier. I go for walks and observe nature because it plays a big part in my work. Plus I do read a lot, for example I’m now reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Sciences and books inspire me.” Sanne also works at the local film theatre, Lumière, which she loves. “It’s really fun. It’s all volunteers that work there, all with a different background, for example someone that works there studied economics, another one works at a police station, etc. So we have a lot of interesting conversations, not only about art. I have to explain my work frequently too because they don’t know what art exactly entails.”
Soon Sanne will be part of a project in Wijlre at Castle Wijlre, next to art pavilion Hedge House. Sanne is looking forward to be participating in this project, which does not surprise us when we hear her talk about the impressive surroundings of its location. “It is a castle surrounded by a beautiful estate. There is a gorgeous garden, a small forest, an apple orchard… The project is called What About a Garden and I’m making a tour through the garden based on fragrances. So visitors have to follow a path along different fragrances which together make a perfume. And each time visitors experience a different scent, because of the varying weather conditions (element of contingency).”
Before we finish our last sip of fragranced tea and finish our conversation to return homewards Sanne lets us in to what she finds important as an artist. “I think you should stay as close to yourself as a person as possible. You often see that egos get bigger and that making name as an artist becomes the most important thing, for example by exhibiting as much as possible. But I don’t think that should be the artist’s focus, instead it should be the art work itself. Of course you want to exhibit as much as possible, but sometimes it is more important to make choices for yourself and your art.”