We posted Dutch photographer Marleen Sleeuwits’ wonderful interior constructions on Wandering Bears back in September this year after seeing her work all over the Unseen Photography Fair Amsterdam, from gallery displays to Foam Magazine presentations as one of the prestigious Talent selections for this year’s issue. We caught up with Marleen and found out just what makes her tick, her photographic loves and those future plans.
1. Would you consider your work in any way sculptural, or do you define it purely as installation?
The spaces I create are made just to work in a flat photo. I often change one specific corner of a room and most of the time this is only interesting when seen from one specific angle. However I feel some of these constructed spaces are interesting as an installation. This is something I am starting to explore more within my new work. My framed photo works have always been very sculptural because of their physic qualities. Their size, sharpness and colours are very important. However this causes a problem as the prints have the best effect when you see them for real, standing in front of them, but less so in a book or on the internet.
2. You mentioned that you are currently working with 3D objects, what is the inspiration behind this new direction?
Actually not really 3 dimensional objects but I would like to show some of the physical interventions I make for my photographs in an exhibition itself. I feel these ‘sculptures’ will work as an installation combined with my photoworks. It’s something I am just starting to explore so there are no concrete results yet.
3. For me, your work thrives in print, hung in large spaces. What is your relation to the gallery, do you see it as the final output for your work?
It’s true that my photo’s work well in a gallery. They need a certain level of concentration. I like it that the person who looks at my work feels he can almost enter the space that is displayed. All the details in the print are incredibly sharp because I work with an 8 x 10 camera. It’s like you can really touch these things. Most of the time it results in that people walk back and forth towards the work. A gallery or museum is of course perfect for that, no distractions. Early this year my work was exhibited in an art fair in Rotterdam. This fair was situated in a office building from the seventies. It had exactly the same atmosphere as my photographs. This location worked really well combined with my exhibition, like having a double vision.
4. When you enter a space, do you have a clearly planned outcome for your image, or do you work mostly relying on instinct?
Not really. I let the aspects within the interior guide me and that is the starting point of my work. I work with materials I encounter in the spaces I portray. Also I have a lot of ideas which I make from sketches or that I write down. Most of the time I start with one of these vague plans. While I’m constructing the space I always take pictures with a small digital camera to see if things work the way I want. However this is seldom the case, so then I keep changing the space until all pieces come together. This process is quite intuitive.
5. I admire that your work presents an ‘ethos’ and direction rather than a variety of varied projects, dedicating yourself to developing this process of construction and deconstruction. Do you see yourself working in this way in the future?
Yes I’m definitely not finished with this Interior project. Thankfully my areas of attention change so it stays interesting for me as well. For instance my work has undergone a big change over the past years, from working in a photographic way to deforming and constructing my own spaces. This was a big turnaround in my way of working and thinking. But it’s true that what I am trying to communicate has not changed essentially, only the way I say it.
6. I understand you produce your images in an office building, are you able to describe this process?
I now work in my third empty office building. In Holland there are a lot of empty office buildings in this moment due to the current financial crisis. Two years ago I started renting only one space in an office buildings. This ment I had to change the same space over and over again. (Interior no. 24 to 29) It was a very interesting process because the work became more focussed on how you perceive this space. Recently I moved into an empty office building which is 16 stories high. It feels like I have 100 blank canvasses.
7. How do you approach commissions? Do you ever feel constricted within the environments you work, given that your personal work displays a large degree of intervention and construction on your behalf?
The commissions I work on are quite diverse. Sometimes I work for architects and I can follow a building through the complete process of constructing. Also I work for product designers. Working in a commission is of course more strict then my own practice. Most of my commissioned work comes from clients who know my art work and want something with the same atmosphere. Sometimes I can use these jobs to try something out for my own work. I havent produced a lot of commissions where I constructed spaces, so hopefully the opportunity will come in the future.
8. Do you have a favourite interior / image you created?
If everything goes well, it’s the piece I just finished.
9. Can you remember the moment your practice clicked, when you understood this was the approach to photography you wanted to pursue?
It was actually quite recently that I felt that I had finally found my own language. The art academy I attended was mainly focussed on concept. Only in the last years I learned to trust more on my intuition. This was very liberating because my process is now much more organic: Making and thinking simultaneously. I feel that this suits me much better.
10. What are your photographic inspirations? (Institutional or photographers).
I’m very interested in photographers who search for the boundaries in photography. In The Netherlands there are quite a lot of young photographers who make great work and experiment with the medium, combining photography with video, sculpture and installations. For instance the work of Anouk Kruithof, Katja Mater and Melanie Bonajo is something I follow closely.