Artists Interviews Lanzarote: Cindy Batsleer

Hello Cindy Batsleer, where are you from originally and what did you do there?

I was born and raised in Ghent, Belgium. Ghent is known for its Medieval city centre and universities. It´s a vibrant cultural town with a lot of young people.

I studied painting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (known as KASK). Afterwards I taught at the Municipal School of Arts for 9 years. I also painted in my studio on a daily basis and created decorative interiors for themed parties for a Night Club in Brussels.

What brought you to Lanzarote?

I fell head over heels in love and following my heart, arrived in Lanzarote! When I became pregnant with my son it was pretty much decided I would stay in Lanzarote, literally and metaphorically planting a seed for a new life. And besides the man in my life and my child, I also fell in love with the island! The volcanic earth here has a certain energy, it is strong, I likened it to fertility. In many ways. I have never run out of inspiration for my art on the island.

How did you become interested in painting? Have you always been interested in that subject?

Since I was a very young age I was constantly drawing and painting. Sometimes real life can seem boring, I need an imaginary world as an antidote and to have some fun. I love to play with various mediums, but at the same time it can be exhausting switching from one technique to another. I was always happiest using colour. Over the years my work has evolved, but my motivation is pretty much the same.

Sometimes artists get criticized for being too self-absorbed with their subject matter and their artistic endeavor, I feel that for myself, like certain people, we need time to let our imaginations loose. Artists, like a lot of creative people, need time to allow their thoughts to produce something we can share or give back to the others. Artists are not as selfish or egocentric as one might think. We often produce work to seek connection with others, or to help translate into imagery what life is about. My work is a constant search for connection and also discovering new things and surprisingly, it´s about never finding the answer! The day I find the answer, maybe it will be the last day I paint.

What work do you have in the Elements Exhibition at Barstro restaurant and is there a theme to your work?

In the Elements Exhibition I show two mixed media drawings in color, that I use as prep-work for big sized paintings. My theme is branches. I often find them during walks with my dog. As I see it, we don’t  have a lot of trees here on our volcanic island, so branches are valuable objects.

Each branch has a story to tell, so I sketch them and some of them inform my work and come to life under my hands, but some branches don´t evolve into a work at all. It is an intimate conversation between me and nature. A few years ago I started to work with very linear drawings, but lately they have evolved into more abstract colourful creatures.

It´s amazing how viewers engage with my work. I´m often asked “what are they”? People feel the need to have a solid identity, a word or a theme, or some safe world to hold onto, but as with all abstract art, as soon as they permit themselves to observe more freely, the connection can often be made.

The viewer of abstract work has created something personal by finding out what that connection is. It might be instinctive, it might be guttural or it might remind them of shapes or images they have seen subliminally. My work has a double layer of meaning, quite primitive yet sophisticated at the same time. I say to people “You can encounter the tragic, the serious or the comic side of existence” and it shows in my work, life is as it is, the viewer finds their own answer.

What’s your goal for your work and do you offer art related courses or workshops on the island or anywhere else?

For the moment I´m still working on the branches concept and would love to bring all the work together in a solo exhibition here in Lanzarote or in Northern of Europe.

I´m also an art teacher at the British School of Lanzarote in Tahiche and enjoy dedicating my time to helping others develop their own visual language.

What is your scariest art moment?

My scariest art moment would be when we get ruled by people who deprive us of the right to create and express ourselves. Art can sometimes be seen as a comment on society, and its frightening to think of living in a culture that censors art to the point of imprisonment. It’s hard to imagine that Michelangelo’s famed Sistine Chapel was once deemed immoral by the Catholic faith. Nudity still has that dangerous taint in many cultures.

What’s your favorite thing about Lanzarote?

My favourite things on Lanzarote are, next to its beauty, the non-polluted fresh air, the space to create and the International blend of people.

Thank you Cindy and good luck with your exhibits.

Cindy’s drawings along with 14 other artists work, can be viewed at Barstro Restaurant in Nazaret, until the end of August 2015. Cindy’s work is due to appear as a solo exhibition at El Grifo, the bodega in Lanzarote until 30th October 2015,

Cindy Batsleer, Artist, Lanzarote
Cindy Batsleer, Artist, Lanzarote
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Artists Interviews Lanzarote: Matthew William Scott

Hello Matthew Scott, where are you from originally?

Bradford, Yorkshire, UK

What did you do there?

I have also lived in London and Barcelona. In London I worked at the Circus Space National School of Circus Theatre as Box Office Manager and Head of Reception. In Barcelona I performed as a Mime / Living Statue on Las Ramblas and after some poor experiences working with theatrical agents doing the same there, I started to tour and represent Living Statue Shows and Competitions around mainland Spain independently. Back in Yorkshire I was member of a number of Street Theatre Companies touring shows around the UK and in Europe.

How did you become interested in art, photography and stone balancing?

After predominantly science based ‘A’ levels – Physics, Computer Science etc. I realised that I did not want to be a computer programmer. So, instead of going to study Computer Science at University as I was expected to do, I started to re-visit my artistic roots (my drawings of nature were celebrated and exhibited back in Middle School). I was inspired by the potential of C.G.I imagery but after 5 years of academic study and other experiences, I felt a bigger need to be expressive and turned toward more conceptual art combining Live Art and Installation in my Fine Art degree show back in Hull. Stone Balance Art was inspired and nurtured by my present rocky environment here in Lanzarote.

Have you always been interested in that subject? How did you find out you liked that medium?

Land Art was always attractive to me. I remember seeing works by Andy Goldsworthy whilst hiking in the Yorkshire Dales. Stone Balance art happens to tick a number of boxes – Contemplative / Meditative, Creating Outdoors, Connecting with the nature of our environment.
What brought you to Lanzarote?

I was invited by the Ayto. de Haría to show an ensemble group of Mime / Living Statues from Las Ramblas (I was living in Barcelona back then). We performed during the Christmas Market back in 2008. I made some remarkable friends very quickly and since I had no big ties with Barcelona, decided to give me and the Island a chance to get on together.

What work do you have in the Elements Exhibition?

2 framed prints of Stone Balance Creations.

Are you working on anything else at the moment?

I continue to create Stone Balance Art and also Mime / Living Statue characters. I also do web design.

Is there a theme to your work?

Balance.

Do you offer art related courses or workshops on the island or anywhere else?

I offer Stone Balance Workshops when the weather is apt (wind isn’t a good factor when balancing stones precariously). I will be delivering a Workshop in Crete in the last 2 weeks of September this year.

What’s your goal for your work?

For me to feel more balanced. It’s cathartic and I like to challenge peoples perceptions of what can be done.

What is your scariest art moment?

Performing as a Living Statue stood half way up a winding staircase in the inauguration of a Hotel in Barcelona. I was directly above the Mayor of Barcelona who was delivering his speech below. It was so hot, the sweat was literally dripping off my nose and onto the Mayors head. Or Perhaps being punched in the face whilst being a Living Statue at the Edinburgh Festival. I was of course just being still, until that moment.

What’s your favorite thing about Lanzarote?

Lots. The quality of the air. The healthy living. The sea, the rocks of course, the feeling of knowing the exact limits to the land mass on which I am residing. Arriving / returning by plane and seeing those limits from the air. The fact that the geography puts a physical limit to the place. However, although I like this aspect, I tend to appreciate it more after leaving and coming back to it. Oh and the Sweet Potatoes.

Matthews work can be seen at Barstro Restuarant, Nazaret, along with the photography and art work of 14 other artists, until the end of August.

Matthew William Scott Stone Balancing
Matthew William Scott
Stone Balancing

Textiles for Mixed Media: What is involved?

The Open College of Arts (OCA) is based Barnsley in the UK. It is the UK’s only education charity. The basic aims of the Textiles for (Hons) degree course is to:

  • Widen access to education in textiles at undergraduate level through Open and Flexible Learning.
  • Ensure you gain the traditional skills in textiles to form a solid foundation for further development.
  • Provide an intellectually stimulating programme of study based on high quality study material and tutor support.
  • Develop your creative capacities and your ability in interpretation and application.
  • Develop your critical understanding of the theoretical and conceptual issues central to the practice of textiles and the social, historical and cultural context in which it is practiced.
  • Provide an environment in which you have has the possibility of changing your view of the world and your interaction with it both visually and intellectually.
  • Foster high-level ethical and professional standards and an awareness of the possibilities offered by existing and new developments in textiles to expand your application areas.
  • To develop autonomous learners capable of applying intellectual and practical skills in a chosen area of visual communications appropriate to employment, further study, or life-long learning.

My latest course,  Textiles for Mixed Media reminds students that there are a total of 400 hours of work, study and research to get through on this level one course. If my previous work with The Open College of Arts  is anything to go by, then I would double that figure.  It depends a lot on the individuals background in the arts, knowledge base and skill level as well as proficiency with photography. It is also useful to have knowledge of HTML code for keeping an online blog. Personally, I also factor in visiting exhibitions, trade and student shows and learning new skills that can’t be taught by book or YouTube videos. It helps a lot, if students have a grasp of photo editing techniques. Sometimes, because I live in The Canary Islands, I have to take a structured course or workshop abroad, which can entail an expensive trip away from home. On the other hand if I visit the UK I also spend time in UK libraries and museums doing research. It is rare if I have the opportunity to meet other OCA students and tutors at the UK based study days.

It is not, as some people assume, an 0n-line study program. Each student receives a manual of projects and is assigned a tutor. After each series of projects, these are parceled off the the tutor for comment. When all projects are complete, all the projects are mounted and displayed and parcelled as a whole and sent to an assessment centre (in the UK), for an external examiner, to give the student an overall grading in keeping with university level education.

There are no research facilities in English where I live, in Spain.  So I often wait until I visit the UK and factor in study-time and order books in advance from local libraries. Normally they are very accommodating, wherever I happened to stay, they will send them ahead to a local branch.

One problem that arises due to my location outside of the UK, is that, despite having a reading list, (at least with the study for the coursework  for A Creative Approach To Textiles), there were times when a book was either restricted by the publishing house for posting to certain countries, or the book was out of print. The OCA administrators, tutors, organisers should consider this when publishing a reading list that covers  globally located students.

The internet is a huge help for research, in fact I couldn’t have done the course work without it. The OCA’s student webs pages have been criticized by many students for being difficult to access and interact with. Enclosed with the course material that I received is an A4 page about how to log on and share information! I brace myself each time I have to upload notes. I have in the past tried uploading my work to the site for tutor feedback, and spent two hours navigating the site, it used to be incredibly slow and cumbersome to work with. There have been a number of recent modifications which have helped a little. I don’t know of any student that uploads their coursework to the OCA website.  That is one reason most students keep a blog of their work. WordPress and Blogger are extremely easy to navigate and keep track of and can hold a lot of images without difficulty. I can not fathom why OCA have such a cumbersome system.

Fortunately the Textiles students also have a Facebook page to ‘chat’ and share information. If they have queries about their work and blogs, usually there is a student who has been down that route and can offer advice. If a student can’t attend  study days, which are arranged at various locations  (always in the UK)  then the social aspect of the course is lacking. I can see that UK study days  can be a chance to meet other students and tutors and exchange ideas.  Tutor support relies mostly on feedback from the work you have already done, I have never met or spoken to my tutor, Rebecca Fairely.  I’m aware that some students and tutors can chat on SKYPE. I would find that a huge advance for distance learning students to be able to interact with their tutors regularly, I like the idea of a face to face conversation where you can discuss project work,  research or queries.

Mixed Media for Textiles is broken down into five sections, each section has a number of projects to be completed.

Part One: Surface Distortion

Project 1 Folding and crumpling

Project 2 Tearing and cutting

Project 3 Heating and fusing

Project 4 Scratching and embossing

Project 5 Puncturing and stitching

Part Two: Joining and Wrapping

Project 1 Joining

Project 2 Wrapping

Part Three: Molding and casting

Project 1 Molding from a surface

Project 2 Casting the internal space of a vessel

Part Four: Mono and collatype printing

Project 1 Monoprinting

Project 2 Collotype printing

Part 5: A final piece

This final sample is to bring all the learning, research and work from this course, to a conclusion. To have the freedom to combine methods or choose materials we particularly enjoyed working with, and perhaps extend them further. A time to show off the skills learned and methods you employed. The format is as with the other projects, that is showing your research, sample making, recording outcomes and sorting.

One of the facets of home study is a feeling of isolation and occasionally lack of motivation. There is no one to ask if  you are not sure of the suggestions in the course manual or whether the standard of your work is heading in the right direction. I don’t find it helpful when a tutor suggests that you go your own way, and that there is no right or wrong way to interpret the manual. Then when students send in their assignments for assessment, some have said the criticism can be keen and brutal. I know of 3 students who left have courses  due to their frustrations with interpretation and feeling they were not having adequate support. The dilemma with the OCA distance learning programs, and which one has to adjust,  is that tutors are not available full time, they are only paid for a certain number of hours and only work on particular days.

Happily the Mixed Media for Textiles is a new course. From my initial reading, it seems very strategic and well planned and it has been written by Rebecca Fairley, my current tutor.

When it comes to referencing and working from internet information,  students have to be wary and careful of their sources and be rigorous about quoting references about information, other peoples work and methodology. Also it is really important that if you use another artists photograph or discuss their work, to seek their agreement to using information or imagery before publishing it on the internet in a blog.