Studio Visit #8, Tanja Smit

Artists who are not represented by a gallery have to find their own ways to catch the attention of their audience.

Having an open studio weekend is one way of doing so. Last weekend Tanja Smit (1961) had one in her studio in The Hague.

I’ve known Tanja for decades and there has always been a remarkable and wonderful consistency in her work.

In the past she has stayed for quite a few years in Barcelona and last year she visited Xiamen in China for a residency at the Chinese European Art Center.

In her work there has always been a sense of wonder about the world, its shapes and its signs, what they might mean and how that could be visualised.

In the actual artistic visualisation there is still this sense of wonder as the materials seem to dictate their own ways of expression and finding meaning.

During her already long career Smit has used different materials. However, paper and water based materials like ink and water colour seem to have become the most prominent, although she also uses photography.

One room of her studio was dedicated to her so-called text works.

She has taken newspapers, magazines and books and has re-edited them. For each work she has chosen a certain ‘key’ to re-edit it.

The ‘key’ could be certain words or groups of words and their meanings, or the shape of certain words, or the open spaces in a text, the shapes that seem to be hidden in texts, or even the lay-out of a page.

In that way pages with texts – sometimes with illustrations or advertising – seem to show another meaning than just the meaning of the words and sentences while being transformed into a new composition at the same time.

She uses both Dutch and foreign texts. In China she wasn’t able to read the texts, but still she has made text works based on Chinese texts as a visual meaning could still be distilled from them.

These text works also have a very rhythmic appearance and some of her works have been used as music scores.

Recently this year she was invited to make text works from Bible texts on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Dordrecht Synod.

She co-operated with musicians to create a musical performance at Pictura in Dordrecht on the base of these text works.

Some scenes of that performance were presented on video as well. In fact, with music she has brought the sense of visual wonder even one step further.

Apart from these fascinating text works she also makes drawings, but, in one way or another, the procedure seems to be the same as in the text works.

The paper already seems to bare the shapes in it and Smit’s only task seems to be to literally draw the shapes from the paper, just as she draws the shapes from a text.

In her drawings the interaction between paper and ink or water colour is crucial.

© Villa Next Door 2019

Content of all photographs courtesy to Tanja Smit.

Bertus Pieters


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