This post continues my series “In-Sync with…” aimed to get a closer look at contemporary artists and art professionals from Chicago and abroad. Read it, enjoy it, share it, and get in-sync with artist Sander Steins. Do not miss his personal recommendations at the end of the interview.
Sander Stein is a Facebook friend that I have been following for the last year or so. Ever since I started looking at his work on FB, I found it to be very interesting. Sander lives in the Netherlands and I hope to meet him in person sometime in the near future. In the meantime, I invited him to be part of my In-Sync interview series. Enjoy!
Where did you go to school?
The school system was not made for me. I left school when I was 18. I had the feeling I was unsuited for school programs, because I was always used to learning things by myself. During my school career I read a lot of books about subjects that interested me. I always did that when school was out, when I should be doing my homework. Teachers must have thought I was a lazy student, but I was just living in my own world and pursuing my own interests. In the classroom I used to daydream and draw a lot, and so I was not really paying much attention. So I also did not do any art school or classes. For me personally the best school is life itself.
What are you working on and what inspires you right now?
I always work on several projects at once. Since I use varied styles and media to express myself it is easy to switch between projects. Some are long term projects that are not finished yet. Construct/Destruct is one of them. It is a photo documentary about the thin line between building and breaking down, especially focused on industrial areas in Europe that were once the heart of our current capitalistic system. In those industrial capitals we produced and built the system that causes us more and more problems. These places are slowly falling apart and the industrial landscapes mutate into areas with a new purpose.
Another project I am working on is “Optical Illusions Of A Contaminated Atmosphere” which is a series of abstract paintings about the changes in a certain area. It’s influenced by the German Ruhrgebiet, an area that always inspired me a lot since I was a young child. I live in the south-east of the Netherlands, very close to the German border. I actually feel more inspired by Germany than by my own country.
Yet another project I am working on right now is the abstract art project “21358SMart”, which is a collaboration with Marijah Bac Cam. She is an abstract artist based in France and we met each other trough FB. We focus purely on our instincts, to see how this will influence our work and combined paintings, collages and hybrids. The project is only in the first exploration phase, but I have a very good feeling about it. There are also serious plans for some other exciting projects I can’t tell too much about right now. Main fact is that I want and need to create each and every day!
What kind of engagement do you expect from the viewer?
When I create art I actually never think about the viewer and have no expectations. Some years ago, when I started to paint and focusing on art, I perhaps had the awareness that people were going to see it. But I noticed that it limited me and it made me feel not free to express myself 100%. Of course I hope that my work has the potential to make people think about the subjects that are important to me (and actually for the whole of mankind, I believe) and I also hope to grasp their attention for at least longer than a few seconds.
How does a typical day in your studio/creative space looks like?
I like to work in a certain rhythm, so my days often start with a walk in the forest, doing paperwork and getting in touch with friends. After that I start around 11:00 in the morning. I like to create during the day, but also in my evenings. Each day I create, but I also realize that I need to take care of getting my work out of my studio to show it. Something I need to focus on more in the near future.
Describe your creative process.
I usually work quite impulsively without a set idea beforehand. During the process an interaction between the images I create will evolve, and the idea of a series or a concept. Therefore I don’t necessarily see myself as a conceptual artist, but I do like to create series and do a lot of research during the process of creating.
Do you find social media to be a distraction or an asset for you as an artist and how do you deal with it?
I have mixed feelings about social media. It can be very useful for contacting people you don’t know yet, but most of the time it doesn’t have much to do with “being social”. It devalues traditional communication and turns it into an algorithmic system in which the computer system decides what is important or not. Besides that it is almost impossible to capture human emotions in “small talk”, so an essential part of communication is lost more and more.
What is your biggest challenge as a contemporary artist?
In the first place I don’t see art as a challenge , but as a means to express my inner frustrations in a creative way and to get to know myself better. Furthermore it is a challenge to make my educative contribution through art and to make people aware of the mounting problems around us.
How much does the art market influence your art production/output?
In this modern world we are inundated with stimuli on a daily basis. Through many media, and especially the internet, we are constantly updated with what’s going on in the world. Looking at the art world from this perspective is becoming more and more uniform. I realize that almost everything has been done before, and I want to remain true to my own line of thought. So the art world has only a restricted influence on my work. I prefer to remain as authentic as possible instead or following trends of the opinions of others.
What’s next for you?
At the moment my focus is still on producing and finishing several projects and creating new art. I do have some opportunities and places to present my work, but I cannot say to much about it at this point. Besides that I am quite picky about how and where I want to show my work. Sometimes maybe a bit too picky, haha! I also have a few interesting travels coming up. In March I am going to France to work on the project “21358SMart” and in April I will be travelling to Japan. In the long term I also would like to go to Chicago. I have the feeling this city is a perfect place to get inspired and it is also a great opportunity to visit my friend Liz Mares.
What excites you about your local art scene in the Netherlands?
To be honest I don’t like my own country very much, so I am not much involved in my local art scene. In that aspect I am happy that I am not dependent on one particular region.
Do you believe gallery representation today is as important as it has been in the past
In almost every cultural sector there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment. The traditional cultural values have largely been replaced with a digital revolution (the music industry and photography are good examples of this). This definitely also impacts the influence galleries have within the art world itself. Maybe right in this age it’s extra important to be represented by a good gallery that acknowledges that big changes are taking place, and that wants to anticipate this landslide and the way people deal with art and culture.
I love books… from biographies to books about history. I really enjoyed reading “Just Kids” by Patti Smith.
Art movie or documentary…
I don’t look often to art movies or ducumentaries, but the documentary “Painting” about Gerhard Richter was very interesting.
One of my favorite art museums is “Museum Ludwig” in Cologne, Germany.
Contemporary artist (other than yourself)…
There so many great contemporary artists out there, but I think Albert Oehlen is one of my favorites.
Place to be inspired by…
Favorite places to get inspired are industrial areas and nature. Sometimes I also like the energy of a city.
One sentence advice for an art student…
The advice I want to give to art students is to stay yourself and to stay authentic.
I don’t have a favorite Youtube video… sometimes I listen to some music, but I not use it much.