Dealing with uncertainty
Age Sugar Sugar: “We live with uncertainty. We don’t know what our income will be. I don’t know if there will be new work, if I can get materials, all factors that involve uncertainties. At some point you get so used to it that you can’t live without it. That uncertainty is a major drive to create new work. If you’re in a relationship, you both need to be able to deal with this uncertainty.
So I am busy several times a year. I create my work in series. In between the series I often do other activities. Nor am I an artist who could sit in the studio every day. When I start working on new work, I often have ‘boredom days’ beforehand. Then I am completely to myself for days. I think that’s a really bad feeling, because it also makes you insecure. However, that uncertainty is an extremely important factor, because it is precisely from that uncertainty that I make choices. I really have to go through a few days of boredom and misery before the sketches and drawings come.”
A whole process
“In those days, something grows. Sometimes you suddenly discover something that makes you go back to the old work with the new information and make the ‘good’ from there. It really is quite a process that takes place before work. But once the work starts, I’ll keep going until the series is done. Then I can turn off my thinking, because then I just know what to do. After such a series I am often mentally tired and I need time to recharge. For example, I enjoy working in the garden.”
In addition to being an artist, Age Hartsuiker is also a member of the city council of Heerenveen. The work for the city council also takes up a lot of time. “Those things always go on. Then I can look up other things and recharge myself in a different way. We are constantly looking for balance.”
The drawing makes itself
“When I’m working, my thinking is almost gone. The image is there, because the sketches and the story are already there beforehand. The sketches are the basis and then I start drawing. Then I first take a shape from the sketch, but as soon as I put my fingers on paper I lose my thoughts. Still, I know what to do. I don’t know how, but luckily my hand knows. I work with chalk and I have my hands as close as possible to the material, which gives a nice feeling.
That’s a really crazy process. When I’m drawing, my eyes follow my hand. That’s how new things happen. Those are things I can only discover when I work this way. If I were to transfer my pre-made sketches faithfully, nothing would happen, because then I had to think about what I’m drawing. For me, the drawing or painting always makes itself.”
Searching for the ultimate freedom
“I also think it is very important to make associations at moments that you encounter in your work. That keeps you fresh as an artist. This allows you to take new steps, but it can also cause new ‘problems’. The process has a lot to do with life, I think. That’s always the nice thing about it. But I also come across moments when you don’t know how to proceed. Then I think and then I know I need to take a break. And while I’m away I’m busy solving problems.
I can’t help but create. That drive will never leave me. I have to keep working. I have to be busy. If I can’t create, I try to actively distract myself by doing other things. That does not feel pleasant. I have to be in my studio on a regular basis. And if I don’t have any materials, I’ll make small drawings. Very beautiful little miracles can be among them. I like to keep that to myself. It is actually a search for the ultimate freedom.”
What I see, I can draw
“I had a training in which I learned: ‘I can draw what I see’. I used to be involved with that too, only I eventually draw my inner images that are derived from nature. My basis is in the physical environment. By that I mean nature and my environment. No people, but for example forests, meadows, trees and stones. In my art there is always a direct connection with what you can see around you in a visual language that is mine. I often draw and paint what I see with a great deal of abstraction.
As an artist you always try to reach as wide as possible, that you can call your art almost universal. The further you get in your work the more the images change to the realities of you. To how you as an artist interpret the world. It is your poetry, your landscape.”
The magic of the black
“My art is always based on nature. I am now working on a series on gardens. I usually work with black, white and shades of gray, but now I might start with color. Working in black and white is a very important characteristic of me. It is a very important factor in my work. It also has to do with the graphic nature of all my works.
When you work with black and white it is just like a printed letter. The story evokes emotion, but not the letter itself. If you would add a picture to the story, that picture would become a guiding tool in that story. This will make you read the story in a certain way. By working with black and white I try to avoid creating a false emotion in the viewer. When I work with color, I can evoke an unintended emotion. This is how I try to keep my work as pure as possible
I only give myself the option between black, white and shades of gray. I think the black I use is the most beautiful black there is. It is the most beautiful color and it absorbs all colors. So it also accommodates all colors. People sometimes think that I had a depressive period. Many people often associate black with negativity, while it could also be the universe, for example. Fortunately, there are many people who also know the magic of black.”
art and society
“Art has great value for our society, because it really adds something. Sometimes it also confronts and ensures that people can mirror themselves in art. When they are touched, a new emotion arises. That is also the source of life. I think art is one of the more important foundations and arrangements for our culture as a community. Otherwise, life will become very dull and narrow.”
The broad cultural basis that art offers remains important. Even if people don’t care about it. It is important for our environment and our design. Everything is related to that and has a certain source. That source is the discovery of something that gives other people new insights and something they can move forward with. And then it can go on again.”
Just enjoy each other
“Everyone adds something based on their own qualities. Whether it is a construction worker, an artist, a driver or a farmer. When it comes to a smaller valuable community, everyone adds their own thing and talents. I love that. I like my environment. That is important and you should cherish it, then we will all come the farthest together. Instead of making life miserable for each other. Look for beautiful things around you, beautiful people around you and beautiful nature. Stop the bureaucratic dictation. Make the painting together and just enjoy each other.”
Image: Mudstafa Gumussu / FPh
Text: Fimke Groenewoud