This latest artist showcase highlights the work of Yvette Hess.
When did your interest in art/creating begin?
I think I always wanted to be an artist. My parents have mentioned, on numerous occasions, that I started drawing when I was about 2 or 3 years old. I’d draw on the walls, in books, my father’s textbooks. It was constant and I’d point out that I drew flowers, as an example, and my mother said she didn’t see flowers. This constant drawing, which punishment could not fix, is also why I went to school a year earlier than my peers. My father asked me years later what I wanted to be when I grow up to which I replied “an artist”, and I saw his disappointment (his fear which I read as disappointment). I then redirected my focus on commerce – which feels a bit like I had to become someone else, when I think about it now. After several start and go attempts at university, then working for audit firms, the traumatic birth of my third son, and yet another hospitalization in 2015, for severe mixed episodes- I was brought back to art. I am forever grateful for my therapist for noticing something in me I couldn’t see. During the first informal art class I attended, I felt like I was alive in my skin. It was a very physical experience for me, which I seem to battle how to explain its absolute significance to me.
What is your starting point for each piece?
Sometimes it is like a feeling or urge that comes, like a want to ‘feel’ the colour black and white together, or oil and water, like oil pastel on ink, for example. Other times, I have a colour on my mind and see everything through that colour, like red, which also feels more like a feeling/sound/sensation, wanting to bring that out, to talk about it, what it could mean or say, if it were alive. I remember starting a painting a few years ago. It had a plan, it had some sketches before I started. One night, I completely broke down, I realized I had a deep pain inside me, a wound, and I cried and cried. I needed to paint and I need to use red. That’s all I knew. I took a canvas, and started painting a portrait and a particular point, a shape which became a void- not by intention.. I asked if I could change my project to this red portrait wanting to be born. I finished it and the lecturer asked me why I stuck with the many shades of red, purples, and I could not answer. I felt embarrassed because I couldn’t answer. I can analyze the work after, and analyze my understanding in retrospect because I should know myself best… But often, I can’t answer because I’m far away when I’m in the process. I think this is where I feel so disconnected because I struggle to trust this which I can’t see or understand possibly because of the pressure to able to explain and justify my ‘blind’ choices.
Who/what influences your work?
I am inspired and moved by work by artists I feel are brave and honest with their struggles in their lives and in their work. I enjoy reading and watching documentaries about the complex lives of artists like Ashile Gorky, Eva Hesse, Yoyoi Kusama, Ruth Asawa, Robert Motherwell, Lee Krasner, Agnes Martin, Georgia O’Keefe, Richard Haines, and William Kentridge. What fascinates me is when an artist shows me in their lines and brushstrokes, how they have come to trust themselves. I read widely on life and aspects to life, self-development, spirituality, psychology and psychiatry, women’s health and well-being, collective behavior and I believe this does influence my work. Maybe these are different lenses of my work – constantly talking to myself about things.
What do you hope the viewer gets from your work?
I mentioned that what I look for and I’m inspired by in others, that trust within themselves. I want viewers to be able to see that I’m learning to trust myself and my all-over-the-place expression more and more, but that they see and appreciate it as it is and understand it to be it as honest/innocent anyway. And if they don’t think it’s honest, they may understand that I’m not running away from them, as the viewer, but rather running away from parts of myself (as we all do from time to time).
What do you think about the term Outsider Art? Is there a term that you think works better?
I don’t mind it. Even though it references the outside, it is still to me a place of belonging, and no need to explain or question what comes to you and from you. So the term to me isn’t of too much significance, but rather what freedom it provides to those who identify with it. Outsider art seems to me like the space where someone can say “I’m not here to explain or justify anything, I am as I am, and what comes, comes. In fact, I invite the inexplicable/beauty/innocence/ shadow/uncontrollable and welcome it.”
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a further exploration of my dissociation and reflection process. It’s an oil painting of a moment I manage to catch the reflection of my feet in a mirror. I think some breathing and grounding techniques I learned last year helped. I was moved by the reflection- this moment capturing me being gone, in this mirror, a mirror I made during one of the hospitalizations for my depression and mixed episodes. I felt it captured how I see myself, only in parts, and all I have, I feel, is where I been, all I have is this reflection, even if I don’t recognize myself. All I have is my journey- the story I tell myself about myself and what my experiences mean. I really want to learn to be braver and freely share the way I experience reality. I want to explore the soreness and show the beauty I know must be there somewhere, even if it’s in an invisible moment like reflection.
Where do you see your work taking you in the future?
I’ll share what’s on my vision boards. I’d love my work or writing to be in MoMA, I want to meet my living heroes and hear how they battle and overcome themselves in life and in art (and ask if there truly is a difference between those two things). I’d like to travel to where my heroes have past found themselves physically- being in their spaces, seeing the corners of the rooms, the skies and landscape- that would be wonderful. I want to exhibit internationally, meet others who see things and life the way I do. I would love my work to take me to all the places I’ve only seen in magazines and in my mind. I hope my work continues to bring me incredibly meaningful conversations between me and those who engage with it. I find it remarkable how revealing and vulnerable people allow themselves to be when talking about my work. “I hear you”, or “I feel often like this, this feeling.” are things they tell me or message me. They wouldn’t say it publicly, things like regret, overwhelm, shame, uncertainty, being frozen with fear. They know struggle intimately and in the exchange – sharing it with me, they own it for a moment. I’d like my work to bring me more of those beautiful moments with people, and possibly learn or explore that itself in different ways. I want my work to continue to touch on different topics and themes – going beyond labels – seeking / exploring what is the essence of experience, whether it was done before, is irrelevant. It must just be true- the experience itself or what is behind it, the lesson. I want my work to bring me freedom.