Interviews with Artists

Roos Dijkhuizen

Interview by Nikki Kane

Published May 2016


Roos is currently producing work that conveys her reflections on various ecosystems and how through our interpretations of sensory experience in these environments we can imagine them in a balance of fact and fantasy. Roos creates imagery and objects that for her reference instigators or festering of energies. These observations are often linked to variables of nature that influence cognitive streams such as chance, limit, interference, sequence, association, conspiracy. She finds it interesting to reflect on and incorporate scientific research as a rationalising of whats around us - especially on elements not seen with the naked eye.


To begin with, since you are on a journey, I wonder if you could tell me a bit about the role of travel in your work, as I know you have produced work whilst on residency in quite distinct locations (Czech Republic, Morocco...)?

I'm in a research mind-set; I have been for a while. Up till now making work feels like a collaging of interests and realising ideas, learning and constantly considering new possibilities, gradually refining.

While a tourist, I get to produce (quite discreetly) while living in a new set of circumstances. It’s a way of calculating the odds and ends of my intentions, without restricting the capacity of workspace and let thoughts be more open-ended. There have been distinct locations in some cases, others were more trips out of curiosity.

For example what intrigued me about the Wild Project residency (Czech Republic) wasn't to do with the location firstly but more the self initiated proposal made by Alexander Stevenson to geographically discuss a theme in depth, off the conventional art map. I wanted to meet the sort of folk that would be drawn to such an opportunity and learn about what work those people make. What I then produced isn't so important, but I wouldn't have produced something like it without being there and having these conversations with others.

The best trait I took from that residency was to treat new terrain as a laboratory playground. I mainly draw a bit, write, photograph, as a way of rationalising my surroundings, usually thinking in images and marks. So what I see gets broken down; what’s there, how it gets there, where it goes, what could it turn in to.

The Sahara was very interesting for practising this way of working. It’s a beautifully bleak landscape with hardly any interference of civilisation, complete surreal imagination. I went there to make foil balloons and place them around, take photographs and play with the perspectives of a desert. The outcome is still to be produced, a hand printed publication packaging imagery and observations on my behalf, with conversations based on specialism as a trained eye, illusion and facts influencing one another and the process of research; material alienated, far from its original habitat in a test tube to be understood.

New environments become an all-encompassing vision, with familiar perspectives and fresh views I've never seen or heard. This directness in experience is what gets me stimulated to make art, like I'm collecting reference points to turn into print works.

Can you tell me a bit about your trip just now across Iceland - where have you been and where are you going, what brought this trip on, what have you seen so far and has any of this shaped your work or plans for it?

Where I’ve been, it was a 6-week explore initiated by my dad who wanted to revisit a country that made an impression on us as a family. He and I set off in his 40-year old Unimog from Scotland to Denmark, through middle Europe on grey motorways then 2 ferries to get to Iceland. The majority of such a journey is spent in the car, but we got to explore the Faroe Islands for a couple days between boats.

The whole trip started with playing out this conundrum - a 2,500 km detour to visit a neighbouring island. It took us 10 days to get to Iceland, and on the 6th day we sailed past Shetland, visible through the mist within a 5-kilometre reach of the boat. The company cut its connection with Scotland and Shetland years ago. It seems like a natural migration route is missing.

Connected to this, when in the west fjords, we got talking this woman - she lived in a town population of a couple hundred people - as we bathed in the towns natural hot water supply. She explained her want to start a north Atlantic nation with Greenland, Iceland, Faroe, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Shetland and Scotland and we would have a unified currency - my mum suggested combining the kroner.

So nothing was planned for the trip, we used the car to tour around in and would wild camp as much as possible. There were certain dates to pick up and drop off family members but otherwise it was intuitively played out, reacting to what land looks interesting on the map for fishing, canoeing, walking and basing decisions on what we would see and hear. My main aims were to find the new lava field made by Bardabunga volcano, visit creative spaces in small towns, experience the most remote parts and learn a bit about how people live there, their philosophy behind it.

A park ranger - looking after the first stay over hut made by the touring association with a view of Langajokull glacier - told me they've had a tourist boom of 300,000 to one million a year. A country with more sheep than people had to dramatically infrastructure their land for the influx, making them understandably protective of preserving the nature that lures everyone in.

Tourists are told to stick to walking paths and never drive off-road, while the powerful forces under the soil can ruthlessly cover an area of 85 square kilometres with fresh lava. Earth keeps being added to by earth, while vegetation has to regrow and roads remade. People I met go to Iceland to be alone and experience a landscape without many signs of human interference. It’s quite a deceptive perspective.

An interesting spot we went to was this farm at the end of a road. We were driving towards the sea and got stuck in their grounds. They let us camp in their field, meanwhile we got to see what life was like at the edge. A big family, with a collection of houses, used it as a weekend retreat. Although they lived completely self sufficiently in those two days, they had jobs in the capital. Their tradition and pride as farmers showed in their direct approaches to providing, down to killing wild horses for their meat and shooting arctic foxes so they don't scare the eiderdown ducks (their nests are collected after the ducks leave and sold to countries like japan).

Iceland is one of those places with demonstrations of what’s happening beneath the surface there physically in front of you. Its isolation, boiled up in the middle of the ocean amplifies a unique quality in its appearance, as a habitat and in its pace of time. I find the materials its made of to be accentuated, continually leaving trails and fragmented in to different structures.

All this information is to mould together into images, to make as part of a lived experience. I’m always interested in collecting sensory assumptions from sites that spark a growing and festering in their own environment. Instead of celebrating a viewscape, I like to investigate the undertones; the more background to a scene the more it can be symbolised.

How does your knowledge and experience as a printmaker shape your work? Your points about collaging and marks point to this, but I wonder how this influences your whole approach, or your work in other mediums?

The way I see it, the printmaking process is one to be challenged in a contemporary context. It’s not so much the time taken over making a print that should be questioned, but more its final form and existence as a piece of work that is developing into something new I think. If you've trained in printmaking there is a suggested tendency in how creating is approached; perhaps very instinctual to work with your hands, create repetitive expression, see in compositions, drawing, layers, graphics, reproduction and yeah, mark making as a gesture and as an entity.

The way I work with ideas on one hand can be through immediate printing where the result grows by different expressions on the paper, or it’s a sketch that I follow, with selected techniques for their individual impressions. I find a lot of the soul lies in a bit of experimenting and making mistakes, it can reveal how elements react in your own way, and act as a stimulus for the next piece.

Prints naturally have a physical and sensory quality to them through the process and use of materials. My work in other mediums tends to just be an extension of this image forming, perhaps something I want to try provoke in a print - a graphic mark with presence, alluring, of a particular texture to embody a type of reference, like containing air as a means of making shapes or using wool to mimic a shrub.

I currently get motivated by the older aesthetics of prints in books, those vivid cmyk images or hand drawn illustrations for stone lithographs, where it was still necessity to use printing techniques to publish, and how the technique though labour-some brought the sharing of information and the realisation of ideas and research to a wider realm. It created scientific realism and embraces physical media.

I’ve gained a lot of experience touring the Scottish print studios, getting to work as part of the organisation in some cases. The workshop environments have their individual qualities, and its valuable to spend time in each one. The way in which a space is structured and how people move around it, the synchronisation, their behaviours, is interesting to oversee. How each space approaches the different processes and inventiveness towards technique pushes your habits of making.

I'm currently printing in the Highland Print Studio in Inverness, the most northerly workshop, which has members coming in from all over the highlands and islands. I hope to create a series of works here that are influenced by what I perceive in these surroundings so far and the local interests.

Could you tell me a bit about some of your work in other media up till now - such as your inflatable work or projections - and how you see these developing in the future?

The inflatable work started as a fascination for making an invisible everyday substance observable and tactile, although we inhale 12 - 20 breaths of it per minute, air doesn't obstruct us spatially. It’s part of the same membrane as us in one sense. I felt tempted to divide that space and create an object or environment that considers the viewers experience.
The forms I've made are curious, odd - they tend to exist on their own like an organism stirring, with a presence I couldn't predict. I'm still learning how to tailor designs, testing various materials. It’s very systematic until it’s blown up, a case of trial and error to get the right shapes. It requires insight in to an overlap of disciplines - architecture, engineering, sculpture, textile. A few artists to make note of here are the group Ant Farm and Cocky Eek, who have used inflatables in provocative ways that demonstrate the medium’s versatility.

What I've made has evolved as I continue to explore what my work is for. It began very immersive and playful and really focused on interactivity, when I ran an inflatable building class AIRPLAY at the Market Gallery every Tuesday for 6 weeks. This developed an interest in setting up workshop structures as an inclusive opportunity to share skills and collectively experiment and discuss a technique, an exercise I value when I want a broader view of how a certain art form can influence.
Since using dustsheets at my exhibition Trails at the Pipe Factory last year, I've been experimenting more with the translucent and fluctuating tendencies of lightweight and reflective materials. After my time in the Sahara, where the wind would roll over the dunes and transform my mylar balloons into an extension of the landscape, I've thought to make inflatables into a functioning tool to investigate something environmental - like the weather balloon, air pressure balloon, and those used to connect to wifi in remote areas. It made me think I would like to create a collaborative investigation involving meteorologists and artists running a research project together.

Could you tell me a bit about how you think about scale in work, and how you move between or select paper-based or sculptural works?

In Glasgow and at art school I was quite happy working on a large scale and with the inflatable works its encouraged to go big. Then when I moved north and started using the print studio here I became quite aware of refining my technique. Large-scale prints can be labour-some, costly and there’s not always the space to mange them. I don’t have a studio here either so space to produce is also refined and temporal. So I've practised more thinking than making recently. I got quite aware of waste and all the works left behind in Glasgow and I'm still figuring out the best ways I feel comfortable producing and how each piece of the process exists afterwards. All aspects of your infrastructure - money, job, studio, routine - influence how you work and I'm fine with that changing and readapting so long as it’s progressive.

At the moment I get excited about how this activity of making can manifest in to something more structured and engaging in the future - all the off sprouts of objects and image composed to form workshop related activity, in a way I imagine it as therapy installations actually. I'd like more experience with digital compositing, building structures and outdoor displays, then scales and opportunity can be more playful I think...we'll see.

It seems that material and shape form the basis for your work much more than specific subject matters - would you say this is the case? Could you tell me a bit about this, your research processes, and your approaches within specific subject contexts (for example your residency within the science lab at Strathclyde University)?

Yeah shape and form do come natural to the basis of making my ideas, particularly when it’s an action of breaking down the elements and part of regenerating the sensory aspects of experience. Sometimes I find with exploring new materials and a new process I work in a more visceral way, not so trained with expectation.

Its just tricky isn't it, I'm a bit loose with processes and subjects - to construct a statement about what I do overall still feels very assuming. So many things interest me, if I use the past year as an example it’s an ongoing investigation into various ecosystems, topics I come across in person through conversations with people or wandering aimlessly through new places or the same places. I collect information through photography, drawing, video, and workshops, collaborations when I can.

I used to be quite direct in thinking the visual and theoretical ways of science research were my influence for making, but its so one sided. I reflect on discoveries and theory as a rationalising of what’s around us, while embracing the ways people engage with what’s around them. I am drawn to specific moods of nature like chaos, limits, interference, chance, illusion, sequence, association - kept broad to be able to stay reactive to new goings on. Where I'm based those themes have made intriguing narratives but elsewhere in a different culture, in a more urbanised area, they might change. I'd hope what I make is to be understood in different places too, like advertisements of ecology.

The residency at Strathclyde was to promote research made on Huntingtons disease. I thought cool this is the type of work I want to do - to be involved with a group of researchers and reinterpret their findings to present to various audiences. It’s the type of project I'd happily work on again, but it needs time. Just like stepping into a new community, there needs to be trust and time to fully engage with the people and the work they do. We were invited into the lab to perform part of the experiments ourselves, like being in a creative workshop we could learn through doing and knowledge was shared - this is so good for making references between each others processes and collectively talking through ideas. I remember becoming fascinated by how you could separate and multiply DNA strands and it prompted me to find a medium of print that gave the illusion of movement so I made lenticular prints - you use a software to merge several stills into one frame and register a laminate plastic with grooves over the image. The way your eye and light bounces off the grooves segments the image into frames that can change or create depth when viewed at different angles.

I'm hoping to set up a few similar projects that involve research through collaboration this year; one would be a residency with artists and meteorologists to study land changing through weather. Over Christmas we experienced flooding around parts of the cairngorms and saw the drastic affects of water flow and how it damaged and altered the land. This would be part of a general investigation into currents - looking at aspects of weather, the ocean and radioactivity in my findings and hopefully through conversations and site visits with environmental science centres in Scotland.


Dijkhuizen trained in Printmaking at Grays School of Art, Aberdeen and then joined the committee at The Pipe Factory studio and gallery space in Glasgow 2011 - 2014. She exhibited in Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2012/2014, Edinburgh Science Festival at Summerhall and ran workshops from GoMA, Peacock Visual Arts and The Glasgow School of Art. In 2015 she was awarded Arts Trust Funding to take residency in the Sahara desert, Morocco and is currently involved in a project with An Lanntair on the Isle of Lewis and Harris while living and working from Inverness.


If you like this why not read our interview with Zoe Spowage


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