Fact: Some images never disappear and have the unspeakable power to stay intact in our memory. Wherever we go, whoever we become, these images pop up and follow us forever. Some are filled with tragic connotations others provide us an ecstatic feeling of reverie. Scrolling my Instagram feed I come across an image that holds this very power over me. Shot by Jurgen Teller, a model stands naked in the middle of an overflowing and blooming garden. Her body has the strength of a greek statue and the unbearable lightness of a bird. It was Saskia de Brauw – disturbing yet beautiful, delicate yet impressive: “a snail with the legs of a hare”, in the Dutch model’s own words. But long before posing in front of the most important photographers, 35 years old Saskia made her way as an artist. And like her body, Saskia’s art is all about beautiful paradoxes. Last year, she self-published her book, the Accidental Folds, a collection of photographs of mundane objects found while walking or wandering in the streets: clementine peelings, pieces of paper, textiles... Saskia always manages to find beauty in raw, banal, prosaic things. We talk luxury, humility and the importance of keeping it slow with an artist who still believes in contemplation.
Do you remember the exact moment you decided to become an artist?
I remember being on a plane and looking out of the window. I got very excited by the lines of the landing strip. I started drawing these lines and also using words, maybe it was a kind of writing that I started to do. I loved the graphics of airports. I do not consider myself an artist. I have ideas for projects and I realise some of these ideas, even if it takes a long time for them to take shape. I hope to continue working this way and create a body of work with consistency. It will take time and many years before I can say if I am an artist or not, but it is not so important to me to be honest. What I want to do is part of my life and the way I look at the world. And above all I have the luxury of 'time' to work on things like this...
You made a performance piece in New York last year where you walked through the city for 18 hours. What were your feelings?
I was well prepared and so I felt very peaceful and very happy to finally make this walk. At one moment after 15 hours of walking I felt as if my body and mind became very in tune with each other.
You often refer to novelist Georges Perec as an inspiration. What is your favourite of Perec’s books?
Species of Spaces and Other Pieces. Every time I look for something to make me look at things in another way, from the bed, to the street, to a memory I re-read this book.
I find your word pieces really poetic and kind of meditative. How would you define your art?
I think this is just the way I do things. I don't think “I am going to make something poetical”, it’s maybe the kind of language I speak and the way I translate my thoughts.
You often say your art is a long lasting process. Could you explain me why? Is it important for you to take time?
You have to respect the animal that you are... I am just simply unable to make things fast. I am like a snail, with the legs of a hare. If I need to go fast I can go fast and If I need to go slow I go slow. For my artistic projects I have no rush at all. Ideas need to be very mature and serious before I want to get them out into the world.
Do you have a particular smell, fragrance, perfume, that reminds you of a beautiful moment in your life?
It might sound strange but smell of the cellar of my grandparents’ house is one that is stuck in my mind. I like the smell of old damp cellars. That and lavender – it relaxes me and that smell almost instantly gives me a peace of mind.
As an artist, do you think that the present is less stimulating than the past?
The past contains the future. Without the past the future would not exist. They belong together. But I am very romantic and the past I think is more stimulating to me. Things that have taken shape over time have to me have more story than new things. I like it when objects have become used and that I can see the hands of people in them, for example.
Jean-Luc Godard once said that you had to capture the invisible to make a good movie. Your work focuses on very mundane things. Do you feel the same as Godard about art?
I do think that art can show, through the details, the bigger whole or make you think about subjects that are more global. Some things are unspeakable, but they move us and also maybe worry us all. With life comes the end of life. Life of course is full of happiness but it is very tragic too. There is a beauty in this, at least I find. These feelings, sensations we have are invisible, but present in all of us I think.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Inspiration can be found in many things. I get inspired by reading certain books by yoga master BKS Iyengar, books on walking, books by Georges Perec, from textiles, made by unknown artists. People who made things for the beauty of the object and not to add their name to the object or become famous. I feel inspired when I see people doing very humble work without complaining, and doing things from their heart and soul, not for money or fame. I feel inspired by kindness, by acts of kindness in the broadest sense. I feel inspired when I feel this rush of warmth and the desire to make things myself or the desire to go forward with my life.