Interview by L. Valena
Can you describe to me what you responded to?
I responded to a piece of animation, which showed moving hands and some sort of fluid. I also noticed the colors blue, yellow, purple and magenta.
What was your first reaction to that?
I was confused! I never had an art education- I am a self-taught artist, and it was very confusing for me. I started writing down words on a piece of paper- I was basically brain-storming. This was my way to make connections. So the fluid, with fibers and fast-moving hands reminded me of sperm cells. And the yellow color and the shape of the fluid made me think of a cracked raw egg. The colors purple and blue reminded me of space. The colors magenta and yellow reminded me of a picture I once saw from Colin Hawkins. The picture was an abstract photograph of maple seeds. The funny thing is I collect all kinds of interesting objects I find in nature, and I had these beautiful maple seeds in my collection of found objects. I knew- these are my sperm cells. I know- I have a really funny mind! But I just had to connect the dots from there, and put the pieces together like a puzzle. I started looking in my second-hand books, because I only work with images from second-hand books, and started cutting out everything that drew my attention. That is how my little collage came to existence.
I love it. I've never thought about how maple seeds like of look like sperm cells, but you're so right!
Yeah, my husband said that too! He said, "That doesn't look like a sperm cell!" And I told him to wait- wait until you see what I have in mind, and it will make sense.
Tell me more about this collage. What is it saying?
Well, I call it Space Invaders, because if I think of a pregnancy, sperm cells, and sex in general, it's very invading. The fetus and the mother have a symbiotic relationship, and it also reminded me of a symbiotic parasite. I hope I don't offend anybody! Putting the human in space also made me think of the Big Bang- the existence of life. This collage is already gone- it only existed for an hour, so the photograph is the only piece of evidence of it, but that's life! Life is fragile and fast, and it's gone before you know it!
Tell me more about your process.
I just work from what I know, and what I see. I always say that I look with my eyes, but I see with my heart. That's how I create my collages.
What were some other words you wrote down when you first saw the animation?
I have the paper! Water, urine, vessel, life, the hand that gives life, sex, circles, drops, Adam and Eve also came to mind. That was it.
How does this relate to the rest of your work?
I don't think I have a signature style, where you could see my work and say "Oh, that's from Vanessa Nelissen." I use different themes and what feels good, I just make it.
Do you often use natural objects like these maple seeds in your work?
No, this was the first time.
Do you have any other thoughts you want to share about the natural world, the universe, birth?
Myself, I decided to not become a mother, but I find it very interesting. I have two dogs, so they are my little babies. I find it very interesting. I also have step mother- it's very complicated, the relationship between mother and child.
I don't have children either, and I agree that the whole thing is fascinating!
It's scary, to be honest. I would love to know how it feels to be pregnant, to feel a human inside of me, but actually giving birth is very scary, if you ask me.
It's wild. That amount of pain is something that is so beyond my understanding of life- it almost makes me curious. There's no other way I would want to experience that much pain, but it seems very interesting.
Yes, it's very interesting.
Do you have advice for someone else responding to prompt like this?
Just do it! It opens your mind, it's a great way to respond to another artwork- I've never done anything like this before. It was fun and I think it made me grow as an artist. You set different boundaries as an artist, so just do it. Think outside of the box.
Call Number: Y15FI | Y19VA.neSpa
Vanessa Nelissen was born in 1982 Belgium, quit school at 16 years old and grew up to be a vegan, unconventional, eclectic, tattooed, body-positive, buzz cut feminist who unfortunately didn't get the chance to finish her studies of photography and find a job that suits her, due to Bipolar Depression and Irritable Bowl Syndrome. She always wanted to be a successful illustrator/photographer but lacked the talent and didn't get much further than doodles and hobby-photography and felt frustrated till she discovered analogue collages in 2015 and started experimenting with this media giving her more possibilities to bring the images, stuck in her brain, come to life. She loves smartphone-photography, making jewelry, listening to music of all genres, watching movies and series, visiting close friends (and being creative together), her husband, 2 poodles, gardening, collaborating with other artists and of course; making collages.