Tell me a little bit about you!
My name is Machteld Solinger, born in the Netherlands where I finished my BA in Fine Art in 2008. I’ve been painting and developing my work since then. After quite a long period of working on my own I felt like I needed some time for reflection and questioning, so I decided to apply for the MA Painting at the Royal College of Art in London, which I finished in July 2017. I live together with my partner and my two sons.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I decided I wanted to be an artist very young. My aunt is an artist and she has always been an inspiration for me to pursue my art career, she showed me that you can actually work hard and make art your practice.
Can you tell me about your practice? What ideas are you exploring?
I notice I think of painting with everything that I see around me, I think of how shapes and colours I come across would work on the surface of the canvas. But also whether things I come across that have a very painterly appearance could turn into a work without using paint and staying to the original image as much as possible.
What is your process like?
The process of working always starts with finding things and visuals that trigger something that I want to explore further on canvas. That one trigger sets a chain reaction in motion and results in my studio getting filled with all these little objects, prints, images, all these different things that I start connecting, they become visual clues for one another and start emerging in the paintings in some way. In the essence they are all about one thing, which is bringing forward a central idea that tells something about the act of doing something, its gesture, and the visuals that come out of this gesture.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
I was very lucky to have Milena Dragicevic as my tutor during my last year at the RCA. She is a really engaged and dedicated tutor and influenced my way of thinking and looking at art. She gave me the confidence to never stick to one way of working but to have the courage to try different things and ‘train an extra muscle’ as a female painter. Her last piece of advice was to stay patient as an artist because an art career is not a race, hard work is eventually always recognized. That gives me confidence and faith to take my time as an artist.
What is your studio like?
My studio is a shared one with a group of artist friends in Rotterdam.
What do you find most challenging, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
The feeling of competition, failure or rejection that sometimes overwhelms me and the feeling I get sometimes that it is a race. All that comparing and the ambiguity of what will succeed or not makes me restless sometimes. But once I am in my studio and I come to my senses I understand that it is about much more than that, then I can shut that insecure part of myself off.
Next to that I’m combining my art practice with being a mum, which is an absolute struggle at times.
If you could sit down for dinner or a drink with anyone, who would it be and what would you chat about?
I would love to sit down for a drink with Walter Swennen, a Belgian painter who is in his 70’s now. I think his paintings are a perfect combination of being visually strange, attractive, funny, edgy and contemporary. I admire how he is integrating figuration and language into his paintings in a nonchalant and almost careless way. I would love to talk with him about pursuing an art-career, about painting then and painting now.
What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?
I sit down and write, make scribbles and notes in order to hold that thought. When in my studio I just start working and usually when I take a brake from painting I take these unplanned, very impulsive actions on insignificant leftover material that inform my paintings or turn into a piece of work on its own, that’s usually when the creative rut takes over, I take that impulsiveness and transfer it to my paintings.
What do you love most about your medium? What challenges or surprises you most about it?
To me every painting needs a different approach of working with the material. I love that painting to me is in the end very much about the act of it rather than thinking about it. It needs to be in balance of course. But in order to make something genuine and strong I always have to let go and enter another space mentally where painting, looking and thinking become one.
What do you need or value most as an artist?
I love working alone in the studio and being in total peace, or total frustration of course when things don’t work out. To me it is a way of life that stays refreshing and keeps me positive, it really makes me happy. Without it I feel miserable and useless.
What keeps you creating?
Through being curious while looking around. I just keep on collecting ideas and things that I want to try out.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment I’m painting with watercolour on paper. It is a very direct and spontaneous way of working. For me it feels in between drawing and painting.