It was late last year when I first saw Rolina Nell‘s paintings. They have not left my mind since. There was something hauntingly beautiful and yet disturbing about them.
Rolina had just come to Leipzig as part of the Leipzig International Artist residency program. Now, three months on, she’ll be going back to the Netherlands at the end of the month. I asked her how Leipzig had affected her work. She said that she had had the luxury of time which allowed her to experiment. Her work always features women because that’s who she relates to since she is one. What has happened is she has gone much smaller. Inspired by being at the former cotton mill, Spinnerei and by pre- fall of the wall DDR fabrics and women’s fashion she saw at places like the Rund Ecke, Zeitgeschichtliches Forum Leipzig and Agra. She wanted to revive that which is in danger of being forgotten. The work is about identity and absence.
Often her work evokes memory. She spent the entire 2007 at artist residencies, changing on an average of three months. She took photos of the women in each of these places. Then she’d paint them later, in a new location. The photos were all from the perspective of leaving. Each one was only from the back.
The following year she and her partner ran their own art residency project in the city of Dealft. It took place in buildings that were slated to be demolished. The spaces were available for the site specific work for as little as three months and as long as a year. For her work, she chose to photograph women in the street and then paint them on the walls of the houses, thus giving life to the properties one last time.
These days she lives with her partner, two dogs and a cat on a farm in the community she grew up in. It’s actually a manmade community that was designed specifically for farming in the 50s when her grandparents moved there. She left when she was a teen because it was boring. It’s not boring any more. They have a large garden and have converted the space into studios and have a residency program.
When she gets back, she’ll be showing the work she created here at WTC Art Gallery in Rotterdam in a solo exhibition that opens in April. Meanwhile you can get a sneak preview at her open studio this Thursday.