MA Studies > Fine art > Fine art alumnus > Renée Aagtjes

Renée Aagtjes

Sense of place
In my initial proposal I wrote about a research consisting of two parts. Most important was a specific place close to the Waddensea and the specific feeling of home there. During my first weeks in my Mahku course the feeling of being rooted somewhere grew stronger. By recognizing the struggle of others to settle in a new place, I better understood what it is that shelters me when I’m in the place that I call home. It is not only experiencing kindness, interchangeable with feeling welcome. It is so strong I would call it belonging. In this belonging there can be desire to a very specific room or view, it can also have a broader definition in which several elements form a complete scene. This new surroundings can give you the feeling of being home.




In researching my own sense of being home, trough photographing the changing colours of light, drawing lines and letters, writing short stories and reading, I came across to my notion of relationship. The notion of being home somewhere, or with someone, presupposes a relationship with the surroundings. The material aspects such as a house, a familiar peace of wallpaper, the light and temperature, the language you hear and the people that live there, help you attach. Having these relationships, gives you the opportunity to connect. And this connection fascinates me. In every new environment the question rises: How do I make a link? Where can I attach?


Human relationships are based on mutuality. The connection that exists between to people provides contact in both directions. It is obvious to think that a landscape in itself has no relationship with its inhabitants, but the images of the surroundings in which one is raised are always present in mind. It can be retrieved to find comfort in, for example when you are feeling home sick. The other way around the scenery of my surroundings, in all the possible conditions, always gives the feeling of getting home. Whether it snows and everything is white or trees breath the fresh green of spring or the heat of summer forces you to slow down or even when the autumn rain clouds your mind, as soon as you see the familiar horizon, you are home. The mutuality of a relationship between a human and its surrounding therefore exists first and foremost within a person.

In my connection to my familiar home, I specifically search for the elements that make a link between my surroundings and me. How can I collect, record, register or archive these elements? Will these found elements be transmissible to other surroundings? An archive or collection in texts (like lists) and images (such as photos) gives opportunities, which can be explored further. This research may also lead to an answer to another question, if it is possible for text to have visual qualities. What are the visual qualities that I’m looking for? Are there certain characteristics in the Dutch language that strengthen the association with an image and how can they be used in my practice?




That brings me to the second part of my initial proposal. This dealt with my love for language and reading literature and poetry. The search for the visual qualities of text and the narrative qualities of the image still intrigue me. A poem for example, can take you miles and miles away and makes you experience complex emotions and surroundings without going there yourself. A novel can give you a sense of home, time and place. Language in this case is also a way to travel. I can travel home in about three and a half hours, by bike, train, bus and foot, but I can also read and write and still arrive there, hear the silence, feel wind, water, see the horizon and be home.


Crucial in experiencing both literature and my physical home landscape, is the element of passing time. The more time you spent in a place, the bigger the chance is for you to bond with it. The more relationships you establish, the more connected you are. And the consequence will be that it is harder for you to depart, leave or even let go. You know you have a really intimate relationship, when it is particularly hard to leave someone or somewhere. This point of letting go and leaving also fascinates me. I recognize it in the way the tide comes and goes, in the cycle of the seasons, in the transmission from life to death. Time passing by with in the background a sea, with an unchangeable infinitude horizon. In my work I want to research ways of catching the element of passing time. Therefore I believe the elements that form the link between my surroundings and me are vital. It takes time to form and sustain them and also to eventually let them go.




To get an overall view on the current state of my proposal, I’d like to conclude with my research questions for the coming period:

What are the elements that form the connection between my specific surroundings and me (that I call home) and how do I collect, record, register or archive these? Will these found elements be transmissible to other surroundings? The finds can take different forms, but I am searching for text and images. What will be the visual qualities of text and the narrative qualities of the images? And in what way can I catch the so important element of passing time?

Eventually I hope to achieve works that tell a story about a place, in which the public can experience a universal sense belonging and being home.