The Heroine’s Journey of Ellen Vartun


What is the best thing I love about my work? My work keeps me sane.

What is my idea of perfect happiness? I think that when one works and operates in a flow in which following the chain of thoughts becomes not only a driving force, but also a necessity for the work to develop further. Knowledge is gained when one takes on new perspectives. I experience new developments in my work as refreshing. That makes perfect happiness to me.

What is my greatest fear? Thinking about the climate issues and the young generation’s reactions to our governments not taking enough action, I get split emotions. I feel positive because the young generation is engaging in the discourse, yet I also feel worried and fearful of what the future holds for us all.

What is the trait I most deplore in myself? I always dislike the feeling of emptiness I get when I make mistakes that spin off to have negative consequences. I can be stubborn and controlling. Traits like these might lead to some positive developments, but when leading to negativity I most of the time feel bad. Not everything is about “being right”.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? Artists coming to mind, who communicate strongly in their work, are Laure Provoust and Nina Canell.

What is my greatest extravagance? At times I walk out the door with the thought “What if everything were to be fake?” Sometimes I go out at night, as if with another character. The idea and play around being somebody else create an openness that attract people.

On what occasion would I lie? I would lie to cover for somebody close to me. Lying, though, might lead to complications, but telling a “white lie” is not that big of a deal, is it?

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? It turns out that I work the best when the process runs fluid. When the work becomes multi layered, it is at its most wonderful stages. To let go and flow, is sometimes hard to do. I work intuitively. This means the work comes from within and is based on mood and emotion. Since I cannot control my surroundings, I am still learning to let go.

When and where was I the happiest in my work? I remember the period before graduating the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam (NL), as a very inspiring period. I was working on my sculptures and my drawings. In fact, creating the work “Girls’ Night Out”
was a very happy period for me.

If I could, what would I change about myself? The future Ellen might say to the present Ellen: “Do not go running into confusion too often”. Sometimes it feels like I am being consumed and I get lost in thought. I think one of my biggest challenges is to stay in the present.

What is my greatest achievement in my work? I have the need to push myself out of the comfort zone from time to time. I think it is important to try new things. The shifts that might follow might stir up confrontations with oneself or with others. I think
it is part of the development needed as an artist and human. I believe pushing my boundaries led me to becoming interested in performance.

Where would I most like to live? I have a huge fascination for big cities. I am in awe every time I stand at the top of a skyscraper, just gazing out over the city. Its span is huge, endless it seems, and that intrigues me. I would like to live in one of the bigger cities in Asia, for instance Tokio.

What is my most treasured possession? My most treasured possession is a golden necklace with a jade stone. I got this necklace from my mother in law. This piece of jewelry has been in her family for quite a long time, and therefore carries history and energy.

What is my most marked characteristic? I know people often describe me as a perfectionist. I like to do things properly, one step following the other. I think that together with perfectionism comes discipline. I am managing my time and prioritizing
my work over many other things. In periods I shuffle between the studio, work, school, the grocery store and home.

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city? I think my favorite place to eat and drink is the little French inspired restaurant in Amsterdam East, La Vallade.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city? I like to look at water and hear the sound of waters moving. I think anywhere in Amsterdam where one is able to get a bit of an open perspective on the landscape and where there is water, is a good place to rest and think.

What books influenced my life and how? Reading and looking through the many books describing Yayoi Kusama’s life and work, has been inspiring to me as an artist. To understand her work better and to imagine her as a person made me a bigger admirer of her practice.

Who are my favorite writers? Gabriel Tallent, Sylvia Plath and John Irwing

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? If I were to know I had as little as a day left, I would listen to Neil Young and Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, PJ Harvey and Nick Cave’s “Nature Boy”. They are all such strong writers, poets really. Towards the end of the 24 hours I would probably tune in to dreamy electronica- and as I imagine anger over it all being over would arise, I’d turn up the volume to Sex Pistol’s “God Save The Queen” and Iggy Pop’s “Real Wild Child (Wild One)”.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? I am a big fan of the Kill Bill two- part movie and Beatrix “The Bride” Kiddo, portrayed by Uma Thurman.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? Artists like Louise Borgeouis and Yayoi Kusama who have managed to sustain their life and career throughout a lifetime, continue to be of huge inspiration to me. Other artists who come to mind are Laure Provoust and Nina Canell.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a life time? If I were to recommend one film, I think the dystopian science- fiction film “Brazil” (1985) directed by Terry Gilliam is a must see. I think the film delivers its Kafkaesque message, somehow fitting to how I see our times.

What role plays art in my life and work? The intimacy between things and beings- the merging of object and subject, continues to be a topic in my work. To assume an inherent separability between object and subject, bridges with ideas upon exclusion, borders and power. The role of art in life and work could be described like a rotating wheel. Since both ends are fused together the one cannot let go of the other. Maybe this also is a way of looking at living; remembering the importance of staying connected.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? My greatest partner in crime is my husband.

Whom would I like to work with in 2019/ 2020? In 2020 I would like to make new work during a residency at the Jan Van Eyck in Maastricht (NL).

Which people would I love to meet in 2019/ 2020? I would love to meet Laure Provoust. I thought her work in the French Pavillion at the Venice Biennale this year was very strong. I love how she plays with different media to create a narrative and an atmosphere.

What project, in 2019/ 2020, am I looking forward to work on? In spring 2020 I am going to Tilburg (NL) for a residency at Leo XIII. I have been given the possibility to
develop new work during a period of three months.

Where can you see me or my work in 2019/ 2020? I will present new work at the end of the working period at Leo XIII, spring- time 2020.

What does the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? I believe that if one is passionate about something, it means one burns for something. To me working
with passion for instance, includes many different acts. Because one wants and needs to move forward and develop, one continues to work. Passion might make one fearless. So that whatever form the work takes, it will be easier to accept.

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story? Afra Eisma

How can you contact me?
Instagram mlvellen
e- mail

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