Ellen Holleman is a painter, mixed-media visual artist and spatial designer based in the Netherlands. She trained as a spatial designer at the Utrecht School of the Arts (the Netherlands). After graduating, she took off to work in Mérida, Mexico, with the design team of Mexico Mágico, a new entertainment park that was being developed at the time. Later on, she joined the park’s muralists team on the building site in Cancún. There, she fell totally in love with painting. The transformative power of colours and the way they can be used to create an illusionary world fascinated her. When the park was shut down, she went back to the Netherlands and returned to her design career.

During the following 25+ years, she worked mainly as a spatial designer on urban planning projects.
Curiosity about how people live and move about, and how this is affected or controlled by the urban environment is what drives her. Besides her work as an urban design professional, she completed several applied art projects, worked as a cultural producer and initiated multiple grass roots urban projects. Painting always remained her personal creative outlet, but over the years, the urge to paint more frequently grew stronger and stronger. After an intense artist retreat in 2020, she decided to focus on building a professional painting practice, shifting her career from the urban design field towards the arts. Since 2021, she has been working in a studio in Zaltbommel, where she participates in a local artists initiative and she had her first solo exhibition at the cultural centre De Poorterij in September 2021.  Ellen prefers to work with oil paints and traditional painting techniques, but also enjoys experimenting and using contemporary techniques, like digital collage and photography, as part of her creative process. The themes in her art are strongly affected by her work and experience as an urban design professional.

Artist Statement

Painting, to me, is like magic. The ability to visualize and recreate scenes using only shades and colours never ceases to amaze me. I see the world through a ‘paint filter’, always wondering how to translate the world I see around me onto canvas. Using oil painting techniques of the old Dutch Masters I build my images with many layers of transparent colours on a traditional bases of white gesso. The gesso ground reflects the light, which creates the illusion of depth and a rich and intense sensation of colour. 

The subjects I choose for my paintings are usually scenes from ordinary, daily life. I like to observe people in the places where they live their lives. With an eye for quotidian, urban scenes, I am always collecting images from the places I visit, the journeys I make. With my full attention, I recreate those scenes into artworks that spark a quiet energy or emotion that we can all relate to. Wanting to capture just that one person at that one place in that one specific moment in time. 

One recurring theme in my work is the contrast of human life in desolate urban landscapes. It reflects my views on the mutual influence of urban spaces on people and vice versa, showing how humans relate to the spaces that surround them. Or, how impossible it can be to relate to those spaces at all – thus addressing and questioning the way we build our cities and societies and the existential solitude that most of us experience at some point in our lives. They also show the intimacy that some are able to create anywhere and my compassion for those who lack that resilience. To me, it seems that some people have the resilience to feel comfortable with themselves anywhere, regardless of the circumstances, whereas others seem completely lost, lacking the ability to connect. So as an observant, I try to visualize this in imaginary narratives.

Sometimes I simply seek the joy of creating; painting a bird, a tree or a portrait of someone dear. Offering comfort by showing the beauty that is present in all things around us.