Winding Roads

An Elemental Influence

Abstract artist Marit Harte takes us through the inspiration behind her three-dimensional paintings, and explains why a great appreciation for the elements will always lie at the core of  her work.

I would describe myself as very explorational, impulsive and unprejudiced when it comes to my work. To just start huge artworks without any sketches, samples or trials is what I like best. The materials I work with are super unpredictable during the drying phase, so it often surprises me when I return to the studio after a night of drying. I highly value individuality, both in people’s characters and in art. Each of my pieces are meticulously crafted by hand in the Amsterdam-based studio and are 100% one of a kind.

While snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef, I spotted a giant clam and was absolutely mesmerised by the incredible marine animal – its shape, texture and colour. I asked for a large canvas (150x200cm) for my 25th birthday and this was the very first painting I ever made, inspired by this extraordinary sea creature. From there, I started to explore textures more and more.

“I draw stimulus from the natural world – its fragility and unparalleled strength, from the forces of nature to biomimicry; from climates to cymatics.”

I draw stimulus from the natural world – its fragility and unparalleled strength, from the forces of nature to biomimicry and from climates to cymatics. All forces of nature influence the layering process and generate charming little imperfections and colour variations.

I always work with the theme of “the elements of nature”: earth, water, fire, air and space. With my textures, I create an abstract visualisation of these elements with the forces of nature in mind – especially gravity. All five elements can take so many different shapes and forms and are therefore an endless source of inspiration. From the coral in the Great Barrier Reef to the mountains in Norway, and from beautiful skies in India to patterns in the moss in our backyard – inspiration from Mother Nature is everywhere.

A place that I like to come back to every now and then is Palais de Tokyo in Paris, my absolute favourite museum. The exhibition ON AIR from 2018 made a lifelong impression on me and is an inspiration source that’s still fresh in my mind.

North Holland, The Netherlands, is where I call home. I grew up in Aalsmeer and now live in Oost-Knollendam – both places feel like home to me. They have water in common, with many lakes and canals, and endless possibilities to enjoy them. My boyfriend, Erwin, grew up in Oost-Knollendam and when we decided to live together, this is where we ended up.

We live right next to the Wormer- en Jisperveld, one of the largest peat meadow areas in west Europe. This is known for its many species of birds. In the Spring, the meadow birds settle down to breed in the polder. It’s mind-blowing to me that birds can find this place every year, after leaving wintering grounds in the south of Europe. It’s an extremely peaceful place that makes you feel very safe and calm.

I feel like there are two ways to be creative: either to combine old concepts, ideas or plans into new combinations – without creating something new – or to create fundamental new ideas through creative fantasy. Constantly driving to evolve from my previous pieces, I seek the unknown and aim to evoke a sense of wonder and extend the imagination with my work. To spark that creative fantasy to come up with something completely new, my brain needs a break from the everyday stimuli, worries and distractions. To get away from all of that, I love to take my canoe and go for a relaxed, quiet ride. We feel very privileged to live right next to the water and to be able to do this so easily.
The best ideas come from these peaceful moments! Then when I’m executing these ideas and making art, music is absolutely crucial to get and stay in the right flow.

My favourite space is actually just outside our house, in our garden. We have a little greenhouse, which was home to two little lambs that we rescued in Spring. They were both born in triplets and their mothers couldn’t provide them with enough milk, so we took them into our home. The first night, they slept in our laundry room as it was too cold in the greenhouse and it was the cutest thing to wake up to the sound of them bleating softly. We bottle fed them every three hours for a few months and our dog Bodi never skipped a session.

My favourite interior objects are two handmade wooden stools in the shape of two hands. They have the same core values as my work: handmade and 100% one of a kind. I bought them for 200 euro in a thrift shop and I was smiling from ear to ear for at least an entire week after finding them – such a treasure!

My interior style is easygoing: natural materials and earthy tones. I can’t live in a place that is too stylised or planned. It needs to be a bit relaxed and unforced. Plants in our home are an absolute must, to blur the line between interior and exterior.

Nature is both my main source of inspiration and also the main influencer of the layering and drying process of my textured art. It also keeps me grounded, peaceful and thankful. In daily life, it’s crucial to respect nature and to be mindful of all the things that impact our carbon footprint.

I don’t try to copy nature. To make anything that nature makes is impossible, because nature is so infinitely complex. The textures that I create are nothing like the reality – I translate what I see with my eyes into an abstract visualisation that is visible through everyone’s eyes. When I get inspired by nature to be creative, I take certain things that I need, without even noticing that I’m doing it. It’s just in my mind somewhere, and at some point you give into that. Then you weave it together to make it a bit more or a bit less abstract.

I feel connected to nature every day. This has a lot to do with the place where I live and how I live life. Nature often reminds me of the fact that life is so extraordinary and that I must be grateful for every minute of it. Albert Einstein once said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle,” and this quote always runs through my mind whenever I see a beautiful sky. Sometimes with setbacks and everyday hustle and bustle I forget to realise that it’s all a miracle; absolutely magical – nature, with all its beauty, reminds me.

My most inspiring travel destination is Norway. When I was a kid, I had the best family holiday there with my parents and brother on a road trip. Two years ago, I also went wild camping in Norway, which is one of the few places in Europe where you’re allowed to do that. It was an unforgettable journey. The rugged mountains, fresh air, clear water and variety in the landscape are all mesmerising. It’s an amazing country for road tripping. You will see so much beauty – not only at your destination but also along the way. I love daydreaming in the [passenger seat of the] car. Also you can find the best hiking trails in Norway, both popular and unknown paths. It’s a great way to test and feel what your body is capable of. You’ll be surprised!

Every year, in the first weekend of September, we have a big celebration in my hometown, Aalsmeer, where we gather at night with lit-up and decorated boats for a music festival on the water. The night ends with a huge firework show under the glowing moon. I love that it’s getting a bit colder and it’s time to fire our wood stove again. This brings so much warmth in many ways into our home. It’s not just the physical heat; it changes the entire ambiance of our living room.

I rather enjoy watching the moon when walking my dog at night, in all its mystery, with vague textures and colour differentiations that are barely visible to the naked eye. I’m specifically interested in the surface and texture of the moon, which is a big inspiration source for my work. Often when I create other textures, like Lava or Ice, other people interpret it as a moonscape, which is always interesting to hear.

This Harvest, I’d love to take the boat out with some family or friends to an island near our home to pick the last apples and blackberries before they fall. It feels good not to interfere with nature but to just take the leftovers before they turn into waste.

Follow Marit’s work @studio_harte