World Artists and their Story, 11 - Ellen Schippers

Ellen Schippers makes inner portraits of women. She films performances and selects stills from them that form the basis of her pictures.

Schippers: ‘I think it’s important to unite theatrical aspects and art. This creates a movement in which I can bring forward my ideas. In my work I show the discrepancy between the inner life and outward appearance, the image that people create of themselves. I have always been fascinated by (role) patterns imposed on you. I am particularly interested in how you should behave as a woman and how you should look like. Women are often portrayed only on the outside, must comply with beauty ideals. It does not correspond to what they feel inside. I want to look behind the facade and see what is really happening in women.


Ellen Schippers started with performances in the theatre. There she connected different art forms, such as wearable sculptures, music, light and poetry. In this way she created a mysterious atmosphere, where an appeal was made to the associative ability of the audience, allowing people to be more receptive to the stories she wanted to tell. All components were carefully omplemented and coordinated. Today, she makes videos and installations. From these videos she selects the stills that form the basis of het photographs.

In 2010 she made the exhibition Frauensehnsucht, a space for an experience where installations played  the leading role. It was a step further in the development of her idea of a Gesamtkunstwerk. The visitor was led individually through the space. From poetry to video installations, from projections to (portable) sculptures. Women rolled their tentacles out as octopuses, inflatable women peeled themselves off, there were Venuses à la Botticelli and men who were wrapped in sculptures of transparent tubes filled with red limonade. Through those tubes the men were drunk by women.

Schippers: ‘This exhibition I am most proud of. Everything came here together and it exceeded the aloofness of a theatre performace. The visitor was completely absorbed in the atmosphere and was part of the exhibition. I think it’s important that visitors experience my art as a whole and that associations and feelings originate. See further

Real women

‘I try to present a wide range of female images. These are no make-over women, women who try to meet to an ideal image through plastic surgery. And thus all look like each other. I put down real women with a variety of looks and emotions. In the Netherlands you learn to be ashamed of yourself, basically you want to be someone else. That stands in the way to be who you really are. In other cultures, you learn to just be proud of who you are.’

There should be more room for experimentation. Schippers: ‘You have to surprise, shock and confront people. You do this by creating a new language. You do not primarily rely on reason, but on emotions and association ability. Art must open your heart. That’s a task for museums.’

Own stage

Ellen schippers is an artist for thirty years. She studied textile design and then the Free Academy in The Hague. ‘I learned to disciplnes there. Textiles, fashion, jewelery making. I made my first portable sculptures. With these sculptures I wanted to tell a story. Reinier van Brummelen of Frans Zwartjes’ film departement then made a movie out of it. He later worked closely with the filmmaker Peter Greenaway.’

‘Often people wonder: Is it art, theatre or a dress show? I do not fit in these boxes. For me it has to live, move and be showed as a single whole. So I’m looking for an own stage. Whether it be a theatre or an exhibition space that I transform to an experience space. The art world isn’t very open to new ideas and forms, plays it safe and is far too preoccupied with things like visitor numbers. In a museum there should be more space for young artists to experiment.

Since I make videao and installations and since my pictures are for sale, I am more part of the art world. A gallery in London and the US represent my work. My art is shown in solo exhibitions and group exhibitions, including New York, Tokio, Aleppo – when it still was a nice city, Athens, the Affordable Art Fair in London and not that long ago at Art Square on Amsterdam’s Museumplein. It goes well with my work.’




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