Tessa Groenewoud

Nestled in Ghent’s oasis of tranquillity, the beguinage, is the atelier of Dutch artist Tessa Groenewoud. A collector of images, she selects those that make her wonder about the world we live in and explores their relationship with language and reality. With the sound of church bells in the background, we met for tea and biscuits and chatted about Tessa’s quest to unravel the meaning of everyday imagery.

Interview by Valerie Steenhaut
Photos shot by Tiny Geeroms in the artist’s studio in Ghent

Looking at your work, it seems like you’re questioning the nature of photography and the pictures we make. Am I correct?
Yes. Vilém Flusser once wrote people need images to understand and accept reality. They seem to offer us a window through which we see the world, but  actually the images stand in between us and that reality. Photographs especially are deceptive, as they are seemingly transparent but in fact they are very artificial.

This idea is interesting, especially when you look at images online. I see a world saturated with images, wherein photography has a huge share. Nowadays everyone can make pictures; photography has become an evident part of life. The internet has created a new reality online through its images that comprise of data, information, algorithms… a lot of questions come to mind when thinking about this. Who is considered the maker of these online images? When typing in a word into a search engine, the word evokes a code that generates images made by other people in the past, turning the searcher into the maker of the image as well.

Photographs are deceptive, as they are seemingly transparent but in fact they are very artificial

How have you evolved as an artist?
I never stop(ped) evolving. I started out as a painter, believing it was the art form to use in order to express an image. Soon it became clear that the medium alone was far too limited, which enabled me to start incorporating various other art forms into my work, like photography. I’m not a photographer, though. I study the medium rather than the outcome, and often focus on how images come into existence and rework and question them rather than adding to the already existing body of images out there.   

Where does this fascination with images come from?
I grew up in a small town in the south of the Netherlands where Catholicism was very present. I was raised a Catholic and we went to church sometimes. I loved the images there; paintings of Jesus and Mary, the relics on the altar… Opposite from our church there was a sober Protestant church in which the depiction of the godly was forbidden. I learned that, for some people, being surrounded by images isn’t as self-evident as we’d like to believe. Already as a child I was fascinated by this dichotomy and I think the idea lingered on.

Selected by BLANCO