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Profile: Natasja Alers

Natasja Alers is a Dutch artist and co-organizer of the Grauzone festival.

Music is a huge part of Natasja’s professional and personal life. When she was 5 years old her hero was Michael Jackson which stopped only when she reached the age of 10 and discovered punk rock — it opened her eyes.

For more than ten years Natasja organizes concerts in Amsterdam and The Hague. Since 2012 she partnered up with Mark Emmerik to bring us the Grauzone festival, an international multidisciplinary festival which started in the Melkweg (Amsterdam) and will take place in February 2019 at Het Paard, The Hague.

‘I think that art & music are connected to each other, it’s also an important drive for me, and I can’t and don’t without both components.’

‘My mom brought me in touch with ceramics, she is an artist herself and she always stimulated me to experiment with different materials. Since I got in touch with clay, it felt so natural, that I had to do something with it. But I didn’t realize that I still would work with it now, only that I would work as an artist.’

Her very first sculpture was made when she was 10 years old. Right from the start, she learned that it wasn’t an easy task to work with ceramics. She made a portrait of her cat, but as Natasja laughs and explains the glaze turned out ‘horribly sad’.

Natasja’s career in ceramics started very early and confrontation with herself was already there which later on defined her artistic choices:

‘I got confronted with my body a lot. I had x legs (still have) and other kids confronted me with it constantly, so I became since that moment really aware of my body and later of a human body in general. The mind and body are in direct connection, and I always found it intriguing how this works together in a positive and negative way. Sometimes you see weird and odd shapes of the body. Same with trees, I do see here amazing shapes in nature which really inspires me.’

She continued chasing ceramics and follow her instincts, which evolved into studying at The Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. Soon it became her home:

‘I felt free to do what I needed to do. Also, some conversations with teachers triggered me, but the freedom and possibilities helped me to grow way more and to explore what was important for me. The confrontation with yourself is an important lesson, even it seems on short not too.’

When Natasja graduated from Rietveld in 2012, she immediately became a freelancer. Since she was a kid she was dreaming of being an artist and being independent. She couldn’t wait to work in her own studio and work for herself.

Throughout her life, this choice became more and more concrete — since from every ‘normal’ job she ever had she would get fired in a week or two. Next to other things that she already did like organizing shows, DJ-ing, making sculptures etc. she worked for years in her uncle’s motorbike shop: ‘It was a really nice atmosphere. We listened to Motorhead and the Ramones, while I was putting together motorbike parts.’

The decision to be a freelancer as Natasja says was easy: ’It’s something you need to do, and don’t have to think about it’. Some of us are not build to work for other companies or a boss, it is much easier to work by your own rhythm and stay happy. In Natasja’s studio, things happen out of instincts and passion.

Every sculpture, vase, an object is made by hand and unique, made with different feeling and technique. These works have a strong character and a strong physical presence, which allows Natasja to make sculptures and applied arts with a feeling that can speak for itself. She communicates through her sculptures. 

‘I like to make works what I don’t need to explain, but that you see what I felt when I made it.’

When objects give a bit strange and uncomfortable feelings, that’s the point when Natasja starts to enjoy the work the most. Currently, Natasja experimenting with casts of nipples. She makes vases, pots and weird undetermined ambiguous shapes out of them.

‘For me an interesting part of the body, if you look into the history of sexuality, taboos, religion etc. If you only take out the nipple and repeat it, it becomes something totally different.’

Natasja Alers is mostly working with press molds of casted body parts and making hand-build sculptures.

The press molds are later on combined into a new sculptural collage, to a new shape that triggers her and gives a feeling that she wants to communicate. Hand-build sculptures are most of the time build up massive. When the shape is right she leaves 1,5 cm layer and recycles the unfired clay, so the process of making is very sustainable.

At this moment Natasja is working on big 2D sculptural wall-pieces and preparing some new collaborations with other artists for more conceptual art.