Blending Geometry and Intuition in Hu's Symbolism
by Alexa Bouhelier-Ruelle
Here & There Magazine had the opportunity to meet with Amsterdam-based contemporary artist Eline Martherus about her blueprint and the logical sensitivity of an artist. Looking back, Eline always expressed herself best through the application of different materials, and different techniques. Physics and maths were always very clear for her. However, she quickly realized that those subjects start to become too complicated to visualize at a certain point, which made her lose interest. It was then that she realized she was meant to be creative. Eline’s pieces are linked to forms and shapes, to colours and textures and all this intertwined in her mind. Her intuitive way of working is conceptually driven and follows an organic process with hand-embroidered materials, geometrical shapes and construction techniques. Eline is naturally curious about patterns, logic and geometric rules behind them. The balance between those two ostensibly contrasting worlds of geometry and organic application, or between spirituality and tangibility of the materials she uses, is what Hu symbolizes.
Can you explain the notion of Hu? Would you define it as your style?
A central and recurring element in Hu is the Flower of Life. It has given a deep spiritual meaning and forms of enlightenment to many, including myself. Among the hectic pace which people live by nowadays, many people feel the need for peace of mind and purpose. Using the Flower of Life as a base, I try to give people the point of centralization or meaning, they are looking for. Regardless of the physical place where Hu has been presented so far, it always creates a dialogue and a sense of recognition and awareness within the viewer. Plus, as we are all built from the same blueprint, the colour blue has naturally become the central colour in Hu. My style is characterized by two ostensibly contrasting worlds: On the one hand, I use geometry to construct the Flower of Life, the base of Hu, and on the other hand, I apply an organic, instinctual-driven painting method. I think Hu gives room for one’s own interpretation and an uncontrolled imagination.
How did you start painting?
When I was younger, I was obsessed with tiles and mosaics. You know the ones that you would lay out on the table into different patterns? Or the ones you can find in Mosques and Synagogues. That was my thing. I could sit there for hours building weird compositions and patterns, analyzing and trying to beat the logic behind it. I’m still like that. I constantly try to re-frame and re-interpret with different disciplines, materials, techniques and expressions, to find new ways of presenting my ideas. I bought myself a book on geometrical patterns in art and a compass and started drawing. I treated myself to a new language. Abstract expression rather than society's association on how life should be, where there was no longer a need to use wording as an expression. Replaced by nothing but colours, shapes, and some days textures play a bigger role than others.
I learned about the Flower of Life. It is created by placing seven circles in an overlapping symmetry, called the rosette. Perfect in its shape, proportion and harmony, it is considered a sacred geometry with an ancient religious value that depicts the fundamental forms of space and time. By definition it symbolizes creation and reminds us of the unity of everything: we are all built from the same blueprint. To me, the Flower of Life symbolizes a visual connection expressing the life that runs through all living things. I was so intrigued by the power of geometry that I started expressing this on a large scale trying to play and beat the geometrical logic, which is at odds with my personal painter’s hand that has turned out to be very organic. It ensures that my work has an abstract appearance in addition to the solid base of geometry and fundamental forms.
How do you choose your raw material?
I originally worked as a designer with a background in textile technology and production. I strive for a hybrid between both arts discipline and textile. Therefore, apart from painting, I also work with a tufting gun creating wall carpets. For this practice, I use fabric rather than Canvas. In the end, I try to mix these things together by painting on top of the wall carpets as well as embroidering on top of my paintings. It all should merge.
Can you take us through your creative process?
I use contemporary techniques such as sponges and brushes to add dimension to my work. Acrylic paint, wax and oil paint are the basic materials I use. But I also build a hybrid with my textile focused education and work frequently with hand-embroidery and tufting techniques to create wall carpets using naturally dyed yarn. I also work on large skill canvases which I staple to the wall. These are on average 5 x 2 meters. First, I work on a base layer with very geometrical patterns using nothing but ecoline. Afterwards, I add two to three layers using acrylic. I usually end up cutting the big piece I create: either on commission request or instinctively. It means that a mural actually ends up in at least four pieces, which can rotate 180 degrees from the angle I painted them in. This final step always is a surprise, even to me.
What’s next for you?
I wish to establish myself as a contemporary artist with full awareness of my footprint, building on my closed loop. My work should search for necessities– that became clear during this current pandemic. As a contemporary artist, I want to show how the pre-consumer waste material collected from factories can be used to create a sensory installation, wall piece or artwork. I’d like to draw attention to real craftsmanship and the power of collaboration. To adjust the perspective of waste and consider it a resource instead! Being part of a new wave of artists for whom collaboration and sustainability plays an important role.