Atelier Sijbrand

It's about time

My work is inspired by reality. The formation of an individual’s values in society enables me to create metaphorical mirrors that demonstrate the gap between ‘the truth’ and ‘that which the individual accepts as truth’. I take the acquired and internalised thinking patterns of Western people and turn them into images. The resulting artworks serve as an awakening for anyone who wants to take part in Western society.


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The artist Sijbrand was born on 3 March 1988 in The Hague as Gijsbert Sijbrand Tinga. He grew up in Hazerswoude-Dorp (Zuid-Holland, The Netherlands). His formative years are inundated with art and creativity. His mother, a ceramics artist, teaches people to work with clay, and during the holidays the whole family travels around the world to visit museums. His first creations are made of paper, paint and clay, but these do not survive his excessive self-criticism.

After secondary school, Sijbrand’s main interests are acting and writing. Indecisiveness eventually finds him attending the Bernard Lievegoed College of Liberal Arts in Driebergen-Zeist. Here, he unlearns everything he thought he knew and starts with a clean slate. His interest in the world around him leads to a study in journalism in Utrecht, where he majors in photography and design. At the same time, he also studies Photographic Design at the Amsterdam University of Applied Photography. As a journalist, he graduates as an editorial designer, specialised in designing magazines and newspapers.

During his first year in journalism, Sijbrand starts doubting the opportunity for creativity in his chosen field. He starts experimenting with paint and other materials on canvas in his spare time. His students’ room quickly turns into a studio that just so happens to contain a bed and wardrobe. Trying out new ways of using paint and mixing pigments with different media seem to interest him more and more. During these experiments, he sacrifices litres of paint and metres of canvas to what will later be destroyed by his self-criticism.

A study at the Academy of Arts is briefly considered but quickly rejected: “creation must come from within and cannot be subjected to or warped by external rules or opinions.”

Today, his expertise has developed further into an abstract expressionism. Colour and light are his two main sources of inspiration. Primary colours dictate the power of his work and the many layers never cease to capture the imagination of anyone who looks at it.

Identity for sale

Identity in the panopticon of the 21st century

A few years ago, placing cameras in a public space gave rise to quite a few debates. ‘Tapping telephone lines’ and ‘storing personal data’ also caused a small fuss until slowly turning into some sort of taboo. Privacy became a taboo. After all, the government’s myriad cameras and tracking systems made society a safer place for everyone. No one looks at cameras in the public space anymore; it is as if they do not exist. Once revolutionary television programmes such as Big Brother, in which normal people’s private lives were laid bare for everyone, have become our reality. The question is: who is watching?

Giving away your identity

We have become a fearful society, in which people voluntarily give away their data to all kinds of authorities. In this information age, data is all around us, like blood in a living organism that monitors, controls, destroys and deceives itself. All the while, we are being watched, followed and studied.

The disappearance of a balanced view on history, reality and the future

The fear of a totalitarian state (George Orwell, 1984) that monitors, controls or destroys all information has all but disappeared. We unthinkingly accept any and all information that is presented to us, to the satisfaction of governments and the media. Most likely we gave away our trust and identity at the very same time.

Our own Dutch history is a good example of this: we are being taught that it is filled with heroes and altruists. A change in perspective, however, will turn those heroes into robbers, conquerors and murderers. When governments and media shape and colour information, it is impossible for people to form a realistic and balanced view on both history and future. The result is a fearful, rudderless and most of all pliable society.

The 21st century panopticon is a totalitarian democracy

Today, collecting data is an urge that no modern government is able to withstand. In this information age, governments have the opportunity to collect and use everyone’s personal information. Upon consulting Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon (1791, Latin for ‘all-seeing’), you will find a model used in certain institutions (e.g. prisons, schools and hospitals), invented to completely monitor and control people’s living conditions.

The panopticon can be applied to any institution and was described by Bentham as ‘an all-pervasive and controlling network’. But it seems a lot like this controlling panopticon has been applied to our society instead. We are living in the panopticon of the 21st century, in which we are watched, followed, studied and guarded. The irony of it all is that this is turning our democracy into a totalitarian democracy.

Selling my remaining identity

As an artist and as a person, despite the fact that so much information about me has been collected, there are still a few things that I have not yet given away to the authorities. I have decided to not just give these away, but to sell them instead. One of these, for example, is the fingerprint of my right thumb; it has not been requested by any authority yet and I have not given anyone access to it before. Secondly, I will sell my blood. I have donated some of it to hospitals in the past, but it has never been officially made available. Finally, I will sell my thoughts. I will emphasise that this is not just a concept, but the literal absence of any image of my invisible, but most of all intangible, thoughts.

The Psychology of Extraterrestrial Life

It is a diverting subject at parties and celebrations: extraterrestrial life.
At the Roswell incident in 1947 (Roswell, New Mexico, USA), a group of people witnessed first-hand the crash-landing of a UFO. People reported what they saw, the press asked them questions and wrote down the answers.
The next day, newspapers were filled with reports on the UFO. Two days after the incident, however, the government issued an entirely new statement explaining the incident: it had been a crashed weather balloon. The statements of the witnesses were stamped out and ridiculed and both the UFO and the alien bodies were removed from the crash-site by the government. Years later, the witnesses still told their side of the story.

Since that time, governments have kept huge files containing accounts of people who are supposed to have witnessed UFOs. Despite the democracy and transparency of Western governments, many of these files remain confidential. In the United States in particular these confidential files draw the ire of ‘believers’. Many Western politicians acknowledge the existence of extraterrestrial life and try to get the files – which they can access – out into the public eye.

This series of paintings is not about whether extraterrestrial life exists, but about the psychological effect that believing in extraterrestrial life has on people. Our history shows that ‘faith in the extraterrestrial’ has become a taboo in our society.

These canvasses are inspired by Rorschach tests, mirrored ink blots that were utilised by the Swiss Freudian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Hermann Rorschach. By showing a mirrored ink blot to a patient, he was able to construct a subjective psychological report for the patient’s psychiatrist. This method was subject to criticism, mainly because of a lack of scientifically founded questions and because the story of the patient was interpreted subjectively.

Much like the experiences of UFO witnesses, their stories are viewed as being subjective, someone’s personal vision of ‘the truth’. Objectively and scientifically, these stories should never become the truth, but this truth definitely does exist in the minds of these witnesses.

These psychological paintings are, like the Rorschach tests, a way to stir up subjective information in the mind of the viewer. However, there is a guiding factor; what you see may not have originated from this earth.

the misery of patterns

With this series of paintings, the artist revisits the past. In particular, a memory of a birthday celebration at his grandmother’s. While eating the birthday cake, he realises that there is a recurring pattern in the wallpaper. Not long after that, his gaze falls on the woollen rug which likewise has a recurring pattern. Possessed by this repetition and the urge to follow the patterns, he slowly starts to feel a profound hatred for the wallpaper and the rug. From that moment on, the world is defined by rhythms, patterns and habits. A desire is born to break free from ‘all that is established and repetitive’ and to create something original. It takes eighteen years for the artist to create an answer to the patterns that seem to cling to every action we take. He becomes aware that patterns can only be broken by originality. This series is dedicated to his grandmother’s wallpaper and the trap of repetition that we humans seem to walk into time and again.