Most of my artworks are based on stories or themes that float in my head for a while. A couple of years ago my mother started volunteering for an organisation that helps refugees settle in our country. They do great work assisting people in learning our language, with their paperwork and getting children into school. Quite a few of these people become friends. It is great to see these people succeed in our country, but some of them struggle. The way Europe deals with the refugee crisis seems so awful to me. It makes me feel ashamed, frustrated and powerless. The only response I have is to make art…

Smash the Narrative

I made a couple of series of art with refugee children in my mind, like Smashed Dreams and Free at Last. Then I was pointed to the Smash the Narrative art prize. The theme is ‘National Identity’ and that peaked my attention. Of course I dream about us being Citizens of the World and people moving freely between countries, while still holding on to their culture and traditions. (Although I do not agree with quite a lot of those). But I didn’t want to work on a dream, I wanted to show harsh reality.

Making stained glass eyes

I picked out opaline white glass and transparent glass with a bubble pattern. This glass lets the light through nicely without you seeing exactly what is behind it. I made four square panels and started painting the contours with black pigment mixed with water, medium and blue spirit. This mix gets the paint nice and fluid for painting and it sticks well to the glass. After that it was time for the kiln. The next step was shading. To shade glass nicely you need an even layer of paint, that is thick enough for that darkest parts of the eyes (or you’ll need multiple layers). I mixed the pigment with water, so it can easily be removed from the glass. When I have painted the entire glass panel, I softly brush over the wet paint with a badger brush, to smoothen the paint out. This process fails easily and sometimes I have to do it a couple of times to get the layer I like. Then I let the paint dry on the glass.

Searching for the light

With different brushes, sticks and pens I start to remove the paint from the surface. I start with the spots that should let the most light through the glass and then work to the darkest part. This is my absolute favourite thing to do ever! I don’t know why, but I find it somehow meditative and as I have a slightly manic and chaotic brain, this is a great way for me to relax. It is always wonderful to see the picture come out of the paint.

Glass and mirrors for the irises

I like to use mirrors in my glass works, because it involves the spectator in the art work. In this case you can see yourself through others eyes. I combined the mirrors with coloured glass irises that I glued either on the front or on the back of the glass. The irises do not always match the iris I painted on the glass, because I wanted to add to the effect of being followed and watched. Now the glass panels are done. I have placed them in steel frames with light in them and make a composition of the four eyes. They represent the people that constantly judge you, watch you and follow you.

Your-not-one-of-us-are-you---Evelien-de-Bruijn-glass-light-installation-art-smash-the-narrative-4You are not one of us, are you?

When you enjoy your backpacking in Asia or your beach holiday in Mexico, do you ever think about what it is like to live permanently in these countries. After some years you start seeing the country as home, you understand how everything works and you appreciate your life there. You have children that have never known another place as home. When you are white and rich, you’d probably have very little problems, but how far would you go to integrate? would you change your religion? Would you stop speaking your language at home? Would you stop trying to get your favourite foods from your home country? Would you never talk with other immigrants from your home country? What would you feel like your nationality has become? But the biggest problem is: will you be accepted? Will people stop looking at you in public, because they see you look different, turn you down for a job because your name sounds different? Will you ever truly become one of them?