Jesse Asselman

October 2022

It is the 31st of October. The trees have names now, I know all the paths through the forest, I know the best place to watch the sunset, I’ve stared at the stars, I’ve experienced the softness of the moss and heard the incomprehensible whisperings of the leaves. It is with all this knowledge, with all these experiences, that the time has come for me to leave. What a contrast it is to my arrival! What little knowledge did I have then of what was to come!

I arrived on the 2nd of October. It was my friend K. who brought me with a car.The sun started to set as we left the motorway and drove into the country. Country roads, country roads and more country roads, getting smaller and smaller, lined with trees, crossing fields, connecting villages seemingly abandoned. We were wondering where the people were. (Maybe it is that time of the day just before you turn on the light not realising it has already become so dark? In October suns set increasingly early every day.) On my right I could see a massive dark cloud illuminated in pink by an undergoing sun setting over the fields (a vision which would inspire a future painting). 
As we were going over a rough dirt road – it was completely dark by now – I started wondering where this was going, where I would end up. After standing questioningly in front of the wrong destination (wrong address), we finally arrived at Am Bahnhof 13 in Klein Warnow. I could see different buildings in the darkness; a little further there was a fire with some villagers. Looking at the former train station my minds eye saw two identical buildings opposite each other symbolising the opposite entities light and darkness: a ‘light’ house, and a ‘dark’ house. Mika and Sharon welcomed us with some food, and we learned google had sent us the wrong way. Oh well… for sure a little detour adventure never hurt anyone, and the trip definitely helped giving that sense of being in the middle of nowhere.
My friend left, and so began my residency period. My objective was to make a series of smaller-sized paintings. The inspiration was to come from my immediate surroundings. Thus I started painting one of the houses on the premises: the ‘light’ or the ‘dark’ house, the one or the other. Before I had decided which one I was painting, I had already moved on to other subject matter.

The forest would soon become my main guide to inspiration and source of distraction. Every single day I would go for at least a short walk. I also went for long walks. As the forest is not very large, I could encompass its anatomy. There are the main paths, there are the hidden paths, and there are the old paths that have become unused and end abruptly. 
At the end of the first week there was a full moon. I went into the forest at night and perceived the environment in a transformed way. No substance – only light and shadow remained. I felt the world was on the brink of disappearing in darkness, and that only the faint light of the moon was keeping it on the edge of our world. I realised how I would be unable to capture this in a photograph. I set out to try painting this play of light and shadow in a patchy manner, and soon discovered how the border of these two is alive. 

There are different kinds of pine trees in the forest. I have always been fascinated with pine trees. They remind me of the taiga, which I have never seen in real life, but which to me symbolise the endless vastness of our unconscious. In the past I have tried many times to paint pine trees and pine forests, but they are not easy to portray. But then I got tired of the pine trees. Luckily I found another forest with other kinds of trees, and beautiful fallen trees. I see a kind of beauty (and sadness) in these fallen giants. Fallen trees would become an important source of inspiration for my next paintings. They would become like a matrix for something to happen. 
In later weeks, in order to deepen my understanding of the forest I started to dance in it also. They would be my little secret moments. I would go to different places that intrigue me and fasten my camera to a branch or fallen tree trunk and start filming. Within different compositions of branches, pine vegetation, fields and sunsets, I would then dance somewhere – sometimes appearing, sometimes disappearing into the environment, seemingly oblivious of the camera. 
Though intermitted with trips to the supermarket, gatherings around the fire, or little excursions in the surroundings, solitude was an important part of this month. My first walks in the forest I had a kind of withdrawal symptoms of human beings. I cannot remember when last I would go for a walk and not see any other human being. I enjoyed this. I would be annoyed if I would see a person in the distance picking mushrooms. It made me think how much space human beings have taken up on the earth. And how ‘culture’ in our contemporary world invades ‘nature’ more than that they balance each other.
I can see how the environment influenced my work. It is interesting how all these thoughts, visions and images become tied to this spacial environment and this one-month period. I can find traces of these in the different works I made. Thus painting can be a way to distil experiences within an environment.

This morning I went to the studio and brought all my works. I started clearing the big wall in order to hang everything – to have a kind of overview. It didn’t take long to hang everything in its place. Soon emerged a composition revealing different strains of interest I was dealing with, more or less consciously. I could, for example, see how the clouds would go over into branches, connecting the macro to the micro as it were. Also, my colour palette made an interesting unity. I find it interesting how my work can evolve and change with the seasons. In the summer I made large-sized paintings of skies and landscapes. This autumn month, I can see how my palette reflects the shortening of the days and the fast changing colours of the forest.  
For me it has been a rich experience and I thank Sharon and Mika for making it possible.