Yasja is a Dutch artist, born in Amsterdam but raised in the natural environment of the south of Holland. This combination of environments and the young start of a creative career when admitted to the Maastricht art academy shows in her wide variety of works. Yasja is not only active as a street artist, she also focuses on realistic portraits, abstract paintings, illustrations, logos, tattoo designs, animations, digital work, comics, storyboards, etchings, landscapes. Multi-talented and multi-inspired, as clearly seen in her work. Yasja recently visited Iceland and Norway to get inspired by the magical landscapes. She shares her adventure with us in her blog specially written for ASA.
This journey felt like a kind of renaissance for me. It was my first big tour alone and also my first steps in Scandinavian countries. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want in life and I’ve realized that I’m finally living my dream; traveling around and creating murals.
Everything during my trip was incredibly unrealistic and awesome!
How it started
It all started last December. I was pretty stuck in myself and in my home. I had to get out.
So I decided to write letters to different art-residences in different countries with the question to stay there for a while; to make art and get inspiration out of the area.
After a week I received an answer from Kàri Vidarsson, the owner of The Freezer: a hostel, cultural space, small theatre and art-residence located in Rif; a small fishing village in Snæfellsnes, the western parts of Iceland. He told me that I could stay there in April for free, in return for making a mural on their outside wall. I was totally high of enthusiasm.
In that week, that enthusiasm got grown. A few days after I had contact with Kàri, I received an assignment to paint a climbing wall in X-Land, the new adventure park in Kristiansand, Norway. I was also curious about the street art in Kristiansand, so I had contact with Ane Lila Valentina from Mint Gallery. Via Ane I had the opportunity to make a mural in the center of the city and to have a solo exhibition in Mint Gallery, during March and April.
There I go!
So, at the beginning of March, I drove alone – with my car fully loaded with canvasses and climbing materials – from my house in the southwest area of the Netherlands to the north of Denmark, where I took the boat to Kristiansand in Norway. The journey went well, except for the fact that I had accidentally forgotten to pay my gas in Germany.
My time in Kristiansand was amazing. I was staying in the house of Ane Lila Valentina and her husband Sedin Zunic; an artistic couple who are very active in the street art scene. Their home is a typical Scandinavian wooden house, situated on the edge of Kristiansand, on a rocky hill with a view over the city. The housekeeping reminded me a bit of my former parental home which was on a houseboat; a warm nest where everyone is welcome.
During my time in Kristiansand I’ve met a lot of nice people! The owner of Hobby Himmelen, Jørn Ivar Riste, sponsored all the Montana spray-cans that I needed for my mural in the city; I went out with other great street-artists Ener Konings and Sedin Zunic to paste up illustrations in the streets of the center and there were people who spontaneously took me out for dinner. I felt like a princess!
My mural in the center went well, except for the rainy days that I couldn’t paint. The mural presents a kid underwater who discovers a seahorse holding a cotton swab. The seahorse with the cotton swab links to the problems of the plastic in the ocean. I was inspired by the photo of Justin Hofman and the community Sea Invaders that using art to spread the dangers of ocean pollution. But in the first case I wanted to create an underwater portrait, because of my roots on- and love for the water.
The Iceland sky
After finishing my assignment in X-Land, the mural in the center and the opening of my exhibition in Mint Gallery, I took my car further to Oslo, where I had my plane to Iceland.
When I landed at the airport of Kevlavik, I actually felt a little lost. It felt like I had arrived on another strange planet; everything was different! Wherever you looked, you only saw endless desolate lava rock fields. And I also noticed that the lights of the sky are different. The sky seems to be way lower than the rest of Europe and the light of the sun more bleached, whereby the landscapes also had other alienated colors.
At that moment I missed Norway and my old, rusted, but strong car. I had to continue with my heavy army-backpack and I took the bus to my first stop in Iceland: Vibrant Hostel in Reykjavik.
Once there, all lost feelings were comforted by the fun people I met and with whom I ended up partying a lot. For example; there was a tiny techno party in a park in Reykjavik, with just thirty people. Suddenly I felt a light shock go through me, the same kind of feeling when you see your crush. A cheerful and radiant woman with two large, black buns was mingling with the other partygoers: it was Björk! It was so special and strange to see her in real life and especially so close! But for Icelanders it’s very normal to see Björk or other famous Icelandic people. There are only 300.000 people living in Iceland, so you can easily meet acquaintances. Thereby, every Icelander is equal to each other.
I enjoyed partying in Reykjavik. It was only a shame that I was not allowed in Pablo’s Discobar, because of my painting pants and hiking shoes.
I didn’t leave Vibrant Hostel without creating a mural at their place.
This project in Vibrant Hostel was a last-minute assignment. Actually, I was supposed to make a mural on their outside wall. But because of the horizontal hail, rain, and snow – and such typical Icelandic shower makes a turn at the end of the street, returns at full speed and repeats itself a hundred times again – I decided to work inside.
After two weeks of being in the area of Reykjavik and the Golden Circle, it was time to move further in the direction of the west: the Freezer. It was an almost six-hour journey with different busses in incredibly beautiful landscapes. On arrival I was welcomed by a concert of an Icelandic band: K.K. The entire setting in the Freezer was very atmospheric. The Freezer is an old, refurbished fishing factory. The interior is super cozy with a collection of all kinds of furniture from the 70s. Upon entering I immediately felt home!
After a few days, I started working on my mural. There were warm and sunny days that I could even paint in my bare feet and in a tank top. But there were also days that the wind was so strong that I was almost blown away. The weather in Iceland can be insane. During my traveling, I’ve seen many flipped cars next to the road, because of the wind. Maybe it was a bit naive of me to think about painting a wall outside in Iceland easily during this period. But I made it! The mural contains the first passionate musicians, dancers and actors of the Freezer. It reminds everyone of what the Freezer stands for culture, diversity, social responsibility, cooperation, ambition and joy. I used the northern lights as a flow existing of passion, music and movement.
It was a great and magical experience to create a mural in such an extraordinary and beautiful area. Not only to paint there but just to be there!
I’ve received a lot of inspiration for new work and I can’t wait to paint back in the north again.