In the studio
Elspeth Diederix (1971, Kenya) seeks to reveal the unique essence and beauty of natural phenomena and of commonplace objects that often go unnoticed.
Plants and flowers from her studio garden, from a municipal park in Amsterdam, organisms from the depths of Lake Grevelingen, underwater landscapes, and a wide array of seemingly mundane objects come to life in front of Diederix’ lens.
Her jewel-like still lifes with their subtle play of light, color and texture remind us of the restorative beauty of nature and of our everyday surroundings. Diederix’ work forms a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life and a reminder of life’s bountiful beauty.
Elspeth Diederix is represented with many artworks in the AkzoNobel Art Collection. The Foundation collected her photos since the early beginning of her career. It’s great to present a special edition for the silver anniversary of the Collection. We asked Elspeth about her work, studio practice and about the wonderful edition 'Pink Echinops'.
Where did you grow up and trained?
I grew up in Zambia & Colombia. When I started high school we moved to the Netherlands and we went to live near Deventer. I have attended the Rietveld as well as the Rijksakademie. Both in Amsterdam, where my home is now.
Would you like to tell us something about your special Miracle Garden?
Yes, my Miracle Garden is a garden / photography project around a flower garden in the Erasmus Park in Amsterdam West. This garden is the result of a competition organized by Let it Grow. The assignment was to create a work of art for the city of Amsterdam that would bring flowers and plants closer to the people, which I have done.I designed and laid out a garden in a public park. It is a garden where many people come to admire all the beauty that grows there every day. It is also my public studio where I try out all kinds of things with photography and flowers.
Is there such a thing as an average working day for you in terms of layout and activities?
Unfortunately, no. I would love to have a clear structure in my working day. I would love to have the peace of mind of knowing I can spend hours every day doing my own work. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Artistry consists of so many side-paths that take up a lot of time.
Can you describe your workplace for us?
Besides the garden, I have a workplace at home. We live on the ground floor on a busy street and my workspace is at the entrance. Here, you will find a worktable with a view towards a large display window, where I grow many of my plants. I can plant an endless amount of seed trays here and the grow lights ensure that they become sturdy and beautiful plants.
I also dry my seeds here and put down leaves and flowers that I take from the garden to observe their development in the drying process. This is also the place where I sit behind my computer, here I draw, plan my garden, organize my seeds and go outside to take photograph. I always take photos on location so I don't need a classic studio.
In the photos of my workspace, the table is completely full of flowers. I sometimes photograph them here with daylight. It's not always such a mess!
Do you work with digital resources to create new work? Or is it mainly "analog" interventions that you do?
I shoot with a digital camera and I also edit my photos digitally, like the way you use a darkroom to make an image exactly the way you want to see it. But I don't really change the image, I only use a color-corrector of light enhancer for instance. If I want to change the image, I change the actual subject of my photography, I don’t manipulate the photograph itself.
Can you tell us something about Pink Echinops (2020)? How did you arrive at this image?
Pink Echinops is related to my Miracle Series in which I photographed the wonder of the flower. In the first series mainly due to an "analog" intervention. With Pink Echinops, I turned on the backlight by painting one side of the flower in a fluorescent pink, which creates the effect of bright pink sunlight coming from behind the flowers.
What makes the globe thistle special for you?
It is such an unusual flower. Perfectly round, with spines and an interesting sculptural shape. It just occurs in the wild: nothing has been propagated about it. That's how it grows. I find that very impressive. The Miracle Garden also includes an echinops. This one is much brighter in its blue color than the one you see growing in the wild
Did your work lead you to become a real gardener?
Yes! Last year I graduated as a skilled gardener. I suddenly realize that I never picked up my actual diploma again. Maybe I should, it would be nice to have it.
What are your plans for the coming period, and do you think a season ahead?
With a garden you always have to think ahead. If I want to photograph a particular flower, I have to make sure that I have the seeds on time and that they are sown. I have to start working on it months before I could work with it - slow art.
Over the years, the AkzoNobel Art Foundation has added an extensive series of your works to the collection. How do you experience that as an artist?
I think the AkzoNobel collection is very special. Hester has collected my photos from the start of my work and it is so valuable that she continues to follow my work and that of other artists for such a long time. I also found it very interesting to see how my works from the different years came together as shown in the last exhibition Common Ground.
Would you like AkzoNobel employees to have a work of yours on your wall at home?
Of course. It’s wonderful that the AkzoNobel collection can also become their own collection. Maybe for some, having a work of art at home will be the starting point for their own art collection!
Diederix graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and was a resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. Her work has been exhibited at numerous locations, including FOAM, Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum Schiedam and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Diederix’ work is held in private and public collections in the Netherlands and abroad.
Elspeth Diederix, Pink Echinops (2017-2020), 42 x 29 cm,
vibrant pigment print, edition of 50,
special AkzoNobel price: € 400 without frame, € 535 with frame and artglass.
You can order the edition in the webshop