Sanne van Balen

TUA: Where and how did you grow up; did this affect your ability to connect to and enter the art world?

Sanne: The first 18 years of my life I lived in Friesland in a place surrounded by nature. Back then I was young and eager to meet people with the love for poetry and art, but they weren’t easy to find, and I didn’t know where to look.

I had some really good teachers in highschool who showed me how to make art and how to find my own voice.

For two years I was the "gemeentedichter" (city poet) of Smallingerland, that's when I first met a lot of people facilitating art. Now I could start experimenting with small exhibitions. But if I am honest, this was small and feels disconnected from the art world I encountered when I moved to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam I felt at home and met people that were not just visiting art things but actually organizing them and creating themselves. This atmosphere was something I missed in Friesland. But then there was this great turnaround. Because of the lockdown in early 2020, I moved back to Friesland because I needed space to work on my graduation project. I wasn’t sure what I was working on, but when I started making new works in the garden in Friesland I learned that this was where my work originates from. The landscape of Friesland made so much sense, I figured out that growing up there is of real importance to my work. The quarantaine made it possible for me to find out that I love to make interventions in nature.

TUA: Did you do another education before you started art school, if yes, would you say art school broadened your creativity or narrowed it down?

Sanne: After high school I went to the preparatory course of Minerva in Groningen. It was nice, but I felt I wanted to study at university first. So I studied Dutch literature at the UvA and afterwards I did Image & Language at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie. I was always quite sure about the order of the two studies. I knew that if I would have started with the Rietveld I would’ve been too young for it and afterwards the step to university might have been too big. At the Rietveld I learnt how to make art, how to sharpen my voice and how to think for myself and not through a (school)system. I’d say to everyone; don’t start artschool too young, because you need to know what you are looking for in such a school. It will take you a lot of time otherwise, and then artschool can be a struggle. At school there were often discussions about safe space etc.

I don’t think any system (or art school) can be truly ‘free', even if it’s built on a bauhaus like structure. I was fine with that, because I knew what to get out of it and that I would get somewhere else. I wasn’t expecting the school to be ‘everything’. I had a lovely time because I was quite determined in what I wanted to learn and get out of it.

TUA: Did you ever experience classism, racism, sexism, sexual harassment, physical or psychological abuse within the art world? Do you want to describe the situation?

Sanne: Probably yes. But I can not write about any specific incident because I don’t feel like outing people in a discussion that’s not taking place in the same context as the incident once did.

TUA: Do you think it is an artists responsibility to write about their work; why? Do you think anyone, especially curators and art critiques should write about Artists or their work; why?

Sanne: Everybody has their own expertise. Artists make art, reviews are written by critics. Everyone works through and in their own fields in which specific dynamics and capital (Pierre Bourdieu) govern.

TUA: Is being an artist a full-time profession for you? At this point, could you live of off only your art?

Sanne: I might be a full time working artist; I work 4 days a week in my studio, but I love to have side jobs. They inspire me to make my art. For years I have been working at an organic market, which is a second home for me. It’s a place where I meet different types of people. The work is really hands-on and quite satisfying. I try to find jobs on the side that are connected with the artworld, such as; workshops, teaching, writing articles and essays, reviewing and checking texts for other artists or institutes. There are so many possibilities! Because of this I am not aiming to live off of my art -that would be great of course- but even if I would be living off of it, it wouldn’t stop me from working in different fields.

TUA: Is there a project or artwork you have in mind but fear you will never execute because life is to short or money to little? Do you want to explain it?


In the third year at the Rietveld one of my teachers gave us the assignment to ‘make

the work you’ve always wanted to make’. We didn’t execute it then, but I always keep this in mind. I am always trying to make the best work ever, not saving anything for later. Who knows what the future might bring….

If you want to stay up to date on Sanne's artistic journey, follow her on Instagram and check out her website here.