Esther Janssen’s sewn-in paintings of serene gardens reflect the artefact of the suburbs

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Janssen began experimenting with artificial leather in 2000, during her final year at Design Academy Eindhoven, after stumbling upon a roll of ‘almost pornographic’ pink fabric resembling flesh in a thrift store. “I didn’t know what to do with it, but I thought, ‘I must have it’; it’s so special, ”she said.

Eventually, this turned into his graduate project: a minimalist stitched house, complete with a palisade and walkway. The house, she says, has always been a point of fascination. As a child, she built her own primitive houses, and as a teenager, when her father moved to a clean village in Belgium, she took photographs of the houses and the pristine lawns that surrounded her, the result of tedious maintenance. Over time, she noticed that the evergreen hedges and wooden fences were replaced by plastic clones. Neighbors started vacuuming their front yard.

“It triggered something in me. I already thought that these gardens, which are so personal to people, seemed so standardized, and now they have taken a new step in terms of low maintenance, ”she said. “The house is such a symbol of ideal, and people want to make it perfect. But that perfection has gone too far.…[My work explores] this gap between the ideal conceived and how far we go.

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