Best of Graduates

20 aug 2021


Best of Graduates is the annual exhibition at Galerie Ron Mandos that gives a platform to recently graduated artists. In this new Q&A-series – The Future of the Arts - we speak to people in the cultural field who work with young artists. How do they prepare young artists for the future? And what happens to them after they have graduated? In this Q&A, we speak with Gijs Assmann who is Tutor ‘Matreiality and Humanity’ at BEAR (Base for Experiment, Art and Research), the bachelor Fine Art ArtEZ in Arnhem.


  1. : What is the most important lesson you pass on to your students? / How do you prepare them for the future?

A.: There is a valuable way of thinking that does not use words and concepts, because it is visual by nature and exists in a cycle between what the hands, the eyes and the mind do. It does not centre on critical and analytic rationality, but on dedication to the making process, the courage to trust the encounter with desires, fears, dreams and intuitions. 

As Francis Bacon in an interview with David Sylvester

DS:  What do you think are the essential things that go to make an artist, especially now?

FB:  Well, I think there are lots of things.  I think that one of the things is that, if you are going to decide to be a painter, you have got to decide that you are not going to be afraid to make a fool of yourself.  I think another thing is to be able to find subjects which really absorb you to try and do.  I feel without a subject you automatically go back into decoration because you haven’t got the subject which is always eating into you to bring it back – and the greatest art always returns you to the vulnerability of the human situation.


  1. : What are the characteristics that a recently graduated artist must possess to make it in today’s art world?

A.: Art is capable of something that can be called magical: producing images and objects that evoke intense, complex and unutterable experiences in such a way that people feel connected. That is not an easy thing. It demands that artists abandon their need for personal expression and move away from the clichés, judgements and norms, justifications and explanations that govern our lives. It requires courage to trust their non-understanding. It invites them to dedicate themselves with heart and soul to sensory thinking and enquiry that is the making process. 

 In the tutor group ‘Materiality and Humanity’  the learning process starts by relating to materials and looking at the making process. This is complemented with knowledge and reflection and discussions in the group, all to encourage the desire to reach and connect people. In this perspective art is a sensory and hands-on adventure where human and social values are at stake.


  1. : Every art academy has key focus points. Which ones does ArtEZ have and what do you think are its strengths?

A.: In education is modelled on a tutor system. Art education is not organised around art disciplines but on the basis of artists' attitudes.   

 The relationship among students has an important sustaining role in this learning process because of their differences in age, life experience and school years. The group process functions as the platform for education and development. It is there that students learn from one another through intensive exchanges and collaborations.

 The leading principle is that people learn best by producing their work in freedom, by experimenting, by reflecting on their work together with others, and by presenting it in different situations. In other words, gaining experience in showing and contextualizing their work and gaining insight into their artistic process as a communication phenomenon. And of course, the aim is to acquire expertise, in terms of making and designing of images, objects, spaces and material.

 This educational model uses a cycle of making, reflecting and showing in which individual students and groups collaborate. Which means that conceptual-artistic, socio-political, artisanal-technical and personal-existential elements are continually touched upon.

 There are many ways and many media to do this, and a variety of possible choices in terms of priorities. The seven tutor groups distinguish themselves in these aspects.  


  1. : How do you deal with innovation versus tradition within the academy?

A.: The way in which art and artists connect with the present and the world can take place in various ways, both in 'what' they do and in 'how' they work. Being human is the main theme and the question "How can we live?" is central to my work as a teacher. At the same time, I place great emphasis on the process of making. At a time when everything is about explainability, quick effects and availability, craftsmanship makes demands such as patience, slowness, technical skill and concentration. In this perspective, the choice for craftsmanship is not so much of this time, as it is for this time. Craftsmanship thus stands for a contemplative character and for everything that seems to have disappeared into the background in the 21st century: handicraft, anti-modernism, devotian and endearment, in short, 'slow art'.


  1. : Why is art education important and what does 'good' art education look like?

A.: The power of art lies in an unconditional belief in imagination, experimentation and the coexistence of diverging perspectives. Contemporary art today is as complex and diverse as the world in which we live. Art is distinctive, as it does not conform to prevailing models, but questions and examines these models. Simultaneously, art connects with the world – Art is part of the world, it offers insights into it and intervenes in it.

 For me the topic of art is being a human being. How does one live? How does one cope and make sense of the world by way of art? Art is a tool, not the subject. To make a jump to education: it starts with the artist, the designer, the student. Whatever a work expresses or what it does, it all boils down to it being informed by something else, and this ‘else’ is not the concept of what art is, but resides both in the personal experience of the maker and their capacity to produce images. As for me, my personal expertise resides in visual intelligence.