"My life and work are full of contradictions between the mind and the body, between science and intuition, between dark and light, nirwana and samsara, modesty and voluptousness maybe all brought together by the heart"

"Gorgeous" I like to be called like that ánd go to heaven. Would that be possible?

The paradox of spiritual and sensual love, described so wonderfully in the Song of Songs, compels me to express my desire to make the world a more beautiful place; it should be enjoyed by and made more enjoyable for as many people as possible, here and now, for you and me. I am delighted with this book, not only because of its beauty, but also because each time I leaf through its pages I relive the same flush of excitement I  experienced when we made these scenes. During the summer of 2009, Frank Bezemer and I travelled with our son Boris and a group of friends to India and the Himalayas.

After twelve years, I longed to see India again. During our trek we crossed over a 5020-metre mountain pass that was enshrouded by clouds. The inhospitable landscape, usually covered by snow in the wintertime, now revealed its dry and barren peaks; shawls and flags offered praise, thanks and wishes to the wind; humble, friendly souls harvested their grain and tended their cattle. As I watched thousands of stars glittering in the pristine night sky, I saw seventeen falling from the heavens. At times like these I often felt as if I were in another world, closer to God.

Later on we visited Agra and Rajastan. After making a series about natural dying with block-prints in a little village near Jaipur I took a nap on a big swing whilst waiting for lunch. The beauty of the mountains, the visits to the monasteries, the warm and spiritually oriented people made me feel ‘in the clouds'. At home in September, I read the book the Alchemy of Desire by Tarun J. Tejpal, a lyrical and highly erotic love story of a penniless couple, in which the man works feverishly on a novel struggling with writer’s block. The book is set in the Himalayas and Rajastan. A young victorian western woman adores an erudite maharaja:

The long hours she was away from Syed she spent rolling and repeating and examining in her head the words they had last shared. She began to see the world in a new way. As a vast dynamic enterprise, constantly in flux, ever being moulded and remoulded, shaped by men and their ideas and efforts; not, as she had subconsciously assumed all these years, as a stable entity you can partake of as and when you wished.
I followed this mesmerizing book by reading The Powerbook in which Jeanette Winterson writes: When we read, when we listen to music, when we immerse ourselves in the flow of an opera, we go underneath the surface of life. Like going underwater the noise stops, and we concentrate differently.

These books made my journey last longer at home, where I pressed on as an eternal traveller, constantly searching for the truth, for love and the meaning of existence. It was then that the idea of the cloud swing occurred to me. In the springtime 2009, while dreaming of our trip to the Himalayas, I took shots of milky clouds for my artworks: Heaven It’s a Place, Come to Me, and Volare. Those works like to sing and dance.
The cloud swing symbolizes the inner heaven between the mind and heart; it is a space of inner peace to which we can retreat from the harsh realities of the outer world. Lying on the cloud swing makes my heart and mind one: It is a very lazy kind of meditating and I hope it works for you as well! And again searching further, I enjoyed spring 2010 in Kashmir when, ensconced in a shikara, I gracefully glided past exotic houseboats and floating islands on the Dal Lake in Srinagar. I felt as if I were wafting past my still flower lifes on a cloud of exotic perfume a la Baudelaire.

"Beauty will save the world", Fyodor Dostoyevsky. "The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man."

Endless garlands of flowers curled around the borders of my note pads when I was a school girl. And thousands of roses were cut out from my mother’s gardening books. At the Academy of Arts, flowers as large as life were painted on my canvasses. There were always flowers. They flourished in the self-portraits of the eighties and grew bigger in the flower wallpapers made in the nineties. You can see a whole world in my flowers. Lush and strangely erotic tableaux entice you into another dimension. Huge mirrors, elaborate glass vases, rich draperies, fruit and cut blooms are used to make these 'paintings'.
As Baudelaire says “Get drunk: on wine, poetry or virtue”. Imagine lingering and languishing in these fresh, sultry and lucid landscapes. I love this sensual state. To lose myself, to deliver myself as in a love affair. Reality doesn't matter. When making photos I get lost in the scenes as if the flowers were caressing me in the gulfs of the sea.
Kienholz, Sherman and the Dutch painters of the seventeenth century were my masters when making a series of my life as a young woman and mother. These self portraits showed my family life as an embarrassed, querulous paradise: less than perfect. In these theatrical scenes flowers were used as a backdrop. Gradually when making commissioned portraits I began to see people as flowers.
Later the floral paintings of the 17th century, the works of Pollock and Kiefer, the strong scenes of Pipilotti Rist and the seductive work of Bettina Rheims would inspire me. In 1999 an exhibition on voluptuous Dutch floral still-lives of our Golden Age was in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. At that time I began to 'paint' floral still-life compositions with the help of a mirror, so that the total looked richer, more generous and more highly scented, with purple irises, ragged orange tulips and crumpled lips of full-blown petals that appear to be moving in the rippled waters. The effect is like looking into a clear pond, where rivulets of pure water descend from glacial protrusions.
But not all of the flowers are immaculate or in pristine condition, suggesting that something potentially nasty could take place, as in Greek mythology, which is replete with instances of fratricide and revenge. Insects, frogs, drops of blood and red juice on pallid blooms make the photographs slightly sinister. Darkness gives them an unknown and mysterious depth. In these theatres not only domestic scenes but the whole world with its relationships and dramas is played out by flowers as actors.

Margriet Smulders