Carla Lensen







Artist Carla Lensen lives and works in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. After a professional career as an Architect, she developed her career as an Artist from 2001 on. She has exhibited her art in countries around the world and participated in numerous artists’ residencies. Her art is both philosophical as playful and it explores reason without pretending to know it all. Archetypes, patterns and the unconscious play an important role in Carla’s ‘World’ series.


The creative evolution of an artist’s life.


The urge to draw, create and represent

Ever since a child I felt the urge to draw, to design, to create and to represent (parts of the) visible and invisible world in images, shapes and colors.

At first, starting to draw figures and shapes with a prominent outline, like in cartoons. Then, filling in the blank shapes in the subject and background with naturalistic or more experimental colors. Pretty much, I think, how every child starts out with drawing and coloring.

Later on, I was dedicated to be able to really represent what I was seeing right in front of my eyes. At that time I desperately needed glasses but somehow wasn’t aware of that yet. I did not see sharp edges around figures and objects. The only thing I saw was a combination of light and dark areas and a range of greys between those two extremes. So, I would build up scenes as a play with light and shadow. I always was somewhat surprised when people looked at my work and recognized realistic figures and objects in my rough drawings and sketches.

In school I got good grades for both arts and science. When I learned about perspective, I ambitiously introduced this new tool into my drawings, as a mean to get more control over the compositions I wanted to construct. Perspective rules even gave me the freedom to represent spaces that had never been seen in front of my eyes, but were solely a product of my own imagination.


Artists who fascinated me at that time were Piranesi and Esscher.




                      Piranesi: Imaginary Prisons, 1745.




                      Esscher: Relativity, 1953.




Architecture and plans


With some mild but serious push of my parents, I started my studies in Architecture and Building Engineering instead of in the Arts. These ratio-oriented studies shaped my outlook on the world and its visible and invisible phenomena initially. Even in the more artistic and aesthetic classes in Architecture, there was a strong belief in the concept- and plan- making ability of designers. With both feet on the ground, one eye on the budget and a sensibility to the wishes and dreams of the client, the architect hoped to find enough inspiration within the planned project time, to create and develop something completely new, or at least something that would stand out originally and different next to anything else that had been built before. After graduating I worked for over 6 years in this field of Architecture and I have to say that I loved my profession. It had a lot to do with finding, or rather, claiming freedom within set boundaries in budget, place and time.


Inspirational architecture I found in Palladio’s Villa Rotonda, which combined a dazzling decorated interior with a very simple and logical underlying structure and positioning of volumes.




     Palladio: Villa Capra ‘La Rotonda’, 1592.




Art, Motherhood and Philosophy


Then something happened in my private life that summoned me to spend more time with my family. It wasn’t easy for me at all to suddenly withdraw completely from my profession as architect because I had always been very ambitious and driven to become the best in my professional field. I decided to channel my ambition into two other directions: developing myself personally and artistically. I enrolled in Art Academy and focused for 5 years on creating, both as a mother and as an artist. I indulged myself into reading books on philosophy, spirituality and alchemy in an effort to understand the world and its visible and invisible phenomena. In attempts to understand nature and the forces and patterns that lay underneath it all, I also studied and practiced biodynamic farming and cooking. Meanwhile I became mother for the second and third time and I watched my children grow and develop every day. The every-day-life, the subtle and the divine came together in every second, again and again. Around that time I became aware of the interconnectedness of everything that was, is, and will be. Everything, all visible and invisible phenomena (including people and their minds), don’t stand individually by themself but are interrelated to everything else. I started to see and value the commonplace of all religions, too.

With great interest I studied the works on synchronicity, mandalas, archetypes and the collective unconscious by C.G. Jung. In the works by Gilles Deleuze the theories on rhizome, multiplicity and the metaphysical treatise on difference and repetition captured me.


Representing the invisible phenomena of our world

During my time at the Art academy I was experimenting with drawing and painting, combining conscious and unconscious elements. Many times archetypes arose from those experiments. My fascination for contrasts and opposites like dark and light, stayed.


After graduation I deliberately combined abstract and figurative elements in line drawings, which did not represent the reality of our world as we see it, but rather how I experienced it. To me, the reality of the world that we live in consists of multiple events, morphing from one stage to another. There seems to be chaos and emerging structure at the same time. As if everything floats in a harmony of many different melodies.


Artistic context





The following artists inspire me for different reasons. I feel connected with Henri Rousseau because of the pure and uncomplicated expression, the nature theme, the sharp defined colorful shapes and the overall feeling of peace. M.C. Esscher seems to have the same fascination with repeating pattern and playing with intertwining positive and negative shapes or dark and light as I do. Wassily Kandinsky I admire for the lyrical abstraction and the melodic harmony in his vibrant colorful paintings. William Morris combines drawing and painting in his fabric patterns, which I really appreciate. Finally I have to mention that I adore the colorful rugs and other fabric that have been made by ancient tribes and communities for ages, because of the symbols, archetypes and extra meanings which are woven both conscious and unconscious into the total image of the artwork or handicraft.




                      Rousseau: The Snake Charmer, 1907.




                      Kandinsky: Reiter, 1911.




                      Esscher: Sky and Water, 1938.




                      Morris: Acanthus pattern, 1875.




                      detail Perzian rug, early 20th century.




                      Morris: Blackberry pattern, 1915.




Patterns in paintings


In my ‘world’ paintings, I usually use a single line with no begin and no end. Those paintings have repeating elements in them and they’re mostly part of a larger pattern. Foreground and background co-exist dependently, non-hierarchical and are intertwining. The coloring gives every part of the repeating patterns a unique atmosphere, character and value if you like. Parts are the same but different. There’s no hierarchy in the paintings but depending on the mood, taste or focus of the viewer, some parts stand out more than others.




       Lensen: Slimtarra, 2006.




       Lensen: World 4 Flames and Fragments, 2008.




       Lensen: World 5 City Limits, 2008.




       Lensen: World 15 Intersections, 2008.



       Lensen: World 9 New Horizons, 2008.




       Lensen: World 22 Dance of Life, 2009.




       Lensen: World 30 Water and Waves, 2013.



Multiple levels


Despite the philosophic content of my paintings, they may remind the viewer also of children’s drawings, cartoons or even naive art. That’s ok for me. I deliberately embrace those associations and I like it when people enjoy my art at multiple levels. For me, art is joy and expression. I am happy when my art gives people a positive experience or feeling. Some might value my art for it’s philosophical content; some for the bright or pale colors; some for the sharp edges and outlines.


Between the “why”, the “because” and the “I don’t know”, from incubation to intimation to illumination.


Many times I wonder if there is an existing God or an overall power which fuels and shapes all visible and invisible phenomena in our world. Why is everything as it is and why are we here? Because there are some patterns to be recognized in our reality, I like to think that there is a purpose and an underlying structure in the otherwise immense chaos of our existence. The fact that I don’t know doesn’t mean that I don’t believe. My Art expresses a strong belief in a real world with harmony and melody.




Deleuze, G. (1994). Difference and Repetition, London: Continuum.

Deleuze, G. (1987). Rhizome, A Thousand Plateaus, London: Continuum.

Jung, C.G. (1980). Archetypes and the Collective Unconsciousness, New York: Bollingen.

Jung, C.G. (2006). Synchronicity: an Acausal Connecting Principle, London: Routledge.

Jung, C.G. (1964). Man and his Symbols, London: Aldus Books.


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