Joanna Krashniker

Paper trail: Bianca Severijns’ Artistic Journey from Holland to Israel

Protective Blanket Series 2020 - 
Thou Shalt Not Kill, no.2, photo by Sigal Kolton
Protective Blanket Series 2020 - Thou Shalt Not Kill, no.2, photo by Sigal Kolton

Currently showcased at the Wertheimer Gallery’s Charcoal & Chlorophyll exhibition in Namal Tel Aviv, Bianca Severijns’ latest paper art creations embody a journey that transcends borders and cultures.

Living in Israel, a true melting pot of cultures from around the world, has broadened my perspective on life immensely. This is a land where people from all walks of life – new immigrants and old, families and singles, those seeking refuge and those and those fulfilling a lifelong yearning – have woven together a rich tapestry of stories and experiences.

Bianca Severijns. Photo by Sigal Kolton, used with permission

One of the most talented (and kindest!) people I’ve had the privilege of meeting since arriving in Israel is Bianca Severijns, a paper artist who immigrated from Holland with her Israeli husband and three children. Our paths first crossed at a local running group, one of those organic settings where friendships bloom as miles are shared and life stories naturally unfurl. While neither of us run very much anymore, our friendship has remained strong.

While catching our breath on our jogs back then, I learned about Bianca’s remarkable journey from her native Netherlands to building a new life in Israel. Her artistry with paper enables her to transform flat sheets into meticulously detailed three-dimensional sculptures and visual narratives, echoing the malleability of her own spirit – the ability to adapt, transform, and continually craft new chapters.

While I may not consider myself an expert on art or cultures, Bianca’s story kindled my curiosity about the diverse roots that intertwine to form the vibrant Israeli social fabric. And so, I sat down with Bianca to learn more about her inspirations, her transitions, and the indelible impressions that lead one to embrace a new homeland.

Bianca’s Background and Early Life

Tell me about your early life in Holland? What was it like growing up there?

Holland will always have a warm spot in my heart. Growing up there made me realize how simple life can be. From a professional perspective, before I immigrated to Israel in 2007, I was deeply involved in the design world, co-owning a studio in the Netherlands with my life partner. We focused on creating children’s concepts for renowned Dutch and International brands. This period of our lives was packed with creativity and surrounded by like-minded individuals. However, our move to Israel brought about a significant shift. We faced a different and challenging design landscape, ultimately leading us to pivot our creative direction. It turned out that the physical journey to a new country created a parallel journey from functional-usable-aesthetic product design to imaginative-inquisitive-communicative-emotional art.

When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist?

The joy of creating with my hands is a lifelong passion that ignited when I was young. As far back as I can remember, our living room table was always adorned with crayons, pencils, fabrics, papers, and paints, ready for my creative exploration. The allure of handwork has always been irresistible to me, a source of endless inspiration and fulfillment.

Were there any particular influences or mentors in your early artistic journey?

Intricate, organic repetition dominated my early artistic journey, and my contemporary art reliefs were inspired by the Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven, who was a master of bare, minimalistic, timeless, abstract reliefs. “My mind gets captured by Schoonhoven when I miss Holland, and some of these works depict a clear visual affinity with his art and my birthplace.” I grew up next to the Waddenzee; I used a palette of mostly white, greys, and greyish blues to evoke the isolated natural worlds of this area.  Within these “paper tiles,” I give the viewers an abstraction of nature and stimulate their imagination to find maybe waves of the sea or a breeze moving dune grass or layers of shells. Each image has movement and rhythm, seeking to inspire an emotional response by its viewer.

Artistic Journey and Move to Israel

How did your artistic career begin? Did you pursue any formal education in art?

I never had a formal art education, but I always had an innate calling to design, art, and work with my hands.

What inspired your move to Israel, and how has this transition influenced your work?

A love story brought me to Israel. My experiences as an immigrant brought me to paper art. My early works explore subjects of displacement, uprooting & re-rooting, and social themes. Although I chose to uproot myself out of free will, I realized many who made Aliyah were forced to come here. That subject intrigued me. Early Series like: “Nesting,” “Uprooted,” and “Sisters” evolved from this.

How do Israel’s cultural (and political?) and natural landscapes compare to Holland’s regarding inspiration for your art?

My art reflects the world in which I live and my personal journey; my surroundings and humanitarian and social issues inspire me, although I am not a political artist.  I usually work in series divided into themes.

Artistic Style and Medium

Why did you choose paper as your primary medium? What draws you to it?

Paper is a superpower medium. I approach paper with my bare hands, which makes our relationship very intimate. Paper is vulnerable, humble, decisive, and powerful – perfect for conveying my artistic visions. The material is full of possibilities and begs to be transformed: you can cut, fold, weave, tear, crumble, roll, paste, and layer it. Paper speaks to me, the sound when I tear it, the touch, the smell, the texture…it’s mesmerizing. Still today, I discover new things, develop new techniques, and explore new paper-related elements. The play with paper is endless!

Windflaw, Wind Series 2022. Photo by Sigal Kolton, used with permission
Can you describe your creative process when working with paper?

I am working from my gut; I allow the artwork to lead the way. A piece is finished when the composition “feels right.” I strive not to overcomplicate my work. The only thing I may plan beforehand is the color scheme and the shape; I hardly ever sketch. The papers are painted with acrylic paint, and the tearing begins. I love the raw edge that tearing provides—a metaphor for the rough edges of life itself.

Have your techniques and artistic style changed over time?

If you take a look at the “Projects” page in my website,, you can see how, over the years, my artworks have evolved.

Themes and Inspirations

What are the central themes in your work? What messages or emotions do you aim to convey?

I believe my role as a paper artist is to create social, humanitarian, and environmental consciousness; part of my art practice concentrates on the awareness of those specific issues. My contemporary paper art journey began as a study of the cycles of nature and progressed to social and humanistic themes. In my earlier artworks, I explored the theme of displacement and how the stages of nature intertwine with human conditions, such as being uprooted, nesting, and revival.

Protective Blanket 2 2019, photo by Sigal Kolton. Used with permission

Dear to my heart is the Protective Blanket Series. I created six paper blankets from 2017 to 2022, addressing and raising awareness about social issues like femicide and the fragility of large-scale ideas such as human rights, healthcare, and political institutions.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? Are there specific experiences, places, or other artists that influence you?

As I mentioned earlier, Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven provided much inspiration, as did my life close to the Waddenzee. Nature is a huge source of inspiration, and I’ll give you an example of how a whole series of mine evolved. Having grown up in the Netherlands, I’ve long been fascinated by the powerful phenomenon of wind – at times soothing, sculpting dunes into graceful curves. Other times destructive – eroding rock, felling trees, or whipping into violent tornados. Wind’s dual nature as both a creative and destructive force in the landscape has captivated me. Its serene beauty juxtaposed with its capacity for havoc intrigues me.

Breeze, Wind Series 2022. Photo by Sigal Kolton, used with permission

I challenged my paper medium to abstract the different types of this invisible natural energy source surrounding us: a breeze, a windflaw, a gust, a whirlwind, a storm. The project resulted in five artworks created especially for the grand exhibition, “Fascination Paper” 2022, at the Gustav-Lübcke-Museum in Hamm, Germany, curated by Diana Lenz-Weber. The exhibition featured 31 German and International artists who all shared virtuosic craftsmanship. I am proud to say that one of my artworks became part of their permanent collection!

Current Exhibition

Can you tell us about your current exhibition at the Wertheimer Gallery in Namal, Tel Aviv? What can visitors expect to see?

Eight artists participated in the group exhibition “Charcoal & Chlorophyll,” which opened on May 16th. The theme deals with the complex relationship between mankind and the natural world, marked by moments of harmony versus discord and cooperation versus exploitation.

Are there any particular pieces in this exhibition that you are especially proud of or that have a special significance to you?

The group exhibition shows 11 of my artworks, but I am particularly proud of my recent works from 2023 and 2024. One artwork that stands out is “Home 1”, inspired by the beauty of the annual natural phenomenon of “Darom Adom” (Red South). However, this year, the beautiful landscape of red anemone flowers was marred by the horrors of the ongoing conflict, devastating destruction of homes, and the massive displacement and loss of life.

Home 1 – Fading Worlds Series 2024. Photo by Sigal Kolton, used with permission.

As an artist reflecting on social issues, in the current conflict, the concept of ‘home’ takes on an even more profound meaning – it represents a fundamental human need – a safe place filled with memories, belonging and dignity. Tragically, many have lost that sense of home, forced from their residences, separated from loved ones, and stripped of cherished possessions. The red in ‘Home 1’ represents not only the anemone fields, but the bloodshed and pain of lives shattered.

Yet despite the tragedy and human grief, nature’s beauty and resilience prevailed in inspiring this work. In these latest creations, my tearing and ripping of the paper is more spontaneous, resulting in diverse shapes and sizes that feel liberated, breaking away from the strict, repetitive patterns of my earlier works. It’s a reminder that even amid darkness, art can illuminate hope for restoring ‘home’ – that fundamental human right and necessity. And of course, reminds as that it is time to bring the hostages home, to end this cycle of suffering.

How has the reception been for your work in this exhibition so far?

Despite our complex war situation, I find that art comforts many people. It is good for their souls and minds.  The opening evening was well attended and successful! And since then, the exhibition has continued to attract a steady stream of visitors, maintaining its popularity and positive reception. Wertheimer Gallery will also present some of the artworks during the Fresh Paint art fair, which will be open to the public from July 3rd until July 8th.

Personal Insights and Future Plans

What challenges have you faced in your artistic career, and how have you overcome them?

Breaking into the Israeli art world was tough. However, after my invitation by the ECC (European Culture Centre) and participation in the Venice Biennale 2019, many doors opened both locally and internationally. Additionally, working with paper is challenging as it is often categorized within the fiber/craft sector rather than contemporary art.

How do you stay motivated and inspired to create new works?

I have lots of ideas and projects in my head. Unfortunately, the paper is labor- and time-intensive, which tends to slow me down. However, the slow process helps me crystallize and redefine my ideas, which is ultimately beneficial.

What are your plans for the future? Are there any upcoming projects or exhibitions you’re excited about?

I am super excited about my upcoming solo exhibition, “Fading Worlds,” at the Wertheimer Gallery in December. In it, I will reflect on the disorder and hope in my personal life and our collective experience. Next, I aim to work with curators and galleries abroad.

How do you hope your art will evolve in the coming years?

I cannot foresee where working with paper will take me or if I will always stay true to this medium, but I am excited to continue my art journey!

What advice would you give to aspiring artists, particularly those interested in working with paper?

Never give up believing in yourself and stay true to your artistic vision! For those passionate about paper, I would recommend joining IAPMA – a valuable resource for upcoming exhibitions, residencies, and essential information.

In Conclusion

Is there anything else about your journey or work that I haven’t covered? Also, how can people best follow your latest projects?

“Thank you, Joanna, for this insightful questionnaire and the opportunity to share!

Stay connected with my work:

[Credit to Hadas Eyal for some editing.]
About the Author
Born, raised and educated in the UK, I am a technical writer and editor since as far back as I can remember. A runner with a British sense of humour that occasionally gets me into strife, but usually just makes people smile.... Starting out on what may well be an amazing future as an internationally-renowned blogger and content writer.
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