On the other hand, this object belongs to the paintings, as I shall explain. It is to be considered as a very drunk painting. My long relation with my girlfriend was over. I moved to another neighbourhood, where I lived next to a young woman, who later became my wife. But first I went out a lot. Near where I lived was a late-night hangout. There I got to know a man called Robbie. Robbie could drink as much as the others, although he was much smaller. He was a dwarf. His door was always open to anybody who brought in some beer. It happened that his house was the true hangout of the neighbourhood. I went there a lot. Everybody was drunk. We knew where we were, but we forgot the time. Once in a while we played the Doors on the old recordplayer. Here is my portrait of Jim Morrisson. It is me, through projection of this story upon him.
When our son Barend was born I moved to Den Helder with my young family. On a walk with my wife and child in it's buggy, we saw the display
of two green woodpeckers on the open grassfield of a deserted campingsite, somewhere in Den Helder.
It inspired me to make this object of the woodpeckers in display.
It is painted bronze, and consists of two parts. First we have the bird, secondly there is a plane of 9 smaller squares, that seems to be a kind of bowl. The true meaning of this part I shall discuss at the end of my lecture. In this kind of bowl, the bird is reflected flying, with wide wings. The bird seems to watch its reflection.
This is a portrait of Cornelis Ditto. Thanks to his peculiar familyname, I let him represent the subject of a little story, with whom he
shared his occupation.
In my new hometown, at the border of the sea, lived a man called Jacob Bakker. He was one of the so-called "vletterlui"; poor fishermen who
sailed the waters in open boats called 'vlet'. I have a small 'vlet' too. A proportional part of the income of these fishermen came from
insurance companies and Kings and Queens, as a reward. With their small boats they were able to reach the ships that were lost on the
sandbanks, and save the people from them. Usually these events took place in very heavy weather, but the "vletterlui" were brave, and knew
the waters very well. One day a barque got wrecked. The crew was saved and landed ashore. But the dog of the cook had not been willing to
jump, and was left on the barque, alone.
That night, Jacob could not sleep. And the next morning he went back to the ship, alone. By calling its name, the dog jumped in his boat. Being ashamed he secretly brought the little dog under his coat to the hospital, where the cook was lying. He let it free there. The dog found the cook. The cook shouted: "Tabbie !"
And Jacob was discovered.
From that moment Jacob's name changed in Tabbie, after the dog. At the cemetary of Den Helder stands his tombstone. It reads: "Tabbie Bakker".
Here we have my son Barend. He is presented in my boat. I have had many adventurous moments with this boat, as the expression of Barends face suggests. Sometimes these moments were quite dangerous and challenging. You can get an idea of this when you understand how Barend is presented in the painting. As a mark or sign he is stamped here. His presence in the boat is both firmly located and a dubious case.
After I moved to Den Helder it happened that I often had periods of 'sapoi' (the Russian word). Gradually the length of them as well as the frequency grew to an extend that I became legendary for my drinking in this harbour city. Then I made this portrait of Tabbie, the little dog that was object of the legend and was left at sea. I presented Tabbie in front of a large black canvas. It is a moment when the moon appears shortly. The dog holds a little piece of driftwood under its leg, as if it waits for somebody to play with.
In the concept of 'sapoi' the dog becomes I. Me appears in the black painting, as projection of the autobiographic fact. This mirroring of I and me in the piece can be considered cause and consequence of 'sapoi'.
By taking long walks, I could quite recover from my sapoi. My favorite place was the nearly Island of Texel, with it's beautiful landscape.
I remember a very windy, cold day. I walked there as a casualty of sapoi. The water in the ditches and small canals that traverse the land,
was wild. No reflection of air and reed appeared. Unconsciously I mused on the fish in the water.
In this piece I used a cheap, spray painted, plastic bowl, bought on a market in New York in 1983. In 1990 I had painted Jimi Hendrix on it. And now I used it in the landscape. The hand, with an iron tube around the finger, suggests Hendrix' hand. He played his guitar left-handed.
After the piece was finished, a nice anecdote happened. When I watched the result, the title came around in my head. Its presence was so clear, that I stood up to localize it around me. But it went away again, and I had not been able to identify it. Later, when the painting was at a show in Germany, a critic wrote a review and quoted the title of a song of Jimi Hendrix. I recognized 'And the wind cries Mary'. Around this time it happened that I said my drinking farewell.
Towards the end of '99 two things happened that simultaneously influenced my work. The idea for a book and corresponding show was born. And my father died. In a reflex I made this portrait of Spinoza.
And a little later a duck appeared, that was flying away.
I recall that I thought of this object as a painting. It is fact without a medium, it is just me. For it's construction I took the half of an old object of me, called 'grave flower'. It is an arm with hand that I made from an old oar of my boat. Next I used an attribute that is a means to keep fishing nets floating. It had been washed ashore, where I found it. On top of it I made a sculpture of a herring gull.
In the meantime, there was the book. The concept for it, was to present an alphabetical series of portraits, in combination with written
sketches of the same subjects. Up till now a big number of portraits I had made, but not every letter of the alphabet was present, and not
each letter was represented as good. In consultation with the author of the sketches a list of 10 persons was produced, who I had to
portray in the following months. Sjostakovitsj was one of them.
The selection of the portraits for the book was not easy. I could choose from hundreds of them, many times more than one of the same subject existed. Apart from quality, I decided upon such factors as unity and rhythm for the book and their appeal to the author. I went over and over my work again.
This autumn-duck I assembled with stuff that was close to my father. This tray he used to bring my mothers tea. With the gravy boat he entered the room, coming from the kitchen and shouted: "Step aside, step aside, hot, hot, very hot!" to us kids every supper. The little basket that one uses to dry the lettuce, by means of swinging it around, he had customized by adjusting a piece of rope, so that its speed accelerated firmly.
I made a self-portrait in my 'vlet'. I appears in the concept of sailing. The many hands of a clock that I used, I once bought on a fleemarket. I had kept those with me, when I moved from and to the different places over the years.
I made a posthumus portrait of my father, where his eyes focus on two playing herring gulls in the black space. It is a remarkable painting
because I don't quite understand where I or me appears.
But I speculate on the fact that my father was an amateur painter, whose attempt to portray my sister turned out to be a fiasco. Then he said his painting farewell. It happened when I was eight. I thought of this as a very dramatic event, then. In this painting, perhaps, my father appears, together with I, in the playing gulls, as painters of portrait.
At the time that I made this portrait of Franz Kafka, I was a bit confused about the book. I wondered if the book would not guide away from
Confusion and motive are my projections upon Kafka. Me and I unite in their projections, but not in the same manner as with the speed
expert Jan Thiel. There it was painting ánd object.
This is painting ór object. Fact or concept.
As a painting it is me, and confusion is the fact.
As an object it is I, and motive is the concept.
Concept and fact are presented in the marble plate. It originally comes from a fitted washstand. There it is placed between the washstand and the mirror.
And I made a black albatross. The nests of this kind of bird are built on high cliffs. The unexperienced young bird cannot land there. So it stays on the nest till it is ready. When it takes of, it never comes back again.
Then my friend Paul Beckman died. Paul was a sculptor of furniture. When I moved to Den Helder, he gave me a box with the small pieces of wood that were waste of the material of his work. He saved it because he considered their shape interesting. In constructing this portrait of Skip James with guitar I used every single piece from Paul's box. I made it in the same period as the green woodpecker in display. As with Spinoza's chestnuts I did it rather unsuspectingly. Skip James was an old blues singer. When he layed on his deathbed, it happened that the English popgroup Cream had a hit with their version of his song 'I am so glad'.
Paul Beckman lived over a long period in a very old, run-down house with a wild beautiful garden. His kitchen, where he was most of the time, and where he slept too, bordered on the garden. In front of his kitchen was lying a rectangular pond, the size of a bed. Sometimes, out of the blue, a couple of ducks landed in the pond, as if they were falling from the trees around it. Paul had to move. They were going to take down his house. Then his drinking started to threat his life. Paul once gave me the broken bicycle chain, that he had found on the street, and the milk bottle, a favorite design to him, from the time that he was a kid. I got the idea of using boxes and to make a sort of cupboard with it. The eyes, shells from an oyster, I choose from proportion. So far, I had not done much. It was a head, a portrait if you like; perhaps it could represent Paul. But to me it didn't present Paul yet. It could be a concept of his youth, and mine, but this concept was too general. And then, all of a sudden, it happened. I presented the eyebrows on top of the piece. Now I was glad ! The eyebrows were a waste. A bird that went wrong. But now it fit in perfectly. I painted it black, like Paul's eyebrows that were of the same kind as Groucho Marx's. In doing so, the failed bird turned into a true casualty of oil slick. A duck that is washed ashore and cannot fly away anymore.
Now I had introduced the concept of drinking and I in the piece. Paul was presented by the duck, I was presented by the duck, and me was presented by the duck. And last but not least, the motif was presented by the duck.
It was a very interesting discovery. In my 24th year of making portraits, I recognized my motif at once in a duck. Now I was able to fulfil my mother's dream of a bird of my hand on my father's grave.
It turned out to be a kind of owl, with my father's features and posture. When I put it on the tombstone I turned its back to the grave, to make clear that it concerns a motive, and exists as motif.