This painting I made for the book and especially for the frame. Again it was an item that Paul once gave me. He rejected it, when he was framing another painting of mine. It was a very hard frame for a painting indeed. I tried it a few times before, but it never turned out good. This painting fits in perfectly. It changed the painting into an object, with its own type of projection. The concept is performance. The performance of my paintings in the exhibition that took place together with the publication of the book, was convincing. We had been able to present the body of work as a unity. And the separate pieces were presented vividly. I was surprised and satisfied with my new and old paintings that I had not seen for long.

My gallery Art & Project suggested me to make a show with birds, after they saw the few of them that I had made by then. It was a very good idea. I became loose from the book and its show. In a few months I produced an additional 22, to have a presentation with 28 birds and 3 bird-connected objects: my father with the herring gulls, Paul Beckman with the duck, and the self-portrait in the 'vlet'.

Although the birds are realistic, they can be considered to be the most abstract part of my work. They are not a medium for projection of I and me, and they were not made by means of a medium like photograph and other information about my subject.

I made them from my head, originally and unreflected. What are they about? In the way I made them, they were closest to the áct of making of my work. In how I see them, they are the farest subjects that I can identify with. In how I understand them, they seem to be tautologic with this understanding.

A few months ago I was in the forest of Sweden to work in isolation. I went there with the following books: Either / Or, by Søren Kierkegaard, The Diaries of Victor Klemperer, and the autobiography Bound for Glory of Woody Guthrie. I thought these were appropriate books to read there. Kierkegaard liked to work in isolation, Klemperer's book deals with the involuntary forced isolation he experienced in Nazi-Germany, and Guthrie needed to be a hobo, a traveller once in a while. It was my plan to make some portraits of the authors.

At the time when I had finished my work, my wife and child came to visit me. You must believe me when I tell you that I was under the impression that I had made portraits of other people than myself.

But the very moment that my wife saw them, I saw myself in my paintings. I felt like the child that is playing quietly in its room and instantly sees what a mess it has produced at the moment when its mother comes in. Like the child that was playing, I had lived my paintings.

This painting in particular became the symbol of my solitude in Sweden. The sea reminded my hometown, but became symbol of distance. And the two branches that I actually cut off in the work, were a reference to my wife and son. Then I felt the need to give myself a clear reading of what I had been doing. Examining the facts and the results of my trip I get the miraculous impression that these channeled me through a mourning process about my fathers death, 2 years ago. The necessary conditions for this process I created myself, although I was not aware of doing so. The place I went, and that I knew before, had the same kind of ambiance as a place in Norway, where we used to go on holiday when I was a kid. On these holidays my father was very much in his element, and paid a lot of attention to me. In Norway we lived in the second house on the property of a farmer, called Knut. We helped him bringing in the hay. In Sweden I lived in the second house of a man called Sven. I helped him too, with cutting back the trees.
Another condition that might have directed the process, is my choice for Kierkegaard. Before I went to Sweden I read parts of a biography with a strange story about his father. It had something to do with an enormous misstep that through the principle of inherited guilt was loaded upon Kierkegaard.
According to the biography this was of great influence of his thinking and his life. Furthermore I want to notice that Woody Guthrie for me is synonymous with his song 'Little black train'.

"There is a little black train coming, coming down the track. It takes you for a little ride, but it is never gonna bring you back".

It is about our death.

In Sweden I started with reading the diary of Klemperer. His father was a rabbi; Klemperer himself was converted to Christianity. In his diary he reflects upon these facts as a matter of life and death under Nazi-terror.

This is a portrait of Victor Klemperer. The idea for the sculpture comes from an anecdote in his diary. In the panic, at the end of the war, when it was raining bombs on Dresden, Klemperer looses his hat. Twice. And finds it back. He, who had suffered so much in the previous 17 years, writes in his journal that this event gives him some hope that he may survive. His hat becomes symbol of his life. In this sculpture I present Klemperer twice. In despair.

And with a melancholic expression. In between there is a barrier, which actually consists of wooden roof-panes. The hat is flying above it.

The portrait reflects a transition from one state into another. I wanted to express that Klemperer did survive. In the concept of transition it represents I.

This silhouette I constructed with the plan to paint Kierkegaard on it. But I hesitated to do so, because I liked the combination of the masonite constructing material and the large mushrooms. Eventually the title shifted from Kierkegaard to self-portrait, and I left it as it was. The reason of this shift was the conceptual qualities of the materials. I thought they were more appropriate to myself in Sweden than to Kierkegaard. But there was another reason involved too. The motive is that I needed the idea of a son.

A possible portrait of Klemperer changed into my fathers by changing a hat for a coconut. The coconut makes sense not only aesthetically in relation to the other round shape. It also makes sense because of a little anecdote:

A long time ago I was unseen watching a street singer with his guitar. This black man with strawhat sang "Oh Island in the sun". My father was so moved by this little scene, that he had to leave quietly and left my mother behind in the small crowd. In my object, the round shape in the nose gets a meaning as the tear that he kept there.

In this painting we see Woody Guthrie on the back. He is seated on a boxcar and there is a lot of smoke coming from the stack. In the landscape we see firwoods bordering on a lake, like in Sweden. The painting is very mysterious and it reminds me what happened to me in Sweden. I hope that I cleared the smoke by now.

This is a double portrait of Guthrie and Klemperer. After I read Klemperer's diary I started to read the biography of Guthrie, that ran up the same period. I discovered that Guthrie had been member of a strong anti-Nazi movement in the U.S.A. In the process of making the painting, Guthrie was first alone, then with Klemperer, then alone with yellow door and then with Klemperer again. I hesitated long before I took the last step.

At the moment when my wife saw this painting, I had the very strong sensation of recognizing myself in Guthrie and my landlord Sven in the person of Klemperer. I identified myself with Guthrie as a hobo, a restless person. The yellow door is a direct reference to the color of Swedish houses. The painting of myself in Sweden. The curiosity of Guthrie and the innocence of Klemperer seem to express my desire to find out something about my father there.

In this painting we see Kierkegaard from aside. The shape and construction of the painting look like a mirror on a dressing table. The kind of mirror that enables us to see ourselves from aside.
The concept of the mirror suggests direction, because it is a reflected image. Square to this direction is the profile. On the crossroads of these directions, Kierkegaard is occupied with his thoughts.

In this painting the side-whiskers and hair is an echo of the trees. This creates in the painting a strong direction from foreground to background. Another direction is suggested by the profile. On this crossing point we focus on the portrait of Kierkegaard.

On this painting, the piece of wood that I used had two long branches. I cut them off, according to Kierkegaards radical idea to quit with the principle of Either / Or. The two pieces of plywood show their natural graining, and relate to the branches. Similar to the other paintings of Kierkegaard, I tried to create a direction square to the direction of the profile. This idea of crossroads is the symbol of Either / Or. And Kierkegaard walks on.

I already told you that I discovered the place in Sweden before I went there to work. This happened on a holiday with my wife and son, last summer. A wonderful event took place then. One day, very early in the morning, it was about the time when darkness changes into light; I was fishing in the middle of the small lake that belonged to the property.
At a certain moment I moved my fishing rod over my shoulder in order to throw in the bait. Then I discovered an owl behind me. It was flying so low that I was inclined to lean down. I stopped the movement of my rod. I was afraid that the owl might catch the bait, if it was thrown in. The owl stayed around my boat for a couple of minutes, flying about 2 metres above me. I noticed sharply that I made absolutely no noise. It dissapeared in the trees bordering the lake. I was exited about this event. Back in Holland I was occupied with many things. But I made this little object to remember the event. My son liked it a lot. I gave it to him, and forgot about it. At the time I was preparing this lecture, I suddenly saw it again. Then I decided to put it in my show with the pieces from Sweden. It was a prelude to it. The owl I recognize as my father. And it can be understood as the motif of my portraits of Klemperer, Kierkegaard and Guthrie.

When I was about eighteen, I heard the story of a young woman who had a slow killing disease. She went to a doctor, who told her this, and to a psychiater who solved the problem. He promised the woman that he would preserve her in a massive transparant plastic box that would be casted around her body. Then she would always stand in his consulting room.
I thought it was a weird story, and I got the idea of making a box that, when you open it, unfolds and becomes a square plane. That plane should be painted white with a black edge. I wanted to present it to the headshrink. I never did it, but the idea of the box was born.

The box ended up as a portrait of Charles Ives, at the time of the other curious portrait of Jan Thiel.

Here we see Charles Ives presented on the plane that is created when the box unfolds. The words présent and presént are intrinsic to the box and the unfolded plane. Both meanings of the same word I used in the original version that I wanted to give to the psychiater. I would have given him a présent without presence, an idea of nothingness. Like the actual presence of the dead woman that made no sense.

Let us return to Charles Ives. He can give us a metaphore of a present. In real life Ives had an insurance company. He admired Abraham Lincoln, to whom he dedicated one of his compositions called 'The great commoner'. He never heard his music, except once, when he was old.

In his compositions he introduced the concept of synchronic events. For instance when you hear in a piece that a brassband marches by, through the music that you are listening to. Accordingly I consider my portraits as the result of synchronic events. Motif for me, is understanding these events and discriminating them. And more than often it happens that these discriminations, in a different order and hierarchy attribute to the concept of the portrayed. As with the brassband of Ives, it is not only marching by, it is at the same time a présent to the composition; it becomes part of it.

At the end of this lecture I would like to recall the green woodpecker in display. The bowl that we saw there, is a halfway-unfolded box. The bird that seems to have popped out, and looks at its own flying reflection, can be considered an image of the motif in my work.

This conclusion satisfies me. The concept of a bird is tautological to its appearance. And in actual life it has sharp eyes, overlooks an area and is able land somewhere.

This portrait of Berlage I made in 1988 after our dog died. My girlfriend got the dog as a puppy, before I knew her. This painting I have always associated with a certain place. I used to take out the dog in the neighbourhood. Along the busy main road there was a tiny square at the corner of a sidestreet. It was an unpretentious intervention of the great architect Berlage in an unpretentious neighbourhood. Instead of a monumental building, he had created a monumental, though small, open space, this time. In the shops at ground level a snackbar and a confectionary were situated. The only true shops for a dog.

If you look at the map of Amsterdam, and focus on this square, follow the sidestreet, two block from there, around the corner, I lived up to I could walk. There we got Blackie, as a puppy.

Blackie was a Cocker Spaniel as well. It died after an accident, before we went to Norway on holiday. Then I saw eternal snow for the first time in my life. On the Hardanger Vida, where this snow exists, and which is the landscape in the painting, I understood eternity, when I was a kid.

It was a rewarding task to write this lecture. I'm very grateful that you have invited me. Thanks a lot.



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