Studio visit #7: Pim Piët

It was already quite some time ago that Pim Piët (1954) and i agreed to meet in his studio. We often meet at exhibitions here in town.

It is quite difficult not to meet at any vernissage in The Hague as we are both always eager to know what is going on and what is on show.

Last winter he had a presentation at De Spanjaardshof, the building where he and many others have their studios. It was a small (the space itself isn’t that big) but impressive installation with painting, panels creating alternative, more intimate space, a standing bell and sound.

It was a tranquil and reflective installation, great to see and experience during those dark winter days.

Others might have made it into a woolly, quasi-mystical scene, but that is far from what Piët aims at. For a long time he has been using words in his paintings, often just single words.

Words don’t just have a meaning, they also have a shape. The shape intermingles with the meaning and both define his paintings.

A bit like words defining a poem and its shape.

Of course colour is also a defining factor in his paintings. As for the sound, there has been a good co-operation between him and composer Anna Mikhailova(1984) for the last few years.

Piët’s word paintings, often rhythmic, have a quality that allows, even welcomes music and sound, not just for a background but as an equal partner.

As such his co-operation with Mikhailova has proven to be a very fruitful one. Mikhailova in turn has a very good feeling for what Piët wants in his pictures.

Maybe surprisingly, when we saw each other in his studio we hardly talked about his individual works.

We did talk about the marvellous light in the studio, about the general conditions for making art and about different tendencies in making exhibitions, but i guess his works, covering the walls and part of the floor, quite spoke for themselves. Piët’s work is, as it is for almost all artists, a labour of love.

Labour was one of the aspects of life we discussed.

As for many artists Piët has earned a living with other, non-artistic labour. He purposely didn’t choose for a more ambitious or intellectual job, he needs his intellectual capacities for his art work. On the other hand even the most unintellectual jobs need a sense of purpose and dedication if they are really useful.

We agreed however that even this sense of purpose and dedication is denied to workers these days as efficiency is aiming at higher profits to generate more money for shareholders instead of aiming at a better and meaningful life for workers and a better service to the public.

One can even see it in the way young artists have to work in this country.

We were discussing this with Piët’s wonderful works around us and his materials and books as witnesses of what purpose and dedication can really bring in life.

For those who fear we ended on a bit of a pessimistic note: we didn’t. I think for both of us seeing and making art is too fascinating to become pessimistic about.

As to me it was a very inspiring afternoon. Thank you Pim!

© Villa Next Door 2019

Content of all photographs courtesy to Pim Piët.

Bertus Pieters




Studio Visit #6: Melle de Boer


Last Monday i visited Melle de Boer (1972) in his studio in Billytown. I had seen pictures of his latest paintings on facebook and i was eager to see the real thing.

It took some time but at last we met and we spent the afternoon talking about art and – of course – about painting.

De Boer took up painting again last autumn. You may know him, apart from his great work as a songwriter and singer, as a wonderful draughtsman.

In his drawings his lines are self confident on one hand but on the other hand always in search of the unexpected.

They are cartoonlike. The figures, signs and sometimes the words always find their own way in the white space of the paper following their own logic, and they often have a somewhat surrealist sense of humour.

Why he has taken up painting again, he told me, was, as i interpret it, more or less a matter of soul searching.

The way he uses the figurative in his drawings, using humour as part of his way of expression, could also be interpreted as a way of hiding from what keeps him really artistically busy in his mind. Also, painting is technically more of a challenge and it offers you more of a struggle, both technically, artistically and mentally.

He decided to paint non-figurative representations, so as to be busy with the material, the composition and its expression, free of any interpretation of recognisable shapes or situations, free from references to the real world, not to be distracted

We agreed painting is difficult. As soon as you start painting there is a heavy weight of traditions on your back and shoulders which you have to bare, ignoring it, condemning it, admiring it. But the main point is: there is the paint itself.

Apart from the colours it can be glossy or matte, it can be transparent or opaque, it can be thick or thin, it can be exciting or just bland, it can surprise you or it can be terribly unsurprising.

Finding a balance is a matter of a lot of trying and not being afraid. One’s biggest mistake may turn into one’s most brilliant idea and the other way round.

Brilliant ideas are to be mistrusted when painting anyway. We also agreed that there is no way of being totally abstract or non-referential.

After all, even a simple geometric shape like a square has a meaning in one way or another. We looked at some works he has been busy on. We talked about the monumentality of smaller and bigger paintings.

One greyish painting has, in red, the name of Georg Trakl, the great pre-WWI Austrian poet of whose work De Boer is a great admirer.

Simply describing it, it is a grey painting with some blackish lobes and of course that name written in red, but when you walk around it, you see the different structures of the paint, the ideas proposed, rejected and becoming part of the painting. Any painting artist may recognise these aspects and they keep on fascinating both maker and viewer.

The main problem in painting (as it is in art in general) remains how to surprise oneself without imposing one’s will on the painting or one’s own mind.

De Boer is too much of an artist not to have himself surprised. His hand, like in his drawings, does not shy away and is always in search of the unexpected.

The paintings show a world full of tension, a clash of positive and negative, toughness and sillyness. Personally i can’t wait to see his paintings shining in a show. It would be a new chapter in De Boer’s work (as it already is).

And there is of course also Henk & Melle’s new cd We Are All Rockstars, a title that says it all. Thanks Melle, it was an inspiring afternoon!

© Villa Next Door 2019

Content of all photographs courtesy to Melle de Boer.

Bertus Pieters



Studio visit: Matthias Grothus

The other day i paid a visit to Matthias Grothus to write an article for Villa La Repubblica about his newest work The Last Unicorn. Click here to read the article (in Dutch).

I saw a video of the work on Facebook and was intrigued by it, so i contacted him and saw the work the next day in his (temporary) studio.

Grothus usually makes works that are moving either mechanically or by simply plugging in a power cord.

As such they often look both intriguing and understandable.

Although it has been fashionable last few decades for works of art to be ‘disturbing’, Grothus’ moving objects are in a sense comforting.

They show what the human mind is capable of without the use of obscuring digital techniques and they challenge the viewer to use his own imagination.

He stresses the need to care for human imagination and to respect the material and its potential we use.

As such mind and material are very much interlinked in his works.

He showed me his new work The Last Unicorn and we were busy making pictures and videos of it while chatting about the joys and pitfalls of art.

© Villa Next Door 2018

Content of all photographs courtesy to Matthias Grothus.

Bertus Pieters