The Ballroom; Billytown, The Hague

There is presently a moving bike with a burning candle on its saddle in Billytown.

It turns, moves and makes noise like a spoilt child, constantly trying to catch your attention.

Or is it the embodiment of thinking and creativity, trying to find a way out of the grids, structures and obstacles of life, society and the mind?

As such it could well be the noisy candle-barer of all the works in the present exhibition.

The Ballroom is a show constantly in flux and in the making.

Works may be changed or moved.

Although the exhibition has had an official opening, its end may well be its real opening at the same time.

No names or titles are added, but the works are all made by Billytown’s own artists and are all up to discussion.

One work may be more constant than the other.

The tables can be used for anything, from eating and drinking from, to discussing matters, or just to have a moment of sitting down and looking around.

The works are by Rachel Bacon, Melle de Boer, Kim David Bots, Afra Eisma, Robbin Heyker,

Paul de Jong, Bram De Jonghe, Maja Klaassens, Marius Lut, Bernice Nauta,

Nishiko, Robbert Pauwels, Iede Reckman, Suzie van Staaveren and Marieke van ‘t Zet.

© Villa Next Door 2019

Contents of all photographs courtesy to the artists and Billytown, Den Haag.

Bertus Pieters


Melle de Boer, De laatste romantische schilder (The Last Romantic Painter); The Kitchen, Billytown, The Hague

Schneeige Nacht!
Ihr dunklen Schläfer
Unter der Brücke
Von Zerbrochener Stirne
Tropft kristallner Schweiß euch

(Snowy night! / You dark sleepers / Under the bridge / From your broken foreheads / Crystall sweat drips) Georg Trakl (1887-1914), Fragment 11

As you have seen in this blog (and if you haven’t, subscribe to Villa Nex Door!) Melle de Boer (1972) and your blogger met in his studio last spring to discuss his new paintings and painting in general.

Little did i know that an exhibition of his new paintings would follow so soon in Billytown’s Kitchen.

Its title The Last Romantic Painter may sound both tongue in cheek and pathetic, but that doesn’t mean this show isn’t serious stuff.

It might be tempting to compare De Boer’s paintings to his drawings and his work as a singer-songwriter, but let’s not do that, as there are no drawings or songs in this exhibition.

His paintings try to strike a balance between the escape from reality (whatever that is, in any guise or disguise) and the embrace of the reality of painting.

Many details of the works may work associative, on the other hand they are pure paint and brushstrokes etc.

In these paintings the nights may be snowy, the foreheads may be broken or the sweat may even be crystal, but in the end the paint dictates its own way of thinking.

I was quite happy seeing this exhibition, also knowing that the best has yet to come.

© Villa Next Door 2019

Contents of all photographs courtesy to Melle de Boer and Billytown, Den Haag

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