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Magazine voor actuele Outsider Art

Jaargang 9 nummer 2 december 2014 prijs â‚Ź 7,95

Thema: trauma


Voorwoord Voor deze Out of Art kozen we het thema ‘trauma’. Dit beladen begrip kan ten grondslag liggen aan de meest uiteenlopende kunstwerken van de meest uiteenlopende kunstenaars. Soms komt hun werk zwaar over. Soms is het lichter van toon. In elk geval is het een thema dat regelmatig opduikt als over Outsider Art wordt geschreven.

Out of Art is een uitgave van Amerart n.v. onder auspiciën van am Foundation en verschijnt twee keer per jaar. Redactie Out of Art Prins Hendriklaan 43, 1075 ba Amsterdam Tel. 020-675 63 00 info@out-of-art.nl www.out-of-art.nl Werkgroep Out of Art 18: Frits Gronert, Eva von Stockhausen, Karin Verboeket en Phia Verstraete Aan dit nummer werkten verder mee: Nico van der Endt, Joris Killian en Frans Smolders. Vertaling: Language Unlimited Tekstredactie English summary: Eva von Stockhausen Vormgeving: Van Rosmalen & Schenk, Amsterdam Druk: Drukkerij Tesink, Zutphen Omslag: Mies van der Perk, Sprekende bomen I, 2014, acryl en inkt op papier, 76 x 56 cm Abonnementen/subscriptions Out of Art Abonnementenland Postbus 20, 1910 aa Uitgeest Tel. 0900 - 226 52 63 Fax 0251 - 310 405 klantenservice@aboland.nl www.aboland.nl De eerste abonnementsperiode geldt voor bepaalde tijd en kan niet tussentijds beëindigd worden. Abonnementen worden na de eerste abonnementsperiode omgezet naar een jaar­ abonnement, tenzij u tenminste 3 maanden voor het eindigen van de abonnementsperiode opzegt.

Abonnementsprijs in Nederland € 15,- per jaar Subscription inside Europe € 22.50 and outside Europe € 27.50 Voor verkooppunten zie www.out-of-art.nl Niets uit dit magazine mag worden verveelvoudigd of openbaar gemaakt zonder voorgaande toestemming van de uitgever.

Frans Smolders van Collectie De Stadshof leidt het onderwerp in met treffende werken van internationale outsiderkunstenaars. Zowel in deze inleiding als in een apart artikel komt het werk van Willem van Genk aan bod. In het artikel wordt ingegaan op de jassen die Van Genk verzamelde. Kunst of geen kunst; in elk geval bieden zijn mantels stof tot discussie. Zo heel anders is het wapentuig van Wendell Jesse Kerwhen die, gefascineerd door gewelddadige films, complexe composities van pistolen tekent. De indringende tekeningen van de Rus Foma Jaremtschuk gaan door merg en been. In Oost-Indische inkt maakt hij ons, zoveel jaren na zijn overlijden, deelgenoot van een onthutsende gevoelswereld. Tot slot besteden we aandacht aan de droomboeken van Mies van der Perk waarin zij haar nachtmerries en angsten vastlegt.

Out of Art 19 verschijnt mei 2015 met een themanummer over het heelal.

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In ‘ik ben ik’ stelt Aldo Piromalli ons voor raadselen met zijn constructies van gevonden materialen. Via een eigen systeem creëert hij orde, logica en poëzie. ‘The place to be’ is deze keer gewijd aan de Friese naïeve kunst van Ruurd Wiersma, een melkvaarder die zijn creaties achterliet in wat nu het Ruurd Wiersma Hûs is. Nico van der Endt schrijft over deze ‘bjusterbaarlijke’ omgeving. Een interview met Els Vermeersch vertelt in ‘Fascinerende ontmoetingen’ hoe zij ertoe kwam om een museale functie in te ruilen voor een baan binnen een organisatie die zich ten doel stelt de artistieke ambities van mensen met een verstandelijke beperking te helpen ontplooien. En zo is er weer veel verrassends te lezen en te bekijken in dit magazine. Karin Verboeket

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39 Thema: trauma

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Kunst en trauma In zijn introductie op het thema trauma, vraagt kunst­ historicus Frans Smolders zich met ons af “hoe letterlijk mag je het levensverhaal en de kunstwerken op elkaar plakken?”. En: “waar komen beelden vandaan?”. Vragen die een zo genuanceerd mogelijk antwoord verdienen want het gaat hier tenslotte om puur persoonlijke en vaak autobiografische scheppingen.

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De mantelzorg van Willem van Genk Honderden regenjassen verzamelde Willem van Genk. Rijen dik. De aankoopdatum, de aankoopprijs en… het aantal knopen van nieuwe aanwinsten hield hij allemaal bij op lange lijsten. En elke jas droeg hij slechts een keer. Daarna was hij volgens de kunstenaar immers ‘uitgewerkt’. Regenjassen als pantser en om mee te imponeren.

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Wendell Jesse Kerwhen: Complex geweld Het favoriete wapen van Wendell is de ‘desert eagle’. Zijn inspiratie komt uit gewelddadige films. Met veel wapentuig.

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Foma Jaremtschuk: Schrille schreeuwen Op elk stukje papier dat hij kon vinden, tekende de Rus Foma Jaremtschuk met Oost-Indische inkt aangrijpende taferelen van wat mensen elkaar kunnen aandoen. Hij kwam uit Siberië en werd van staatsvijand van Stalin uiteindelijk patiënt in drie opeenvolgende psychiatrische klinieken. Hij tekende, tekende en tekende. Boeiend, maar ook bijzonder verontrustend om naar te kijken.

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De nachtmerries van Mies van der Perk in ­droomboeken vervat Als dromen nachtmerries worden, wat doe je dan? Mies van der Perk tekent. Elke dag. In haar droomboeken. Vellen en vellen vol met angstaanjagende scènes. Verhullend en onthullend tegelijk. Trefzekere lijnen en arceringen in zwart-wit. Het helpt. Want, zegt zij zelf “als ik niet zou tekenen, was mijn leven zinloos”.

Rubrieken

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Ik ben ik; Aldo Piromalli De wetten van Piromalli Zijn oog valt op van alles. Hij ordent en creëert volgens eigen regels. Elk materiaal, hoe nietig ook, kan het begin zijn van een nieuwe creatie. Over een bijzondere ruimte vol stukjes karton, plastic zakken, boeken en verpakkingsmateriaal. En over lange brieven, tekeningen, gedichten en geometrische vormen.

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The place to be; Museum Ruurd Wiersma Hûs, Burdaard De versierdrift van een melkvaarder Veel makers van naïeve kunst hadden kleurrijke, eenvoudige beroepen zoals paardentram­ conducteur, stratenmaker en seinhuiswachter. Zo sjouwde de Fries Ruurd Wiersma als melk­ vaarder zware melkbussen van de boeren naar de fabriek. Later ging hij ze beschilderen. Zo ook de muren in zijn huis, de kolenkit, de klok, lege flessen en zijn schoenen. Om met een van de museumbezoekers te spreken: ‘bjusterbaarlijk’.

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Fascinerende ontmoetingen; Els Vermeersch “Het zit heel dicht op mijn vel” Van de kunst van de negentiende eeuw naar de hedendaagse kunst van mensen met een verstandelijke beperking. In België maakte Els Vermeersch die overstap. Zij zette haar “kunsthistorische gepraat aan de kant” en beschouwt het tot haar taak “een brug te slaan naar het reguliere circuit”.

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English section Agenda Tekst en beeld: Aldo Piromalli

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Thema: trauma tekst: frans smolders foto’s: marcel köppen

Oei, over kunst en trauma schrijven. Dat betekent voor een kunst­his­ toricus dat hij zich op glad ijs begeeft. De schrijver dezes is immers geen psycholoog, psychiater, arts of maatschappelijk werker. Dat zijn geschoolde professionals die verstand hebben van trauma’s. Zij h ­ ebben ervaring met cliënten die in hun leven plotseling of geleidelijk aan g­ ees­ telijk in de knel zijn geraakt. Want, trauma zoals we het in dit n ­ ummer van Out of Art beschouwen is mentaal letsel, een emotionele wond. Zo’n trauma kan plotsklaps zijn ontstaan door oorlogsgeweld, een natuurramp, een ongeluk of een brand, en door meer van zulke levensbedreigende gebeurtenissen. Geestelijke schade kan ook heel langzaamaan opgebouwd worden, bijvoorbeeld doordat een mens van kinds af aan ongewenst is, doordat een persoon geen identiteit mag hebben; als ontheemde ­vluchteling, of doordat iemand eindeloos op zijn ziel wordt getrapt of lijfelijk bedreigd wordt, zonder uitzicht op een veilige toekomst. Nog een andere vorm van verwondend geestelijk lijden is het indirect opgelopen trauma: door levenslange schaamte over wandaden en schanddaden van anderen, ouders, l­andgenoten,

geloofsgenoten, kortom van leden van een groep waartoe je zelf ook behoort. Maar zelfs voor een psycholoog of psychiater is het de vraag wat je in een literaire tekst of tekening letterlijk of figuurlijk kunt lezen, en wat je mag interpreteren als uiting van een trauma. Diepgevoeld

We kennen diverse professionele kunstenaars uit de twintigste eeuw, – als Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) – die het als hun taak beschouwden om land- of tijdgenoten de spiegel voor te houden om een collectief misdadig oorlogsverleden te verwerken.1 Bij outsiderkunst dicht de kunstenaar zich geen rol toe om maatschappe­ lijke, politieke, nationale trauma’s

Kunst en

te genezen of anderszins te beïn­ vloeden. Art brut is puur persoonlijk, autobiografisch. Zelfs degenen bij wie een Holocaustervaring het centrale thema is van het oeuvre, zoals bij Rosemarie Koczÿ die de ­concentratiekampen Traunstein en Ottenhausen overleefde, lijkt het mij niet te gaan om een politieke stelling­ name. Scheppingen van Art brut of Outsider Art zijn in hun spontaniteit puur persoonlijk, vrijwel altijd autobiografisch. Outsiderkunstenaars construeren geen levensloop, zoals Beuys, maar zij werken zonder intellectueel concept of plan, vanuit een diepgevoeld persoonlijk drama. Maar betekent dat ook dat wij als kijkers hun creaties mogen lezen als een levensrebus, of als een letterlijk doorkijkje in de biografie van de maker? Waar komen beelden vandaan?

In tentoonstellingen van outsiderkunst is het gebruikelijk om biogra­ fieën naast de kunstobjecten te hangen, waarin te lezen staat dat een trauma bij velen aan de basis heeft gelegen van hun onstuitbare, vaak obsessieve, creatieve uitingen. Waarin wordt uitgelegd, in soms lamentabele bewoordingen, hoe de ‘lijdende’ kunstenaars in hun artistieke p

trauma Rosemary Koczÿ Ik weef u een doodskleed, 2000 uit een serie van 13 tekeningen Inkt op papier, 35,5 x 27,5 cm Collectie De Stadshof

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hij ons op te wachten voor de deur. Vrijwel onveranderd, en deze keer met een grijs gebreid mutsje op zijn hoofd en een grote zwarte bril op zijn neus. Zonder begroeting begon hij meteen te praten. Het werd een monoloog over de “bedreigende situatie” en over zijn angst ooit eens zijn huis uit te moeten als het zou worden verkocht. We klommen de lange trap op naar zijn etage die nog steeds volstaat met spullen, geordend volgens de wetten van Piromalli. Ondertussen bespeurde ik angstige blikken van de fotograaf die niet meteen inzag waar zijn apparatuur neer te zetten en hoe foto’s te nemen. Een rekje met dozen vol stukjes karton met daarop twee hoedjes, verschillende gevonden voorwerpen op vier stukjes karton gerangschikt en twee rubberlaarzen lijken wachters bij een ritueel altaar, gemaakt van ogenschijnlijk nutteloze voorwerpen. Aan elkaar gebonden transparante plastic zakjes vormen een gordijn dat het buitenlicht fraai gefilterd binnen laat. De hoek onder

Aldo’s hoogslaper staat vol met rekken met boeken, boeken en nog eens boeken. Deze ruimte is geheel afgeschermd met een stoffig gordijn van plastic zakjes. Zijn werktafel ligt bezaaid met papier, doosjes, stukjes karton en uitgeknipte verpakkingen. Ik vond stukjes karton die helemaal vol waren geplakt met strookjes uitgeknipt verpakkingsmateriaal. Deze kartonnen hadden de vorm van driehoeken, vierkanten, cirkels en ovalen. Hij vertelde dat dit zijn nieuwe kunstvorm is. Hij maakt geen tekeningen meer die hij kopieert en inkleurt en daarna de gehele wereld instuurt. Nee, tegenwoordig knipt en plakt hij er op los. Stukken bruin karton gebruikt hij nog wel om tekeningen op te maken. Hierin herkende ik de stijl van de tekeningen op A4 formaat die hij mij eerder toestuurde. p

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het Gelderse Harreveld, volgde voor de jonge Willem ongeschoold werk. Hij probeerde het in verschillende baantjes, van loopjongen bij een schoenlapper tot broodbezorger, maar werd overal al na korte tijd weggestuurd. Meer hoopgevend bleek een stage als reclametekenaar; de vele uren die hij in zijn kindertijd tekenend had doorgebracht leken nu vruchten af te werpen. Maar hij stond niet open voor aanwijzingen of suggesties van zijn superieuren en bleef eindeloos doorwerken aan afbeeldingen die volgens hen al lang ‘af’ waren. En zo stond hij binnen de kortste keren weer op straat. Hij eindigde tenslotte in een sociale werkplaats, naar eigen zeggen “tussen de mongolen”, en kwam in een pension voor ongehuwde mannen te wonen; een kille, intimiderende omgeving die hij ’s avonds ontvluchtte. Hij liep dan een uur naar het huis van zijn zus Willy in de Harmelenstraat in Den Haag, bij wie hij aan de eettafel mocht tekenen. Toen Willy in 1973 kwam te overlijden, mocht Willem van zijn oudste zus Tine in de woning blijven wonen.

Het heeft lang geduurd voordat hij me zijn kast vol met jassen toonde Joodse jongens

Willem van Genk had maar met weinig mensen een vertrouwensrelatie. Naast Tine, een “zondagse burgervrouw”2, die zich puur praktisch om zijn gezondheid en woonsituatie bekommerde, was er zijn galeriehouder Nico van der Endt (van Galerie Hamer in Amsterdam), en tenslotte schrijver en vriend Dick Walda. In zijn boek ‘Koning der Stations’ verhaalt Walda over zijn wederwaardigheden met Van Genk. Het is een verslag van de gesprekken die hij door de jaren heen met de kunstenaar voerde, en van de brieven die Van Genk hem stuurde. Walda laat ook Tine aan het woord, en zij vertelt over een bijzonder ingrijpende gebeurtenis die plaatsvond tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog, toen haar broer Willem nog maar een tiener was “Onze vader was in de oorlog werkzaam bij de Arbeidsinspectie en beschikte zodoende

Willem van Genk voor zijn regenjassen Zwart-wit foto, 1985 Foto: Pascal Martin

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Volgens de Haagse politie bestond er een uitgebreid dossier van hem.” Een prostituee – een “vriendschapsgirl” – die hem thuis bezocht, kreeg de opdracht in zijn keuken haar lange haren te wassen, terwijl Van Genk, gekleed in zijn mooiste regenjas, toekeek. Dick Walda: “Willem wilde zich – tot verdriet van zijn zusters – ook aansluiten bij de homobeweging, omdat een deel fanatieke ‘­leerheren’ waren. Dat sloot weer aan bij Willems leren jassen. Bovendien verkeerde hij in de naïeve veronderstelling dat de homobeweging tegen de afschaffing van pisbakken zou ageren. Deze plekken frequenteerde Willem, in de hoop daar een lotgenoot aan te treffen met wie hij de Daad kon verrichten. Ik vrees dat ook deze contacten op niets zijn uit gelopen.” Willem van Genk droeg iedere jas opvallend genoeg maar één keer, daarna was hij ‘uitgewerkt’. Toch gooide hij nooit een jas weg.

Voor Willem waren die jassen enerzijds een pantser, anderzijds ter imponering. Je viel er wel heel erg mee op. Kunst

Derden hebben door de jaren heen geprobeerd de logica waarmee Willem van Genk zijn leefwereld, zijn ‘environment’, had ingericht, te doorgronden en duiden. Dat de regenjas een belangrijk object was voor Van Genk, en een rol speelde in zijn machtsfantasieën en zijn verdedigingsmechanisme, is duidelijk. Ook duiken de jassen hier en daar op in zijn twee­dimen­ sionaal werk, zoals in het schilderij Collage ’78. Het is dus niet helemaal los van elkaar te zien. Toch heeft Van Genk de jassen niet méér bewerkt dat slechts de knopen vervangen door drukknopen, ogenschijnlijk alleen voor gemak bij het gebruik. Over de vraag welke plaats zij in zijn oeuvre innemen, lopen de meningen uiteen. Kunnen de jassen in een artistiek kader geplaatst worden, zoals de trolleybussen en zijn tweedimensionaal werk? Nico van der Endt en Dick Walda vinden van niet. Beiden p Museumopstelling met onder andere regenjassen van Willem van Genk. Zonder jaar, leer en plastic Collectie Museum Dr. Guislain, Gent

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De versierdrift van een melkvaarder Ruurd Wiersma Samengestelde panoramafoto van de kamer met De vier jaargetijden

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The place to be; Museum Ruurd Wiersma Hûs, Burdaard tekst: nico van der endt foto’s: leon hermans

Kort na de Tweede Wereldoorlog ontstond een brede groei aan belangstelling voor naïeve kunst en outsiderkunst. Waren deze vormen van beeldende kunst al eerder opgemerkt, vooral door psychiaters en een enkele kunst­ historicus, nu werden ook kunstenaars bewogen het werk systematisch te verzamelen. Frankrijk speelde daarbij een hoofdrol door de activiteiten van de dichter Anatole Jakovsky (1909-1988) voor de naïeve kunst en schilder Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) voor de outsiderkunst, dat wil zeggen voor die werken die hij tot zijn “art

brut” kon rekenen. De heren waren het niet erg met elkaar eens. Voor Jakovsky was het woord “art” in “art brut” al te veel, hij vond de kunst van “gestoorden” helemaal geen kunst, terwijl Dubuffet meende, dat de naïeve kunstenaar te veel probeerde “echte” kunst te maken. Wie waren er het meest origineel, dat was de vraag. De kunst die Dubuffet waardeerde was “kunst van het volk”. Maar dat was de kunst van Jakovsky ook. Kijk eens naar die beroepen, de kleurrijke, soms eenvoudige beroepen van al die naïeve

kunstenaars die in de jaren na de oorlog in Nederland net als elders ontdekt werden. Daar verschijnt een paardentramconducteur; Pieter Hagoort (1887-1975), een stratenmaker; Cor Kaay (1905-1979), een huisknecht; Frans Vrijenhoef (1904-1971), een seinhuiswachter; Huub Sijstermans (1923-1978) en nog veel meer. Bijvoorbeeld een melkvaarder, Ruurd Wiersma. Na een arbeidzaam leven

Ruurd Wiersma werd geboren in 1904 in het Friese Rinsumageest, niet ver van Dokkum. p

“Wij (…) hawwe genietsje kinnen fan de ferhalen oer Ruurd. Tige, tige tank.”

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Wie was hij?

Over het leven van Foma Jaremtschuk is niet meer bekend dan dat hij geboren werd in Siberië, zo’n drie jaar basisonderwijs volgde en in 1936 onder het regime van Stalin werd beschouwd als vijand van Rusland. Hij kwam terecht in een werkkamp en bleef daar totdat men hem zo’n elf jaar later, in 1947, diagnosticeerde als psychiatrisch ziek. Hij verdween in een instelling waar hij, zoals later bleek, zo’n vijfhonderd inkt- en pentekeningen maakte die, opmerkelijk genoeg, door een psychiater werden bewaard. In 1963 werd hij overgeplaatst naar een ander ziekenhuis om in 1986 in een volgende instelling voor psychiatrisch ernstig zieke patiënten te overlijden. Uit de laatste twee verblijven is voor zo ver bekend, geen werk bewaard gebleven. Het is nauwelijks voor te stellen dat iemand die dit soort verontrustende tekeningen

Foma Jaremtschuk Zonder titel Oost-Indische inkt op papier, 21 x 14,2 cm

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maakte, nog bijna tachtig jaar is geworden. Tekenen had Jaremtschuk nooit geleerd en toch werd dit blijkbaar zijn manier om emoties en gedachten vorm te geven. Wie zag ze? Wat deed men ermee? Ook daarover is niets bekend. Wat zien we?

Op elk mogelijk stukje papier krabbelde Jaremtschuk in een periode van zo’n tien jaar vooral ruimtevaartschepen en mysterieuze wezens. Mens- en dierfiguren lijken elkaar te folteren op de meest wrede wijze. Uit alle lichaamsopeningen stroomt de ellende en elk stukje huid wordt belaagd. Het is een wereld vol vissen, bloedzuigers, stekels, open wonden, ingewanden en braaksel. In sommige tekeningen lijkt de telefoon een belangrijke rol te spelen. In andere is het de toiletpot, al verliezen de naakte, uitgemergelde figuren hun uitwerp-

Foma Jaremtschuk Zonder titel Oost-Indische inkt op papier, 47 x 30,5 cm


Foma Jaremtschuk Zonder titel Oost-Indische inkt op papier, 18,7 x 17,6 cm

selen net zo vaak buiten, als in de pot, tot in hun eigen bed aan toe. Er zijn tekeningen bij die worden begeleid door enigszins ’kromme’ zinnen, waarschijnlijk van Jaremtschuk zelf. Helaas is nog niet alles vertaald, maar uit de reeds vertaalde woorden is moeilijk wijs te worden. Soms maken ze melding van iets dat met het werkelijke leven in verband gebracht zou kunnen worden, zoals een tekst over Joeri Gagarin, de eerste Russische kosmonaut en over de honden die de Russen in 1957 en 1960 de ruimte in stuurden. Soms ook gaat het letterlijk om wat men elkaar kan aandoen, zoals in bijgaande (Engelse) vertaling over de ik-persoon die iets of iemand op de neus slaat en blij is dat de ander pijn heeft, p Foma Jaremtschuk Zonder titel Oost-Indische inkt op papier, 26,9 x 34,4 cm

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Thema: trauma tekst: frits gronert

Mies van der Perk Droom 26 11 2010 afhangkelijk Potlood en pen op papier, 20 x 28 cm

De nachtmerries van Mies van der Perk in droomboeken vervat

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Mies van der Perk Droom december 2010 Potlood en pen op papier, 20 x 28 cm

Kunstenares Mies van der Perk (1938) ken ik vanaf 2007, toen zij bij Atelier Herenplaats kwam werken. Sindsdien bezoek ik haar regelmatig thuis. Ze woont in een gezellige Rotterdamse buurt waar veel buiten­ landse winkels het levendige straatbeeld bepalen. Zowel de dagelijkse effecten van deze multiculturele samenleving als haar dwangmatige angsten en gedachten bieden haar inspiratie om tekeningen te maken die een directe afspiegeling lijken te zijn van haar innerlijke leven. Een en ander wordt concreet zichtbaar in haar ‘droomboeken’ die ­functioneren als beeldende dagboeken. Hierin tekent zij haar frustraties van zich af. Als therapie. Zelf zegt ze daarover “Als ik niet zou tekenen, was mijn leven zinloos”. Vanaf de basisschool, waar ze altijd hoge ogen scoorde met haar tekentalent, is het leven van Mies van der Perk moeizaam verlopen. Als jong meisje binnen een groot en arm

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gezin, groeide zij in de o­ orlogsjaren op in een weinig stimulerende woon­ situatie. Ze bleef thuis helpen totdat zij op n­ egenentwintigjarige leeftijd huishoudelijk werk in verschillende

ziekenhuizen ging verrichten. In die tijd volgde ze ook lessen bij de Stichting Kunstzinnige Vorming Rotterdam, waar ze voor het eerst kennismaakte met kunst in de Rotterdamse musea. Het werk in de ziekenhuizen bleek te veel stress op te leveren en Mies raakte over­ spannen. Vanaf dat moment begon voor haar een leven binnen de hulpverlening. Zo werd Mies van der Perk wie zij nu is. Via het maatschappelijk werk is zij bij ‘Via Kunst’ gaan werken, een initiatief van de inmiddels gepensioneerde dominee Hans Visser die aan de Stichting Pauluskerk verbonden


Mies van der Perk Droom op 4 12 2010 opeens was ik in een vreemde wereld Potlood en pen op papier, 20 x 28 cm

was. Hij zette zich met name in voor de zogenaamde ‘drop-outs’ in de stad. In die tijd gaf kunstenaar Jack van Mildert leiding aan deze groep. Voor Mies was hij heel belangrijk. Zij ontwikkelde gaandeweg een geheel eigen stijl van tekenen. Toen Jack met zijn werk in de Pauluskerk stopte, stortte het leven van Mies volledig in. Oude pijnen en verdriet kwamen weer boven. Zij isoleerde zich en liet nog maar weinig mensen toe. Een vroege bewonderaar van haar werk was Jack Vreecke, docent beeldende vorming aan de Fontyns Hogeschool in Eindhoven. Hij verza-

melde Outsider Art en nam het werk van Mies al vroeg op in zijn collectie. Vreeke bezocht haar een aantal malen per jaar en via hem kwam zij in contact met Atelier Herenplaats. Dromen uitgelicht

Inmiddels is Mies een vertrouwd gezicht binnen Herenplaats en ­exposeert zij haar kunstwerken regelmatig in binnen- en buitenland. Haar werk is altijd autobiografisch. Het is een realistische afspiegeling van wat in haar hoofd speelt. Dit kan frustatie zijn uit het verleden of een aanklacht tegen de katholieke kerk, waar misbruikschandalen aan het

licht zijn gekomen. Andere zaken die niet alleen in gesprekken met Mies naar boven komen, maar die steevast een plaats in haar beeldende werk vinden, zijn haar onzekerheid over de toekomst van Atelier Herenplaats, de afhankelijke situatie waarin zij zich bevindt, het vergeten van een pincode of de diagnose van een arts. Kortom, de angst voor het onbekende en haar diepgewortelde argwaan tegen machthebbers en hulpverleners maken een groot deel van haar bestaan uit. Om al deze gevoelens ergens een plek te geven, tekent Mies in haar ‘droomboeken’. Werkelijk dagelijks p

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English section Out of Art publishes key articles in English, something we hope will extend our services to our readers worldwide. Although Out of Art is a Dutch magazine, we work with writers from all over the globe to inform you about contemporary Outsider Art. In general, the magazine is published in May and December, with each edition based on a specific theme. This time, we are focusing on trauma. In addition to feature items on the theme for that particular edition, the magazine also includes articles on art collectors and places to visit as well as interviews with fascinating people. We’re delighted to welcome you to Out of Art and would appreciate any feedback you might have. Whether you are a reader, subscriber or sales representative, we hope you enjoy our magazine. Karin Verboeket, Editor-in-chief

P. 4 - 8 Theme: trauma

Introduction art en trauma Text: Frans Smolders

Oh Lord, writing about art and trauma... For an art historian that means treading on thin ice. After all, the writer is not a psychologist, psychiatrist, doctor or social worker. They are trained professionals who know about trauma. They have experience with clients who have developed a sudden or gradual psychological crisis. Because trauma, the way we are treating it in this edition of Out of Art, is a psychological injury, an emotional wound. Such traumas can occur all of a sudden as a result of war, a natural disaster, an accident or a fire, or through several such life-threatening events. But psychological damage can also arise very slowly, for example, because a person was unwanted from childhood, or because they are denied an identity; as a homeless refugee, or by being constantly treated with contempt or physically threatened, without a prospect of a safe future. Yet, another form of injurious ­psychological suffering is indirect trauma: caused by life-long shame about the misdeeds and shameful acts perpetrated by others – parents, compatriots, fellow believers – in short, by members of a group to which one also belongs. But even for a psychologist or psychiatrist it is not clear what can be literally or metaphorically read into a literary text or drawing, and what can be legitimately interpreted as the expression of trauma.

Poignant We know various professional artists of the twentieth century – such as Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) – who considered it their task to hold up a mirror to compatriots or contemporaries in order to process a collective criminal war past.1 In outsider art, the artist does not assume any role in healing or otherwise influencing societal, political or national traumas. Art brut is purely personal, autobiographical. Even for those for whom a Holocaust experience is the central theme of their oeuvres, such as Rosemarie Koczÿ, who survived Traunstein and Ottenhausen concentration camps, it seems to me that their art is not about assuming a political position. In their spontaneity, art brut or outsider art creations are purely personal, virtually always autobiographical. Outsider artists do not construct a life story, like Beuys; rather, they work without an intellectual concept or plan, drawing on a poignant personal drama. But does this also mean that we as viewers can read their creations as a life rebus, or as a literal peep-hole into the biography of the maker? Where do images come from? In exhibitions of outsider art, it is customary to hang biographies beside the ‘objets d’art’, often stating that a trauma underlies the artists’ irrepressible, often obsessive creative expressions. These biographies explain, sometimes in lamentable wording, how the ‘suffering’ artists are seeking a form of processing via their works of art. Because a trauma is such a devastating and shocking experience, and one that is so intangible and so all-pervading, that there are no words to relate to it. The open wound, the unprocessed trauma is suppressed and continues to cause endless distress in the rest of the person’s life. For artists, it is the primary source from which art ­originates. We would of course like to know: where do images come from? What can we sensibly say about the image-creating and art-creating activity of the artist,

about the artistic creative ­process that precedes the work of art? Holocaust trauma Rosemarie Koczÿ (Germany 1939, died United States 2007) was marked for life by the Holocaust and six post-war years spent in a foster home and orphanage. Starting in the nineteen seventies, she started to process her tragic childhood experiences artistically. Her o ­ euvre – drawings, paintings, sculptures, ­tapestries – is one long indictment of the destruction of so many precious human lives which cannot be forgiven or forgotten. Incessantly and obsessively, she portrays emaciated, tormented and broken human figures, staring at us with large, hollow eyes, to make them immortal. Even so, I don’t believe she is trying to change the world with her art. She is processing her own experiences and creating a monument to all the ­people, the individuals, who died. For example, in an extensive series of drawings from 2000 which add a new element to the endless procession of marked, contorted, living skeletons, alone or in pathetic hordes, with hollow cheeks and sunken, vacant or fearful eyes. “They are burials I offer to those I saw die in the camps where I was deported…” writes Koczÿ, explaining the Jewish ritual of the shroud as an expression of respect.2 Time and again we see one or more people in their struggle with death, in the face of death, awaiting the shroud that fills the entire sheet. Sometimes, the shrouds appear as pieces of textile, with elaborate patterns; sometimes they look like quilts, made up of many different patchworks. On the back of the drawings we read Koczÿ’s lamentations: “I miss my family” and “Drawing eases my suffering”. Childhood traumas? Roy Wenzel (the Netherlands 1959) records all kinds of experiences with the help of a phenomenal photographic memory – everyday activities, such as a

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family visit or a train journey. Each drawing is a journal-like account in which he represents his emotional experiences but in particular his spatial experiences. Back home, he uses chalk and coloured pencils to draw the images that passed before his eyes and the people who are important to him. Roy finds it hard to express himself in words, but his expressive and powerful work bears witness to his preferences and obsessions, such as trains and women in sexy pumps or high-heeled black boots. Bit-part players, whom he indicates only in contour, wander around. In many of his drawings he places himself somewhere near the edge, with an angular, wide-open mouth, hair standing on end, his hands reaching for his head. We know from a reliable source that the artist was forced to spend a long period in hospital as a child and that he did not enjoy his time there, to put it mildly. When he is at home, Wenzel walks around with one of his hand-crafted wooden train ­windows on a stick; it resembles a real train window and he looks through it before he starts drawing. That way, he re-experiences what he has seen and been through. The characteristic screaming mouth in his self-portraits is very similar to the carriage window. But can we regard that endlessly recurring, screaming ‘self-portrait’ as proof of childhood trauma? In 1998, and more extensively in 2000, Marc Lamy (France 1939) wrote a commentary to explain his drawings, ‘Sources symboliques de mes dessins’, in which he discusses in minute detail the influence he believes his childhood has had on his art. His parents opened a stained glass studio with the ­lifetime ambition of reviving medieval glass-making. In doing so, they imposed a monastic lifestyle of sobriety and discipline on themselves. Lamy feels branded by it. He refers to the surfeit of visual information, as a result of which he developed oversensitivity to images and sounds. In the studio: the mouldings, the glass forms, the working processes in which grisaille, negative forms and transformation processes played a role. In their home: the collection of books and curios, the historic, ­decorated furniture with all kinds of optical phenomena resulting from bubbles and twists in glass, from knotting and mirroring. And, above all, two prominent faces: a hypnotic skull

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and a piercing mother portrait. All of this magnified by the mutilated cityscape of Lyon, disfigured by wartime damage. And all of it enlarged and sublimated in his over-stimulated child’s mind. And, whereas he had seemed born to take up his parents’ creative trade, as he approached adulthood he started suffering from insomnia. He had hallucinations, heard voices, became manically depressed, and had a complete psychological breakdown. At that point, Lamy discovers that by drawing in a kind of automatic hand – inspired by paranormal voices – he enters a kind of trance in which the images from his early years are revealed. Multiple trauma? On the left panel of Zelfportret Zwak­ zinnigen­nazorg (Self-portrait, After-care for the Mentally Retarded) Willem van Genk (the Netherlands, 1927–2005) has portrayed himself in front of a TV screen with a pistol to his temple. Across him runs a banderole with the English title of the dissertation by the psychiatrist Plokker ‘Art from the Psychologically Disturbed: The Shattered Vision of Schizophrenics’. At the time Van Genk was labelled as disturbed and deficient, which would cause great frustration and anger throughout his life. In a small medallion in the same painting we see Van Genk as a child suffering a humiliating beating from his father. Van Genk excelled in drawing at primary school. His only talent apparently, as in all other regards he was considered an oaf. He did try out all kinds of graphical work at an advertising agency, but lacked the required discipline for office work. As a ‘deficient’ – as they were known in those days – he was given employment in a sheltered workplace. By the time he painted Zelfportret-Zwakzinnigennazorg, Van Genk had left that workplace many years previously. But he portrayed himself in the way that the psychologically handicapped were viewed at that time: irredeemably stupid and unsuited for the labour market. His scenes always appear to be composed in support of personal, substantive ­arguments. Violence plays an open role. As the years progressed, Willem van Genk’s mind grew more and more turbulent. He not only increasingly suffered from delusions about enemies that he had to mislead or shake off, but the experience was made worse by loud

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music in his head. ‘Director’ and ‘orchestra leader’ are two titles he gave himself by way of ‘empowerment’, in order to suppress the ongoing dangers. Again we must ask the question: how literally can we link together the life story and the works of art? Healing effect? According to psychological theory, a ­person with an unprocessed trauma suffers a psychological crisis which ­continues to express itself later in life. Only when the appropriate descriptions are found to fathom the trauma can healing take place – often not until many years after the actual experience. Only by facing the wound – the sadness and the pain caused by the past – and by repeatedly re-experiencing the traumatic events, can the person leave the past behind. An artist who constantly relives their traumas in the creative process might be expected to outgrow them as a result. But is it true, this healing effect of art on the creators themselves? If the themes and working methods described above are interpreted as the processing of trauma, then they did not help the authors – note the fact that they ­continued to occupy a dominant place in the ­artists’ oeuvres until the end of their lives. Nor does the obsession wane in an extensive series of works. Terrible for the ­sufferers, moving for the viewers. Frans Smolders is an art historian and curates the De Stadshof Collection.

www.collectiedestadshof.nl Notes 1. L isa Vanhaeren; ‘Show Your Wound; Joseph Beuys en het Duitse Trauma’ (‘Show Your Wound; Joseph Beuys and the German Trauma), 2012, in: martelart.wordpress.com. 2. Source: I Weave You a Shroud, 23-11-1999, De Stadshof Collection Archive

P. 9 - 14 I am who I am; Aldo Piromalli

The laws of Piromalli Text: Frits Gronert

First visit At the Herenplaats, from 1995 to 1997 or thereabouts, I used to regularly receive envelopes containing a poem and a drawing, sometimes even several drawings. They were always addressed to Hooggeacht [highly esteemed] Frits Gronert. The wondrous content of the letters always piqued my interest and on a winter’s day in February 1996 I ­visited the sender, Aldo Piromalli (1946) in Amsterdam. He was already waiting for me out on the pavement; the doorbell was out of order. He introduced himself as “Aldo Piromalli, born in Rome in 1946” and started talking to me in an uninterruptable stream of words. Once inside his flat, I encountered one surprise after another. A little path ran through the room to the window, which was screened off with a cork curtain. A small space in a room off to the side was taken up by a loft bed with a small table underneath, here it turned out he did his drawings and wrote his poems. There were no seats and I had to be really careful finding my way along all the piles of stuff. He writes his poems in Italian and Dutch. They are like a summary of an accidental series of words, which reminds me of certain Dadaists. At any rate I couldn’t make heed or tail of it. The drawings he’d been sending to me for a year had the simplicity of a comic strip; sometimes they were grey and sometimes they were coloured in in pencil. Second visit In 2001, I visited Piromalli for the second time. This time, I was joined by Wouter Welling, the former art reviewer of the regional daily newspaper Rotterdams Dagblad. He was interested in Piromalli

because his work was to be ­exhibited in TENT, as part of the festivities of Rotterdam European Capital of Culture 2001. Then, too, the short, somewhat stocky man with his grey beard and peaked cap met us out on the pavement. Before we even went inside, he updated us on his situation. “Threatening things are happening in the neighbourhood,” he claimed. Inside, we entered a world of packaging materials, cans and bottles. In the middle of the room, stood a ladder with an object on each step. Wouter Welling saw it as a trap, after all “the slightest wrong move and Piromalli’s environment would collapse and betray the intruder”.1 Piromalli told us that he had signed up with the country’s biggest supermarket so that he could get a loyalty card. However, he decided afterwards to cancel this and he returned his loyalty card. It was the same story I’d heard six years ago during my first visit. We noticed that the stuff that he’d arranged in his own way had been cleaned. “If you’d have been here all alone as long as I have, you’d also enjoy having these things next to you,” he explained. When asked what it was he wanted to express with his drawings, he replied: “To point out something. Each little box is different from the others. I try to draw the same thing, but can’t. It’s always different. My drawings have meaning, but you have to be able to read them.” Piromalli is interested in language. He has read Carl Jung, travelled to India, visited the Dalai Lama and immersed himself in Tibetan Buddhism. He has a massive collection of dictionaries and is studying Ancient Greek. He’s a sensitive man and feels a constant threat, or as he puts it “I’m like a live wire.” Welling later formulated it as follows: “Piromalli combines elements derived from perception, study and mythology. Arbitrariness is an illusion; it is tied together by his thoughts, feelings and imagination. His dreams and fears. There are elements with a clear sexual connotation; there is a desire for women as well as a fear of them. A closed room with a window to the world. Repetition as a ritual incantation. His imagery orders the outside world, gives it cohesion. As a result of which the constant threat


recedes. His grammar is of the inner world. That’s what makes his messages sometimes difficult to read. But those who open themselves up to it can feel his fears and desires.”2 Third visit On Friday 16 May 2014, I visited Piromalli for the third time. This time I’d been commissioned by Out of Art and was accompanied by a photographer. Once again, Piromalli was waiting for us at the front door. Practically unchanged, with his grey knitted cap on his head and this time also with a pair of large black glasses on his nose. He started talking straightaway, without even saying hello. It turned into a monologue about the “threatening situation” and his fear that he might have to leave his house if it were sold. We climbed the long staircase to his floor, which was still full of stuff, organised according to the laws of Piromalli. I’d already noticed the anxious look on the photographer’s face, unsure of where he should put his equipment and how he was going to be able to take any pictures. A small shelf with boxes full of pieces of cardboard with two small hats on top, various found objects arranged on four pieces of cardboard and two rubber boots that looked like guards at a ritual altar made of seemingly useless items. See-through plastic bags had been tied together to form a curtain that let in a beautifully filtered outside light. The c­ orner underneath Aldo’s loft bed was full of shelves filled with books, books and more books. This space had been completely screened off with a dusty ­curtain made of plastic bags. His desk was strewn with papers, small boxes, pieces of cardboard and cut-up packaging. I found pieces of cardboard that had loads of strips of cut-up packaging materials glued to them. These pieces of cardboard came in triangles, squares, circles and ovals. He told us that this was his new art form. He was no longer doing any of the drawings that he’d previously been copying, colouring in and sending out into the world. No, his current occupation was to cut things up and stick them together. He was still using pieces of brown cardboard for drawings. It was on these that I recognised the style of the drawings on A4 paper that he’d sent me before.

What I noticed this time, but hadn’t on previous visits, were all the mousetraps everywhere. He said that these “little gnawers” were “attacking and devouring” his environment, and then just started an entirely different story. Very associative, just like his poetry, he jumps from one topic to another. Fragments from the past sometimes crop up, and asking him about them he sometimes tells you more. But most of the time he doesn’t. The story then suddenly takes a completely different turn. It’s difficult to get a good impression of Aldo Piromalli. He appears to have worked in Italy for a radical leftist political movement. There, he was admitted to a psychiatric institution. He has travelled a lot and met people everywhere. In 1970, he was arrested for possession of marihuana, after which he travelled to the Netherlands and went to live in Amsterdam. He tells us that his gas and electricity have been cut off. He suspects this is a conspiracy of civil servants. You could call him an eccentric who doesn’t fit into our society that well. He admits that he “would prefer to be all alone in the world”, but concedes “that that is impossible.” Little piece of cardboard To wrap things up, I asked Piromalli if he’d like to join us to have a bite to eat and something to drink at his favourite Turkish coffee house. We took a few more photos of him on the way and listened to his stories of “threatening situations”. After saying our goodbyes, I turned around one last time to see a small man with a pair of large black glasses and a grey beard bending over to pick up a piece of cardboard off the street. There was no doubt where that cardboard would end up. Note 1, 2 Wouter Welling, Madness, published by Galerie Atelier Herenplaats as part of the exhibition of the same name in TENT when Rotterdam was the European Capital of Culture in 2001 (ISBN 90-803114-8-0).

P. 15 - 23 Theme: trauma

Willem van Genk’s raincoats Text: Eva von Stockhausen

What brings a man to lock himself away in his small apartment, with a dog and an ever-growing collection of books and handmade trolleybuses as his only companions? And what prompts him to collect hundreds of raincoats and only wear each one once? Willem van Genk (1927-2005) was a vulnerable man, who was regarded with mistrust by his neighbours, ordered around by medical staff and harassed by strangers on the street. His world revolved around power (and powerlessness) in its visible and particularly its invisible forms. In order to resist it, he brought to bear his own unique defence system, which was particularly expressed in the way he furnished his apartment. When, at an advanced age, he was offered the support of care providers, his cryptic reply was, “I don’t need informal care, I have plenty of coats,” pointing to his wardrobe full of his beloved “raincoats”. (The Dutch word for ‘informal care’, ‘mantelzorg’ contains the word for ‘coat’, ‘mantel’).1 Brother of nine sisters Willem van Genk was born into a pious Catholic middle-class family of ten children in Voorburg in the Netherlands. He was the youngest child and the only boy, which meant he had nine elder sisters, a fact which left him with a certain wariness of women that lasted his whole life. Van Genk senior, who ran a renowned chocolate shop, had high expectations for his only son. But Willem disappointed his father. He did not perform well at school and proved a difficult child to handle. Following a spell at a boarding school for unmanageable boys in Harreveld, Gelderland, Willem

began working as an unskilled labourer. He tried different jobs, from errand boy for a cobbler to bread delivery boy, but each time he was soon shown the door. An internship as a commercial artist appeared more promising; the many hours he had spent drawing during his childhood now appeared to be bearing fruit. But he was not open to instruction or suggestions from his superiors and ­continued working endlessly on ­drawings they considered long finished. And so before long he was back on the streets. He finally ended up working in a sheltered workshop, “among the retards”, as he put it himself, and living in a boarding house for unmarried men; a cold, intimidating environment which he fled in the evenings. He would walk an hour to his sister Willy’s house in Harmelenstraat in The Hague, who let him draw at her dining table. When Willy died in 1973, his eldest sister Tine allowed him to live in the apartment. Jewish boys Willem van Genk had a relationship of trust with very few people. Alongside Tine, “a Sunday bourgeois woman”2, who concerned herself with his health and living situation in a purely practical sense, there were gallery owner Nico van der Endt (of Galerie Hamer in Amsterdam), and finally writer and friend Dick Walda. In his book ‘Koning der Stations’, Walda writes about his experiences with Van Genk. It is a record of the conversations he had with the artist over the years, and of the letters that Van Genk sent him. Walda also records Tine’s observations, and she recounts a particularly dramatic event that took place during the Second World War when her brother Willem was only a teenager. “During the war, our father worked for the Labour Inspectorate, which meant he had many opportunities to help people go into hiding and especially to furnish them with forged papers and ration cards. One day, my father’s resistance group was rounded up by the Germans. (…) My father managed to escape from the hospital, where he had been taken after being interrogated. After that, the Germans came to our home. They searched the house and they questioned Wim and shouted at him. Of course, Wim didn’t know where my father was.”3 Van Genk later told Walda about this incident himself “The fear I have of

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Eastern Europe is something that has stayed with me from the Second World War, when two men from the Gestapo came to our house. It has never left me. (…) These men wanted me to tell them where some Jewish boys were hiding. They were trying to catch me out. They said: ‘If you don’t tell us, it will go badly for you.’ Once they have you in their power, they can do whatever you want with you. You know I have always been afraid of true believers (...) I’ve always had a phobia about you, haven’t I? Well essentially,it comes from the same root.”4 Power and powerlessness Willem van Genk suffered from schizophrenia and an autism spectrum disorder. He heard voices and suffered from paranoid thoughts; people might be ­listening to you or spying on you anywhere; everywhere there are people who are more powerful than you, who are out to manipulate you. Being a psychiatric patient and having little education, he was indeed largely dependent on other people; to give him shelter and care for him, to do his paperwork for him, to ‘protect him from himself’, to arrange for the sale or presentation of his art. In daily life, Van Genk was particularly wary of hidden powers and forces – the silent disapproval of his neighbours, the arrogance of his treating psychiatrist, the social worker who visited him at home and wrote down everything he said. “And ultimately you end up in a work camp, forgotten by everyone. I even lost all my raincoats, at a stroke. Of course they got sent to poor creatures all over the world.”5 A safe haven By the nineteen-seventies, when Harmelen­straat in The Hague became Van Genk’s permanent abode, he was receiving disability benefits and filling his days (and nights) with reading, listening to music and working on his art. His overfull and apparently chaotic apartment, full of knickknacks, books, collages, raincoats and – from the nineteen-eighties on – handmade trolleybuses, functioned as a ‘safe haven’, a refuge in an incomprehensible, terrifying world. He arranged everything in his own special way. The message was clear: here, he was in control. He would not tolerate anything in his house being moved, let alone thrown away. Dick Walda wrote in 1997:

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“He is terribly afraid of his house and his most precious possessions, his collages, handmade trolleybuses and raincoats, being plundered by ‘riff-raff’, ‘gutter scum’ (…).”6 At some point in the early seventies, Van Genk must have started collecting raincoats, an item of clothing he had been obsessed with since childhood. On his travels, he liked to saunter through unfamiliar streets, looking for bookshops and new raincoats. He would take Dick Walda in tow: “For example, when we visited Museum De Stadshof in Zwolle, where he and I met Ms Van Berkum (…) He wanted to head into town as quickly as possible looking for dump stores, if necessary stopping by at Zeeman. We did not succeed in adding to his collection, much to his disappointment.” Van Genk kept lists of his new acquisitions, with information about the purchase date, price, size and number of buttons. The raincoats hung rows deep in his wardrobe and lay draped over chairs or folded in stacks around the house. The coats were an important part of his self-created ‘defence system’. “A coat like that is more like a home, it gives you protection. Not just against the rain, but against everything that comes from outside. (…) The raincoats never wear out. They are with you for a lifetime. So I don’t have to worry about that. My very best raincoat is one I made myself, out of canvas from before the war. Strong. Will last a lifetime (…) I wear it in the evenings. (…) Makes me a bat, or a high-ranking military officer. Feel free to address me as ‘Commandantore’. I’ll respond.”7 On this subject, Dick Walda told me: “For Willem, the coats were, on the one hand, an armoured shell, on the other, they were there to impress. He certainly stood out wearing them. What’s more, his habit was not to take off his coat but to keep it on in restaurants.” Gallery owner Nico van der Endt was the first to make a link between Van Genk’s obsession with raincoats and the Gestapo raid during his youth. Although the Germans’ high-collared, leather coats must have instilled fear in him, they also endlessly fascinated him. Dick Walda: “The incident left a deep impression on Willem. He had a photographic memory for emotional events: cities, stations, music. And Willem had a great fascination with everything to do with power.”

Lingerie for men Willem van Genk sometimes compared his raincoats to sexy underwear for women. “The raincoats (…) are ladies’ lingerie in men’s language.”8 In his experience, power and sexuality were inextricably linked. He saw an arousing powerlessness in hairdressers, where women with wet hair seemed locked in place under hood dryers: “They can’t move!” However, he also felt power­ less himself. “I am a man of seventy, an old man, who has never been to bed with a woman.”9 But he had found a solution; in order to give himself sexual power, Van Genk not only collected raincoats, he also ‘activated’ them. He fitted the coats with snap studs from HEMA department store, so that they could easily be pulled open in one movement. He then put on a coat and walked around the streets in it, which excited him. He would also sometimes appear in ladies hair salons wearing one of his coats. Dick Walda: “Willem was regularly taken to the police station for ‘flashing’. According to The Hague police, they had a large file on him.” A prostitute – a “friendship girl” – who visited him at home was ordered to wash her long hair in his kitchen, while Van Genk, dressed in his best raincoat, looked on. Dick Walda: “To his sisters’ dismay, Willem also wanted to join the gay movement, because it contained so many fanatical ‘leather boys’. That linked in with Willem’s leather coats. Moreover, he was under the naive misapprehension that the gay movement would campaign against the removal of public urinals. These were places which Willem ­frequented in the hope of meeting a partner in adversity with whom he could perform the Deed. I fear that these contacts also came to nothing.” Remarkably, Willem van Genk wore each coat only once; after that it was ‘spent’. Even so, he would never throw a coat away. Art Over the years, third parties have ­attempted to fathom and explain the logic by which Willem van Genk constructed his world, his environment. It is clear that the raincoat was an important object for Van Genk, and played a role in his power fantasies and defence mechanism. The raincoats also crop up here and there in his two-dimensional work, for example in the painting Collage ’78. So the two

cannot completely be separated from one another. However, Van Genk did not refashion the coats, beyond replacing the buttons with snap studs, apparently purely for convenience. Opinions are divided as to the place his raincoats hold in his oeuvre. Can the coats be placed in an artistic framework, like the trolleybuses and his two-dimensional work? Nico van der Endt and Dick Walda believe not. Both say that Van Genk never spoke to them about the coats, whereas he would talk nineteen to the dozen about his paintings. Dick Walda: “It was a long time before he showed me his cupboard full of coats.” Even so, Van Genk was quoted as s­ aying that he was “much further” with his raincoats than with the rest of his art.10 In the monograph Willem van Genk, een getekende wereld (‘Willem van Genk, a Drawn World’), published in 1998, he says: “(…) it is the same method, I put them together too. The way I display them is also the way I display paintings. Yes, it is separate, but essentially it is related. It is a kind of (…) artistic fetish (…), artistic sexual offending.”11 The author of the book, Ans van Berkum, was Director of Museum De Stadshof in Zwolle at the time. She did regard the coats as part of his artistic oeuvre, and exhibited them in her museum. When Van Genk had to enter a nursing home in 1999 due to deteriorating health, the interior of his apartment in The Hague was dismantled.12 Part of his oeuvre went to the Willem van Genk Foundation, another part to Museum De Stadshof. In 2001, the museum in Zwolle closed its doors, and the Stadshof Collection moved to Museum Dr. Guislain in Ghent, Belgium. To this day, visitors can admire the raincoats of Willem van Genk there. Recently, twenty of them were loaned to the American Folk Art Museum in New York for the exhibition Willem van Genk: Mind Traffic, which was on display until 1 December this year. In the New York Times, an art critic even compared the raincoats in this exhibition to performance art.13 A pity there are no film images of Willem van Genk prowling the streets of The Hague wearing his finest raincoat. Notes 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 Dick Walda, Koning der stations. Episoden uit het leven van Willem van


Genk (King of the Stations. Episodes from the life of Willem van Genk’) (De Schalm, 1997) ISBN 90-71230-05-8 Notes 2, 12 Nico van der Endt, Willem van Genk. Kroniek (Willem van Genk: Chronicle) (Lecturis, 2014). ISBN 978-94-6226-046-7 Notes 4, 8, 11 Ans van Berkum, Willem van Genk, een getekende wereld (Willem van Genk, a Drawn World) (Waanders, 1998) ISBN 90-400-92-516 Notes 10 Arjen Ribbens, NRC Weekend, ‘De liefste mensen zijn honden’ (‘The Sweetest Men are Dogs’), 13 September 2014, 24-30. Notes 13 Roberta Smith, New York Times, “Visionaries Inhabiting the Margins”, 4 September 2014.

P. 24 - 25 Theme: trauma

Wendell Jesse Kerwhen Complex violence Text: Joris Killian

The works of Wendell Jesse Kerwhen (1988), an artist with a Liberian father and a Malinese mother, home in on the aesthetics of guns. The fact that guns are generally used to eliminate people is not of importance here. The gun is merely a form. The form in this case has a unique and complex composition. The triangle that forms the barrel, safety and handle has been explored for years in great detail in Kerwhen’s works. With many guns, like his favourite, the Desert Eagle, the trigger and the magazine form a counter-triangle. This simple form offers many possibilities. Kerwhen will extend the barrel and

transforms the triggers into subtle phallic symbols. This way creating a revision of representation of the gun. His works, however, are more than these distortions. For some time now, Kerwhen has been painting guns on top of and next to each other, as well as jumbled together. As a result, his canvases have become a battlefield for the ­complex relationships between individual ­weapons and the composition as a whole. Dummies are filled in with drawings, in an attempt to explore all shooting gear and lots of collages and stencils, reinforcing the chasm between contour and content. Kerwhen’s fascination with guns derives from cinema. He is incredibly interested in films that suggest trauma. This includes films with a lot of violence (including gun violence) and eroticism. To this artist, guns represent something unique. They have an interesting and complex form. However, they also impose power on anyone opposing them. Kerwhen’s feelings are expressed by his shy but respectful movement whenever guns are being discussed. By focussing solely on guns, Kerwhen is not distracted by other matters. Using these seemingly simple forms, he constructs large paintings. And it’s not only the forms that acquire a complex com­ position in this way; the balance of power is also disturbed. All guns point at one another, exceeding each other in size. It is only after months of looking at Kerwhen’s work that the viewer can decipher the complex composition of his paintings. Joris Killian studies at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam and is a reviewer for 8WEEKLY.

www.herenplaats.nl

P. 26 - 30 The place to be: Museum Ruurd Wiersma Hûs, Burdaard

The decorative passion of a milk boatman Text: Nico van der Endt

Shortly after the Second World War, a broad interest in naive art and outsider art emerged. Whereas these forms of visual art had been noted before, primarily by psychiatrists and the ­occasional art historian, now artists, too, were moved to systematically c­ ollect the work. France played a leading role through the activities of the poet Anatole Jakovsky (1909-1988) for naive art, and painter Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) for outsider art – that is to say, for those works he could deem to be “art brut”, as he called it. The two men agreed on little. For Jakovsky, the word “art” in “art brut” was already too much. He believed that art by the “mentally disturbed” was not art at all, whereas Dubuffet believed that naive artists were trying too hard to make “real” art. Who was most original, that was the question. The art which Dubuffet valued was “art of the people”. But so was Jakovsky’s art. Consider the professions, the colourful, sometimes simple professions of all those naive artists discovered in the Netherlands as elsewhere in the years after the war. We find a horse tram conductor, Pieter Hagoort (1887-1975); a road worker, Cor Kaay (1905-1979); a house servant, Frans Vrijenhoef (1904-1971); a signalman, Huub Sijstermans (1923-1978) and many more. The Dutchman Ruurd Wiersma, for instance, was a milk boatman. After a life of toil Ruurd Wiersma was born in Rinsumageest, Friesland, not far from Dokkum, in 1904. He spent his whole life

carrying milk churns, which he collected from farmers by boat to take to the factory. The land, the landscape; it penetrated deep into his soul and under the wide heavens there lived a sense of God. He remained single and lived, apparently contentedly, in a small detached house in Burdaard, close to the place of his birth. Naive artists often have a conventional, hard-working life behind them, before they arrive at making art. Often they are retired and it takes an event, large or small, to get them painting. Pieter Hagoort was apparently asked by his grandchildren to explain in more detail what a horse tram was, and he started drawing and never stopped. An extraordinary urge to express had finally found its outlet, an urge that may have been perceptible all his life but had been suppressed by socio-economic circumstances. Perseverance, passion, talent How and when Wiersma started painting is unfortunately not precisely known, but it was probably in the early 1960s. It is said that he painted a representation on the hearth-plate of a previous home. But the artist in him was only really born in the year 1965, when an oil stove exploded in his house. His whole living room was covered in soot and the walls were impossible to get clean. He bought plain white wallpaper, but he did not feel at home in the white room and had an inspirational idea. He would paint scenes on all the walls, in cheerful, fresh hues. On the walls of his living room there grew a depiction of the four seasons, a bold, monumental wall painting, inspired by Mesdag (1831-1915) and his Panorama. In this way, thanks to perseverance, passion and an unmistakeable talent, over the course of five years a true Frisian Panorama was created in the farm ­cottage, the picturesque decor of his own daily outdoor life. But that no longer sufficed for Wiersma; the coal-scuttle, the clock, the smoking table, empty bottles, milk churns, naturally, and even clogs and shoes were now painted; in real and imagined scenes. His themes were the landscape and the Bible. Everything had to be painted, decorated with his imagination. He did not copy because, he believed, “that is not art”. Childlike representations, perhaps, but executed with emotional force and

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built up in surprising, convincing compositions. Wiersma died in 1980. It seems unimaginable that, despite fluctuations in fashion and taste, Wiersma’s works of art will not continue to charm. They are too direct and too “real”, too pure, too natural for that. Or, as Josephine Hermans (1895-1976), a classical Dutch naive painter with work in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam said of her own work: “It is not art with a capital A, but it is not kitsch either”. Thanks to a dedicated foundation and enthusiastic volunteers, the cottage has been turned into a little museum and Ruurd Wiersma’s work, including the wall paintings and forty paintings, has been preserved for the future. www.ruurdwiersma.nl ------- - - - Information about the Ruurd Wiersma Hûs museum In 1964, milk boatman Ruurd Wiersma moved into two adjacent homes at Mounewei 6/7 in Burdaard, Friesland. Over time, he would continue to decorate them. He had left his previous house behind with a painted hearth-plate and a rear wall on which he had painted an aviary, complete with branches, tropical birds and wire mesh in front. It’s been said he even collected bird droppings from the street to make it look as authentic as possible. Although Ruurd Wiersma also made around three hundred paintings in addition to his wall paintings and paintings on individual objects in his house (such as coal-scuttles, extinguishers and large bottles), the museum, which received forty paintings from the artist’s estate, is continually looking for acquisitions. Recently it was able to add to its collection a pair of leather shoes which the artist had worn and painted himself, along with two paintings on war and peace. These once served as a section of improvised roof covering to stop a leak in a family member’s house. The “cycle varnish” he used has proved to be virtually indestructible, as Ruurd had promised it would. The museum also recently obtained the marriage certificate of Ruurd’s parents, which shows that he had seven brothers and a sister, most of whom unfortunately did not live long.

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Wiersma primarily painted on the smooth side of hardboard. Although he painted purely as a hobby, his art started attracting notice. The television documentary ‘Alle dagen zondag’ (‘Every day is Sunday’) (1978/1979), an exhibition at the Westfries Museum in Hoorn (1975) and one at the Singer Museum in Laren (1979) introduced his work to a wider audience. Initially, Ruurd gave work away to people who liked his art, or he would only ask a pittance for it. However, when large numbers of visitors started coming to Burdaard every week asking him for paintings, he raised his prices, partly on the advice of others. For example, during an Elfstedentocht (the biggest Dutch skating event, held in Friesland), he set the price of a painting quite simply according to the number of skaters depicted. Although the museum has a number of funds it can draw on, it is not subsidised and works exclusively with volunteers. With great enthusiasm they lead guided tours around the house and the museum, always devoting plenty of attention to the painter’s unusual life story, the four seasons in the living room and the symbolism in his paintings. Behind every work is a story that demands to be shared. The museum shop sells various publications about Ruurd Wiersma. The television documentary by Marijke Jongbloed ‘Alle dagen zondag’ is also available there on DVD. Because this year marks the fiftieth ­anniversary of Ruurd Wiersma’s move to Mounewei, the museum is organising an exhibition with loans of twenty-six paintings and objects by the painter previously unexhibited. The ­exhibition can be viewed on Saturdays and Sundays from 13.00 to 16.00 until 18 December 2014. www.ruurdwiersma.nl

P. 31 - 34 Theme: trauma

Foma Jaremtschuk Piercing screams Text: Karin Verboeket

The expression ‘to commit something to paper’ really becomes quite a loaded one when you look at the drawings by Foma Jaremtschuk (1907-1986). Those who prefer drawings over paintings often appreciate the feeling that they can bring you closer to their creator. That artist’s hand that is searching and feeling out things almost becomes tangible, even though the lines were drawn at another time, in another place. But what if the images that were committed to paper seem to transport you to another, terrifying world? A world that you’d rather not see and certainly don’t want to experience? That’s what happened to me when I saw the drawings by Foma Jaremtschuk at the ‘War and trauma’ exhibition at the Dr. Guislain Museum in Ghent, Belgium.1 You want to understand them, but you can’t. Who was he? Very little is known about the life of Foma Jaremtschuk, other than that he was born in Siberia, had about three years of primary education and in 1936 was regarded as an enemy of Russia by the Stalinist regime. He ended up in a labour camp, where he remained for 11 years until 1947, when he was diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. He was committed into an institution, where it later emerged he had created 500 ink and pen drawings which, remarkably, had been saved by a psychiatrist. He was transferred to another hospital in 1963, and died in a subsequent institution for severely ­psychiatrically ill patients in 1986. As far as is known, no work was saved from the last two places he stayed. It is almost unimaginable that someone who created such unsettling drawings managed to

live until he was nearly 80. Jaremtschuk had never studied drawing, and yet this appeared to be his way to express his emotions and thoughts. Who saw his work? What did they do with it? There is no information on that either. What do we see? Over a period of about ten years, Jaremtschuk primarily scribbled down spaceships and mysterious beings. Human and animal-like figures appear to torture each other in the cruellest ­manner. The misery pours from every orifice and every piece of skin is under attack. It’s a world full of fish, leeches, thorns, open wounds, intestines and vomit. In some drawings, the telephone appears to play a key role. In other ­drawings, it’s the toilet bowl that’s the focus, although the naked, emaciated figures are just as likely to evacuate their bowels anywhere else than in the toilet bowl, including in their own bed. Some of the drawings come with somewhat ‘crooked’ sentences, ­presumably written by Jaremtschuk himself. Unfortunately, not everything has been translated, but very little sense can be made of the text that has been translated. Sometimes they report on something that could be connected to real life, like the text about Yuri Gagarin, the first Russian cosmonaut, and the text about the dogs that the Russians sent into space in 1957 and 1960. Sometimes it’s literally about what people can do to each other, like in the accompanying English translation about the main ­character who hits someone or something on the nose and is happy to have inflicted pain on another, only to be painfully bitten in the side by the other shortly thereafter. Just like the drawings, the texts come across as an indictment, a piercing scream in the dark. You can hear the scratching of the pen, the shrill sound of the urgency to commit something to paper that cannot be expressed in words. Although we know very little, the images that Jaremtschuk left behind are so ­intimate, lifelike, urgent and impressive that it would be hard to imagine being able to depict trauma more acutely. www.galerie-zander.de


Note 1. I saw the artist’s work at the exhibition ‘War and trauma; soldiers and ­psychiatrists 1914-2014’, held at the Dr. Guislain Museum in Ghent from 1 November 2013 to 30 June 2014. Courtesy Galerie Susanne Zander/ Delmes & Zander, Berlin and Cologne

P. 35 - 38 Fascinating encounters; Els Vermeersch

“It is very close to my heart” Text: Phia Verstraete

It is one of those sunny late s­ ummer September days. Tourists and r­ esidents of Ghent are basking in the sunshine on the benches around Kouterplein. I’m standing in front of the imposing neoclassical building of the Flemish Opera. I’m going to meet Els Vermeersch (1964) in the Brasserie of the Grand Théatre. She spent nine happy years working at the Mu.ZEE in Ostend as curator and member of the research staff. Nevertheless, she decided to take a different path and accepted a job at the non-profit organisation Wit.h in Kortrijk. Wit.h is an independent organisation that seeks to actively challenge people with learning difficulties who want to develop artistically. Els Vermeersch’s choice caused quite a stir; some said it would be the end of her career, others praised her for her courage. I am curious to know how she came to this decision. Where does your love of art come from? “If you look at my family history, you see people with an artistic bent on both sides. My grandmother, the eldest of eleven children, read a lot of poetry and was very knowledgeable about poetry in the Dutch language. Her daughter, my mother (there are five children in our family), always provided creative, poetic and

musical touches. A family party would often turn into a theatre evening. She has a beautiful voice and if my youngest brother needed to be comforted, she always did it with a song by Bécaud, Brel or Harry Belafonte. We were always encouraged to draw. At one time, our playroom was transformed into a little academy, where friends’ children were also invited to come to draw and paint. My mother’s brother was a sculptor. My grandfather was a cabinetmaker and made art nouveau/art deco sculptures. Alongside this artistic streak, I had a father who was very socially engaged. Indirectly, as a child I felt that I viewed things differently to most of my contemporaries. My fascination for pictures and words expressed itself in writing stories. I took lessons in the art of declamation and in drawing. I also loved street theatre and after I had been watching it, the images would stay in my head long afterwards. My subjects at the Humaniora (grammar school) included Greek and I discovered the enormous richness of poetry. I would have liked to combine art with language at university, but that combination was not available at the time. My master’s thesis was on the artist Jean Delville (1867-1953). He interested me due to the dual aspect of images and words, and his philosophical insights and great knowledge of mythology. I found him fascinating in general – and he too was convinced that art can perform a function within society.” What did you do after gaining your master’s? “I started work in the administrative department of the Maria’s Voorzienigheid clinic of the General Hospital in Kortrijk. I quickly learned about the serious side of life at a young age through dealings with severely ill patients. I later lived in Germany for a few years with my ­husband and two children. Upon my return to Belgium, I got a job as a teacher for the Vormingsplus organisation. I also worked as a volunteer in the recreational art centre De Poort in Zonnebeke, near Ypres. I taught courses, mainly on the art movements of the early twentieth century, and organised museum visits for adults. The art centre where I worked was dynamic, it appealed to the public and attracted artists. I was responsible for the total production, from concept to execution. I organised three exhibitions

a year by contemporary artists such as Stefaan van Biesen (1953), Dominiq V.D. Wall (1966), Mark Cloet (1964) and Bart Vandevijvere (1961). For the ‘Flanders and the Netherlands’ literary activities, I invited Anna Enquist, Hugo Claus, Leonard Nolens and Erik de Vlaminck. I had ­intensive contact with these artists, conducted research and was responsible for compiling the exhibitions.” When did you first come into contact with outsider art? “In 1995, I was invited to take part in the ‘Kunst creëert ontmoeting’ (‘Art Creates Meeting’) panel discussion on ‘how should we deal with outsider art?’ The panel consisted of people from all ­corners of the art world, including gallery owner Clo Bostoen and Mieke Eeckhout of ‘Kunst in huis.’ There I also met Luc Vandierendonck, studio supervisor of what was then Het Molenhuis, part of the Feniks foundation, one of the first studios in Belgium for artists with disabilities. I was fascinated by his approach, energy and boundless resilience. His belief in the authenticity of the artists, the ­integrity of his attitude and standing up for their interests were what mattered to him. He is now director of the non-profit organisation Wit.h and he has lost none of his energy and vision. He invited me to organise the opening of the exhibition ‘Het huis van de sultan’ (‘The Sultan’s House’) in Het Molenhuis. This exhibition centred on the poem by Andre Wostijn ‘Een jas van licht’ (‘A Coat of Light’). At that time, work by artists with disabilities was still only exhibited sporadically. I remember my first visit to the former sheep shed that had been converted into a studio. I tried to hold conversations with the people there, but most of them were very quiet. When I asked Jeroen Wallays (1978) whether he enjoyed working there, he said ‘yes, yes,’ and quickly continued working with visible intensity. He repeatedly rubbed his hands in the wet chalk and stroked the objet d’art Het huis van de sultan; it was an intensity ‘sans paroles’, without words. I set aside all my intellectual, art history talk and felt the room vibrating with energy.” Upon your first meeting with the artists of Het Molenhuis, you said “I set aside all my intellectual, art historical talk”. Do you believe outsider art cannot be placed in an art history perspective?

“Look, for me, the exhibition ‘Het huis van de sultan’ was one of my first experiences of artists with disabilities. I tried to enter into a conversation with Jeroen Wallays. And he only kept saying “yes, yes,”. By saying that, I wanted to express the fact that at a time like that, you have to leave conventional communication to one side. At that moment, I felt silence was the best ‘way in’. You see, at the time I was holding lots of conversations with artists in the course of my work and normally, on the regular art circuit, you arrive with lots of prepared questions, to which you generally get satisfactory answers. Today, it would be very different. I’ve got to know Jeroen Wallays much better. We now have grown-up conversations about his work. But to go back to your question, I think it is actually essential that the art of people with disabilities should be placed in a broader context. The discussion ‘is it art or not?’ is pointless; you’ll never be able to answer that question. But placing the art in an historical perspective, putting it in a framework and discussing it, should absolutely be part of the contemporary art context. I mentioned ‘Een jas van licht’ by André Wostijn, a poem that symbolised the great poetic value of the works being created at that moment.” At a certain point, you moved to Mu.Zee in Ostend. Did you stay in touch with the world of artists with disabilities? “Indirectly, I remained involved in setting up various exhibitions in which regular contemporary artists worked together with professional artists with disabilities. Among other things, I curated the exhibition ‘Ventilatie’, part of the Corpus 2005 in Bruges, and co-curated ‘Bezet’ in Kortrijk. Together with Luc Vandierendonck, I set up a think tank called ‘Fresh Air’, ­referencing ‘Ventilatie’, a refreshing breeze and fresh air. Different art experts were invited each time. We discussed broad themes and artistic issues. There was particular confusion regarding the word ‘outsiders’ in art and collaboration with contemporary artists. I continued to follow various artists, for example Arnaud Rogard (1977), Hendrik Heffinck (1965), Klaus Compagnie (1972), Jeroen Wallays (1978) and many more. Each time, I was fascinated by the deep inner self that finds expression with so much creativity. It is very close to my heart.”

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When did you decide in favour of working with artists with a disability? You were working at a museum with a unique collection of Belgian art by some renowned artists: Permeke, Ensor and Spilliaert. No doubt many people would have liked to trade places with you. “That is true. Over the course of nine years, I gained lots of knowledge and experience there and I greatly enjoyed my work. I was very much interested in the institutional side: how does an international museum work? What can you achieve in that context? All based on my passion, the art – first, last and always. In early 2013, I took unpaid leave. I had a strong sense that the museum world and the art world in our society were changing very fast. It is a bit simplistic, perhaps, but there is a lot of polarisation. In my view, art should be embedded in society.”

It is lunch time. Els Vermeersch and I leave the dark brasserie. The sun is high in the sky and the bakery on Kouterplein is doing a brisk trade. I say goodbye to Els Vermeersch with admiration. A woman who doesn’t let money or status guide her choices in life but instead, with complete conviction, has chosen to devote herself to artists with disabilities who in her opinion deserve a meaningful place within the contemporary art world.

What is the difference between working at Mu.ZEE and Wit.h? “Of course I work with smaller budgets, but this work better suits my way of being. My main motivation is to build a bridge with the regular art circuit. Apart from that, I want to do more work to help the artists become more professional, by facilitating them in such a way that they achieve a fully-fledged art product.”

Text: Frits Gronert

You don’t speak of outsiders but of a ­ rtists. Aren’t you afraid that collaborating with regular professional artists will influence artists with disabilities to such an extent that it will detract from their uniqueness? “Wit.h chooses professional artists. By using the word ‘outsiders’, you place them outside the context. These are people like you or me and they all belong in the category of artists, through and through. And as far as their uniqueness goes, I am not afraid that it will be harmed. It is precisely by working together that their individuality will emerge. The dance production of 2014 ‘Alle mooie dinge is verdwene’ by Arnaud Rogard, a man with Down’s syndrome, was performed in collaboration with contemporary composer John Casier, choreographer Sarah Bostoen and director Hein Mortier. In that context, Arnaud Rogard was able to show off his talents to the full. Wit.h looks particularly at what the artists have to offer through their disability, actively challenges them and listens to what they need to fulfil their talents.”

I have known the artist Mies van der Perk (born in 1938) since 2007, when she came to work at Atelier Herenplaats. Since then, I have regularly visited her at home. She lives in a pleasant Rotterdam neighbourhood with a lively streetscape defined by many foreign shops. Both the daily impact of this multicultural society and her compulsive fears and thoughts give her the inspiration to make drawings that appear to be a direct reflection of her inner life. These things become directly visible in her ‘dream books’, which serve as image diaries. In them, she vents her frustrations through drawing – as therapy. She says, “If I didn’t draw, my life would be pointless”.

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www.vzwwith.org youtube.com: ‘Alle mooie dinge is verdwene’, Arnaud Rogaard

P. 39 - 42 Theme: trauma

Mies van der Perk Nightmares contained in dream books

In care Ever since primary school, where she was valued for her drawing talent Mies van der Perk’s life has been a hard one. As a young girl in a large and poor family, she grew up during the war in a home that offered little by way of stimulation. She stayed at home, helping out, until

she started performing housekeeping work in various hospitals at the age of twenty-nine. At that time she was also taking lessons at the Stichting Kunstzinnige Vorming Rotterdam (foundation for artistic education), where she first encountered art in the Rotterdam museums. The hospital work proved too stressful for Mies and she was forced to stop. From that moment on, a life in care began for her. That is what has made Mies van der Perk who she is today. A social worker pointed her in the direction of ‘Via Kunst’, an initiative by the now retired clergyman Hans Visser, who at that time was working for the Pauluskerk (St. Paul’s Church) foundation. He devoted himself particularly to the city’s so-called ‘drop-outs’. At that time this group was led by the artist Jack van Mildert. He was very important to Mies. Over time, she gradually developed an entirely distinctive style of drawing. When Jack stopped his work at the foundation, Mies’ life collapsed completely. Old wounds and sadness resurfaced. She shut herself off and only let very few people in. An early admirer of her work was Jack Vreeke, a lecturer in visual arts at Eindhoven University of Applied Sciences. He collected outsider art and added work by Mies to his collection at an early stage. Vreeke visited her a number of times a year and it was through him that she came into contact with Atelier Herenplaats. Dreams in the spotlight Mies has since become a familiar face at Herenplaats and she regularly exhibits her art in the Netherlands and abroad. Her work is always autobiographical. It is a realistic reflection of what is going on inside her head. This may be frustration from the past or a denunciation of the Catholic Church, prompted by the abuse scandals which have come to light. Other things that not only surface in conversations with Mies but invariably find a place in her visual art are her uncertainty about the future of Atelier Herenplaats, the dependent situation in which she finds herself, or forgetting a PIN code or a doctor’s diagnosis. In short, the fear of the unknown and her deep-seated suspicion towards power figures and carers make up a large part of her existence. In order to give a place to all of these feelings, Mies draws in her ‘dream books’.

Literally daily, she represents a dream or, more accurately, a nightmare in her ‘dummies’ (sketch books). She has by now filled dozens of books with intimate images, often spread across two pages. She dates each page. Leafing through the books, you get a good sense of what haunts Mies’ mind. Take Dream 26-11-2010, Dependence. This shows six men standing around her bed, waving a piece of paper bearing an ominous message. The three men at the back are dressed in white doctor’s coats. Or, take Dream 4-12-2010, Suddenly I was in a strange world. This drawing shows a strange space full of staircases that gradually change into a train. Four figures are laughing at Mies, while she stands outside on the street. Another example of a nightmare is Dream December 2010. This shows four malevolent figures and a skeleton ­standing in front of a fearful Mies. Nor does the skull outside the window augur well. Finally, Dream 3-10-2011, Power figures in care: around Mies stand five monstrous human figures. There are doors which appear securely locked. The space is more like a prison than a hospital or a ­psychiatric institution. This drawing, too, depicts a traumatic and oppressive dream. Drawing seems to be the way for Mies van der Perk to put a face to her fears and thus rein them in to some extent. For the viewer, they are not only well-drawn images, but also images with a poignant overtone. Images that conceal, and at the same time reveal, something about the inner life of another person. www.herenplaats.nl


Tekst en beeld: Aldo Piromalli

19-1-‘97 Hooggeacht Frits Gronert

Aldo Piromalli (1946) ziet, verzamelt, arrangeert en bouwt. Hij tekent en hij schrijft. De man heeft een eigen orde en een eigen logica. Gedurende een aantal jaren stuurde hij teksten en tekeningen naar de Herenplaats in Rotterdam. Hoewel zijn ‘brieven’ een aaneenrijging van willekeurige woorden lijken, schuilt hierin voor hem wel degelijk betekenis. Sommige van zijn tekeningen, zoals deze van een vrouw met een halo rond haar hoofd en een vogel op haar schouders en in haar hand, stralen je reinste poëzie uit. Onder ‘De wetten van Piromalli’ besteedt Out of Art aandacht aan het wonderlijke oeuvre van Aldo Piromalli. Ofwel; over hoe je met de meest eenvoudige middelen iets wonderlijks en delicaats tevoorschijn kunt toveren. Zie de rubriek ‘Ik ben ik’ in dit magazine.

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OUT OF ART DECEMBER 2014

“Zeggen tegen is minder hard ook aan dat het zal zelf niet worden waarin het is bekeken oorspronkelijke gedraaide benadrukte door andere uiterst vaag over te krijgen de uitbreiding wegen echter als gevolg maar van het algemeen beperkt structuur openbaar weinig van waar ben je nou voldoende en vooral na het arriveert daarnaast uitkijken druk bezig” Aldo Piromalli

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Out of Art 2014#2  

Bekijk enkele pagina’s van Out of Art 2014-2. Houd je van kunst met een rafelrandje? Lees dan Out of Art, hét kunstmagazine over hedendaags...

Out of Art 2014#2  

Bekijk enkele pagina’s van Out of Art 2014-2. Houd je van kunst met een rafelrandje? Lees dan Out of Art, hét kunstmagazine over hedendaags...

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