An article by Catalonian art critic Maria Lluisa Borras in the
Diari di Girona, 4 January 2009
As translated from the Catalan by Hans Diemel:
ARTISTS FROM THE EMPORDA:
Bé van der Heide
sensibility and perception”
“El sentiment a flor de pell”
Text: Maria Borras, Dominical, Diari de Girona, 4 January 2009
Bé van der Heide was born in Eastern Holland and studied four years at the Academy of Fine Art in Enschede. During the Second World War, her family lived in the countryside, in different farmhouses, where she learned to love life away from the city. She says that today she could not live far from the Empordà, where one of her two daughters and her respective family now reside.
Her professional life started in 1963 with an exhibition in the Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede. Shortly thereafter she met Hans Diemel, who would become her life-long partner and with whom she emigrated to
In 1964, Bé traveled extensively throughout
After this period of many journeys, the couple took up residence in
Every year, at the end of summer, she has a large exhibition of her work in the gallery on the ground floor (old stables) of Mas Poch. The opening of the exhibition coincides with the name day of Sant Martí and is celebrated in Vilaritg. Surprisingly, I have ascertained that she has more visitors here than when she opens an exhibition in her gallery in
She always paints in series, inspired by living things,
facts or reflections about which she develops a
specific theme or idea, and she writes: “I work,
starting from a personal search for the truth, about the identity of the
person, about life, in a kind of visual meditation”.
In the eighties she made big abstract paintings that seem to portray fantastic tunnels excavated in the earth and unknown, hidden worlds. If she always had an extraordinary facility for drawing, she now also revealed herself as a great colorist. She works in series always allowing herself to get carried away and be strengthened by her sensibility.
She explained to me that the Series "Insects" originated during a stay at a Dutch beach in the winter of 1992. On the beach there were few people, all very old. In this sad and melancholic environment she noticed a dead seagull on the sand from which she could not pull her gaze. She painted the seagull once and again several times, always the same but always different. From that seagull was born one of the most extensive and varied series that she has ever made, the "Insects".
In 2002, she made another large series evoking the thirties entitled «Enfant Terrible», and this summer, I saw her latest series “Collapse” exhibited in Mas Poch. This series was inspired by photos of the destruction of the city of
Bé van der Heide is a woman who always has a smile on her lips, is welcoming, affectionate, full of imagination and extremely perceptive. I cannot imagine a better personification of the joie of vivre that Matisse bequeathed to us, than this painter, who seems to feel, amongst us, as one more Empordanesa.
My “Real Family” at the
"The job of the poet is to
render the world - to see it and report it without loss, without perversion. No
poet ever talks about
feelings. Only sentimental people do." BE VAN DER HEIDE’s EXHIBITION OPENS AT
A new gallery show entitled My “Real
Family” is currently running at the South Tipperary
Arts Centre. Opening on Wednesday evening, the exhibition is a series of work
related to Dutch artist
Be van der Heide's childhood experiences in
The family became dislocated from home during the war and were forced to stay with relatives. The show suggests vague memories of excitement as the bombs fell, hiding in ditches and the fear of her parents for the family's safety. All her belongings of that time were burned. She has found only a few items from the period - one, a photo album with a bullet hole in it. Inside, the only photograph of her and her mother. The works speak of the displacement of the War, staying with relatives - a blind grandmother and a very religious grandfather -and the sense of loss of a place to call home.
Be van der
Heide studied at the Academy for
Fine Arts in Enschede,
Consell Comarcal in
A "Terrible" Neighbour
The first time that I saw the work of Bé van der Heide, was at her home in Cistella. With much care, the paintings were hung in the gallery as well as lying about in her studio, full of light.
It was at the end of the evening on a day when the tramuntana blew, which caused a certain movement of the leaves on the olive trees and made them shimmer like silver. The whole environment, with the newly planted grape and fruit trees, the beloved house, a smiling Bé, with her red unkempt hair, gives a glimpse of the child that is still there, hidden behind the courageous and radical woman.
In this way, some short moments, seem to last a lifetime; because they make us understand the world in another way and in this sense, endure. Such revelations almost always are linked to other people, especially to people who have decided to keep the reins in their own hands and to make their own way. That morning in Cistella was a present from Bé and her husband, thanks to Bé and her paintings.
Bé has travelled widely, has lived in many places, and now has her home, with her husband, close to us. And, in her paintings, we can see what a "Terrible" neighbour we now have. "Terrible", as in "Enfant Terrible", which is what her sister called her when she was little.
Bé herself, when she speaks about it, is not sure whether she remembers that time with happiness or nostalgia, such as happens with people who have changed environment often and whom have lived a lot. "Terrible", in the best sense of the word, because Bé van der Heide has been able to preserve, across all her travels and changes in her life, the freshness, the intimacy, the tenderness and especially the free spirit which the rebel child already possessed. The gaze of the child, her relationship with her sisters and with her grandfather, all this is reflected in her work. Now, for this reason, we have the very good fortune to see these paintings that come from so far away and nevertheless feel so close to us. Because the fight for personal liberty, curiosity, the desire to know, inner courage and optimism know no bounds. They are rare values. But they are to be found dispersed over the whole planet.
While looking at the paintings, we should not get deceived.
It is not only the portrait of the tender and bold child that we see. It is much more than this; a family network which, like a spiders web, exists in the time and space of a person who forever has been an emigrant and who a long time ago has taken the decision to look inside from the outside. They are her own relatives, her own holy family who accompany her everywhere and appear to follow her wherever she goes. They are her own roots and also her own force to be able to transform them.
I am writing these lines from Chimallapalli on the East coast of India; very far from the Emporda and here I better understand this distance that Bé has travelled to know what concerns her in the most intimate and essential manner. Me too, from a distance, see my own world better and also her, winking from Cistella and at the same time playing the independent woman and the naughty girl. "Enfant Terrible", as she has been known in the art world for some time.
Chimallapalli, August 2004.
Translated from the Catalan by Hans Diemel.
'Enfant terrible' at the 'Porfin Gallery in Enschede, Nov 2004
(Available from the artist in Dutch)
terrible' at the
Van der Heide works with themes, such as 'Insects' or 'Webs'; she is inspired by objects she finds on the beach or in a box or in her coffee cup dregs. Her studio reflects her style. There are paintings everywhere and their immediate effect was to draw me into her world, where I both felt moved and disconcerted. Using acrylics, inks and colour stains on heavy , sometimes handmade paper and fabric, the work is mainly but monochrome, richly and subtly textured. It is clearly from within, and daringly challenges the viewer to enter and experience her experience. These are strong images that evoke strong feelings.
This most recent series, 'Enfant Terrible' is based on a family album. Her sister called her this name but she has no idea why. 'I am surprised that these figurative paintings - are coming out of me', she told me. The brooding self portraits, the images of her family in singles, pairs and groups of three, draw the viewer evocatively into the painters' powerfully drawn family relationships of her childhood world. As a small child Van der Heide's family home was taken over by the Germans for their headquarters. She movingly showed me a bullet damaged book from her bedroom as evidence of bombings that were to follow. Although she is stoical about her upbringing, she says that the photographs show her as a 'deprived' little girl, 'looking a mess'.
This exhibition is about the memories aroused by that album, the drawings expressing the ambivalent condition of childhood: vulnerable and powerful; expectant and frustrated. Is the little girl -self conscious in her tight orange dress and ungroomed hair- victim, protegee, or both, of the older sister? The scale of the large self portrait with the red bow evokes both the wonder and the power of the child who seems to be gazing expectantly into the future? The future that we as the audience, looking back, now inhabit together with the artist. Virtuous, knowing, vulnerable, confident: the innocent face with the wicked bow; it may well have been this strangely familiar expression of both doubt and certainty that inspired her sister to dub her the 'enfant terrible'.
Bé van der Heide's work will be on view until September.
Doula Nicolson, Faye Carey
Art Sub-Committee, LCP April 02