Cartoonist, teacher, sculptor, artist, publisher.
General President of FECO
You are a teacher, sculptor, painter, publisher and organizer. But we know you also as a cartoonist. What made you decide to become a cartoonist?
I started painting when I was 17 years old, worked several years as a photographer, published my first poems, married on 19th and to survive with a wife and a child I started to teach also.
In the Sixties I always had a great interest in cartoons, looking at them in magazines and newspapers, cutting them, collecting them, never had the idea to make them myself.
During one of my exhibitions in the early Eighties, a colleague asked me why I never made cartoons, because I always put humor in my artwork. “Don’t take Artwork too bloody serious, put more humor in the Art” has always been my slogan.
I visited some cartoon festivals, starting in Knokke-Heist en Beringen (Belgium), later on to Skopje. And I noticed that art & cartoon can be very close related. So I started to make ‘graphical humor’.
Is that means that we should better title you as a ‘graphical humorist’ and not just a cartoonist?
Yes, I am ‘’more’’ than a cartoonist. I play with images, words and forms. I very often see situations (circumstances) and forms which seems to me very humoristic. Or I make them humoristic by adding something. A graphical humorist or even better an artist who uses very often graphical humor in his works!
How do you describe your art? What do you consider more important: the form, the technique or the satirical content?
“Graphical Humor”/”Graphique Satirique”
This counts for the cartoons, the screen-prints, the sculpting and the boxes.
The form and the satirical content are always number one; it’s the idea.
The paintings, that’s just Art!
How do you define a good cartoon?
Absurdity, relativity and surprise are some of the outstanding features of cartooning. Very often in a good cartoon something threatens to happen. The cartoonist just indicates something and the spectator makes the conclusion.
You have organized many cartoon contests and festivals, compiled and published lot of cartoon albums. Why are you so much involved with cartooning business? Is that a real business, I mean did you ever made money from cartoons and cartoon business?
You need some kind of madness to start this business. It’s blood, sweat and tears, putting a heavy load on your shoulders, but I still like it. The reason why I started those Dutch Cartoon Festivals was to upgrade the cartoon as an art form, not longer being just a small black & white drawing in the corner of a paper. To show that cartoons can be timeless. To show that it can be more than just a drawing comment.
From the 26 cartoon books I composed, three of them were sold out and I made a small profit. I use the profit now to start publishing Art books! But I keep on organizing new cartoon festivals in the near future.
In 2000, together with some Turkish cartoonists we were your guests in a festival that you organized in Deventer, Holland. I remember the problems you had with your sponsors because they were not so happy with the messages given by some of the cartoons. Isn’t too risky to organize these kinds of conceptual festivals sponsored by official authorities?
Yes it is. I like to have complete freedom. So I try to find sponsorship by organizations that do NOT intervene. If a municipality likes to support my projects without questions, it’s OK. The Deventer exhibition was partly sponsored by the Tourist Office; they had no problem with the theme or the message in the cartoons. The Dutch Ministry of Culture helped with the tickets for the guest, without asking. It was only the Turkish council who made promises to pay tickets, transport, Turkish coffee, Turkish delight. He even promised to open the exhibition, but finally after having seen the catalogue and the exhibition, he refused to help, because he thought it was offending and not humorous enough!
What is your key to success? Did you succeed?
There is no ‘golden key’ to success. Just as being a good listener, a good organizer, seeing things, getting along with people. I do hope when at 88, I can say that I have succeeded!
You are preparing an exhibition called “Peep-Show, drawing & boxes” in Istanbul on November: What are the boxes? Can you explain the concept “peep-show”?
As a kid I made paper-panoramas in shoeboxes. Going around, family and neighbors were allowed to like inside for 1 cent. The Peep-show of my youth! Now I make wooden boxes with tributes to colleagues, life-boxes, soldier boxes (anti-war-boxes) and survival-boxes… and I do not show them just to family and neighbors. Now I show them to the world. Three-dimensional, art in a box with a message, a warning or a tribute, but always packed in a humorous way.
In a funny way you can tell much more than pointing a finger or shouting the truth!
Peep-show is also a controversial title… In the sixties in Amsterdam the first so called peep-shows started in the red-light-district (the sex-area). You could visit a room with many closed windows, if you put in a florin, the curtain raised and for just a few minutes you could see a naked woman…
Is that means that we are going to watch some naked women in your show too?
I am very sorry to disappoint you!
In some boxes you can see parts of a naked female body, but they have a meaning, its not naked to be naked or to shock, its useful for the story!
Most of your drawings are tributes to some masters of painting. Were you influenced by any artist?
I just started to make some tributes. Especially to colleagues I like most as Renoir, Mondriaan, Van Gogh, Appel and Picasso. “Evidently you see influences that reminds of Piet Mondriaan, Jaap Wagemaker, Karel Appel, Pablo Picasso. I am a child of the last century and at very young age seized by that art of painting.
In 1956 -as a ten year old- I visited the Museum of Modern Art (Stedelijk Museum) in Amsterdam for the first time and that made a great impression on me.
The harmony of Mondriaan, the landscape structure of Wagemaker, the expressiveness of Appel and the deformations of Picasso, all those aspects are united in my work.
My way of work and what I want to say is typically Nieuwendijk, clearly my own signature.
My power is the deformation, but I always take care that the essence of my story remains clear and captivating. Poetry, love, passion, humor, philosophy and self-mockery are my motives. I reflect on life. I have an abundance of ideas. I try to create rest in chaos and give color to existence”
What do you mean by ‘rest in chaos’?
Well, I mean ‘’give a rest’’ or ‘’peace and quiet”,”quiet down”. I try to create a moment of rest in a chaotic world. By seeing my pictures, paintings, boxes I try to create a moment of rest and humor for the spectators. By making them I create that inner rest for myself!
Where do you place yourself politically? Can we say that you’re a typical Dutchman?
I am more a European than a typical Dutchman. Okay, I come from the land of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh and Mondriaan, but a nationalist? With sports, yes! With Art, now and than. With Politics, no (maybe a little bit Dutchy). In the sixties I was member of the Pacifists Political Party. If that group still exists (it does not) I was still supporting them! Today I think I am more a socialist with a great sense of equality.
There’s still un-balance in our world. And do we feel it actually as OUR world? Do we really care that people are murdered, tortured, locked up? Do we care that fellow-human beings are forbidden to speak, to draw, to paint freely?
Heros in politics? Just two or three… I can mention Nelson Mandela,Vaclav Havel, Gandhi. Most other politicians I do not trust.
Freedom, that’s what I like to fight for with humor and color instead of guns!