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Interview Feike de Vries - Juggling art

21 October - 2020
by Alice Broeksma

When very young it was clear the Dutch artist Feike de Vries had a real talent for drawing. His first career choice was primary school teaching, but during his training he also attended night art school in Leeuwarden, capital town of Friesland. He then became head of a Summerhill type school, emphasising the individual needs of the pupils. Art remained part of his life and in 1998 he took the step to dedicate all of his time to art. 

Ever since, he works tirelessly in his studio calling himself ‘the artist who juggles techniques’. For his creations, Feike de Vries uses pastel, oil paint, screen print, lino-block print. Recently he designed a war memorial for his village near The Hague. His paintings are exhibited in his own country and in Belgium, Britain and the Czech Republic. Under normal circumstances he welcomes visitors to his studio but at this moment, due to covid, his art may be seen in his visual gallery (

- You have a huge output, many styles and techniques. What is your starting point?

I work every day in my studio, from 7.30 AM until evening. In my 20-plus years as a full-time artist I have specialised in as many techniques as possible, out of interest and as a challenge. This drive was instilled by my parents, who greatly stimulated me. My mother was very artistic and drew and painted. My father, head of a firm of building contractors, taught me how to draw in perspective. At art school in Leeuwarden creativity was given a free reign. It was not a traditional academy, you did not have to copy plaster statues but were encouraged to investigate structures like sand and wood, which was great as a creative education. Later I took classes in portrait and figure drawing. I still see the importance of continuous development, no matter what your age is.

This is why I still experiment with techniques and materials, and start each day with a quick sketch the way a pianist loosens his fingers before a concert. I believe in practising and exploring. This has given me scope and enables me not just to make ‘a product’ when I am given an assignment, but something with substance. This also applies to my free work. For me it is not enough for my art to look ‘nice’ – I want it to be perfect. Having said this, the French philosopher Merleau-Ponty was right when he wrote: ‘The painter just constructs the image. Whether this image comes to life for others remains to be seen’. But I do try to involve other people in what I see, and to convey a certain atmosphere, something you can feel. 

- What inspires you?

Surrealism has greatly influenced me, also the philosophy of Freud’s pupil Carl Jung who inspired the surrealists, and the psychiatrist who focussed on keeping the soul healthy. The Belgian painters Magritte and Delvaux have been very important to me too. The first painter because of his technique and the latter for the poetic approach. Also, I really like travelling in Europe. There are so very many stunning landscapes. The light of the south, the beauty in Ireland and Scandinavia. But most of all the Czech Republic has overwhelmed me, the graphic landscapes, the skies. These landscapes somehow stick with me. I have drawn at least fifty pastels based on the Czech Republic.

- You also use symbolism, and mysticism.

I have a large book collection and am nurtured by things I read about mankind and our -endangered- world. Also fairy tales, mythology, rabbinical writing and biblical stories. Without wanting to preach I often use symbolism, double layers. To make people think, to invite a reaction or let them recognise something; get them to look in the mirror. Like in my painting ‘Alter Ego’. Here, the mirror reflects something other than expected, it remains very difficult to really see oneself. 

There are biblical references in ‘The proclamation’, also a blue sky and a dark hole leading to the subconscious, a rose springing from concrete and a vase filled with ideas. But as I said, I also paint normal landscapes! Because I want to do many things. Art for me is anything that makes people happy. Whether it is music, visual arts, ballet, cooking or building something beautiful. It is my life. I have produced a huge amount of work, but not only for myself. I can see it makes other people happy and for me this is the cherry on the cake.


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