‘Gezien van de Riet is an exceptionally gifted, motivated artist. Her relationship to nature in all its appearances is remarkable. The love with which she depicts these appearances in her paintings excites a special feeling of happiness in the beholder.’
Ernst van de Wetering, foremost international Rembrandt authority.
Who has seen Gezien van de Riet’s trees, will discover them for oneself. ‘Hey, a Gezien tree!’ Nature is her source of inspiration, she also likes to paint the human figure. She has developed a technique of her own with distemper and oil paint. She draws all the world. She writes about art, ‘the own character’, beauty, the artistic profession, observation, beyond matters of taste. Emotion is key.
She graduated in Sociology at the University of Amsterdam, with a minor in Art History, and she attended the Escuela de Bellas Artes in La Paz, Bolivia. Her first book appeared in 2008: Gezien van de Riet, In ’t leven vindtment al (In Life One Finds All).
Nicolien Mizee, an author known for her books Moord op de moestuin (Murder at the Allotment) and Faxen aan Ger (Faxes to Ger), humorously recounts their first meetings at model drawing in the 1990s. Her story enriches written art history and throws a light on this less well known painters practice.
This is a book for tree lovers, nature lovers, and art lovers, for painters and drawers, students and art historians.
November 2023: in Van Heijningen Art Gallery in The Hague and Laan Bookstore in my hometown Castricum.
Van Heijningen Art Gallery
I interviewed myself. I stood on the right as a journalist and took a step to the left to be myself. Sometimes I forgot to change positions, but that just brought a bit of fun into my serious answers.
You write about Beauty, isn’t that a rather vague concept?
Well, I don’t have a definition. But it exists. You can experience it. It’s a feeling of happiness. When thinking of beauty, I also think of the dancing of birds, or the sunfish that makes a circle on the sea floor: he gets it just right and it has beautiful patterns in it! What an instinct! He does it to attract females, I do it to give pleasure to people.
Where do you find beauty?
Mostly in nature. There has to be an immediate click. That’s very personal. To capture that beauty I must observe sharply and for a long time. I used to stand still in front of the beech tree from my painting Kijkuit 1. On one occasion, a woman passed and asked: “What do you see? Is it a bird?” “No, the tree.” “Yeah, aren’t they beautiful, the trees”, she said. Without looking at them she walked on and left me perplexed. Apparently she hadn’t been hit by that beauty.
Often I walk through the woods just as inattentively. You have to be in a receptive mood, then you can be hit suddenly by what I call beauty. All of a sudden you perceive something special. When I saw that beech tree, from Kijkuit 1, for the first time in that shape, I felt a shock. All that day I felt joyful like a child.
Nicolien Mizee, well-known for her book Moord in de moestuin (Murder at the Allotment), contributed to my book with a wonderful story: the memory of our earlier meetings and her ideas about realism, also in regard to writing.
How did Nicolien got involved in your book?
I got to know Nicolien as a model during model drawing sessions in the 1990s. I’m a great fan of her books. Her realism surprises me time and again, it is all taken from real life, with all its beautiful and ugly things. She captures these in stories, witty and entertaining. She cuts ordinary events into little diamonds.
Recently we met again and got talking about realism in art.
You recognize in each other a predelection for realism?
The way she portrays you, is that correct? Or is it like Nicolien writes about herself: “Friends and family thought I had portrayed different characters in a very realistic way. (…) But how they themselves appeared, no, that was all wrong. (…) Maybe that was what ‘realistic writing’ meant: making it your own.”
Exactly! Making it your own. It strikes me though: only yersterday a colleague and friend said about Nicolien’s tekst: “She really describes very well who you are.”
She also writes about your style…
At the time it was thought one should search for one’s own style and find it preferably as soon as possible. Or better still, have it even as a toddler. Otherwise you were character-less. And that can’t be, in art. I resisted that cliché. Then something drastic happened, which I won’t give away now. Nicolien describes it. Her statement on that touched me deeply: “Style is not something you can search and find, style happens to you.”
Finally I asked Nicolien to read a passage from her last story collection Het Paradijs (Paradise). The title story in that book appealed to me particularly. It is set during the Covid pandemic, time has come to a stand-still, loneliness pervails, nothing happens. Then, as the writer she is, she introduces a story element, about a cold and damp cave with people gathered in it. Someone gets up, and tells a story. People are enchanted, they are back in the paradise of stories. Only the narrator stands outside.
She goes to her allotment and something wonderful happens. She feels like Adam in Paradise, “a mighty movement was going on, of living and dying”. She sits near the pond.
“On the mossy wood stump a frog was sitting. It sat very still, but I saw it breathing. The sight of that little throat rising and falling woke me up from the months-long stupor. A deep emotion passed through my body and soul, as if I could feel the breath of time and I too could begin to blossom. (…) Paradise is a frog on a wood stump.”
Here the narrator finds herself inside the paradise nonetheless, and the reader reads and is moved.
Laan Bookstore, Castricum
Here I repeated my self-interview, followed by an interview of Nicolien Mizee. She was there also to autograph her latest book Het Paradijs.
One of the questions to Nicolien was:
Recently you gave the Albert Verwey Lecture, titled ‘True story’ is a start. You say that authors of pure fiction often look down on realism, which they describe as “shabbily stirring in their own autobiographica”. No, writers of pure fiction, they are the ones that create stories, “with nothing but their imagination”.
Well, that man said mockingly that the book Weg uit Ruinerwold was number one on the bestseller list. I didn’t care for that very much. He probably hadn’t even read the book at all. And what is wrong with true stories? I don't want to say that it is higher, but it is not lower either….
A review of my book by Jurjen van der Hoek struck me because of his insight in what drives me. Here are some excerpts:
‘She was rejected by the balloting committee of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. According to them, she couldn't explain satisfactorily the very different works she brought with her. Where was she, where was her style in that story. “Everything! Everywhere!”, she exclaimed angrily. Because style is not something you can search for, style happens to you, so she thought then and thinks now. The gentlemen were not very pleased with that. She could not be placed and went her own way. Doesn't that often happen to born artists, that they cannot be pigeonholed? That they don't fit in anywhere and have difficulty adapting.
The new art book by Gezien van de Riet has now been given that exasperated exclamation as its title. In the works represented in it she can be found in everything, everywhere.’
‘Author Nicolien Mizee indicates in her text contribution that Gezien van de Riet was no stranger to her. They had met at one time in a model drawing course. Mizee was the model, and Gezien drew her. Van de Riet didn’t want poses of fifteen minutes, she wanted to work longer at one pose, for several hours. Not just a sketch, but a detailed drawing. (…) That is what characterizes this artist, attentive observation and detailed work. “Anyone can do a little sketching, I want to get further.” (…) Years later Mizee and Van de Riet meet again. Mizee has become a celebrated author and Van de Riet a technically perfect artist. Working after nature. With the tree as a model, which she portrays as an individual. She knows how to capture meticulously the expression of its character. Both in the human figure as in trees or landscapes.’
‘The publication is at the same time a sort of work book or note book. The pictures are supported by notes by the artist. (…) She unveils her way of working. The matters that are close to her heart. The stuff Gezien finds her inspiration in. And action is put into words, the pictures illustrate the ‘lessons’. Van de Riet writes, among other things, about the profession, observation, the particular, the personal and the beautiful. Portrait, nature, pastelling, drawing, plein air painting.’
‘It all fits perfectly, it can be put into the reality just like that. But her surroundings, her human figure and tree, her cloud and mountain, are not the reality. There is a constant artistic atmosphere surrounding this apparent reality. An emotional vibration, an oppressive haze. Emotion is her keyword, her compass, it is the truth, beyond taste. It is an illusion, conjuring up a space on the flat surface.’
‘Browsing through the book, Van de Riet's technically perfect skills are striking. But not so perfect that the wind moves in the branches, the autumn leaves can flutter right off the image, the clouds wander across the sky and the model can get up and walk away at any moment. It remains a frozen moment. However, the pictures rub against reality, but the feeling remains that this is not real. That is what makes the painting art. It looks real, but it is a phantasy, with its feet in the ground. What is seen is given a supernatural value. It is not a reproduction or perfect copy, it is a unique view of the artist on the observable. Making intangible emotions visble, so that the inner life appears in the outer, that is how she describes it. This applies to the human figure as much as to the tree or the cloud. Van de Riet captures life and that makes her reality feel so real.’
‘That what I see, is real. But not so real that it is reality. It is her perspective on reality, her observation of the visible world. Everything in it seems to be right, but it hovers above that correspondance. It corresponds with reality, but doesn’t rhyme with it. There is correspondence, reality tolerates its image. But the artist adds that element that makes reality art.'
By Jurjen K. van der Hoek
You can find the full tekst in: #van spijk art books#gezien van de riet#schilderijen#boekbespreking
Alles! Overal! Gezien van de Riet. Schilderijen, tekeningen en tekst. Met een tekstbijdrage van Nicolien Mizee. Uitgave Van Spijk Art Books, 2023.
Translation NL-EN: Jeroen Strengers