Whose picture is that?

Niko van der Klugt, chairman of the Steenwijkerland Visual Arts Committee, still has a bad feeling about it. A few years ago, an approved art project for a series of works of art at the entrances to the Weerribben-Wieden National Park was relegated to the dustbin following an action via social media. With a series of lectures on art in public space in De Meenthe, the committee has since tried to create more understanding and enthusiasm for art projects in parks, on streets or in squares.

Last Wednesday evening, the Frisian artists Tilly Buij and Gerard Groenewoud talked about their now huge and very diverse oeuvre: sculptures, objects, a tower, a water museum, a special square in Leeuwarden and so on. For example, in Steenwijk in front of the former Rabobank they have created the sculpture ‘The Worker’. It is an imposing woman who appears to be carrying a basket of grain, a beautiful reference to the reed cultivation in the municipality. The image is clearly inspired by the ‘socialist realist’ art of the former Soviet Union, a clear nod from the artists to the client, the bank with its co-operative roots. Not that Rabobank objected to this at the time. On the contrary, the statue was accepted and still stands proudly on Meppelerweg. The question that arose Wednesday night is who the statue actually belongs to now that the bank has disappeared from the building.
Another striking element in the image is the sheaf of corn carried by the woman, in which a diabolo can be recognised. This form – the word originally means doubt, little devil – occurs frequently in the works of Groenewoud and Buij. This is also the case with the impressive dog who has been keeping an eye on the entrance to the Isala hospital in Meppel for years. The dog looks at the entrance as if it expects its owner back at any moment. The image is robust and endearing at the same time. The dog still stands in its old place, although the building now has a completely different function. Will Isala still move the statue to the entrance of the new building?

Terribly tired

In Ooststellingwerf, the two caused a furor with a ‘near’, Stellingwerfs for bogeyman. Bright red, inflatable, ten meters high, and when deflated, it makes a moaning sound, terrifying and therefore fun at the same time, for those children who were just tired of playing. The beu made a tour through the various villages and hamlets of the municipality, and almost everywhere there were groups who wanted to be photographed with the beu. Small folk festivals arose.

Library of water

The artist duo, who also live together, have been working together since the early 1980s. The first years with two others in the collective ‘The four evangelists’. Their aim was to proclaim the beauty of art. In the first years, they mainly made temporary art, often made from waste, which ended up in the bin after the exhibition. The objects had served their purpose. They can only restore images. That has now changed. The works of the two are striking, original and fit perfectly into the landscapes and streetscapes where they appear. Beautiful was, a still existing, ‘water teaque’, designed for the IJssel Water Biennale. In a wavy design, all the pots contain water originating from various ditches, ponds, lakes and gardens. The collection is still being added to, and the colors and shapes that appear in the different jars are amazing. The water library is now stored behind the duo’s workshop, but can be rebuilt if desired.

And then the two enterprising artists are still busy spreading their gospel of beauty. Through their stories, the power, symbolism and meaning of their works can be understood even better. It would therefore be so good if the people who once staunchly opposed the arrival of art to Weerribben and Wieden would visit such an evening to see how beautiful and meaningful something can be, which at first seems strange. Monthly at Dyka Vestzaktheater in De Meenthe. On 14 December at 20.15 first chance.

Hans van Velzen

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