”Pretending to be an artist is not my style. 
Others will judge that.
I just paint... “

(Schilder Hermanus, 1955-2017)
 


 

Searching for the Ultimate Painting

“Your poem is almost what you thought it would be,” wrote poet Gerrit Kouwenaar. Painter Hermanus experienced that same thing with his art. 
But he strived for the perfect painting. 
Luckily, the search kept him going with splendor and a still expanding oeuvre. And his art will have a place in history. (for intell or purchase you can contact RIANN or mail to info@galerian.nl)


Finding your Own Visual Language 

A painting never just happens, but is attached with all kinds of invisible connections to other paintings, traditions and contemporaries.

It was the Frenchman Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) who opposed the classical and romantic ways  but, like Hermanus, had an eye for every day life. 
His accurate presentation of just the simple existence is starting point for contemporary Realism.

Realism is an indispensable part of the Visual Arts.
Despite avant-garde movements and abstract forms of painting, Realism continues tob e adored by art lovers. In the Netherlands contemporary Realism is blooming with unquestionable public support. 

The figurative paintings of Hermanus are in line with the evolution of art.
His would never have developed his distinct style without the first generation of fine painters of the ‘Utrechtse School’, including important painters such as Magical Realist Pyke Koch and Surrealist Joop Moesman, as well as the second generation painters, f.a. Peter van Poppel, whose Lyrical Realism emerged with him around 1970 in Amsterdam.

At the same time, there are interfaces with the naive painting and working of Realistic loners echoing the stillness of Jan Mankes, the alienation of Hermanus Berserik, and the hermetic world of Dolf Zwerver.
These characteristics are typical of Realism. However, Hermanus  does not want to follow anyone, but chooses his own path. With all of his paintings, he has slowly pulled away from influences of predecessors and contemporaries developing his own unique style. 
Although he belongs to the third generation of Utrecht fine painters, he managed to rid his style of the ballast of the 'Utrechtse School'. 
 
He shows the search for his own visual language within the Realism through a few self-portraits. When he first started to paint, but not yet realizing what was to come, he painted himself as King Painter, bearing a small gift and wearing a paper crown.

On the crown are the names of important  leading Dutch Realists. The gift he bears symbolizes, unconsciously, Poetic Realism.

Starting in 2004, Hermanus mainly painted all the influences of others out of his system. 
These works were destroyed or have been salvaged. Then, Painter, a work from 2006, shows his final recognition as a unique, independent painter.

On this self portrait, the heavy crown is exchanged for a painter’s hat which carries the sign, ‘Royal Alliance for Painters’. The penetrating look and quiet blue underline shows his passion and enthusiasm for his new found style.

Being aware of his growing self awareness shows on Portrait of a Painter, Although started it in 2005, this painting was only to be finished in 2011.

Painter’s attributes and hat refer directly to Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), founder of the naive painting.
The painting also tells us that the young painter is protected by a muse. The open door shows the choices already made, and the painting in the background gives us a glimpse of the personal, lyrical world of the painter.

This is how Hermanus learned to paint his own visual language.
Hundreds of paintings, characterized by original motifs and a beautiful paint treatment, were painted these last eleven years—since 2005.

Paintings based on exploratory drawings, poetic series, and three-shutters on panel and canvas were made.

These series form a coherent area where one painting refers to the other. 
With the use of tempera and oil, form and content of his performances to a Poetic Realism, are done so subtle that it touches the sensitive viewer from within. 
One cannot look at his paintings without a feeling of understanding the subject—of knowing the feeling of the character in the painting. And the feelings are always warm and innocent.


The Contemporary Poetic Realism

Hermanus calls himself a Poetic Realist.
Headstrong and determined, he gives shape to the Poetic Realism, an offshoot of Contemporary Realism. The features are visible and noticeable in form and content of the paintings.

On these works you will see no major social themes and there is no place for ugliness, sickness, evil nor doom.
The paintings are permeated with a silent longing for a past time of child-like innocence, to the years of our youth in which illusions, dreams and fantasy had a place and of which every human being still carries something within.

Also the atmosphere of simplicity and nostalgia is very characteristic in these paintings.
It is an atmosphere that is created by the attentive paint treatment, the sober version, and the tempered use of colour.
Within each painting lies the personal view of Hermanus.  His compassion gives him the inspiration for his work. Thus serene, naive performances in which usually one, sometimes several people, appear on the scene.

One should look twice at these paintings.
The first look should be to enjoy a well painted panel or canvas of an original and somewhat naive technique. 
The second look goes deeper, and only then is the viewer struck by the poetic power of the paintings, which appeals to its own lyrical abilities.

It is especially thís poetic appeal on the viewer's imagination that differentiates these works from other realistic representations.

It is a poetic power that radiates from the open,innocent facial expression of the characters which touches human motives and actions.
These strong images in poetic terms, strengthened by its theme, are worked out out in series.

As such, the little characters in a basket, Wanderes, are pure poetry due to the subtle differences in execution. They depict the content of our young years, of innocence and sweet dreams.

The series, Bathing Caps, is typical and testifies to an endearing expressiveness. Who else but Hermanus chooses this funny headgear as a symbol of protection?

Significant also  are the spiritual Hoogzitters, a typical Dutch phenomenon.  Alone, but not lonely, the characters have enough to be themselves, with their own thoughts.

The series Pit is just as meaningful.  Here, the subtle paintings accentuate the little world around every human being, the circle  where he feels safe.

This universal commitment of each individual to happiness and security is an important basic understanding of all  subjects that Hermanus paints.
Each series allows us to wonder about the original motifs that Hermanus has found in this endeavor.


But there is more.
The poetic eloquence of these works also have to do with something that is so touching, and it’s felt in each and every painting. 
The painted naive motifs reflect the awkwardness of human existence.
Hermanus explains this in his own poetic way, with an optimistic look and humorous perspective, something about human deficiencies .
Our small oversensitive actions are imagined in a cheerful way as inextricably linked to man.
It is immediately recognized by the public, because there is nothing distracting.


The surroundings like the beach, the sea, and the air are reduced to a subtle, almost abstract background against which the scene takes place. 
As a result, the work contains so much space that the viewer feels its infinity.

However, the emphasis is on the characters because the rising sun warms and points out the human figures.

All these things together,  the abstractness to locations, the retained colors, the emphasis on the characters and the serene facial expressions, leaves the viewer with every reason for self-reflection. 
Having attention for the paintings is having attention for yourself.

This poetic power of the paintings works in a mysterious way to the lyrical ability of the viewer.

It can be no coincidence that his works already caused dozens of exhibition visitors to be spontaneously inspired to write poetry.
Hermanus cherishes the poems and knows that within these poems, the poetic content of his works is confirmed.
 

A hot air balloon takes of

Some time ago, Hermanus painted himself in a hot air balloon that just did not want to lift.
The panel symbolizes his position as painter and his pursuit of recognition of Poetic Realism.

It seems the time is right to paint a vessel that ranges to the Parnassus.
Hermanus is a painter with such subtle paint handling that it is more than a mere painterly craft.

And a painter who’s paintings animate performances with humanity and with such a recognisable poetic layer can truly be called an artist.


Lida Bonnema art historian-reviewer