World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 188 - Felice Vermeire
Felice Vermeire (May 5, 1945, Liberation Day) works in wood, stone and mixed technique. There is plenty of wood around her studio, because she lives and works at the Oosterbeek estate, on the border between The Hague and Wassenaar, just in front of the new location of the American embassy. The window on the North is looking forward to it. The studio is full of work from her hand and there are pictures on the wall of her parents who worked in the same studio. They can be seen in a painting by Lisette van Meeteren. "My father is well represented, my mother is a bit too tidy."
Felice Vermeire works from the material. "En taille direct, that's what it is called. There is already a form in every stone. Not many people see that, but I can not do otherwise. I work with soapstone, serpentine, alabaster and marble. When I have a piece of soapstone I see an elephant in it, or a fish, or a head of a man. "
Blockheads and Tribalheads
With the rough stone she goes to a chopping space at the end of the corridor. And then the journey begins, with the chisel and the beater she scans the form until she has found the rough form and then continues with the rasps and file tools. Then the fine work of sanding, polishing and waxing can start. That is often a lengthy process. She machines hard stones like marble. We walk to the chopping space. I see different types of rock and the tools. Many tools have been from her grandfather. "I'm certainly inspired by his work." She shows me a few of his works. "At his carved heads he often left a piece of rough stone as hair. He was, like many contemporaries, inspired by African and Asian art and especially masks. Hence the long noses in his heads. "
She takes pictures of the rough stones, weighs them and takes the measure and then gets to work. Then there arise heads, torsos, birds, dolphins, swans, elephants and shapes with and without a hole. Her son, Nils, once took 50 kilos of marble from the marble quarries of Carara. She could advance with that. Sometimes the material gives presents. "It always surprises me how invisible veins and colors appear during the polishing of the stone. That is really fascinating." Very special are her Blockheads. "I never knew what to do with straight pieces of material, but I did have a few fine pieces. Then I started experimenting with residual Gibo (gypsum concrete). I got the idea to work from the edge of such a piece. I made eyebrows, a nose, a mouth, a jaw line and chin. And truly, it became something special. I went on playing with it and there was a whole series. I painted the original gibo blocks in the colors of the rainbow and also made them in wood. At that time, the Tribalheads and the Ancestor Statues were also created. "
All kinds of trees stand around her studio: beech, oak and chestnut. But also ash, maple, rowan, plum tree, apple tree, velvet tree, weeping beech, curly hazel and bird cherry. She saws pieces of fallen trees and starts working with the shapes, makes, for example, stacks of them, or combines them with a twisting branch. Here again, birds, torsos and faces. On the wall hangs Gandalf, a prehistoric man with an Assyrian beard. "That beard was already in the wood, the tree, a weeping beech, had built up a defense against the ingrowth of fungi and the black lines in the beard are the result." She made a woman from a piece of plum tree, but she had an ugly knot on it at the place of her belly that she removed and so it became 'The Empty Nest'. A bird-cherry with wide roots was transformed into 'The Gates of Babel', a piece of beech with a thickening became 'A pregnant belly' and a dead wild apple tree with four branches became 'Family tree, four generations in art'.
We have already seen the first generation in art, grandfather Jules Vermeire. The second is that of her parents. They were well-known puppeteers who traveled throughout the country with their 'Don & Ly Vermeire's puppet theater'. And they also regularly crossed the border, through Europe, and even further to Suriname, the Antilles, India and Pakistan. There were also performances in museums, such as the Museum for Education, now Museon and the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag with the title 'The colorful world of puppetry'. The relevant poster is still hanging on the wall. Films were also made for, among others, Shell Company. I see three dolls from her parents hanging: the fakir with the flute, the skinny Pantalone (the miser) and the donkey from Die Kluge by Karl Orff, the nobleman. There are not many dolls left, but during the last cleaning-up of the time-tested marionettes Felice has made a nice work of a series of hands of the puppets. They are now part of a work in a list (inspired by a Willem Vis medal) with the title 'Saved tools'. The third generation Vermeire is Felice herself and the fourth is her son, Nils Vermeire, who has already made a series of films. Generation five: three grandchildren who act in films and like to play in the studio.
It is not surprising that Felice has been an artist all her life. "I've always been tinkering. At a young age I made dolls of plasticine, a kind of clay. In addition, I was always drawing. I came to my parents in the studio. Then I was allowed to cooperate. I have poured heads of clay into plaster, which I then filled with papier-mâché. You get the atmosphere. After secondary school I wanted to become a kindergarten teacher, but I soon dropped that. I did a career test and it came out that I had to do something creative. I also wanted to live independently, so I did not go to the Royal Academy in The Hague, but to the Arts and Crafts School in Amsterdam and then to the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, weaving and textiles department. I did a final exam weaving. Immediately obtaining a teaching certificate did not work, there was an arrangement by the ministry that deleted this possibility, so I had to earn money in a different way and started to collect assigments. "
Already during the graduation year she had sold a work to the Stedelijk Museum, a five-meter long glass curtain. "With material that holds itself." From a pharmacist she got an assignment to make a large carpet from Kelim. She had a large and a small loom. "I have woven a lot and made batik work. For a while I was part of an artists' collective that worked from the premises of the current Arti-Shock in Rijswijk.” She worked at Lisette van Meeteren in her theater studio in the Denneweg, where she made masks for the mime artist Rob van Reijn. "Among others for the performance 'The servant of two masters'. And the famous 'medal coat' by Paul van Vliet.
Chopping in Limestone
In 1978 she went to Zaanstad. "I was divorced, sitting there on my own with a child. I had to find work there, got my certificate K and certificate U and I gave Handicraft for ten years at schools in Zaanstad, from primary education, LOM to ZLMK. Then I came into the WAO, burn out. I wanted to do something and went to make pottery, silk painting and photographing. That was a difficult time. In 1993 I went back to The Hague. In 2000 I was back in the old studio at the Oosterbeek Estate. I could live next to my father and mother. I was looking for something new for myself. A friend from Voorschoten told me that there was a nice course there: the 'Workshop Hakken in Kalksteen' (Chopping in Limestone) at the Academy De Vlietstreek with Peter van Loon. Wasn’t that something for me? It turned out to be a bull's eye. I'm still chopping. When I started I smelled the smell of stone again, I felt the familiar tools, it was as if I had done it all my life. ‘I should have done that right away,’ I thought. My grandfather had said it long ago: ‘You do not need an education. Get started. If it is there, it will come naturally.’ His motto was: ‘Inspiration does not exist. Just go to work, then it will come naturally.’ In retrospect, he was right. Apparently it's my genes. I also formulate it as 'what my mind does not know, my hands know'. "
How does she experience the art life? "I was trained as an autonomous artist, as an industrial designer. I have had to invent a lot myself. I did not learn anything about calculation, asking a price for a work. My grandfather was an autonomous artist, but he did have a gallery owner, who took his works, and he had a patron. Moreover, he often paid bills with one of his works. In addition, my grandmother worked in an arts and crafts store, that was their basic income. I argue for a basic income for all people, especially artists. There are hardly any artists who can live from their work. Side jobs are at the expense of art. "
Do that where your heart is
Finally, what is her philosophy? "You see my philosophy in my work. No unnecessary lines and the forms are organic. My advice: do that where your heart lies. If you do that, something beautiful will come out. If something is not right, you are your own best critic. "
1) Felice at work, 2) Just born !, 3) Mother and child, 4) Two little birds, 5) Blockhead 2, 6) Tribalhead 1, 7) Ancestral figurines, 8) Gandalf, 9) Shape with hole, 10 ) Ode to a maple, 11) The Empty Nest, 12) Gates of Babel, 13) Family Tree, 14) Pregnant