World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 277 - Sylvie Overheul

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 277 - Sylvie Overheul 

Sylvie Overheul was one of the participants of the Dutch-Chinese art exchange exhibition in the Chinese Cultural Center, June / July 2020 in The Hague. There were some surreal-looking portrait works on the wall.

For example, I saw a young lady in a green long dress and a frog in front of her, entitled ‘Dutch Nightingale’. Would she wake up to kiss the frog so that a prince appeared? A portrait of a young man, beard, mustache with a large paper bow and a paper flower in his hand, ‘The Paper Garden’. A young lady in green on her back in the water, balancing on her chin an apple and on top an orange fish ‘Ophelia’. A young man, sitting on a chair in front of a large nature painting with a watermelon in his arms, on a pedestal slightly behind it six watermelons, the top one floating, ‘The Musealist’.

Surprising elements

A while later, when I visit Sylvie Overheul in her studio - a former school in the Feyenoord district in Rotterdam - I see the works again. She points out a detail in the last painting, ‘The Musealist’, that I hadn't seen before: not only is there a melon floating, the young man is also floating, although he appears to be sitting firmly in the chair.

This unexpected, surprising element appears more often in Sylvie's work. In general, she makes portraits, with real models, but in many cases something strange has been incorporated into it, which makes it a magical-realistic / surrealistic work. Margritte is one of her great examples. While I drink my coffee from a Picasso mug, she does it from a Margritte mug.


Sylvie Overheul: “I like to make my portraits with a touch of humor. It's on the edge. ‘Is it possible or not?’ In addition to the aesthetics, there is something extra: humor." That makes her happy when she is at work. She makes more than just a portrait. “You go on a journey in the story yourself. And the spectator can do that too. He makes his own story, perhaps more interesting than mine. I think that's great. ”

On an easel is a painting that is almost ready: a young man in armor with a colander on his head with in his right hand the reins of a particularly beautiful white horse. Horse and man look at the viewer from the corner of their eye. Sylvie is not completely satisfied with the horse's head yet. That is still being worked on. It is a beautiful painting, which appears to be inspired by a work by Leonardo da Vinci.

The Visionary

On the outside of her studio was a poster of two young men with suspenders, one of which has placed two tomatoes in the other's eye sockets. It can be seen as a billboard in various places in the city of Rotterdam, an initiative of the CBK Rotterdam. The work is called ‘The Visonairy’. Sylvie: “The idea was to make a large pyramid with tomatoes. I even needed stairs for that. One of my models would play a part in it too. There was a second model, a friend of my ‘regular’ model. During a break, he playfully placed two tomatoes in front of his friend’s eyes. In a split second I saw something new. ‘You have to hold onto this!’ I shouted. So the original idea disappeared and something surprising was replaced, and ‘The Visionary’ was born. ”

Key work

Does she have a key work, a work that put her on a new track? Indeed she has. It dates back to 2013 and it is called ‘The Gourmet’. A young man with suspenders and a top hat eats from a can. It turns out to be the beginning of her absurdist works. “2011 was a bad year for me in every way. You often see that someone changes course after such a period. That was also the case with me. I wanted the model to do an action that is illogical. This is the first work with a contradiction. People with top hats don't have to eat from a can. I captured an intimate moment. I continued on that. The positive absurdist thinking has enriched my life. That makes me happy. Then came the stacks, see the paintings with the watermelons and other food. A safe was opened with ‘The Gourmet’. And fortunately that safe is still open. ”

Artist of the Year

Sylvie also makes other work, including the ArtMini's. On the wall I see a row next to each other. She makes them between the bigger work and it goes much faster than a painting, to keep the spontaneity in it. Often there are animals on it. They appear to be selling nicely.

Sylvie has been nominated three times in a row for the ‘Artist of the Year election’ and is ranked 16th in the top 100 of contemporary artists. With the painting of the young man with a paper bow, she entered the finals of the Dutch Portrait Prize in 2019.


Finally, her philosophy: Sylvie: “I would like to convey what an enrichment it can be if you allow absurdism into your life.” She points to the sugar bowl on the table. “That the sugar bowl can also represent a person. That opens you up very much. That is why I enjoy making my paintings. I notice that this also happens to the spectators. People get a smile and that is exactly the intention. ”


1) Ophelia, Acrylic on linen, 40x60 cm, 2) Wanted, Acrylic / oil on linen, 80x60 cm, 3) Dutch Nightingale, Acryl on panel, 60x40 cm, 4) Apple-Egg, Acrylic / oil on linen, 100x50 cm, 5) The Gourmet, acrylic on linen, 60x40 cm, 6) The Visionary, Acrylic on linen, 60x50 cm, 7) The PaperGarden, Acrylic on panel, 40x30 cm,  8) Mathilde Willink in Ruurlo, Acrylic on linen, 50x50 cm, 9) The Musealist, Acrylic on linen, 70x50 cm, 10) Sylvie Overheul



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