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Co Westerik 90
15 March - 31 August 2014
To mark the occasion of the ninetieth birthday of the painter Co Westerik (1924, The Hague), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is staging a small retrospective of works selected from his extraordinary oeuvre. The museum is showing twenty or so of his finest paintings in private hands and in the museum’s own collection.
Co Westerik has been working on a steadily growing and consistent oeuvre since the 1940s. Although the number of drawings he has produced runs into the thousands, he has made only around two hundred paintings. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has followed the artist’s career from the outset and over the years has amassed a representative collection of his paintings, prints and drawings. The museum has focused attention on Co Westerik before, with an exhibition in 1999 to mark his seventy-fifth birthday and one in 2004 for his eightieth. Leo Oosterom’s sizable gift of Westerik’s drawings was shown in 2012. Now, to mark the artist’s ninetieth birthday, the museum is showing a small selection of his paintings drawn from more than sixty years of artistic output.
To the Skin
Westerik’s work is always based on his own experience. He draws and paints people in contact with one another or in nature: feeling, smelling and looking, often with their eyes wide open. The perspective of the paintings is often such that it brings the viewer close ‘to the skin’ of the composition. His technique—thin layers of tempera and oils—creates a realistic and vibrant expression of surface and texture, particularly flesh. The situations reflect human shortcomings: pain, loneliness, proximity, alienation, birth and growth are the themes he explores.
Like his compositions, Westerik’s approach can be characterized as exploratory and questing. A painting is preceded by a sketch of ideas in which the artist records a thought, memory or observation. As he does so, certain aspects are accentuated or enlarged. In the artist’s words, the painting thus becomes a ‘concentration’ of what he thought important at the time. This labour-intensive process is carefully recorded in his work diaries: ‘logbooks’ in which he notes the technical stages and substantive choices.
Book of Paintings
His birthday is being celebrated with an exhibition and a book, which contains a lavishly illustrated overview of 100 paintings from various periods. The book is published by Galerie Fenna de Vries with contributions from Hans den Hartog Jager and Véronique Baar and is available in the museum shop.
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