Optimism, acrylic on canvas, 1000 x 1200
When we thought to have a few friends over for the passing of the year I had just finished my last painting.

An empty space was for all to see and for all to feel. My place, that space.

However I did want to cover the yellow wall in our living space so thought of painting something that looks happy and doesn't make sense.

If somebody wants to know what I am making I can say I have no idea as long as it is happy.

Be Happy, Keep Smiling. Just for now.

Yesterday is history and tomorrow is a mystery.

Is it a plane?

Is it a rocket?

No, It's Superman.

Whatever you see is yours.

Elated Depression

Wishing you a wonderul 2009
When the painting is over

What do you think a painter does when he finishes his painting?

Does he take three steps back, drop his head to one side and putting his pipe in his mouth, a small smile can be detected while He looks at His Creation...

After nine months of struggling He looks at His Baby.

Sound lovely but I know it is very different.

I suffer and maybe, not sure, enjoy Post Natal Depression after finishing a painting.


Post Natal Depression

This is what I want to write about as most people think I am being funny. Or disrespectful. Or a misogynist , Heaven forbid.

But let me go back to the beginning.

Rapture: Last painting for 2008

Rapture, mixed media on canvas, 600 x 1200
The last painting for this year: Rapture.

From November 2007 I lived and worked in Cains, in the Far North of Queensland. The tropics. Hot, humid and familiar. With Clemens, his son Casper and the big big dog Angelo in their bungalow with the huge back yard. Angelo now weighs 36 kg. I am 63, but not kilos.

On this canvas I used all the little figures I found scattered around left over from earlier paintings. A cut-out of a little man, some green leaves and the profile of a face. Now stuck on the canvas some with an actual 'rubbing' of a shablone.

I do thank God I went to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague, I thank Mr. Gilhuis and Mr. Houtepen, two of my teachers who taught us to play with scissors, paper and glue. Nietwaar Jos!!! We, Jos Tigges and I, were the babies of the class of '63. Or was it 36...

Imagine living in 1936.

I don't know where this painting will take me as I only started yesterday. Certainly our little pussy cat, Twoface will be remembered. Twoface was killed in her own front yard by a marauding dog.

But now we have a dog of our own, ... Angelo ... Or actually 'Senhor Angelo M. (Angelo)'... So somewhere I'll add a little Angelo.

What else did 2008 bring us?

Barak Obama for the US. Kevin Rudd for AU. Iceland is broke and Ireland is not. If I had had shares? Who knows?

When I was a student in The Hague I worked a few nights a week in an expensive Indonesian restaurant; 'Garuda', Kneuterdijk. As a male and an European male at that, I only got the job working with the all female cook crew in the kitchen because I spoke Indonesian. Passar Malay, the market language, not Behasa Malay. Anyway, the kokkies (cooks) mostly invested their savings in gold. Something like a bangle or bracelet.

Do it man!!!

Stripes and more stripes, acrylic on canvas, 800x1000
When I finished the Dream Spirit painting I needed to do a little thinking. A little retrospective meandering. Belly button research.

Apart from the fact that the Dream Spirit is a man and Dr. Mick, a house friend and academic, thought it was a woman, is it finished? Is it finished or should I make the gender more obvious? Stick it on or not?

We'll see but now I am starting on my greatest voyage as an artist. What's he talking about?

My friend and colleague Roeland Zijlstra does many portraits. (Click on his name. ) Anywhere and anyhow. I told him I want to do a portrait of Clemens but am afraid of it. I have NEVER painted a portrait.

That means doing a painting of a human being but a human being with a tag. His or her name. Many self portraits, many people paintings but never the portrait. Roeland said to me to do it, just do it. Start painting a bloody face with a torso!!! Something like that.

I am not afraid of making a painting of Clemens and he doesn't recognize himself. But when you do a portrait of another human being you do invite that person to enter a private world. My private world where everything I do I agree with. Most times anyway.


My Dream Spirit, acrylic on canvas, 800x1000
It is not the first time I think I have done my final painting of, for example, trees, Blackfellas or Dutch landscapes. Forget not Portuguese 'impressions'.

But what to do next?

I have a show at NERAM in Armidale, NSW, in about six months. I came up to the north now exactly one year ago. From cold Armidale to hot and humid Cairns. From working inside to working, albeit shaded, outside in a temperature close to the warmth of my blood.

But what to do?

I painted this 'Dream Spirit' as a final in the series. I painted a man or an illusion. I must admit I understand as little of this Dream Spirit as ever. I put in a friend and a flying girl for old time's sake.

He looks slightly irritated with all the fuss.

I don't think he's very fond of my tribe. What a pity.

But what next?

I shouldn't worry. This has happened all my life. I think I'll never paint again. Very much like a dancer tripling over the stage having forgotten where to put his feet.

All the work for NERAM has been done.

So what do I do now?

When I was living in my village in Portugal for many years Senhora Rita was my housekeeper. She lived next door with her son, a nice and good looking young man about 30-ish. He was born a twin but his brother died at birth and only Florenco survived. But he fell of his motorbike at 22 and now lives in his house, in a wheelchair, with his old mother Rita.

Rita told me once:

"Paulo, the wrong twin died at birth.'

When you hear that you know something doesn't add up. So what is so strange?

I think I'll start cleaning up my work space.


Does tidiness kill art?

Detail of 'Tinnitus' by Jeremy Bakker.
A week ago I was writing to my nephew Jeremy Bakker about things. Things and rings: art in general and art specifically haunting his mind.

His own work.

Like so many things when it comes to the visual arts, it IS in the eye of the beholder. Jeremy had a show in Melbourne not so long ago at the Bus gallery. There he showed a few works that needs a little insight into his mind. I needed to explain how I felt about it. A little explaining.Here to the left gray lines or constant abrubt stops with:nownownownownownow...

Now what is this dizziness about collecting Full Stops and a bowl full of reproductions of Belly buttons

My mind is often so open when it comes to looking at art it doesn't really come to conclusions. I saw a piece of Jeremy's where at first I see grayish lines. Oozing down? Get closer and you see you can read the lines because he has built them up by writing time after time the word 'now'. (Click on image to enlarge)

Clemens had a political view of Jeremy's work. It makes you realize how often we are confronted with so many things. So many times we must register: OK, filed in brains. Again and again.

I was more thrilled because I didn't understand it. It fascinated me and that is great. My dirty mind was ticking. Can you smell them? Full stops? But I understand it many times more because of an experience I have had here in Cairns.

With Angelo, our super dog, we walk twice a day in an adjacent park. As two gentlemen we carry a plastic bag with us for the dogs poo, but to come home with more than poo is surely a better feeling. So we have an extra bag full of plastic bottles, empty cigarette packets, half a teddy bear and bottle tops. Red bottle tops. Blue bottle tops. White, yellow, green and even gray bottle tops. I found myself looking forward to the walk not only because of the obvious but also the expectation of finding more bottle tops to add to my growing collection. A 'THREE-SOME', three red coca-cola tops.

Back at home. Dog flopping down somewhere and me going outside to add the new tops to my collection. Now more than thirty five.
Black and White figures, mixed media, in progress.
In my outdoor studio I am working at the moment on two figures. Two bodies stitched up from cloth and stuffing. Made with garbage? I arrive there in my studio, after that exhilarating walk with a obsession for bottle tops. Plastic bottle tops. Now I want to somehow add the tops to the bodies. Or not.

The 'white lady' is cheeky. From one side she is the doting mother. From the other side she is a personification of a lustful woman.

The 'black bodies' are more a happy go lucky group where someone is squeezing some other body's but.

Today we came back home with only rubbish. One empty packet of Winfield Blue(light) and a tent pole. Nature has given me enough as far as the arty farty things.

This morning only three bottle tops. And only one red one. The Coca Cola one. Only seconded by the Sprite blue ones.

But it is today Thursday 4th September 2008 and we are going for a walk NOW.

Let's see what we find.


Mayor Val Schier and the Burning Tree.

Paul Bakker presents 'The Burning Tree' to Val Schier, mayor of the Cairns Regional Council. Photo by Clemens Vermeulen.
Last Monday, the 1st of September, I had the pleasure to deliver the painting 'The Burning Tree' to the Mayor of Cairns, The Hon Val Schier.

When I arrived in Cairns, now 9 months ago, everything was new and exiting; Kevin Rudd's new job in Canberra and Val Schier's new job in Cairns, tropical north Queensland.

And my new life in the tropics.

Appropriately, after nine months, I delivered the painting I had promised then.

We all seemed to be fine.

Our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has made himself known to the world.

Our global Prime Minister. Fancy that, he even speaks Mandarin. He is even younger then the new French guy with the Romanian background. Younger than the British man whose face I cannot remember.

Is he younger than the next American President? I can remember his name but get it confused with the Saudi Arabian rich man hiding somewhere in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

I should be more serious. But I am not. When I was in North Carolina, visiting my 'step son', a very few years ago, I was driven through a lovely part of Ralleigh/Durrum and thought I could easily live there 'forever'. No you cannot, Hans explained, this is not for whites.......

So this last Monday Clemens drove me to the Town Hall and the painting will hang in a most honoured position opposite the Mayors desk. We took a photo. The painting is to me a painting of life. The tree is burning off its excess energy and growing on forever. An energy Val Schier has in common.

We were received by a lovely vibrant lady called Glenda. Actually, the whole office had a vibrant feeling.

Yes, I am in the land of the living.

The painting is now part of the permanent collection of the Cairns Regional Council.


Senhor Angelo M. (Angelo)

'Angelo in Clemens arms', photo by Paul Bakker.
This is our new dog Angelo. He never stops moving. He never stops playing. He never stops loving. The first night we took turns in babysitting. The second night he slept all alone, hugged against the bedroom door. On the other side. When the door opens he, in all his happiness and 23.9 kilos plunges all over you. Carpet bombing with four paws. A very long and wet tongue licks you a good morning. Today we take him to the vet to be chipped and wormed but no genital mutilations for this baby, please. In Portugal I told the shepherds in my village how we 'snipped' and spayed our dogs in the new world. The men just stared at me and probably thought: 'Senhor Paulo is mad'. Well, this is the new kid on the block. And for some time, I hope. phb


'Arrival', in progress.
Back from Sydney I wanted to 'stitch' a figure. I never liked hard materials like stone or diamonds, even clay and bronze are hard and heavy. In the seventies I wanted to make the 'Twelve apostles', a group of figures in their burial clothes. I ordered a tonne of clay and started molding these figures on a table. Life size. Then for more precise shapes I'd cut with a knife parts of the clay body into whatever I wanted it to be. 'Arrival', sketch, in progress. Now I sketch on a bed sheet, more guessing than anything else and start by sewing together the bits and bodies. Having lived in Portugal surrounded by marble mines and hence a few sculptors forever smoking their pipes while belting the living daylight out of a piece of Michaelangelo, I asked these guys 'Arrival arriving', photo by Clemens Vermeulen. to find some footings for my babies. If you are interested please click this button and I'll show you my shocking Ladies. And their foot bases. Cut, stitch and dip in paint and sun dry. I knew I was back in the Tropics. I will add to this bit 'till I am happy. With sculptures, and I am a painter, I must have the classical imagery piled up somewhere. The beautiful marble footings. Also I like it to have a pole to lean against and imagine it standing on a polished desk in a swanky office, the Oval Office, why not? Too big maybe? Don't laugh, a US president always had 'Man on Horse', by a famous American artist, in the background. He also was that actor's favourite artist. The cowboy, cannot think of his name. Croaky voice and he died of smoking too many cigarettes. Not Clark Kent but... Wells Fargo comes to mind and I think he was President of the Rifle association in the States. The artist was Harry Jackson. I remember the actor: John Wayne. We'll see where this baby takes me. Watching the news on BBC or SBS I feel I am witnessing something very 'big'. Not only are we hearing about credit crunches, oil prices and now the insane attack on Georgia by the Russian Republic.The Olympic Games In China. Is our planet Earth rumbling its bowels? Do too many pipes run through Georgia? I'll stick to my work. Clemens had read somewhere a dog needed a new home. We went to pick him up. He is one year old and has English Springer blood and a very boisterous black and white, full to the brim of energy pup. He came with the name Angel. Michael Angelo? phb

My new babies

'The first Tomato Babies', photo by Clemens Vermeulen. Yesterday I left Sydney after six lovely days at Kevin and my sister Margaretha's and I met the new grand niece, a beautiful big eyed baby Nina. So tiny at two months. So helpless but secure. Unconditional love, for sure. I looked into her beautiful blueish eyes. The Ego was still aglow and a mother's reflection. The dimple under her tiny nose was profound and we all know it is the finger imprint of her guardian angel. When Nina arrived safely on Earth the angel said: 'this little baby I will be with forever...' I am sixty-tree years old and still can feel the occasional brush of a feather. Sometimes I can even hear a flutter of wings I am sure. Are we humans born as amateurs? I have no doubt nor embarrassment in knowing that I am an artist. I prefer the term 'painter', but I must have started as an amateur. I hate to think about it too much but I know two or three people called artists that I think of as amateur after years of painting. Conversely there is a self-proclaimed amateur whom I call an artist, nietwaar Suze? But what is the difference? If things can be thought of in a triangular shape like: I stand here, you stand there and the third position is covered in a bi-focused fashion. What I mean is what I see, you see. And in the third position we see both sides. I can only be happy with my own painting when all my senses are satisfied. When the painting is finished something is separated from me. I do indeed look at it as if it is my new baby. Probably, my new painting doesn't need a guardian angel. They look after the amateurs and their paintings. Is this maybe the difference between an amateur and an artist? And my friends, artists, Roeland Zijstra and Ruth had their baby , de kleine prins Hepke. In the plane I reminisced about my remarkable family who, in their kindness treat me like some eastern Peacock prince. All colorful feathers. Images of my own guardian angel, maybe? But I am back home. In the far northern tropical part of Australia and at home my guardian angel can go and have a long deserved sleep. As I am not alone. The Eskimo is back, Jill! The tomato plant had also given birth to two blood red tomato babies. And my walk to infinity continues.With a warm heart. Just a thought. When two people are in love, where are their amorphous angels? phb
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