Painters 2017

Diederik Vermeulen

A Lamu Painter’s Festival veteran, paint-ingrained Diederik looks like the quintessential artist. Accustomed to painting in bold thick impasto, it is easy to follow his tracks. Pointing at the paint smears on his mast, Nasir the boat captain of Lady Gaga, shrugs his shoulders and says “Diederik was here.”

On the surface, Diederik seems to be a self-contained, quiet artist. However, our conversations reveal a deadpan sense of humour and humility towards his talent. When asked how he would describe Lamu to other artists, he replies “I don’t talk much about it. In fact I don’t talk much about anything!” A former maths teacher, Diederik finds a parallel between mathematics and art. “Maths is a beautiful thing too, and both disciplines require research to uncover the absolute answers.”

Influenced by the French Impressionists, he disagrees that his paintings veer towards ‘expressionism.’ He just likes to paint in a very loose manner. He admires Jurgen Leippert whom he quotes as saying that the act of painting is just the placement of blobs. Trying to paint the actual subject rather than concentrating on the placement of blobs of paint is detrimental to an artist’s development.

Diederick maintains a fascination with the uncultivated environment. Age 45, he took up painting when he moved to Portugal, where he now spends most of his time. Whilst he appreciated the landscapes, he found himself obsessed with painting weeds, which he candidly admits might be a reaction to his father’s abhorrence of a messy garden.

His fourth time on the island, Diederik finds that little has changed since his last visit. He loves the fact that the mode of transport is by boat and the freedom of being able to paint everywhere and anywhere. He is enchanted by the medieval atmosphere of the Island and believes that Lamu is a special enclave unlike anywhere else. During his stay, he was inspired to paint a tree red and since then red trees has become a bit of a trademark. He relishes painting outdoors and believes that “If you are uncomfortable, you paint differently. You want to get it over and done with and the less time you spend on details, the better the outcome.”

Like all true creatives, Diederik is constantly pushing the boundaries through continual experimentation although he feels that it is important not to radically change one’s personal style. “You are your art – so if you don’t change – why should your art?” He enjoyed being part of this year’s larger Lamu Painter’s Festival as he found himself pushed to try out new ideas. Although, with his usual self-effacement, he admits that he found the evaluation process by other artists quite intimidating.

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