‘no thing’
herman de vries

20 September 2014 - 25 January 2015

When De Ketelfactory opened in 2009, the artist herman de vries was already on our ‘list’. When Colin Huizing, curator of the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, asked us to hold an exhibition of herman’s work concurrently with their retrospective, we could only respond with an instant ‘yes’.
The result is the exhibition ‘no thing’, which comprises new work by herman de vries, such as drawings made with colored pencil and with charred wood from the surroundings of his home.

In the colored-pencil drawings, we can discern many elements from his oeuvre: types of grass, reed, leaves, scribbles, little straight lines, squiggles. In terms of their movements and wealth of color, the drawings can be almost regarded as graphic translations of nature. The charcoal drawings have been made with burned pieces of wood from the Steigerwald. Some have been carried out in one direct movement; others are more like ‘percussion on paper’. At De Ketelfactory herman de vries has created an installation with juniper berries. On one wall is the largest drawing that he has yet to produce with burned wood.

During this same period, the exhibition ‘all’ at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam provides a survey of the artist’s entire body of work. In the park De Plantage, on the walking route between the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam and De Ketelfactory, permanent installations of work by herman de vries can be seen. The herman de vries exhibition ‘to be all ways to be’, curated by Colin Huizing and Cees de Boer, will represent the Netherlands at the Venice Biennial in 2015.

herman de vries

herman de vries (Alkmaar, 1931) intentionally spells his name without capitals in order to ‘avoid hierarchies’. In his work and his life he always makes a connection between man and nature. Sensory perception, directness and freedom of thought and action are his guiding principles in this. Art, to him, does not imply the depiction of nature, but the creation of space for the immediacy of ‘being’. Nature, culture and science are continually interwoven in his view. Freedom and precision go hand in hand with a desire for ‘all’, which oddly enough leads to a fascination with ‘nothing’.

The oeuvre of herman de vries spans a variety of forms: collections (such as a large collection of samples of earth from all over the world), collages trouvé, drawings, writings, installations, photographs, films and a range of artist’s books. Since 1970 he has been active in Eschenau, where life and work form a fluid whole.

distillation ‘white is over the top’

Date: 12th October 2014
in collaboration with: Cees de Boer, Alec Finlay and Jannie Pranger

Cees de Boer on herman de vries
Cees de Boer, freelance writer and curator at Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, speaks on the philosophical and artistic aspects of the work of herman de vries. Cees de Boer, along with Colin Huizing, is curator of exhibition ‘to be all ways to be’ by herman de vries, which will be representing the Netherlands at the 2015 Venice Biennale.

Alec Finlay on his work
Scottish artist Alec Finlay was born in 1966 in Scotland. He is an artist, poet and publicist. Many of his projects explore human interaction with nature and landscape. He uses a wide array of media and art forms, from sculpture and collage to audiovisual media, neon and new technologies.
Alec Finlay will speak about his own work, which bears a close kinship to that of herman de vries.

Jannie Pranger
Jannie Pranger is one of the Netherlands’ best known singers in the genre of New Music. She has worked with composers such as Iannis Xenakis, György Kurtág, Louis Andriessen and Alexander Knaifel. She is also a researcher at the Humanities faculty of the University of Utrecht.
Jannie Pranger will be performing composition 4’33” by John Cage.


To accompany the joint exhibitions, a publication in three parts will be released, complemented by two DVDs. The DVD by De Ketelfactory contains a video portrait of herman de vries, created by Kim Everdine Zeegers, as well as recordings of the artist at work, including a mural exhibited at De Ketelfactory. On the DVD by Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, herman de vries speaks about his works displayed at the retrospective exhibition in the Museum. The recordings for the latter were created by his son, Vince de Vries.
Quotes from herman de vries, included in the publication:
“I am this, I am here. therefore I work from within myself and in relation to the world around me.”
“simplicity is good. if something is simple, it’s clear. I enjoy being clear. I don’t see clarity as an intellectual concept. it’s to do with direct experience.”
“when I am outside and I manage to be free of thought, I am also free of concepts. that’s when I find new, fresh starting points.”
“I speak of art as a form of consciousness. consciousness is to do with being, not thinking. thinking results from being. being conscious.”
The bundle is for sale at De Ketelfactory as well as Stedelijk Museum Schiedam.

video portrait

articles (in Dutch)

Rozengeur in Schiedam – Wim Boevink in Trouw

Met herman op stap in de natuur – Henny de Lange in Trouw

Beeldende kunst – Sacha Bronwasser in Volkskrant

Het is niet goed om alles uit te spreken – Joyce Roodnat in NRC

Eén grote oefening in aandacht – Janneke Wesseling in NRC

Natuur wordt kunst – Maaike Stafhorst in De Telegraaf

Groen beheer – Evelien Lindeboom in het Financieele Dagblad

Tentoonstelling – in NRC

herman de vries – Wim Adema in Het Beeldende Kunstjournaal

Tachtigers zijn de rebellen van nu – Sandra Smallenburg in NRC

Met het hoofd op aarde – Frits de Coninck in Museumtijdschrift

herman de vries in Schiedam – Beatrijs Schweitzer in Beeldenmagazine

press release (in Dutch)