Nightmares of Beauty

Marlene Dumas on Erik Andriesse

Once upon a time there lived a boy called Erik Andriesse, who distinguished himself from the passionless people around him by glowing in the dark. Now the country in which he lived was quite dark. Artists however, would talk about the extraordinary light in that country.

During the 1980’s all artists were interested in the artificiality of life. A picture of a flower was much more interesting than the flower itself. Very few people still believed that everything that existed was part of nature itself. People lived in cities. Artists lived in their studios. Places filled with books, bottles and talk about art and artists and what was relevant and what was not. And they forgot to love … But Erik was aware of the fire that was eating his heart, while the clock ticked at night: the shortage of time, the repetitive movements of desire and the energy of the body watched by death. Flowers larger than life. Dreams larger than life. Nightmares of beauty.

He was ignored by the calculators, whose blood did not rise when they saw his exotic death-dances on paper, but he continued in his own impatient way. Erik is not a conceptual artist. Erik is not an associative artist. He is not interested in displaying the cultural-historical aspects of his subject matter. But Erik is also not the naturalist he seems to be. He even shows similarities (at times) to Spiderman, the comic-strip hero. Erik is not a cultural barbarian or a primitive. He reflects on the good, the bad and the ugly of the art world and the synthetic problems of painting.

As a friend said, ‘Only to the extent that the paint neither disguises itself nor fades into oblivion, is it possible for the illusion of the flower to sustain itself. So we remain with the splendid contradiction that whilst the paint joyfully goes about its business of being a sunflower, simultaneously it never lets you out of its sight’.

To him, to skulls, to life, I’ll drink a toast. To his eternal youth!


Erik Andriesse | Nightmares of Beauty. Written in 1986 and originally published in Erik Andriesse: schilderijen 1982-1987 (cat.), Amsterdam: Galerie Paul Andriesse, 1987, p.3; and included in Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts | On Others, second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014 (first edition Galerie Paul Andriesse and De Balie Publishers Amsterdam, 1998).