Persona January, 12th 2023 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 397 - Frits Nolte

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World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 397 – Frits Nolte
Frits Nolte makes paintings, drawings and linoleum cuts of female figures with a classic use of color and composition. In addition, he is involved as a consultant in the realization of works of art in public space.
I am visiting Frits Nolte in his studio in the Westerpark neighbourhood in Amsterdam. It is a former classroom of a school building with a four/five meter high ceiling. There is an easel, an etching press, various cabinets with boxes and works and framed works all the way up.

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Feminine energy
He recognizes himself in women, he says. “Feminine energy is valuable to the world. It is an energy that we could use a lot more.”
In this context, a quote from Cees Nooteboom is appropriate, who wrote in his book ‘Rituals’ (Rituelen), (1980):
“If the world was a riddle then women were the force that kept that pulsating riddle going, they, and only they had access to the riddle. If there was anything to understand in this world, it had to be through women. . . . .)
Women, all women, were a means of getting closer, near, in the radiance of the secret of which they were the masters and men were not. Through men, but he could only say this much later, you learn what the world is like – through women what it is.”

Dansen in de wind RAW

The magical and the sensual
The starting point may be a fashion photo, but it is essentially a gesture or a pose. It can also be a photo from a newspaper. A place nearby can inspire him, for example the Kattensloot or the Westergasfabriek. A color can also become a theme: a red cloud above the city in the late afternoon, the lipstick-red leather bag bag he saw in a shop window.
Nolte: “I’m concerned with the story of the women, women who stand in their strength and go their own way. Gestures, movements, postures tell us who we are. My attention is drawn to the unexpected, the accidental, like the sun that can suddenly break through the clouds – the light that comes and immediately goes again. Attention also for the magical and the sensual, such as a blowing dress or scarf, dancing in the wind. Strong and graceful, fragile and tough.”


Two women side by side
He often puts two women next to each other. “Two women make a story, two women means two identities. Two structures that communicate with each other.” But sometimes up to five women can be seen.
The meaning of women is a topical issue, he says. “I deal with it every day, they were strong women I grew up with and they are strong women with whom I live. Many women are active in art, I can work well with them – on an equal footing – with them. In various positions I have tried – if at all possible – to place female artists in particular. In art, this is somewhat easier than in other sectors of society. Although, if you look at the representation of female artists in museums (only 13 percent of the art in Dutch museums is made by women) then there is still work to be done.”

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Key work
Does Frits Nolte have a key work, and if so, which one is it or are they? He has three key works. From a box he takes an image of the work ‘Scenes from a beach life’. (1993). “It is a work that I had to fight for. In retrospect, I see even more things in this work than I realized at the time. I had made abstract work for more than ten years, but during those years I developed towards the figurative. This work is the first of the ‘new figuration’ series. I was inspired by photos and images of women from magazines and newspapers. I’m painting very sketchy.”
The second key work is ‘Two women in the cherry garden listening to angels singing’ from 2005. “I was used to drawing and painting on paper. Then someone asked ‘why don’t you paint on canvas?’ I started working with acrylic on canvas and – because that is typical of a key work – I had to fight to get it done. In the end, I work very associatively and it is a mix of what you do yourself and what the work offers in terms of possibilities. It is like a writer who suddenly sees that the story is writing itself, so I saw that it was good if the painting was painting itself.”


Third key work is ‘See the man / behold the man (ecce homo)’ (2019). “In a famous etching by Rembrandt entitled ‘Ecce Homo’, Christ is shown to the people. That print fascinated me when I was studying at the Art Academy. Rembrandt had the guts to radically change that etching. He brought the people to the fore away and put Christ in the front. At the time I was working on a project with eight graphic artists. One of us had met Johannes van Rooij and Dali Rakutyte from Den Bosch and invited them to our exhibition in Amersfoort. Johannes then asked the eight of us to make a print in the spirit of the work of Jeroen (Hieronymus ) Bosch, one work by each artist. We presented the eight prints in this studio.”
After a first series of works by all eight artists, a second and a third followed. Frits Nolte’s work comes from the third series. “I went to see the women in Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings. In a few steps I came to my idea. It started with five people on an altarpiece by Hieronymus Bosch who became five women; in the second print I put those five women on a stage and in the third the street became the stage. That is how I ended up with Rembrandt’s etching, with Christ being shown to the people. For me it was about the woman.” The man who gave the assignment donated the total of 24 works to the friends of the Noordbrabants Museum.


Art in public space
Since the late 1980s, Nolte has been involved as an advisor in art in public space that is created through the ‘percentage scheme’. “I am a mediator between the client, governments, stakeholders such as residents of a neighborhood and the artist. It is done through a public procedure and always together with those involved. Usually two or three artists are given a sketch assignment and then an artist is chosen. In the process that follows, there are moments of consultation, substantive, but also about technical matters such as permits, foundations and confirmation.”
If possible, the artwork should be maintenance-free. “Bronze requires no maintenance, stone and steel are reasonably maintenance-free. But the artworks do need to be cleaned from time to time.”
Spaarndam neighbourhood (Spaarndammerbuurt)

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For example, Godelieve Smulders made the sculpture ‘Farewell’ for the Spaarndammerbuurt, in the Westzaanplantsoen on the Westzaanstraat. On a granite column is a bronze airplane with a woman saying goodbye above it. “It was a wish of the neighborhood to place a statue on this former cemetery. During World War II, a plane crashed here. There was someone in that neighborhood who could tell about it. The neighbourhood also wanted an artist from the area.”
Nelson Carrilho’s sculpture ‘Carriers from Afar’ (Dragers van Verre) is mentioned. “That sculpture came about in response to the wish from the neighbourhood for a monument to the multicultural society. Nelson was known as the creator of the monument to Kevin Duinmeijer in the Vondelpark, the first known victim of senseless violence. ‘Dragers van Verre’ was also on display at the sculpture exhibition on the Lange Voorhout in The Hague, which was put together by Queen Beatrix in honour of her Silver Jubilee. Nelson was very proud of that.”


Auke de Vries
When in the 1990s there was space for new homes on a vacant yard near the Kostverlorenvaart, there was also space for a distinctive sculpture. “Architects firm Lafour & Wijk made a design, not only for the housing, but for the entire site. The architect wanted a large work with color, possibly at the quay along the canal, he suggested. Perhaps something for Auke de Vries, I thought. I was familiar with his Maas statue in Rotterdam. There was a series of mooring chairs (dukdalfs) in the water. Auke de Vries came up with the idea of placing a series of steel sculptures on top of it. He then started with vertical images instead of horizontal ones – such as the Maas statue and his former work at Holland Spoor in The Hague. As a test, he made two objects resembling masts at the Peace Palace. It looked beautiful. Currently, the nine steel objects have been removed for maintenance, but they will return. ”

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Space for the viewer
It is clear: Frits Nolte likes to do things besides his profession as an artist. He regularly organizes exhibitions. “For me, art life consists of making my own work and also working with colleagues and other people. Inspiring, but I am happy when I can spend a day alone in my studio.”
Finally, what is his philosophy? Frits Nolte: “It is important for my work that a work of art does not have to have one specific meaning. My work arises from a series of associations. I would like that space to be there for the viewer as well.”
1) Frits Nolte – Two women in the cherry garden listening to angels singing, acrylic on canvas, 2005, 2) Frits Nolte – The most beautiful girls as brides at a school party in the Westergasfabriek (2), acrylic, collage on paper 1999, 3) Frits Nolte – Dancing in the wind, acrylic on paper, 2022, 4) Frits Nolte – Silence between emerald and indigo, linocut, 2012, 5) Frits Nolte – Dancing women (1), linocut, 2017, 6) portrait photo Frits Nolte, 7) Frits Nolte – Behold the human being (ecce homo), linocut, 2019, 8) Frits Nolte – Behold the woman (2), linocut, 2020, 9) Auke de Vries – Untitled, Kostverlorenvaart, 1992-94 , 10) Godelieve Smulders – Vaarwel, Westzaanplantsoen Amsterdam, 2004

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