Persona August, 24th 2023 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 429 – Zeger Reyers

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World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 429 – Zeger Reyers
This year, Zeger Reyers provided a spectacular opening sculpture of The Hague sculpture exhibition on the Lange Voorhout, ‘Voorhout Monumental’: a life-size highway sign. It consists of a large sign with the text The Hague, below it in white ‘Culture’ and below that in red ‘A11’. Next to it is a smaller sign for the first road to the right with the text ‘From here everything is allowed’ and below it in red ‘A3’.
I speak with Zeger Reyers (57) on his roof terrace in a house in the center of The Hague. There are 140 different types of plants in the planters around the roof terrace. He lets me taste some of it: a piece of sea fennel and an oyster leaf. The sea fennel is nice and spicy.

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Municipal councilor Coen Bom of Heart for The Hague would like to see the artwork given permanent status after the exhibition closes at the end of August. Zeger Reyers: “It would be great if it worked out.”
How did he come up with the idea for the traffic sign?

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“The Lange Voorhout is a familiar area for me. It is located in the Museum Quarter, put on the map by The Hague city marketing. Voorhout Monumental was preceded for about 10 years by The Hague Sculpture (Den Haag Sculptuur), financed by the Municipality, now the initiative has come from Pulchri Studio, the artists’ society that organizes the same exhibition with a fraction of the previous budget. The title is Voorhout Monumental, which therefore includes a large work. And with our center of power a stone’s throw away, I found a signage board ‘directional’ and ‘Larger than Life’ right on the pedestrian promenade.
From this signboard there is an imaginary stage where you can say anything. It is a plea for artistic freedom and also a plea for a moral compass. Fitting in the style of Van Kooten and De Bie and Monty Python.”

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La Condition Humaine
Reyers is a prolific artist who questions the make-believe world(s) people create to live comfortably. In his work he explores many areas, where he comes up with surprising finds. With his wife Pietertje van Splunter he has the project organization BROOS for assignments.
“My work is diverse, but there is an umbrella. It is always social, in terms of undertone, not so much in terms of overtone. Good art has many layers of meaning, the more layers the better. The ‘entry threshold’ of my work is often low. A tic that I acquired in the styling course in the first year of the academy; ‘Most people should not immediately reject the work’.”
The work or his oeuvre is basically about La Condition Humaine. “Now we are in the age of cosmetic procedures, man as machine. ‘Doctor, make me well.’ That doesn’t always work out, which is a reason for many to be angry. We have lost the connection between living and dying. That’s a new taboo. We must learn to die, as the NRC recently pointed out in an article. We are all in control.”

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Healing environment
He makes a problem statement for an assignment. He looks at the question from many angles. He then puts all ideas in a scale. “That produces a concentrate or distillate, and you have to keep playing with that. The core aspects of all those angles; that will be your palette.”
For example, the Bernhoven Hospital in Uden, a new hospital that replaced three regional hospitals, wanted a natural interior design of the building, especially the entrance and courtyard that would have a positive influence on the well-being of the patients. The concept of ‘Healing Environment’ was chosen.
“However, there were already visual references to nature in the interior, such as other photo wallpapers on the walls. Among other things, of a large mushroom, red with white dots and behind it a picture of a cow’s nose. We (Broos) added a second layer of meaning, based on the concept of the supernatural. We made a rainbow of light in the ceiling above the entrance with 100 different colors. Two large unicorns came into the courtyard, a mother with a foal. On the walls near the courtyard, prisms on the windows turned sunlight into rainbows on the walls, right next to white squirrels made of a kind of plaster. A reference to the doctors and nurses, but also to the pre-Christian beliefs in Northern Europe. The squirrel ‘Ratatoskr’ was the only creature in Norse mythology that could cross the border between the underworld, the human world and the upper world. This squirrel was a messenger but also a bit of a schemer. This theme is also reflected in a work of art made for an RIVM building. In an installation throughout the building, including two mounted ravens; Hugin and Munin, ‘Thought’ and ‘Memory’, the ravens of the supreme god Odin. They flew over mankind every day to report in the evening on the physical and mental condition of the people.”

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Nature is a driving force in his work. “As a child I had many aquariums, I made them myself and always larger than the territory that the fish formed in nature. Later I also started diving. In the water I saw the most beautiful structures. My parents were also very busy with nature and their garden. That impressed me. The NRC recently published an article about why we humans have a blind spot for plants. Many people only see green, but do not see the individual plants. I don’t have that blind spot. Of course botanists don’t have that either. It is important to know and recognize a place/biotope, your hinterland. They all have a unique configuration.”
When he walks he puts everything in his mouth, and he has all kinds of dried mushrooms in the house. “A growing mushroom doubles itself in a day.” In 1995, for graduation at the Willem de Kooning Academy, he made his first work with mushrooms. Many followed. “I grew mushrooms under the turntable of a pick-up. The installation has a special LP, made by Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth); all songs end in an endless (circular) groove. The song lasts a few minutes and then a rehearsal of that one groove follows until the mushrooms slowly start to grow from under the turntable….. They act as a brake and stop the music. Audio culture changes into a natural spectacle. I would very much like to make another video work, a shot of a week in which you see such a process with the growing of the mushrooms.”

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Earth transformation
Now in the Anthropocene, humanity is at the peak of its own arrogance, says Reyers. “We can do anything, we think. That is not good for the world and the people. We need to evolve to a different mindset. A symbiotic era (Symbiocene) in which all will live together with all and everything with everything. Simply because we consist of more foreign cells than our own cells. The greatest challenge for humanity will be to break down the following taboo: the increase in the number of earthlings. How do we diminish ourselves as humanity?”
He is optimistic about the possibilities of transformation of depreciated and extinct areas such as the Sahara. Sebastião Salgado, the Brazilian photographer, has made it a life’s work: featured in the documentary about his work and life The Salt of the Earth. “He has made his own jungle in a barren area. The JustDiggit organization is committed to greening dry Africa. And on Vancouver Island, fallen sequoias act as ‘nurselog’ for sapling seeds. These are small examples of how you should actually approach all life on earth, and perhaps more than just life. We can and many know it; also humanity as a whole…..? Unfortunately, we are not that far yet.”
His parents – now deceased – had a house and garden in the Dordogne for 20 years. It was hard and rocky ground there. “I brought bales of dried cow manure to France. Everything grew like crazy. Many of those plants are now back, also here in the garden on the roof terrace.” His parents are buried in a French cemetery. He shows a picture on his phone. The cemetery is barren and dry, but flowering shrubs grow on his parents’ grave. “They turn out to be very good fertilizer,” he says with a slight irony.

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Does Reyers have a key work?
He has. He mentions the following three:
• ‘Mushroom’ his graduation work with mushrooms at the Willem de Kooning Academy in 1995;
• ‘Rotating-Kitchen’ the revolving kitchen, a kitchen that slowly rotates on its axis. It doesn’t take long before all the stuff falls out of the cupboards. There were 30 kilos of herbs from all over the world in the cupboards;
• the ceramic plate works. From Good Resolutions – plates stacked on top of each other on a long table to Hard Water, plates in the shape of a waterfall at rest.

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What is his experience of art life?
“I usually work on a project basis and produce little in my studio, and I set the bar high in the development of my own work. This makes creating new work a lot of fun, but not easy. I’m glad I never had to acquire.
The assigners are becoming more and more demanding, I sometimes sit in a preparatory meeting with 15 others who all have their say. You try to take all comments into account, but it sometimes feels awkward. You see that culture in the Netherlands is neglected. I advocate that the meeting hours also count for the artist when paying.”

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Finally, what is his philosophy?
“I am a purist. If I use gold it has to be real gold. Every molecule participates. Art of the moment should be a little less socially engaged. Engagement reigns too much, and is too obvious, but engagement is an essential part, it has to be there. But it doesn’t have to be social. I prefer to see the work speak for itself, and then in several tongues.”
1) Opening sculpture Voorhout Monumental 2023, 2) Unicorns Bernhoven Hospital, 3) Rotating Kitchen, 4) Mushroom work Watou, 5) floating hidden church, 6) plate work, 7) Lux-Flex sprouts, 8) squirrel + sunlight prism Bernhoven, 9) Clingendael The Hague, 10) Portrait photo Zeger Reyers

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