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Vor ein Bild hat Jeder sich hinzustellen, wie vor einen Fürsten, abwartend, ob und was es zu ihm sprechen werde... Arthur Schopenhauer

The work of Eric de Nie engages itself on the edge of contrasts. Horizontal and vertical. Abstraction and figuration. Formal and informal. Background and paint. These apparent contrasts, paradoxes, conduct themselves as the warp and weft of weaving and are converted into a solid entity. His paintings remind one of landscapes; the horizontal coastline, the vertical joints of trees or even fabricated objects such as architecture, maps and towers. These are universal structures which form the basis for all that we perceive around us: slices and fantasies of reality. In spite of the obvious similarities, the paintings of de Nie have various atmospheres. The palet varies from richly contrasting black- white to creamy "sfumato" à la Monet, and from southern olive tints to lucid Mondrian-colours.

Running lines

The lines in de Nie´s work draw themselves. Gravity pulls the paint to the bottom of the surface. They are grid-like works of lines, perpendicular to one another, which gradually close. This process is controlled by the artist who shifts the position of the canvas. He decides at which moment which side is down or up and from which direction gravity may perform its work. He familiarizes himself, as it were, with the canvas and thereby steers the direction of the flowing lines. How it turns out remains, in part, coincidental. Exactly where and how does the movement stop? The working-method of de Nie arises from the need to apply structure and, at the same time, allow the material to go its own way. The proposition of Schopenhauer, "One must confront a painting precisely as if approaching a sovereign, namely waiting, in fact, to see if it will speak and what, then, it has to relate...", has to do with patience which must be exercised. This applies to the observer. Here it is also, however, applicable to the manner in which de Nie´s paintings come to fruition. The artist has a grip on the process, but he likewise allows himself be taken by surprise.

Direct but not straight

Diluted acrylic paint is dosed onto the edges of the canvas with a siphon. Direct but not straight ´strokes´. A brush rarely comes into play. The making of a painting is an organic growth process. In this sense the comparison with etching is appropriate. For there too, time lays siege to the image - through the corrosive process of the acid. Time has influence on the length, thickness and the intensity of colourful lines of de Nie, and on his manner of script.


For de Nie the grid is the prime form to approach space.

It is a good frame in which to formulate my observations. It is a vein in which, on the one hand, I can explore the physical qualities of the surface and, on the other, can dwell, as it were, wandering through illusionary spaces inside and outside the painting.

He formulates it so. The lines represent space and time, set out on an x- and y- axis. The space is specified through borders, countless horizons of the framework; innumerable little frames within that greater frame which is the painting. "Ramificato" it is called in Italian: branched out. In the largest window, the canvas itself, the space is further divided, branching out into increasingly smaller units. "Branching out" also has an organic connotation. It is a growth process which is formed of itself.

First the canvas receives a ground-tone. Thereupon a rhythm of paint-lines are given, more or less, free rein. Dripping paint-lines ­ also occasionally drawn with brush or chalk ­ slowly form a multi-layered image. The relationship of the line to the ground-tone is jointly defined through the absorptive action of the ground-tone. The material plays a role but, aside from that, also if the ground-tone is wet. Sometimes a line glides towards the bottom, hesitates halfway, spreads itself and sinks further, becoming more gradual and progressively smaller. The carrier of the painting, be it linen or canvas, also influences the final results. In watercolours, the character of the course of the dripping line is, to a great degree, determined by the structure of the paper. In some drawings on paper, the impression of the underlying sur-face is literally outlined in the lines, becoming thereby visible.

In his works, Eric de Nie gets a grip on space and time, and maps out his visual impressions. Simultaneously, he creates an exceptionally powerful character. Palet and line-play hold you captive in these paintings in which you become completely absorbed.

Line in the work

Every new canvas is related to past and future works. One can speak of a permanent dialogue. Paintings, watercolours and drawings from various periods elaborate on one another, and react on one another. In fact, de Nie´s fantasies have not altered throughout the years. New possibilities and new problems are still emanating from the work itself. Every canvas is, in itself, both phase and objective at the same time. The work expands itself increasingly further. By meticulously observing the behaviour of the material, de Nie appreciates his adopted process more and more with the passage of time. The interaction between artist and matter is thusly intensified and they increasingly appear to anticipate one another.

Music and chromatics

The rhythm of the work is emphasized by music. In the performance "Ostinato" in the Beurs van Berlage (2000) the experimental classic "Canto Ostinato" by Simeon ten Holt was performed by four pianists. Simultaneously Eric de Nie painted his work "Ostinato" live. It seemed as if de Nie were conducting with tubes of paint and hair dryers. He dried the paint intermittently with the hair dryers. The waiting time was therefore shortened so he could maintain the rhythm without the colours running.

"Canto Ostinato" suits the work of Eric de Nie wonderfully well. The chromatic and rhythmic connect very handsomely together. The vein of the composer leaves much room for performance by the musicians. This is, on the one hand, comparable to improvisation in jazz music, which de Nie enjoys listening to as well. In both cases it has to do with music which presents position to the moment, to intuition and the casual dialogue of the instruments. Precisely within this framework his painting also offers a place for the unexpected which may turn up. The horizontal musical lines are divided into the vertical measures of the rhythm.

Pars pro toto

In Theatre Zeebelt, in The Hague, Eric de Nie staged a similar performance (2001). "The Creation": a painters workshop, part of a series of performances where the public witnessed the creation of a work of art. "The Creation" was organized by Kees Wieringa. During the production of the painting, the artist´s brain was visualized for the public in the auditorium by means of certain colour settings. Hesitation was red; action green and contemplation blue. At the close of the evening, the painting was divided into 56 pieces and everyone received a piece to take home. Literally a "pars pro toto", a part of the whole: a tiny frame of that infinitely branched out frame which is a painting.

Renée Borgonjen, 2001

(translation from the dutch: John Hall, Seasons Galleries, Den Haag)