Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Visser, Harm - VM - Harm Visser

Harm Visser: As In My Soul (Landscape after Van Gogh)

In Search of Space

by Harm Visser

Recently my wife and I visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I was yet again touched by his work. I noticed that I have a great affinity with him as ‘artist of the ordinary’ as well as with his search for a reality that cannot be perceived by another, that you cannot explain. For some time I have been searching for ‘space’ in my work. Up till now my work has been rigid, defined, finished. I often experience it as oppressive and small. Sometimes I wonder if I did achieve anything these last few years. Sometimes it seems as if something has eluded me. But a while ago I noticed that I was coming closer to expressing what lives in my soul.

A year ago a man entered my studio. He had a pale face, a thick coat and a backpack. A cord hung out of his backpack proceeding in the direction of his coat. He looked at one of my paintings and started to weep. I was deeply moved. I asked him what struck him so in the painting. He told me that his cancer treatment had come to its end. He said nothing further. He just wept. His wife later said that the colours and the short poem I had written next to it had moved him profoundly:

In the evening there is so much beauty in the blood-red sky
when air and water touch each other
my God, the night is visible
the blackness coming closer from behind me

It seems that there is more emotional depth in my work than I realized.

A few days after I had been at the Van Gogh Museum, I went into my studio and painted the picture shown at the top of this meditation. I painted it with acrylic at great speed. It is an emotional work. Not realistic, or is it? It is obvious what it represents but it also evokes questions. What is happening behind that horizon? A fire? Or is it the light of the dawn or a setting sun?

It was a glorious moment at my easel as I was enjoying the large brush strokes. Colours mixed, I was looking for transitions, not so much for reality but for something more, something deeper. I was reaching for light in the painting, while savouring the colours. I was inspired, moved. At moments like this I touch places in my soul that I cannot describe in words. The colours and forms, the complete picture and its elements do the talking for me.  

There is also a restlessness in this work, a search. Wandering about and searching for an encounter, inspired by a saying of Martin Buber: “All real life is encounter.” I am looking for this depth in my life, just as it seems to be present in my work. People are touched by the ‘honesty’ of the landscape.

I now understand my own work better than ever. This year I will continue to search for ‘space’.


Harm Visser: As In My Soul (Landscape after Van Gogh), 2019, acrylic on panel, 30 x 50 cm.

Harm Visser: Blood-red Beautiful Sky, 2019, acrylic on panel, 15 x 30 cm.

Harm Visser (b. 1979) is a Dutch painter and sculptor who has been drawing since childhood. Already very early on he was fascinated by animals and nature in general. When he was thirteen years old he started taking courses in drawing and painting. From 1999 - 2001 he attended the Vrije Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten (Free Academy for Visual Arts) in Nunspeet, a village with a long history of painters. Being a perfectionist Harm Visser looks for the right completion of his work. That can mean a suitable frame, the choice of which is also very important for him. Sometimes, however, that is not enough. He collects materials that could make the perfect finish. An old oak pole of a haystack can become an ideal base for an owl. A dragonfly does not hang on the wall, but floats gracefully on a reed, made of polished stainless steel. Wonder is a key word with many meanings for Harm. “Nature is not only what I see around me. It is an endless world of experience in which we are allowed to ‘be’ and where we are touched by visible and invisible things.” For Harm the concept of ‘miracle’ is the foundation of all that exists. To give expression to the dimensions of colour and depth in a landscape, he speaks of ‘layers’. “There are diverse atmospheres that, in turn, generate our differing experiences of the landscape. We don’t look at a landscape, we look into it.” Harm has exhibited in many renowned galleries since his twentieth year.

  ArtWay Visual Meditation April 28, 2019