Combien de gens ne sont abstraits que pour paraître profonds.

Joseph Joubert


Even though abstract art is not my ‘thing, in the house of my 97-year-old friend Jacques I found a beautiful non-figurative piece. He got it from its author, Henk Bouwer, once the model maker of the famous Office of Meccano Architects.

Henk Bouwer

This first photo is not of good quality, yet the plot is already visible, especially when a somewhat better picture of this detail is added:


Made of wood veneer, the artist created a paradox: A three-dimensional flat surface. In itself a beautiful shape, but more particularly very intriguing, this surely the result of Bouwer’s original profession. It also looks a bit like a scale model, however not presented as such. Whether perhaps it was also meant as a model we shall never know.

This is its plot. A slight alteration of ‘climate’- the blend of ambient humidity and temperature – will change the form of these thin wood layers. This work of art is alive. Actually, I would need the patience to sit in Jacques’ room for weeks, this time with a smart camera that would record the slow progress of all these fine transformations.

Directing a series of photographs like this, however, would also seriously test the patience of my host. He wants me first of all as a chess player and to receive as his guest.

Jacques is surely lucky that deafness has struck him. Your author often calls always himself loquax. Now the two of us can play our speechless parties without this chatterbox drawing his host’s attention away from the game.

There is, indeed, another picture on a wall that, every visit again, fascinates me, a drawing made by Jacques’ son Michel, the man who once played his jazzy cracker boxes in the Jazz clubs.

Again not ideal picture:


Yet again, a slightly better view of this detail:


Figuration here touches abstraction, a combination that suits me far better than pure abstract art. Is it a landscape? Is it a picture of the sea? ‘T is certainly in the eye of the beholder.


This much is certain: Absorbed in our chess game, Jacques and I feel nourished by the lustre of those images, even if our intimacy is guarded by this Mirror Eye in which pretty much everything is caught.

As if the two of us hide there – in our own small cosmos.

Sierksma 02/26/16 Haarlem




Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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