Written by Dyami Millarson
Oerfoarm is a Frisian word that is integral to my father’s artistic philosophy. Its Dutch equivalent is oervorm. Oerfoarm/oervorm may be translated as primal form and the plural of this Frisian/Dutch word is oerfoarmen/oervormen. This English translation is only an approximation. The first element oer- is always hard to render in English because it evokes a certain primordial feeling and it conveys a certain sense of authenticity and may imply a return to an original state of being. The prefix oer- is cognate with German ur-, which has been adopted into English due to rendition problems of the concept expressed in this affix. Therefore, it may be more accurate to render oerfoarmen/oervormen into English as ur-forms.
The oer-concept (or ur-concept if you will) is vital for understanding my father’s artistic philosophy. Oer- may not only be a prefixed element in Frisian/Dutch, but it may also be a noun. My father has often expressed his admiration of ‘de oer’, which translates roughly to ‘that which is or feels primordial’. One peculiar example of this noun is ‘de minsklike oer’ in Frisian or ‘de menselijke oer’, which is a concept my father often spoke of, as he is fascinated with ‘the oer of humanity’.
This is not to be confused with oerminsk in Frisian or oermens in Dutch, which means ‘ur-human’ or ‘primordial human being’. The cultural concept of oer is the red thread throughout my father’s work: my father has always been interested in finding creative ways to capture or depict ‘de oer’, usually he sought to do this through 3D art. My father’s work is essentially a lifelong experiment with finding ways to accurately depict ‘de oer’ in art. It is even my father’s form belief that art must be based on ‘de oer’ and that which is not based on ‘de oer’ cannot be true art according to this philosophical definition that answers what art is.
In conclusion, all of my father’s work depict ‘de oer’ in its various, incomprehensible forms. ‘De oer’ is beyond human understanding, yet it permeates the world or universe in which we live. According to my father, we as Dutch/Frisian people have lost our connection with ‘de oer’ and his art aims to restore that connection with the incomprehensible. ‘De oer’ is awe-inspiring, it is human yet non-human in a frightening way, it is perhaps like a Lovecraftian monster that is beyond our human level of comprehension that seeks to make sense of the world. My father has always looked up into the day and night sky, gazing at the stars and other celestial bodies for inspiration. Astronomy is one of his fascinations, especially the mind-boggling mathematical figures that no human brain can actually fully comprehend. His fascination comes from his intuitive appreciation for everything related to ‘de oer’.
When we restore our connection with ‘de oer’, we start making use of an ‘untapped power’ again and we are allowing it to guide our being, for that which permeates the universe is seemingly unlimited power that no human mind can grasp and the human genius can never surpass it. This raw power allows my father to create his work, while it is the creative force of the universe; ‘de oer’ is that which creates everything and while ‘de oer’ is the originator of everything, human beings can’t ever create things that equal ‘de oer’, as ‘de oer’ is always expanding, always ahead and always running faster towards perfection than man can keep up with. Mankind can never match ‘de oer’. My father has expressed this sentiment as follows: ‘De mens kan de natuur niet evenaren.’ This translates to: ‘Mankind cannot match [the perfection of] nature.’ So, rather than fighting it, he chooses to subject himself to it and become one with ‘de oer’ for his philosophical-artistic work.
Being guided by ‘de oer’, my father has often said: ‘Ik geloof niet in kunstmatige dingen, namelijk hetgeen de mens maakt in een poging om de natuur te verbeteren.’ This translates to: ‘I do not believe in artificial things, i.e., that which man creates in an attempt to improve upon nature.’ Thus, he believes that ‘de oer’ or nature cannot be improved upon, and that ‘de oer’ or nature has already achieved a state that is more perfect than what we can ever wish to produce as human beings. Again, that is why my father embraces ‘de oer’ in his work and lets ‘de oer’ speak to him directly for the creation of his works of art.
When my father talks about communicating or interaction with ‘de oer’ in the sense that one alllows oneself to be open to what ‘de oer’ dictates or stipulates, he brings up the Dutch concept of ‘het onderbewuste’ (the subconscious mind). He believes that ‘de menselijke oer’ can be found in ‘het onderbewuste’ and that the latter is an inborn faculty of the mind for interacting with ‘de oer’. It may be seen as an primal concept of the telephone; ‘de oer’ calls humanity through ‘het onderbewuste’ and humans may choose to listen to this. If humans listen to ‘de oer’, they can unlock unmatched creative powers that are intuitive and spontaneous and natural at the same time.
My father always says that he bases his work on ‘het onderbewuste’ and he allows his ‘onderbewuste’ to guide him, which is another artistic way of his to express that ‘de oer’ is his guide for all of his artistic endeavours. When others ask him how he makes his art, he is often at loss for words, because ‘het onderbewuste’, which is the channel through which ‘de oer’ communicates directly with humanity, is not readily explained and requires philosophical initiation through art to be ‘experienced’, for art is an experience and it is the unbridled means by which ‘de oer’, the inherent and intrinsic essence of the universe and humanity, can be explored. Art allows the kind of freedom that one needs to explore the questions of life and no other means than art, which naturally offers freedom, is as adequate for exploring a topic as grand as ‘de oer’.
Art means, in my father’s sense, not freedom to the artist to bolster his ego, but freedom to ‘de oer’ to express and reveal itself to mankind. Thus, while ‘de oer’ or the universe communicates through the artist, true art contains messages that are to be deciphered by mankind; true art carries a message, even if the artist himself may not comprehend it, and therefore art is not empty, devoid of meaning, but full of deeper meaning and rich in hidden messages. It is up to mankind to make sense of art and thus to spot ‘de oer’ in the true works of art that have been produced by artists guided by ‘de oer’. My father sees himself merely as a messenger of ‘de oer’ and he leaves it up to the people to find the messages. All in all, art that lacks meaning is no message from ‘de oer’, and therefore it was made by no messenger, but someone who did not listen to ‘de oer’. People who are no messengers do not possess what may be called ‘oerbewustzijn’ (oer-consciousness), which is the state of mind of someone guided by ‘de oer’.
When my father produces works of art based on the guidance of ‘de oer’, he is searching for oerfoarmen/oervormen, which I mentioned at the beginning of this article. My father sees the artist, whom he defines as someone initiated into the ‘oerbewustzijn’, as someone engaging in a ‘zoektocht’ (quest). This ‘zoektocht’ is aimed at finding the ways to depict ‘de oer’ through shapes which he calls oerfoarmen/oervormen. Moreover, these oerfoarmen/oervormen can be found in nature and they serve as inspiration. Oerfoarmen/oervormen are not just shapes that which are depicted in art based on ‘de oer’, but they are also shapes found in the universe that we ought to be inspired by for the creation of art; ‘de oer’ speaks through ‘oerfoarmen/oervormen’. In conclusion, art is oerfoarm/oervorm-based in that it is (1) oerfoarm/oervorm-depicting, (2) oerfoarm/oervorm-inspired and (3) oerfoarm/oervorm-communicating or more clearly stated ‘communicating through oerfoarmen’.
While ‘oerfoarmen/oervormen’ is that which the ‘zoektocht’ of the artist is based on, he is searching ways to depict a higher or underlying reality that although visible is also invisible to the human eye, and the true artist seeks to also depict or render visible what is fundamentally invisible. In this way, the messenger of ‘de oer’ gives a concrete shape to metaphysics so that humans may perceive it, and thus the artist is simply a depicter of metaphysics. This truly the point of ‘vormgeving’ (giving a shape or form to something, i.e., depiction), which defines style of artist’s work. While art and metaphysics intersect, art and philosophy are one and the same in my father’s view; he rejects its distinction as artificial, and based on ‘oerbewustzijnsgebrek’ (lack of oer-consciousness). Depicting or ‘vormgeving’ is creating shapes that make the metaphysical world understandable to humans. While humans cannot normally comprehend ‘de oer’, they need messengers who convey the messages of ‘de oer’ in human form and those are the philosopher-artists, particularly in a future society that is to come and that will have restored its relationship with ‘de oer’ and that respects the work of the philosopher-artists for bringing humanity in close contact with ‘de oer’.