Studio Rotterdam, 2017

Arie van Geest, Rotterdam, March 2017
Photo: © Rick Messemaker


Getting acquainted with Comte de Lautréamont’s Les chants de Maldoror and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland proved to be determinant for the character of the paintings that I have been making since 1968. Four periods can be distinguished, periods in which several series appear on the stage of the imagination at regular intervals. Following a long stay in New York in the previous summer, I create Wah-Wah in 1971, a series of eleven drawings in which a masked baboon crawls through the mirror and eventually meets his better half after many rambles.

In November 1972 I complete De drie Marguerites, the first introduction to a paradoxical and poetic world of delusion that is influenced by literature above all things. Alice is to dominate my work for ten years. During this period she increasingly represents my alter ego that is trying to put would-be reality in perspective in a bright, classical composition of surrealist settings.

In the early eighties I say goodbye to Alice. The paintings are becoming more and more expressionist and complex in character. They are the windows looking out on a hermetic universe of stratifications in which - in addition to literature - history of art proves to be a major source of inspiration. In the autumn of 1984 Tableau Mourant arises, a series of 98 water-colours induced by Het einde van de dag, a painting that Vincent van Gogh made in 1889 after a painting by Jean Franœois Millais. The series was exhibited in the Gemeentemuseum of The Hague in 1986. A year later it was shown in the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh in Amsterdam and purchased by this museum in 1987.

In the mid-nineties Alice returns in the paintings. She is now accompanied by Pinocchio, the representative of the lie, and in the Neverland of painting she meets Peter Pan, the perpetual shadowless youth. An unmistakable danger is lurking in the bushes of the lost children’s paradise. In 1999 Desolation Row arises, taking stock of imaginary creatures living in the domain of mild madness. Between 2009 and 2011 I work on the series of 12 paintings Alice (high, low and in between), a search through the history of art interwoven with illustrations by John Tenniel, the first illustrator of Alice in Wonderland.

In the summer of 2011 I embark on a new period and make an initial reconnaissance for the new series The broken promised land, a series in which at present some thirty paintings have been completed. The garden that joins my French summer-residence and the river Vienne is my preferred point of departure to accommodate my heroes and demons justifiably. Surrounded by the brilliant sunlight and free nature’s botanic rampancy they play their roles in the imaginary circus of the mind.

Arie van Geest
November 5th, 2015

Atelier Rotterdam, April 2019

Studio Rotterdam, April 2019
Photo: © Vincent Mentzel

Atelier Rotterdam, april 2019

Studio Rotterdam, April 2019

© Arie van Geest