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Erwin De Vries And The Art Of Suriname

Erwin De Vries And The Art Of Suriname

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Updated: 6 January 2017
Culture Trip looks at the life and work of one of Suriname’s most successful artists, Erwin de Vries, who has been heralded for his vividly colourful portrayals of Surinamese life.

Erwin de Vries’ visually stimulating art is widely renowned as an expression of the national identity of Suriname. De Vries has been creating works of art for almost sixty years and began his career in 1949 when he travelled to Amsterdam to study under the Belorussian artist Ossip Zadkine. De Vries continues to this day to create art and sculptures which are exhibited around the world as well as in his homeland of Suriname. De Vries’ art is instantly expressive and vibrant, with bold and dynamic colors; he cites his favorite subject to be the body, the male and female nude, eroticism and portraits.

De Vries’ has noted that Suriname, where he returned to live from 1964, is a continuing influence on his work ‘which is clear from his exuberant use of color, form and structures, elements which are more intense in a tropical country.’This work has been critically acclaimed throughout De Vries’ long career. He was awarded the Damsko Millenium Award for Expressive Arts in 1999, in 2000 the Caribbean Arts and Culture Award for Outstanding Contribution and in 2005 the ‘Grootmeester van de Ere-Orde’.

Despite turning 83 in 2012 De Vries maintains a prolific work rate which is testament to his fertile imagination and prodigious artistic talent, within Suriname he is referred to as the ‘Grand Old Master’. His recent exhibition was entitled Tribute to the Woman; a collection of sensual, emotive and expressive, yet respectful portraits of women.

Erwin de Vries is by no means part of a rare breed of Surinamese artists, the country has blossomed with artists over the past few decades and both artists and audience continue to grow and maintain an evolving Surinamese art world. As Rinaldo Klas, artist and director at the Nola Hatterman institute in Paramaribo, comments: ‘There are more and more visitors at every exhibition nowadays, the audience is growing literally and figuratively. People ask more questions now. The public approaches you more readily’.

The uniqueness of Surinamese art is evoked by the ‘Federation of Suriname Visual Art’ which declares that Surinamese art gets its particular power from the ‘the brightness and the heat of the sun, as well as the different ethnic groups living there:Amerindians, Creoles, Indians, Javanese, Chinese, Lebanese, Jews and Europeans, who have mixed through the ages and produced fascinating ‘mixtures’’.

The Federation of Suriname Visual Art brings together individual and groups of artists, art dealers, galleries and other members of the art world in Suriname. Their website provides an insight to the exuberant art that Surinamese artists produce, reflecting a culture that provides an important contribution to the South American art world.