Amsterdam Art Week 17–27 Juni 21 Amsterdam Art Week 17–27 Juni 21 Amsterdam Art Week 17–27 Juni 21

Mai van Oers, At the back of Beyond, Birth, 100 x 140 cm, potlood, kleurpotlood op papier, 2014, Photo credits/ John Tromp

In 2019, artist Mai van Oers was part of the jury of the Special Award, a four-yearly prize for outsider art. She has a great love for these artists, who have little or no contact with the mainstream art world, and is amazed at how insider and outsider art remain separate. Together with Galerie Fleur & Wouter, she decided to exhibit her work alongside her favorite Special Award participants. For the gallery, the exhibition is a way to introduce this art to a young audience. 

“It’s this art’s great impact on the viewer that makes it so good,”  Van Oers says. “Just like in music, there’s a direct line to the viewer’s heart and emotions.”  

The exhibition features a combination of media. Heinze van Dijken shows totems made from rolls of clay and based on images that he finds exciting – women and girls, or people with striking clothes or makeup such as clowns and comic characters. 

Jan Benecke also works with ceramics, creating imaginative, often fragile constructions inspired by animals and human figures. His sculptures are irresistible in their simplicity, and he uses glazing on some parts where it has the most effect.

The textile sculptures of Maurits Sterkenburg started with a thread that he found in his pocket and played with, knotting it to make a little creature. Nowadays he makes large works inspired by animals in a wide range of colors and techniques. He calls them kolozaïks, colossi structured like mosaics.

Thomas Verlaek won the Special Award for his drawings, which he cuts out and sticks on top of each other to create collages with great depth. Depicting scenes from violent action films, they have a claustrophobic feel, as if we are part of the scene and cannot move.

On a very different note, the sensitive and poetic drawings of Ab Stiva, carefully juxtaposing animals and plants on the paper, radiate an extraordinary tranquility. 

Bea Schonewille makes tapestries using the mola technique, from central and South America, in which organic forms are cut out of fabric and hemmed. Because of a handicap, she spends most of her time lying down, so when she travels by car she sees only sky, treetops, and high-voltage pylons. The pylons and their distinctive interplay of lines are her source of inspiration.

Mai van Oers’ oeuvre consists of drawings and paintings, in itself not an unusual combination until you see them. They are two totally different worlds, the paintings almost abstract, the drawings often very realistic. What they have in common is the landscape as a theme and their perfect mastery of technique. The paintings are worlds in themselves, simultaneously recognizable and alienating, treading a fine line between figuration and abstraction and using a wide range of painting techniques. 

Van Oers’ drawings are worlds in which familiar elements are combined to form alienating images: cathedrals, tombs, and fairytale figures and animals living in environments full of structures, some inspired by reality and others following their own logic.


Mai van Oers (NL, 1953), Heinze van Dijken (NL, 1987), Jan Benecke (NL, 1990), Maurits Sterkenburg (NL, 1987), Thomas Verlaek (NL, 1990), Ab Stiva (NL, 1953), Bea Schonewille (NL, 1959)

  • Friday 25 June 19:00–20:30
  • Performance
  • Kiri Mioki