Artist and friend Silas Merlin kindly pointed me towards a recently opened exhibition at the Small World Art gallery’s sky complex. Peter Vos in Second Life celebrates the work of Dutch illustrator, humorist, caricaturist and artist, Peter Vos – and it is an absolute must see.
Born in 1935 in Utrect in 1935, Peter Vos – full name Petrus Antonius Carolus Augustinus Vos – was the son of Cornelius J Vos, a well-known journalist of his time. He attended the Amsterdam Academy of Fine Arts when compulsory attendance was very much the order of the day: 9am through noon, then 1pm through 4pm and then 7pm through 9pm – something which may have contributed to Vos’ own work ethic in adult life.
Central to his work is a wonderful mix of styles and approaches – and also a deep and loving intimacy with his subjects and audience. In his twenties, he produced Portrait of Papa for his ailing father, followed by a book of pastiches lovingly depicting his father in a series of guises. Later, when he had a young son of his own, he would demonstrate this love for his family again, writing loving letters and postcards to the young boy, relating marvellous journeys around and beyond the Earth, opening his son’s own imagination.
All of this – the rich diversity of styles, the ability to move from keen observer to drawer of the fantastic, and his intimate expressions of love – is displayed throughout Peter Vos in Second Life. It is a most remarkable tribute to a most remarkable artist; one made all the more moving and intimate when one considers it has been curated by his son, known in-world as Karkassus Jigsaw.
Set against a perfect black backdrop, the artwork has been reproduced in-world with breathtaking clarity which brings Vos’ attention to detail, whether as an illustrator, humorist, artist or father, fully to the fore. These are all exquisite pieces which instantly capture and hold our eye – and our imagination. Commentary is strong within many of them, as is a wicked sense of humour, together with some poignant observation.
In an exhibition as remarkable as this, it is difficult to draw attention to any particular aspect, as they are all deserving of our time and attention. However, there are two parts within Peter Vos in Second Life which should perhaps be given additional mention. The first is on the ground floor of the hall, where Karkassus presents reproductions of the miniatures his father started painting in 1966. And by miniatures, I mean entire paintings and portraits the size of a rijksdaaldar – just 33 mm (1.3 in) across; so small some of the detailing meant working with just a single hair on a brush.
These are truly wonderful pieces (see the example above), carefully reproduced for in-world display so that when you click on one of them, your camera will zoom and centre itself on the image (press ESC if it doesn’t), and remain there until you click Stand. These are displayed alongside Peter Vos’ stamp designs and some of his postcards to his son, which offer a further personal dimension to this exhibition.
On the upper floor of the exhibit, nestled between the images on display is another personal tribute to the artist. Lit by a single lamp sits his desk, chair pushed back. The paraphernalia of Vos’ work are scattered around: books reflecting his interest in mythology sit on the floor, while pencils, pens, ink, coffee, a pouch of tobacco and more, vie for space beneath the cone of light cast by the lamp. And amidst all this, again marvellously reproduced and scaled for avatars, are the artist’s notebooks, displaying his meticulous studies of birds. Looking at them, it is hard not to believe he has simply stepped away from his work for a minute or two, and if we wait quietly enough, he’ll return, and allow us to watch him as he continues sketching a sparrow.
Sadly, Peter Vos passed away at the start of 2010. However, this exhibition, which mixes elements from earlier celebrations of his work, stands as a fitting tribute to his art and his life; a man gifted with a wonderful talent he chose to share with us. It is perhaps one of the most engaging exhibitions to be found in Second Life, and one fully deserving in gaining a continued audience.
Many thanks to Karkassus for once again sharing his father’s work with us.