Cyril Hamersma - Artist

Cyril Hamersma - Artist
Hamersma - Artist at Work

Cyril Hamersma - Artist - 1919 to 1994

Also a prolific writer and inventor . . .
Born 1919, London
Painted from an early age
Served in Royal Army Medical
Corps 1939-45
Taught art to fellow prisoners in Stalag VIIIB
Caring jobs
throughout his life to make ends meet
Married and with four daughters
Died 1994, Essex
This man could paint. See his self-portraits: 1965, 1983, 1992. See his landscapes, 'The Cornfield' and his nudes. He also understood the value of abstract art in touching people's awareness and he conveyed ideas through images which provoked enlightenment, pleasure and emotion in the viewers. Hamersma’s artwork regularly focused on the simple things in life: a juicy red apple; a welcoming pot of tea; a freshly fried egg – the basics of which he was, along with many thousands of men, deprived for four years as a prisoner of war in Germany in World War II. Abstract explorations were similarly derivative. He was fascinated by ‘the line’ in art. Where does one object finish and another begin, when you look at them as a two dimensional image? And every object is made up of cells, minuscule cells invisible to the naked eye but Hamersma exploded ideas and looked further into them, painting and drawing ‘cells’; images made up of cells; ‘metaphysical cell structures’ which led him to invent the Squircle. It was his Squircle work that became the pinnacle. “The Squircle is Art, Science and Religion – together in one image,” he said in January 1994. “Light invites everyone to join the fight against the darkness. Our hearts and eyes are drawn together to eliminate and squeeze,” he wrote in March 1994

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

After his Death

When Hamersma died, in 1994, he left a house full of 400 paintings, and many more sculptures, photos and drawings. Anyone whose parent was creative knows the importance of finding homes for the work after their death but with at least 20 of these pieces being 8’ x 4’ and most of the rest of them about half that size, very few relatives’ and friends’ households could accommodate even a single one. Even though he’d had dozens of exhibitions around the world during his life and donated works to the major galleries in many countries as well as the UK, nobody was prepared to take the collection of work; giving ‘lack of space’ or ‘strict selection criteria’ as their reason. The full story is detailed in ‘Hamersma: Inspired’ but the major works eventually went into safe keeping with Braintree District Museum.

After some years they commissioned a consultant to study the body of work and write a report. This confirmed what the family had been trying to convey: the Squircle Work and Hamersma’s abstract explorations are the enduring work and were abreast of – or many years ahead of - his contemporaries. Considering the man received no formal art training but was led by instinct and creative vigour, this is a great compliment.

In 2001 the museum put on an exhibition of Hamersma’s portraits alongside a grant-aided display of local artists’ portrait work. The ‘Faces’ are beautiful caricatures of famous people including members of parliament and pop stars. We displayed copies of letters he’d sent to his subjects and some he’d received back from them, wishing him well and commenting on his unusual interpretations of their features. Some of them were very entertaining! In 2002 the museum dedicated the whole exhibition space to Hamersma’s Kerbscapes, for which ‘Hamersma: Inspired with our Environment’ was written. Copies of this are still available through this website. [Please email.]

During his life Hamersma made it into the local and national newspapers interested in his work. He also appeared on local television a few times and made a short film with Channel 4 towards the end of his life. I have collected these together and created a short compilation that illustrates Cyril’s work, his personality, the way people responded to him (and sometimes provoked him): for copyright reasons it cannot be sold but is a family heirloom.

There is sure to be more of Hamersma’s work in existence than is recorded. Over his 75 years he sold or gave away many paintings and drawings, not to mention the hundreds that were destroyed during or after the war and not forgetting the many dramatic bonfires he created when ‘changing styles’, moving house or merely losing his temper with his art.

This painting of boats in Littlehampton Harbour came to light in 2010 when its owner found this website and made contact to say he bought it in 1960 when Hamersma used to cut his hair. He still treasures it and says the colours are as vivid as the day he bought it.

If you think you have a piece of Hamersma’s artwork in your possession, please get in touch.

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