Wim Drion

Text: Avgi Kalogianni | Photos: Ioanna Fisilani

A Parian Dutch

In 2008, a painting exhibition entitled “Dutch Artists on Paros” was held at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts, in Parikia. Out of the five artists who participated in the exhibition, the most Parian one was definitely Wim Drion, not just because his work is inspired by the Parian landscape –both natural and man-made, not only because the Aegean light seeps right through it, but also because Wim Drion, along with his wife Eva are, I feel, much more deeply integrated into the Parian society and cultural life than the rest of the foreign artists living here.

Dividing their time between Amsterdam and Paros, they have chosen to live in the Castle area, in a beautiful old house, they have Parian friends, Eva speaks Greek quite fluently, they enjoy sipping their afternoon coffee at their favourite cafe on the seaside among the locals, and they feel at home in Paros. Here Wim designs and photographs the works he will later complete at his studio in winter, while, in the past, he used to give painting classes.

Wim Drion was born in Voorburg, the Netherlands, in 1946. He studied at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and taught at the Willem de Kooning Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam until 2006, and at the Arnhem Academy of Architecture (ArtEZ University of the Arts) until 2010. Besides his academic teaching, he has served as Chairman of the Copyright Committee, and, through the Professional Association of Artists, he has promoted the idea of ​​ loaning works of art to private individuals for short periods of time so that every art aficionado who is not as comfortably off as a collector, can enjoy a work of art in their space.
In collaboration with leading architects, he has decorated a number of public buildings with murals composed with various techniques, upon commission by the Dutch government. His works are displayed in private and public collections and museums in the Netherlands, such as the renowned Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
He held his first exhibition in Belgium at the age of 18 and, since then, he has featured in numerous group and individual exhibitions in the Netherlands and abroad, including Athens, Paros and Naxos.

Wim Drion first came to Paros with his wife Eva and their children in 1975, out of a random but soon-to-be conscious choice. They had arrived at Piraeus and were checking out the schedules of the islands-bound ferry boats, when an officer of the then Tourist Police approached them and recommended Paros. It sounded like a good idea to them since the voyage took only 8-9 hours, compared to the one to Crete which lasted 12!
“I wanted to get to know the history and culture of Greece, the temples, anything I could… Greece had captivated my mind and, at that time, it was very cheap too…”, he would later say to Dimitra Hanioti who, in 2011, as part of her thesis at the Athens School of Fine Arts, documented –almost– all the visual artists who were active in Paros from 1950 onwards. He goes on to say, talking about the island, “It’s the whole package; it’s the intermingling of the locals with the foreigners; its size – neither too big nor too small, something in between; you can buy a book, find a newspaper, there are exhibitions, there‘s cultural activity in the summer, a nice concert, the American schools …”.

And, as Dimitra Hanioti writes further, “A significant number of the participating (WN: in the research) artists, due to their occasional or permanent stay on the island, are inclined towards figurative painting assuming an impressionist style due to the special light, the colours and the constant atmospheric changes.” All of the above, together with Drion’s sensitivity to the landscape, to the things we see every day but fail to pay attention to, such as the “Psaroplakes” (fish slates), which made for the title of one of his exhibitions, the sewer lids, the fishing nets and the reflections of light on the surface of the sea, are a source of inspiration for his work.