Ridge Street College of Art, Watford and Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham
Program / Degree
June 11, 1977
If you're an artist, what kind of art do you make?
Robert Jan VAN BEEK was born in Wandsworth, London in 1955. He was the second son of Bluebell Van Beek (nee Hastings-Horne)and the Dutch printmaker and commercial artist Willem Van Beek. Prints and cartoons by Willem Van Beek are collected in the Resistance Museum and in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Robert seemed to inherit some of his father's drawing facility and his delight in finding the humorous and incongruous in images. By 16 he had developed an enthusiast interest in what was then considered to be modern art.
A keen climber he joined the Foundation Course at Watford after having spent the previous three months mountaineering in the Alps. The course was run by Michael Werner and Peter Schmitt with Michael Murphy teaching painting. Dieter Roth used the college print room. After the arrival of the art historian and critic Charles Harrison polarises the fine artists into 'Schmitt-ites'(romantic, mystical) and the 'Harrison-ites'(critical, adversarial). Van Beek gravitated towards Harrison camp and was one of a group of students who were to maintain links with Harrison and Art & Language over the three years.
Whilst a student in Nottingham Rob Van Beek was among a group of politicised students associated with the Art & Language SCHOOL project. They practised a form of 'institutional critique' informed by both Marxism and Conceptual Art.
After graduating Van Beek worked as a miner and was active in the miner's union for two years. He took up drawing again after a long hiatus and also developed a lay interest in analytical philosophy - particularly analytical aesthetics.
After leaving Gedling Colliery in 1980 Rob Van Beek secured some visiting lecturing work in art colleges and universities. However he describes how he gave up these opportunities. He felt that he did not go to art college in order to become a 'new art historian'.
Over the coming years and decades Rob Van Beek tried to re-capture some to the interested in making art that had been jaded by art education. He was able to live cheaply in Nottingham, have a relationship and kids, and still be able to get on with some form of artwork and critical thinking.
He was a founder-member of the Horses' Mouth, a discussion and exhibiting group for Nottingham artists, and later organised the Contemporary Aesthetics Network at the Angel Row gallery.
He exhibits and gives talks locally. Topics of include 'Aesthetics and Childhood', 'Persons and Art Forms', 'Aesthetics and Psychosis' and many other topics on art and aesthetics.
He describes his lifelong involvement in art as being "deeply unfilled - despite many deeply fulfilling moments".
About my artwork
Rob Van Beek gives talks and workshops on a range of general subjects. He avoids talking directly about his artworks - except with people he regards as artist-friends and comrades.
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Welcome, Robert. Look forward to seeing your art. Interesting reading your info. I know many that have become somewhat jaded and disenfranchised by the art world/system. Interested to see your work with Art & Language.