The more you’re getting taught, the less you see reality.

Wim Kamphuis, 1939. Google him and you will find approximately two pictures and the same amount of articles. Not much going on, you might think. But the opposite is the truth. Born during WWII while being friends with some of the Netherlands’ most famous artist, Wim grew up to be a first class artist himself. But not only that. Due to his interests for artifacts from countries as Nepal, Tibet and China, he made himself a museum in his three-room-apartment. This is a portrait of one of Holland’s most interesting collectors that nobody knows about.

“I always wanted to collect art and artifacts, but I never had the money.” Wim explains while drinking his coffee. It’s two PM and the afternoon sun shines directly into his crammed living room, lighting up some glimmering skulls that are hidden behind human bones and Tibetan prayer-flags.”

“I think my urge to collect comes from the war. When I was six, five, even four years old I already had bullets and bullet belts hanging in my room. I even had a gun above my bed. That was already a collection. My father threw it away later, now it’s lost. After the war I had loads of weaponry. It literally laid there to be picked up. The houses around us where bombed to the ground, there were tanks in the streets.”
“It was that time that the desire to collect things started. You had nothing, you had to find everything! People sneaked through the streets looking for wood they could burn for warmth. Everything got stolen, so you picked stuff of the streets that you could use. Tribes in the jungle still do this. They pick up everything that is usable, and if they have something they share it with the village. That’s why I think a collective mind is congenital. As I am also an esthetic person, I like collecting pretty things the most.”

While talking, Wim can’t stop observing his collection. But his own artwork is nowhere to be found.
“If I want to see something, I take it off the wall to watch it. I could do that with my own art also, but as I’ve made it myself I don’t need to watch it every day”
But it’s not like Wim doesn’t have any of his own art in his home. One of his rooms has been turned into a small working station and a big archive, packed with his own work. A couple thousand drawings, paintings and even sculptures are stored in boxes and folders. He grabs one of his drawings and starts explaining:
“I call it Cosmosis. A combination between cosmos and osmosis. Those things belong together, so I create it. I take a template, for example a circle or a triangle, and drop them on the paper. This is where they should be, so that’s where I draw it.” When I ask him about the arbitrariness of his work, he screams ‘no!’

“It is the opposite of arbitrary. What we are doing as humans is random, and what you drop onto a surface is the contrary of that, the contrary of chaos. Nature isn’t chaos. Nature’s looking for regulation, to keep on living. Nature doesn’t destroy itself, we as humans do. So the weird thing is: my work is regulation. However you watch it, it’s always in order. It’s always regulated, but I’m not doing that; nature is! Except that I color it later, of course. “

“That is actually an even bigger challenge. To get the colors as bright as possible. The clarity in for instance the colors you see on the television screen are always brighter than colors in paint. Paint is matter. It’s hard to reach a similar amount of brightness in paintings.” In the meanwhile, Wim switched from coffee to wine. He emptied the bottle with the words: ‘like it should be; clear.’

He also writes poetry together with his paintings.


(tools van transformatie)
Phurbas zijn shamanic
demon daggers gebruikt
op grote schaal in Nepal en Tibet
voor genezing en andere
energie werkt

thunder nails
demon dolk
magisch mes
diamant spike

is een krachtig ritueel
uitvoeren gebruikt door sjamanen
tovenaars tantrikas tantrische huisartsen
op hun beurt hun macht en zeer

er is altijd gekleurd
de religieuze en spirituele tradities
die hebben ze geabsorbeerd en
en maakte hen hun eigen symbool.


(translation to English)


(tools of transformation)
Phurbas are shamanic
demon daggers used
on large scale in Nepal and Tibet
for healing and other
energy works

thunder nails
demon dagger
magic knife
diamond spike

is a powerful ritual
using used by shamans
wizards tantrikas tantric general practitioner
on their turn their power and much

there is always colored
the religious and spiritual traditions
they absorbed them and
and made them their own symbol.


This translation is not helpful, as the poem only works in Dutch. Wim doesn’t understand English that well, so if he needs to read something in English, he puts the text in a translating machine. Translating machines obviously never get things right, and Wim sees this as poetry. And who could deny that.
“It think this is a poem. But if I show this in my favorite bar, they call me a madman, so to say.”

“I started art school. I stayed there for exactly three months before I got kicked off because of my lack of preparatory course. So I’m a self-thought artist and collector. My wife died in 2007. I couldn’t afford our house on my own anymore so I had to move. When the house was sold, I finally had money to create a collection of my own. But I didn’t know a single thing about it! I learned everything I know now in about six years. It wasn’t a lifelong study.”

“I never go somewhere to search for things. I just find, because I know where to be. I visit a lot of galleries hoping to come across something. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. The funny thing is that I now have a lot of contacts that call me as soon as new paraphernalia arrives. And they give discounts!”

He stands up and frisks through his living room, coming back with a tiny white statuette.
“An ivory image from India, cut completely by hand. It’s better not to touch it too much” he explains while grabbing another figurine, this time made out of dark brown wood.”

“This used to be broken, but thankfully it’s repaired again. It’s from Bali, Indonesia. You can see that because of the monstrous head at the top. On the bottom someone wrote a number, so it probably belonged to a museum once. Maybe it’s even stolen!”

“It’s all about the beauty, the esthetics. Nobody knows who made it, it has no name. That’s beautiful. There’s not a single person in today’s art school who can make something like this. Marcel Duchamp for example had quality. Other people don’t. I’m getting old, and there is so many youth walking around these days thinking they are artists. I talk to them, disagreeing with their opinions, but they can’t handle that. Or understand it at all. But I think art in general is really unsightly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have to be like that. People should try a little harder. Learn the techniques, for example. Learn to get your own opinion. If you add something truly new, you might even get an artwork. Be authentic! Why shouldn’t be able to say those things? But people can’t handle that. For god’s sake, I’m in a fight right now!”

KAMPH is currently working on a film project about his home.

Niels F. Rodenburg