Peter Westenbrink







I work with language and images. Essentially I make artists’ books in which I let words and images compete with each other. They have a cohesion that demands to be discovered. ‘Abstraction’ is the obstacle that must be overcome. Therefore, my books have to be considered a niche. They are for the enthusiast. The individual images are also for sale. I prefer to print them on aluminum.

Ever since my childhood, I have been fascinated by the moon. It regularly plays a prominent role in my art. For me, the moon is a metaphor for the unknown and the mysterious. As an artist, I feel like an explorer. I’m following what Apollo 15 astronaut Dave Scott said when he stepped on the moon as the 7th person: “Man must explore.” Hopefully, my art will encourage this, too.

I am Peter Westenbrink (1957), I live in Utrecht and work at the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute (De Bilt) as a part-time employee calibration meteorological instruments. I am also involved in scientific research on the ozone layer (launch ozone probes with a weather balloon).

As an artist, I am partly self-taught. I received my art education ‘on the street’, where I learned from other artists. I was also regularly to be found in the studios of students of HKU, University of the Arts, Utrecht. At the beginning of this century, I was part of the Kaasschaafcollectief, a former artists’ initiative from Utrecht. Nowadays, you can find me at the Rembrandt Art Market on Rembrandt Square, in Amsterdam. I also keep an eye on other opportunities to show my art.

From 2007 to 2012, I studied essay at the Amsterdam Writers’ School. I would have liked to do poetry, too, but it was impossible to combine the two.

To me, scientific developments are a source of inspiration. I have also been influenced by artists like Duchamp, Van Gogh, K. Schippers, Harry Mulisch, Goethe, Thomas Mann, Rimbaud and Lucebert.


SUBMISSION: In the beginning was the Word.

John 1:1-18 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

‘Maan’ (‘moon’) was the first word I learned to read and write. This is the reading board that taught me that. As a readymade, it has been transformed into Stanley Kubrick’s monolith.

I have known the word ‘moon’ from the first moment I saw the moon, I heard the word ‘moon’ and started to pronounce it myself. I was not aware of that. My conscious use of the word ‘moon’ is associated with the moment when in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, the monolith appears. The moment a humanoid throws up a piece of bone which transforms into a space ship, is actually my very first reading lesson.

  1. I was six years old. My first day at school, my first class, a reading class. Reading boards hanging on the wall in the classroom. The first board showing the moon with a word below. The teacher asking me what word it is. I don’t know and I don’t answer. I cannot read. Behind me, a classmate whispers ‘moon’. “Moon,” I say.

It was as if the word itself spoke to me. Note: had it whispered ‘tree’ or ‘house’, I would have repeated it.

In his book “From bacteria to Bach and back: The evolution of the mind” (2018), Daniel C. Dennett teaches me that in early times, our distant ancestors communicated through sounds that evolved into words. They were not aware of that, but apparently doing so was beneficial to them. The unconsciously copied and uttered sounds, and later words, which led to understanding and, eventually, to consciousness.

The evolution of the mind is a cultural evolution, for which evolution biologist Richard Dawkins introduced the term ‘meme’ (not to be confused with an internet meme). A very successful meme is the use of the word ‘moon’. Unlike genes, memes do not consist of organic material. They are not part of the DNA. Memes are a cultural concept, but they are also subject to evolution.

Our distant ancestors saw a fascinating spectacle in the sky. The word ‘moon’ is a surviving expression of this. An ‘evolutionary artifact’. It tempts us to go (back) to the moon and beyond, on a way to unknown words.

The ‘moon’ reading board is now in the possession of my oldest grandson. He is very interested in rockets and the universe. He received his first reading lesson in 2019.

Sounds that evolved into words developed into a highly technological civilization. Space travel takes us to unknown words.

Credits:Peter Westenbrink