THE FINEST PEOPLE – THE TOTEM GUY

the finest people – Totem Guy

He is the Dude, and the Dude is above all one thing: busy. Always busy. Fuckin’ busy.

Writing portraits of artists is anything but easy. As a writer, you can only lose, either because the subject of the portrait feels misunderstood or not understood at all or because your readers wonder whether this would-be Bukowski has been sniffing paint again before sitting down to write.

Let’s approach this on a personal level, an interpersonal level, also in this case a friendly level – and art will get a mention too, don’t worry.
Anton Dijkgraaf, this Dude, rarely comes alone. Actually, you normally only get him in a pack of four, including his wife Sylvia, herself an artist, and the two amiably neurotic, pocket-sized dogs, Molly and Boy (the latter tries to bark, sounding almost like Amy Winehouse at her last concert…). Their latest means of transport is a dark-green Suzuki Jim-ny (“That’s a fuckin’ cool car, man!”), which they use to travel to and fro between their small but genteel house in Benajarafe (“That’s the fuckin’ nicest place on earth, man!”) and their favourite chiringuito, the Charango (“That’s our fuckin’ second home, dude!”).

On this afternoon in December, however, we meet the Dude on the beach to take pictures of him with our high-tech drone, more than appropriately progressive for the new decade, and to ask him over a bottle of wine if we are really allowed to reveal everything about his life. His answer?

Provided it’s not the truth. So we meet him on this afternoon in December on the beach in Almayate, Juan, El Hornillero, and later then Jóse, Tranki Beach, a hundred metres further on, finding one thing everywhere – and not only there: his art.Anton, the Totem Man, a passion he has made his profession – totems for Spain, totems for the Costa del Sol, the Axarquía. “A fuckin’ nice project, man!” And: cheers! People you can only love or hate actually exist. Somewhere in between? No chance. I couldn’t give a shit about him? Impossible. And perhaps it is precisely these (in the most positive of all senses) awkward and non-conformist cha- racters, who cannot be made to conform, who make life colourful, at least more colourful than all those among the large, undefinable drifting masses extraneous to existence, of whom it is extremely hard to know whether they were also at the party last night, the one where you danced to Bonnie Tyler on the billiard table (without even suffering a blackout…).

At any rate, Anton is one of these people, love him or hate him. His work, however, irrespective of this, stands on its own. Which brings us back to that work, for his work is art. And for Anton, anything can be art.

This makes, among others, the children of the gentle author of these lines very happy, because no matter what they find, whether trampled cans, dried palm fronds or those white backbones of ten-arm cuttlefish that bear the illustrious name ‘cuttlebones’ and which are so perfect for painting once they have been washed. Anton takes everything – turning what is natural, a given, into something unnatural, something that has never existed before. Objet trouvé in fact; day-to-day objects become abstract art. Sounds good – or too pompous? It was only an attempt…

Back to the tangible, and what could be more tangible than a quotation: “Sylvia and I have travelled the world, discovering African, Indian and Asian inspirations for my work. What a ride, dude!”

That’s fuckin’ crazy shit, dude! And we love it!

Back in the day, before they settled in Andalusia, they circumvented the globe as news reporters, he as a photo- grapher, she as writer. Their home at that time was an old cigar factory in Amsterdam’s red light district (“That was fuckin’ weird, man!”). Outside, the ladies, gentlemen and others searching for instant gratification; inside, a dark room and a library with tomes on art and culture from all over the world. All that’s missing is the typewriter and our would-be Bukowski’s image would be perfect, you might think.

At some point, however, it got too cramped – and perhaps also too loud in the Rossebuurt, the largest entertainment district in Europe. So they moved to the outskirts of Amster-dam and decided to work as independent artists, on their own, but still united. Anton’s studio was an old barn beside a stable, a place where he created, large-scale, even gargantuan paintings such as the “Big Iron Horse” (2005) and the “Skeleton Man” (2007). A short time later, together with Sylvia, who in the meantime had established herself as an art photographer, he found a gallery that exhibited the works of both artists worldwide – from Amsterdam around the corner to New York on the other side of the pond.

In 2012, however, the decision was made, because we all know that Holland is good at rain and not much else: time to move on, move on to Spain, Andalusia, the Costa del Sol. They settled east of Málaga in the hills and Anton began to create his totems – made of animal skeletons, wood from old ruins in the neighbourhood, metal and dry leaves. Later then, in 2015, after moving to Benajarafe on the coast, more powerfully colourful works were created on wooden elements from old country estates, ‘freaky’ works made of driftwood, rusty cans and everyday objects.

So much for what is verifiable or biographical, aspects you usually want to (or have to) reveal about your life.
And of course it’s no surprise to anyone that the Dude, Anton Dijkgraaf, like every freelance artist in the world, is also forced to turn his creativity into hard cash, to generate followers on Instagram and Facebook (hashtag, or whatever the things with @ and # are called: antondijkgraaf; more information on the new website of our illustrious blockbuster thefinest-magazine.com) and, in short, to be able to earn living from it, showing other people that it is above all, if not exclusively, the non-conformist and awkward ones who make all our lives more colourful, at least more colourful than… well, you know… Have a browse, let what you see have an impact, buy it or don’t buy it, hate it or love it – at any rate, we at the finest, the culture magazine with the highest circulation and greatest prestige in all of Spain, made our decision long ago, and say, “That’s fuckin’ crazy shit, dude! And we love it!”.

Facebook: Anton Dijkgraaf
Instagram: @antondijkgraaf