Whetū van den Oever - Artist
Interview with Kate Hartmann
Whetū van den Oever was born in Den Helder, the Netherlands in 1961, the youngest of 3 siblings. She was christened Birgitta which soon became Git. She took the name Whetū for her own after immigrating to New Zealand and studying Te Reo Māori, as it just felt right, it felt like who she was. Whetū enjoyed primary school very much. The things she remembers the most are the creative experiences which were many and varied and her solid group of friends.
The transition to Secondary School however did not go so well, she was separated from her friends and was the youngest in her class. Things were also rocky at home and Whetū struggled to connect with people. She decided to concentrate hard on her studies and do well at the things people expected her to do. She remembers feeling lost and adrift. On the outside she was an excellent student, good at maths and sport, but on the inside she didn’t know who she was.
In the evenings after school, Whetū decided to give classical ballet a go and found a joy there she previously hadn’t known. She thrived on the discipline that the strenuous practice sessions provided and rejoiced in the freedom of expression of the dance. It was through dancing that she came to know who she was and her self-esteem grew.
Whetū ‘s tertiary education was full of variety. She studied chemical analysis, business studies, theatre and dance expression. All of these studies fulfilled different needs within Whetū. Within the Theatre School she found her second family, they were all very close.
Whetū has turned her hand to many things. With an ability to master new skills quickly, she has been able to succeed in many different jobs. She has been an aerobics instructor, a bookkeeper, in advertising, a production assistant for television, a choreographer, a booking assistant for a travel agent and many more she’s forgotten!
Whetū has taken all the best things from these jobs and taken them with her into her art practice. Things like knowing how to talk to people, how to organise herself and how to market and promote herself are practical skills she has learned along the way. Since coming to New Zealand in 2010 Whetū has been able to concentrate solely on her art and painting. She likens that to being able to breathe freely for the first time.
Whetū has been painting since 2002 and is largely self–taught. She has always been fascinated with animals and nature. She captures the essence of nature by zooming in on details and conveying the mercuriality of colours. Fascinated and attracted to the extraordinary, she digs deeper into the wonder of nature with every painting. This leads to both abstract and figurative paintings using mixed mediums. In turn, her work glimmers with quiet reflection and explodes with vibrant colours, multi-layered and honest, explicit and vague.
“Details trigger my senses. My enthusiasm grows, my happiness expands, my spirit brightens. The beauty, complexity, depth and unknown reasons of those details makes me paint or catch them with my camera”
A signature of Whetū ‘s work is her bold use of colour and of layering that colour to increase intensity. Her works are often very emotive and expressionist. Whetū has already seen some measure of success with her work held in private collections and a number of shows under her belt.
Whetū ‘s latest pieces can be viewed at Tutere Gallery & Creative Space where she is one of the founding artists and also through her website