My Father’s Philosophy of ‘Oerfoarmen’

Written by Dyami Millarson

Oerfoarm is a Frisian word that is integral to my father’s artistic philosophy. Its Dutch equivalent is oervorm. Oerfoarm/oervorm may be translated as primal form and the plural of this Frisian/Dutch word is oerfoarmen/oervormen. This English translation is only an approximation. The first element oer- is always hard to render in English because it evokes a certain primordial feeling and it conveys a certain sense of authenticity and may imply a return to an original state of being. The prefix oer- is cognate with German ur-, which has been adopted into English due to rendition problems of the concept expressed in this affix. Therefore, it may be more accurate to render oerfoarmen/oervormen into English as ur-forms.

The oer-concept (or ur-concept if you will) is vital for understanding my father’s artistic philosophy. Oer- may not only be a prefixed element in Frisian/Dutch, but it may also be a noun. My father has often expressed his admiration of ‘de oer’, which translates roughly to ‘that which is or feels primordial’. One peculiar example of this noun is ‘de minsklike oer’ in Frisian or ‘de menselijke oer’, which is a concept my father often spoke of, as he is fascinated with ‘the oer of humanity’.

This is not to be confused with oerminsk in Frisian or oermens in Dutch, which means ‘ur-human’ or ‘primordial human being’. The cultural concept of oer is the red thread throughout my father’s work: my father has always been interested in finding creative ways to capture or depict ‘de oer’, usually he sought to do this through 3D art. My father’s work is essentially a lifelong experiment with finding ways to accurately depict ‘de oer’ in art. It is even my father’s form belief that art must be based on ‘de oer’ and that which is not based on ‘de oer’ cannot be true art according to this philosophical definition that answers what art is.

In conclusion, all of my father’s work depict ‘de oer’ in its various, incomprehensible forms. ‘De oer’ is beyond human understanding, yet it permeates the world or universe in which we live. According to my father, we as Dutch/Frisian people have lost our connection with ‘de oer’ and his art aims to restore that connection with the incomprehensible. ‘De oer’ is awe-inspiring, it is human yet non-human in a frightening way, it is perhaps like a Lovecraftian monster that is beyond our human level of comprehension that seeks to make sense of the world. My father has always looked up into the day and night sky, gazing at the stars and other celestial bodies for inspiration. Astronomy is one of his fascinations, especially the mind-boggling mathematical figures that no human brain can actually fully comprehend. His fascination comes from his intuitive appreciation for everything related to ‘de oer’.

When we restore our connection with ‘de oer’, we start making use of an ‘untapped power’ again and we are allowing it to guide our being, for that which permeates the universe is seemingly unlimited power that no human mind can grasp and the human genius can never surpass it. This raw power allows my father to create his work, while it is the creative force of the universe; ‘de oer’ is that which creates everything and while ‘de oer’ is the originator of everything, human beings can’t ever create things that equal ‘de oer’, as ‘de oer’ is always expanding, always ahead and always running faster towards perfection than man can keep up with. Mankind can never match ‘de oer’. My father has expressed this sentiment as follows: ‘De mens kan de natuur niet evenaren.’ This translates to: ‘Mankind cannot match [the perfection of] nature.’ So, rather than fighting it, he chooses to subject himself to it and become one with ‘de oer’ for his philosophical-artistic work.

Being guided by ‘de oer’, my father has often said: ‘Ik geloof niet in kunstmatige dingen, namelijk hetgeen de mens maakt in een poging om de natuur te verbeteren.’ This translates to: ‘I do not believe in artificial things, i.e., that which man creates in an attempt to improve upon nature.’ Thus, he believes that ‘de oer’ or nature cannot be improved upon, and that ‘de oer’ or nature has already achieved a state that is more perfect than what we can ever wish to produce as human beings. Again, that is why my father embraces ‘de oer’ in his work and lets ‘de oer’ speak to him directly for the creation of his works of art.

When my father talks about communicating or interaction with ‘de oer’ in the sense that one alllows oneself to be open to what ‘de oer’ dictates or stipulates, he brings up the Dutch concept of ‘het onderbewuste’ (the subconscious mind). He believes that ‘de menselijke oer’ can be found in ‘het onderbewuste’ and that the latter is an inborn faculty of the mind for interacting with ‘de oer’. It may be seen as an primal concept of the telephone; ‘de oer’ calls humanity through ‘het onderbewuste’ and humans may choose to listen to this. If humans listen to ‘de oer’, they can unlock unmatched creative powers that are intuitive and spontaneous and natural at the same time.

My father always says that he bases his work on ‘het onderbewuste’ and he allows his ‘onderbewuste’ to guide him, which is another artistic way of his to express that ‘de oer’ is his guide for all of his artistic endeavours. When others ask him how he makes his art, he is often at loss for words, because ‘het onderbewuste’, which is the channel through which ‘de oer’ communicates directly with humanity, is not readily explained and requires philosophical initiation through art to be ‘experienced’, for art is an experience and it is the unbridled means by which ‘de oer’, the inherent and intrinsic essence of the universe and humanity, can be explored. Art allows the kind of freedom that one needs to explore the questions of life and no other means than art, which naturally offers freedom, is as adequate for exploring a topic as grand as ‘de oer’.

Art means, in my father’s sense, not freedom to the artist to bolster his ego, but freedom to ‘de oer’ to express and reveal itself to mankind. Thus, while ‘de oer’ or the universe communicates through the artist, true art contains messages that are to be deciphered by mankind; true art carries a message, even if the artist himself may not comprehend it, and therefore art is not empty, devoid of meaning, but full of deeper meaning and rich in hidden messages. It is up to mankind to make sense of art and thus to spot ‘de oer’ in the true works of art that have been produced by artists guided by ‘de oer’. My father sees himself merely as a messenger of ‘de oer’ and he leaves it up to the people to find the messages. All in all, art that lacks meaning is no message from ‘de oer’, and therefore it was made by no messenger, but someone who did not listen to ‘de oer’. People who are no messengers do not possess what may be called ‘oerbewustzijn’ (oer-consciousness), which is the state of mind of someone guided by ‘de oer’.

When my father produces works of art based on the guidance of ‘de oer’, he is searching for oerfoarmen/oervormen, which I mentioned at the beginning of this article. My father sees the artist, whom he defines as someone initiated into the ‘oerbewustzijn’, as someone engaging in a ‘zoektocht’ (quest). This ‘zoektocht’ is aimed at finding the ways to depict ‘de oer’ through shapes which he calls oerfoarmen/oervormen. Moreover, these oerfoarmen/oervormen can be found in nature and they serve as inspiration. Oerfoarmen/oervormen are not just shapes that which are depicted in art based on ‘de oer’, but they are also shapes found in the universe that we ought to be inspired by for the creation of art; ‘de oer’ speaks through ‘oerfoarmen/oervormen’. In conclusion, art is oerfoarm/oervorm-based in that it is (1) oerfoarm/oervorm-depicting, (2) oerfoarm/oervorm-inspired and (3) oerfoarm/oervorm-communicating or more clearly stated ‘communicating through oerfoarmen’.

While ‘oerfoarmen/oervormen’ is that which the ‘zoektocht’ of the artist is based on, he is searching ways to depict a higher or underlying reality that although visible is also invisible to the human eye, and the true artist seeks to also depict or render visible what is fundamentally invisible. In this way, the messenger of ‘de oer’ gives a concrete shape to metaphysics so that humans may perceive it, and thus the artist is simply a depicter of metaphysics. This truly the point of ‘vormgeving’ (giving a shape or form to something, i.e., depiction), which defines style of artist’s work. While art and metaphysics intersect, art and philosophy are one and the same in my father’s view; he rejects its distinction as artificial, and based on ‘oerbewustzijnsgebrek’ (lack of oer-consciousness). Depicting or ‘vormgeving’ is creating shapes that make the metaphysical world understandable to humans. While humans cannot normally comprehend ‘de oer’, they need messengers who convey the messages of ‘de oer’ in human form and those are the philosopher-artists, particularly in a future society that is to come and that will have restored its relationship with ‘de oer’ and that respects the work of the philosopher-artists for bringing humanity in close contact with ‘de oer’.


    • Thanks for your comment. My father is a very humble and introspective man, he has no strong feelings of pride.

      I am not sure whether you like reading philosophy, but have you ever looked into Plato’s theory of forms? Plato’s philosophical perspective is based on Greek culture of course, my father’s on Frisian/Dutch culture, and I can assure you that both of these philosophies are not identical, but I thought that this coincidentally similar concept in Greek philosophy might help you out with understanding my father’s philosophy. Perhaps I should write an article comparing my father’s Dutch/Frisian perspective on forms and Plato’s Greek perspective on forms. Would you be interested in reading such a blog post?

      Liked by 1 person

    • My artform is storytelling (novels, screenplays, songs, memoir), and I focus on the complexities of modern human thought and feelings, rather than striving for something pre-human or primal.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Glad to hear you are curious. My father’s work has always inspired me, I grew up in a creative environment. I am currently working on digitalising some photos of my father’s work from the 80s and 90s. I will share it here.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for sharing your approach to art. I believe emotion is primal and many thoughts are driven by powerful emotions. In my humble opinion, all roads lead to Rome: whilst many artists may not realise it, they may still be following this approach. My father has simply been trying to make it explicit and thus explain something complex with concepts that naturally came to him in a Dutch/Frisian cultural setting.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Martin Buber’s work is definitely intriguing! I need some time to upload the pictures of my father’s work here, I have been working on it these days. You are welcome, thank you for leaving a comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I read the article several times. Although I still don’t understand what it means. But I have to say that your father’s interpretation of art is awe inspiring. For example, art should not be empty, but meaningful. Artists should also take responsibility to understand art.🤭🤭🤭🤔🤔🤔confusedddsdddddddddddddd.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Is it perhaps possible that you identify what are you confused about? If you could tell me specifically what you do not understand, I might be able to write a follow-up article intended to hopefully clear up the initial confusion.


  2. Interesting. I often feel that my dreams which of course are in the form of images are communicating invisible meaning. They can seem jumbled and nonsensical but if I file them away and pull them out and meditate on them I can sometimes find the thread of meaning running through them which of course holds a message for me. I would agree with your father that man can’t possibly match or improve upon the perfection of nature. I think the beauty of nature is a visible expression of the invisible beauty of goodness and love. too would love to see examples of his art.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This is beautiful. This is almost life changing to me. I’ve been struggling with my own works of art for awhile, when I set upon Surrealist literature as a method of expressing the “oceanic feeling” and it’s the closest I’ve come to being satisfied with my work.

    These are some serious insights that have me rethinking about the nature of art, and I think it makes a lot of sense with my ties to Thelema and the philosophy I espoused in my book “Nihilatry: The Fleeting Carnality of the Dark Arts” in which I depict life itself as the canvas to a carnal artform. You’ve done more justice to that idea here than I did in my book. This clarifies a lot for me on a sort of existential level, I’m very moved.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Wow! I know nothing of the language you used to describe this philosophy, but it is my philosophy. This is what I believe and is my approach to the arts and philosophy. I have attempted to express such ideas but have yet to come close to your articulation. It resonates with me so strongly!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This post was of particular interest to me. I believe that certain people who are deeply spiritual, no matter their religious background can experienced communion with a primordial state. I believe this to be a God-given gift. I happened to be raised Catholic. Why can some people and not everyone? That I do not understand.

    I would agree with your father on this point, “Mankind cannot surpass the perfection of nature.” God is the Master artist and the universe is His canvas.

    It is always interesting to read another’s POV. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Your father has a fascinating approach to life and one which I empathize. I think I use ‘de oer’ to create my fairy stories. On a darker note I can sense when someone is near death. Perhaps we have lost a way of communication that animals have.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Wow! You have quite a mission! Anything to encourage communication between people, especially of differing backgrounds is valuable.


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  8. Interesting. I had no idea that so many languages existed. I suppose I’ve always thought of them as various dialects rather than separate language. Your perspective (your father’s) of art seems complicated in description, but I believe it comes down to the fact that God is a creator and he made us in his image so we are creative to whatever extent we allow it in ourselves. Primal to me is simply the beginning, base, root of the matter. “In the beginning, God created…” God certainly gives us the ability to create in so many fascinating ways. Thank you for sharing and checking out my blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Primal forces are existing in the world whether we recognize them or not. I respect the love you have for dad and a couple of his works surely would have been useful to your narrative 🙏🐕♒️


  10. “The first element oer- is always hard to render in English because it evokes a certain primordial feeling and it conveys a certain sense of authenticity and may imply a return to an original state of being.”

    Thank you Dyami,
    For decades I’ve tried and tried to find the words for this, in English, as it’s the only language I really know. And could know more of! I feel a little better now 🙂

    I’ve studied “primal” and “mother” especially, for a long while, in any direction I could find. I see the roots in everything in the present, I don’t see how it’s possible to separate the primal and the present, in any medium or creation, and have it be completely true, authentic, or finished, or… I don’t think I have the perfect word for that either.

    I would love to see some of your Dad’s art. I’m a bit of an artist myself, and I do very much understand and use your Dad’s philosophy. Putting it in words has escaped me. I know when I see it, feel it, or not. I can see it most everywhere in everything. I’ve always thought of it as circles. I think I want to use the word alchemy as part of it. When my creation completes that circle, it is a very special piece to me, it becomes something more than it’s ingredients.
    The rest can be enjoyable too, but certainly different.

    I think I find it in juggling. When all of those circles and objects spin together in balance and unison, it feels like I and everything are a part of it’s energy, it feels right, complete, continuing, an old force behind and far beyond me. And once the smooth spinning begins, it’s a beautiful frightening monster threatening disaster with every turn, especially if the objects might bite! I’ll likely never be able to do that feeling justice in words, either. Which leads me to believe it is one in the same.

    So, I like your lovely word very much. I feel it in what you’ve written here, it is delicious. Thank you for writing this. I can’t say I’ve studied philosophy much. My dear old dad is a Doctor of Philosophy, an Organic Chemist, maybe I learned even more from him than I thought 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s mostly interesting to know the perspectives of the older generation. Would’ve been nice, though, if you posted photos of father’s art to go with this article. Also, I wonder what things – other than art – that the word “oerfoarm” is used for.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is very fascinating, how one word in one language does not exist in another. My German cousins tell me that in German they join words to express themselves. I thought this was pretty cool.


  13. An interesting theoretical explanation about your father’s philosophical thoughts on art. I’m also interested to hear your personal views on this concept.

    Allow me to express some of my own thoughts with regards to your writing. I disagree with the idea that art is the only universal concept of expression of the subconscious: art is a visual expression of feelings and there are many ways to express the subconscious. Art is but one of them.

    To explore this a little further I wonder what the definition of the subconscious is. According to Cambridge the subconscious is the part of your mind that notices and remembers information when you are not actively trying to do so and influences your behaviour though you do not realize it. Information is facts or details about a person, company, product, etc. So our subconscious picks up on facts or details of our surroundings (inner/outer), even when we’re not actively aware of it. You could call this a deeper level of informative communication and it’s an inherent part of the human brain.

    To recap: art is a visual expression of feelings and the subconscious is a part of the brain that every person taps into, which notices and remembers information and influences your behaviour though you may not realize it. Now how can we connect these two definitions? If an artist taps into his/her subconscious he/she conveys visual information about his/her feelings (internal) or the feelings of another person (external), that influences the behaviour of the artist or of the other person, even when the artist or the other person is not aware of it.

    Of course, I’m interested to see the work of your father. Does he have any recent work that you can upload?


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