Bortusk Leer’s Happy Silly Monsters

Bortusk Leer’s Happy Silly Monsters

Last week I was in the O.D. gallery right in the center of Amsterdam. The gallery was full of grinning heads with bulging eyes and a firm row of teeth in a big smile. Those grinning heads fit surprisingly well these days, they cheer you up after the three-month shutdown due to the corona pandemic.

The gallery’s owners, Irene and Glynnis, were also happy to present a new show after standing still for all those months. The maker of all these works, was there, an enthusiastic Brit from the south of England (Deal near Dover) who has been working in Amsterdam for eight years and shows his art all over the world. His artist’s name is Bortusk Leer. All letters of his own name are incorporated in this name.

Art's not serious, being dead is

The show is called ‘Art's not serious, being dead is’. During the ‘Intelligent Lockdown’ Bortusk Leer made special monsters with comforting and humorous messages such as ‘Stay Fucking positive’, ‘Smiling is contagious’ and ‘Smile, you  wanker’. This work is now on display in the gallery for the first time. 

The inspiration for Bortusk’s work comes from his childhood and especially the way in which children can marvel at things. This can be seen in his style of painting, childlike figures in bright primary colours. He also literally uses toys that he sticks into the thick layers of paint.


Bortusk: “Everybody knows monsters. I draw them in a psychedelic way. The inspiration lies in my youth. I have always made drawings and to my great satisfaction my mother turned out to have kept the works I made when I was 5, 6, 7. When I was 26 I discovered them. I went to copy those drawings. Another great inspiration were the COBRA artists. They made spontaneous work. I am a big fan of these artists. The Cobra Museum in Amstelveen, near Amsterdam, is my favorite museum. 

When he finished his art studies (at Falmouth Art Academy in Cornwall) it was not immediately clear that his art would go in this direction. “I did ceramics at Art School. I got my degree in Ceramics. However, when I moved to London I started painting, which was easier in the small housing I had there.”

Pompoms upon their head

We walk past his works, starting with 'The Day my first two cells met' from 2019, an oil painting. And next mixed media collages with silly monsters, sometimes drawn very close, he calls it 'scribbling', collage works with pieces of newspaper, magazines, vintage wallpaper and small toys, some of them with a smooth translucent resin layer. “Some works I make in a day, other works, especially the scribbling works, take months.” He made the frames himself. "A very precise job, it has to fit exactly." 

I see his sculptures of cats, dogs and other creatures. "Made of wood I found on the street.” And above the counter a whole series of funny wooden dolls with a colorful woolen curls. "Happy monsters with pompom upon their heads."

His favorite work is the largest in size. It is called 'Of all the billions of people in the world, I had to bump into you'. He had to transport it to the gallery with a van. It has a mountainous structure, but as you get higher there is bluish air that gives it a kind of rest. “Indeed there is more calmness in this work.”

Brighten up the world

Over a decade Bortusk Leer has developed a signature voice and style, creating manic, euphoric creatures (his monsters) plus other lively abstract pieces, videos, TV shows and numerous psychedelic assemblages of Neo-Pop-Art-Brut.

What is his philosophy? “I mess up all the rules of art. I do what I want. It starts with putting a smile on my face myself. Cheer up, you bastards, I think. And then something will automatically appear on paper or on the canvas. I feel it as my duty to brighten up the world and spread some happiness.”

The exhibition will last till the end of August.


1) Together again, 2) The day my first two cells met, Sketchy monsters, 4) Popping pills, 5) Of all the billions of people in the world I had to bump into you, 6) OD Gallery Invite, 7 – 10) Show OD Gallery, 11) Big night out again, Caught in the eye of the storm, Meeting up in Hats                                                                              








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