One of the truly unique figures in the global art scene, Philip Akkerman is known, since 1981, for his penchant for self-portraits. Driven to paint intuitively, without restrictions or guidelines, the Dutch artist poorly constructed compositions, then never looked back. Inspired by Schopenhauer's idea that the sole goal of human existence is to make a self-portrait, Akkerman jokingly explains, "My work is about the most important thing there ever was."


We recently had the pleasure to visit Akkerman's studio in Den Hague, Holland, and got a glimpse of the brain-bending work prepared for his latest show at Dan Coombs's Coombs Contemporary in London. Working exclusively on masonite panels of the same size, meticulous about technique and time spent on each piece, the artist's obvious familiarity with the subject matter gives him the freedom to exploit ideas that come intuitively. With respect to the legacy of Old Masters and classic tradition, Akkerman appreciates the refined use of contrast, light, color, and brushwork to pique and challenge a viewer's perception.

Akkerman's early proficiency began with academic painting techniques, but in time, reveled in adventurous transformations, transmuting into different personas and characters, resulting in a varying cast of characterizations from realistic, to surreal and highly expressive renderings, all the way to abstract creations. In his oeuvre, the artist doesn't focus on rendering physicality, but on exploring the whole of one's being. Utterly amazed by the panorama of the cosmos, from its totality all the way to each individual, Akkerman's work celebrates the utter existence, the most bewildering phenomenon of the universe.


A selected collection of work spanning Akkerman's 35-year career was published by Uitgeverij Komma in a limited edition publication. Printed with rare technique, Het Doel Van Het Bestaan Is Het Maken Van Een Zelfportret / The Purpose of Existing is to Make a Self Portrait features 175 of almost tangible paintings at full size, an autographed screen print, the composition Philip by experimental hip-hop/native computer jazz musician, Jameszoo, and a paperback book which includes excerpts from Akkerman's personal journal. Sasha Bogojev