Whanganui printmaker Bernie Steyn is not sure what his late father would make of his decision to hold a joint exhibition of their work at Whanganui Arts at the Centre.

"I think he'd probably look like that," Bernie said, pointing to an annoyed-looking self-portrait his father, Nico Steyn, made in 1969.

"But his works are so unique, I just had to show them publicly."

This unusual exhibition, Double Dutch, opens today at the gallery. In the larger front gallery are Nico's paintings while in the back gallery are Bernie's woodblock prints.


The exhibition came about after Bernie's brother Marc retrieved the collection of their father's works from Holland after Nico died in 2011, aged 85.

Bernie said the relationship between he and his father was never close - they last saw each other in the 1980s - and he's unable to quantify how much of an influence his father had on his decision to become an artist.

He has childhood memories of visiting the art school his father ran in Christchurch. He spent many of his early years sketching and drawing but eventually became a mechanic.

"I spent a lot of my life trying to be nothing like my father."

After experiencing a potentially life threatening incident in Wellington in 2010, Bernie decided to go to art school in Whanganui to study for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

Nico emigrated to New Zealand from the Netherlands in the 1950s, hoping for a fresh start after World War II.

He had no formal training but that didn't stop him from running his own art school - as Bernie puts it, "teaching little old ladies how to paint".

The paintings Bernie has of Nico's are mostly surrealist in style, many featuring an orb. These were done when Nico was in his 70s.

Puzzled by Nico's technique, Bernie contacted Nico's second wife, who told him he had used a mixture of oil paint, bleach, and condoms.

"I set about trying to emulate his technique and I produced a couple of paintings that were nowhere near as good as his."

Mr Steyn said he was particularly grateful to Cath Watson from Whanganui Arts at the Centre for her support of this exhibition.

-Double Dutch will run until January 27.