Dutch-born coastal artist Zee van Gils unearthed her passion for resin when she worked alongside surfboard shapers in Indonesia, discovers VICTORIA SCARLETT.
Before creating a base in Newquay, Zee van Gils’ artistic journey began when she was 23, in a small fishing village in Lombok. She first visited the island in 2014, and ended up calling it her home for the three following years.
Zee fell in love with surfing, found her community and soulmate. Stripped back from luxuries such as clean running water and wi-fi, her little jungle shack became a place to come home to herself. There was finally space to reignite her creative spark, which had been buried for a few years due to mental health struggles.
Besides working as a surf photographer and café manager – which allowed her to learn the Indonesian language – Zee was introduced to the island’s first shapers at Banyu Surfboards, where she started painting detailed freehand designs on their boards. The shapers gave her free rein in the shaping bay, empowering her to take commissioned client orders and learn glassing techniques; the process of wrapping the board in fibreglass and resin to create a hard waterproof shell.
This is where Zee’s obsession with resin was unleashed; in its fluid movement, she instantly recognised similar patterns of the ocean and her surroundings on the island. Zee developed an undeniable urge to create her own abstract interpretation of nature’s textures and colours on wooden panels to display on walls. Months of experimentation with very little access to materials or infrastructure, eventually led to her current signature style.
Merging aerial views with an underwater perspective, Zee’s work is an “ode to Mother Nature’s ever-changing balance and contrast”. Solidifying fluidity in delicate layers, she invites the observer to stay curious – to come closer, to see these layered details from different angles and in changing light. Her art is a reminder that nature is there for us when we need solace, peace, grounding and stillness. A place to come home to ourselves.
AT HOME IN CORNWALL
In 2018, Zee and her partner moved to Australia, where she held her first group exhibition in Perth. Six months into their stay, visa issues arose: Zee was held in detention, deported and sent back to The Netherlands. This unfortunate event led her and her partner to start over in Cornwall, where she decided to rent her first art studio: a blessing in disguise.
Zee has been working as a full-time artist ever since, now from her own creative space in the garden. She’s had the pleasure of collaborating with surfboard shapers in three other countries; Album Surf in California, BOS and Arbo in Cornwall and Surfista Surfboards in Hossegor. Her original paintings and prints are collected in 22 countries worldwide.
You can find Zee’s work online at underthezee.com, or on Instagram @underthezee You can also make an appointment to view her paintings in person at her studio in Newquay.
Feeling creative? Meet another artist inspired by the coastline here.