Werner Popken on art and more

December 31, 2006

Who am I?

Filed under: Art,Blogroll,Culture,Kultur,Kunst,Leben,Life,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 5:56 pm

Cutout from No. › 250 · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

Cutout from No.  250

Art, I pretended in my first post yesterday, is essential to man. But what is it? Is it just entertainment? Illustration?

If you take a pen or a brush and some material to draw on and do some strokes, will the product be art? When does paint on board or canvas become art?

There is a very easy answer to this question. The answer is: Art is in the eye of the beholder. In other words: It’s all up to you. If you think it is art, it is.

Unfortunately, easy answers tend to be wrong. And this one is definitely as wrong as any wrong answer can be.

The proof for my claim is easy and everybody will understand it. It is a financial proof. Any chimpanzee can put paint on canvas. But nobody will bid on such a product at Sotheby’s. On the other hand, people obviously do pay huge sums for art. And the reason for this surprising fact is that there is something quite objective about art. It is definitely not up to you.

Of course, you can do what you want and you can think what you want, but nobody will care about that. And actually nobody cares about all the pictures of all the painting chimpanzees out there, although there is one famous individual who produced quite a number of paintings resembling pretty much to what contemporary artists pretended to be the most exquisite art of the time.

Well, this only raises the question about the value of the artwork those paintings were compared with. Was all that acclaimed artwork of the same kind? And did this mean that modern art was crappy and not worth a dime, or would chimpanzee painting be worth thousands or millions with the same argument? Could everybody become a millionaire by buying a chimpanzee and some cheap tools?

You could sell any crap you find to somebody and even make him happy if he doesn’t understand too much about the subject. This is a sad truth not limited to art proper. You can draw millions on bad music, for example, which is quite unbelievable if you think about it. But this is fact, and all the money doesn’t make that music any better.

OK, here we are: What is quality in art? Why do people pay fortunes for some work and don’t care for another? Interesting questions with no easy answers, but there are answers, of course, and I’m going to talk about them in due time. The title of today’s blog indicates that art is at least in part about one of the most urgent questions in man’s life. We don’t know where we come from, why we are here and where we are going to. But we want to know, right? We want to know who we are.

The head on the left is a cutout of one of my paintings with no title but a number, No. 250. You can see that there must be other persons on that painting as well, because you can see one more eye belonging to somebody else. It is obviously not a realistic portray of some real person, but then again it is clear that this is a person indeed, and it is a male person, grown up far enough as to raise this question: Who am I?


December 30, 2006


Filed under: Art,Blogroll,Culture,Kultur,Kunst,Leben,Life,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 4:22 pm

A short and simple word. Art. Just three letters. But what kind of a world is given by that notion!

Some people can’t do without, some pretend they do — but most probably, they don’t know that they need art just as well. Art may be one of the very few things distinguishing man from animal.

Did you try to live in a room without pictures? I did. I remember a visit in a hotel in the vicinity of Barcelona, Spain, back early in the seventies. Every room was decorated with small paintings, all by the same artist, mostly still lifes, lemons and the like, pretty dull and boring. It made me sick after a few hours, so I decided to turn them, facing the wall, showing their backside.

Surprisingly, after only a few days, I felt such a need for eye food that I rather wanted to look at these inferior pictures than living without. It was an experience that showed me something I never forgot. “Man shall not live by bread alone” — this is really true, and if the basic needs are taken care of, man feels an emptiness which has to be filled.

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. This is the whole citation attributed to Jesus, and the emptiness may well be the indication for that longing. Art cannot becalm that longing, but may indicate the direction the soul wants to go. Anyway, I’m eager to find out what my musings will lead me to.

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