Werner Popken on art and more

January 19, 2007

No Brainer

Filed under: Art,Blogroll,Culture,Kultur,Kunst,Leben,Life,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 3:57 pm

Cutout from No. › 242 (private property) · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

Cutout from No.  242 (private property)

The head to the left is one figure out of quite a number of them on a canvas measuring 100 by 146 cm (39 x 57 inch). I remember that I was pretty much puzzled by this painting.

The point was, I didn’t know what to think about it. But I didn’t have much time to relate to it, I don’t think it ever hung on any of my walls. It has been private property long ago and I nearly forgot about it.

When I scanned the slide tonight, I was curious about my reaction. Still, I didn’t know if I would like or at least appreciate it.

Looking at the scan, I wondered what kind of cutout to take for tonight’s rambling. So far, I just took the central figure. But that wasn’t an easy question here, because I didn’t know which figure was central in the first place. Trying to make up my mind, it occurred to me that I should rather not pick one area like before but several of them instead, and I started with the head in the upper left corner.

This is one of three heads of approximately the same size. There are seven others, all of them significantly smaller, but approximately the same size as well. Being situated at the upper left corner, this head doesn’t really qualify for a central role, but it seemed to be a good start to investigate the picture. And that’s what I did, and the more cutouts I produced the more fascinated I became.

One of the things that occurred to me was that the quality of the picture is pretty much homogeneous. Each and every part seems to be of the same quality, and this is not at all common. This insight wasn’t new to me at all, but I forgot that as well.

You see this uneven distribution of painterly quality very often with Picasso, for example, and you might guess that this is something which is correlated with modern art, the latter being very informal, often unfinished, showing strikes of genius, not interested in overall finish which looks like tedious work pertinent to smaller talents. Even in the classical periods, Picasso left parts of the painting unfinished which actually gives rise to very strong effects.

But this is not so. It rather seems to be peculiar to the artist himself. One of the greatest masters we know of, Rembrandt, very often shows this unevenness. Not only that several parts of the painting are much more brilliant than others, there are parts that are quite bad and seem to have been outright neglected. I never tried to copy a Rembrandt, but I copied a large painting of Picasso and in doing so, I couldn’t help but realize the unevenness in this very painting. The face of that woman had been really worked upon, the body decidedly less, and the extremities and the bed and the room were just sloppy, disappointing sketches, no more.

It is not that I have to discipline myself to put uniform quality to every square inch of the picture, it just turns out that way. I seem to be a painter producing that kind of quality by nature. And I bet you can see this. I certainly did when I took my clippings, and I enjoyed all these inventions very much. The head of today is quite greenish, seems to wear a red scarf, maybe topped by a big yellow flower with four petals, three of them visible.

It is quite funny that this head is recognized as such quite unmistakably, although it is drawn with utmost freedom. For example, there is almost no skull, but all mask. Nevertheless this head emanates an extreme presence of the person it depicts. Lots of bold inventions denote particulars like eyes, lips, nose, cheeks. This person is very much centered in itself, it rather looks inside and doesn’t seem to be really interested in the whole scene, which is clear from this section altbeit we don’t even see anything of it yet. Also, this person seems to know a lot, in particular it seems to know what is really important in life. And it seems to be worried.

The more I looked at the snippet, the more I enjoyed the colors and forms. It is obvious that nothing is constructed. There’s no way you can construct a painting like this. I guess this is what people really mean with the word painting. Painting as product and exercise, as a production method, realized by work of hand, giving control to eye and feeling and hand, but rather blind out the intellect, reason and brain. This is not brain work, it is art work, a masteroiece indeed. I like it a lot.

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