Werner Popken on art and more

January 20, 2007

Indian Warrior

Filed under: Art,Culture,Kultur,Kunst,Leben,Life,Malerei,Painting,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 3:43 pm

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

Cutout from No.  242 (private property)

Yesterday, I broke my newly established habit of presenting a snippet of a new painting every day and decided to rather concentrate on one painting for a longer time instead.

The reason was that the painting I chose wasn’t as simple as the other ones chosen before. The sheer number of faces alone made it difficult to decide which one should serve as representative for the whole picture.

In another respect this painting is different. The other examples I chose so far feature kind of real persons, with a body, with clear relationships in space.

It was the second painting being not specific about spatial relations, as far as I can see; No. 241 seems to be the first example, and much later many more should follow, which, of course, I didn’t know then. The next 25 paintings were much more conventional in this respect, and most probably I developed a certain fear to look more in the direction opened up by these two paintings. Basically, I consider myself a rational person. I like to understand what I’m doing, so painting really is a challenge for me, especially if I have no idea what the hell I am discovering.

If I paint a male person, for example, it is easy to assume that this person represents me, that this painting is kind of a self-portrait. If it is a female person, according to C.G. Jung, this must be my anima, which is just another aspect of the numerous divisions or archetypes of my self. In case of a couple, this would represent the ego and the anima and their complicated relationship.

This sounds pretty interesting at first, but after a while it is just boring because it doesn’t seem to bear much truth. Likewise, having a whole party on a picture, it doesn’t make more sense if you try to identify each and every personality with an archetype.

Very often I use the analogy to dreaming. You may dream of lots of persons populating your dream, but does it really help to project the lively happenings of your dream to predefined roles presented by one of the numerous psychological schools? In my experience, it does not.

That’s why I never got into interpretation of my own pictures. I’d rather prefer to just look and feel and enjoy. But this attitude affords a certain boldness and self-assurance which I most probably didn’t have at that time. In other words: I was painting something my conscious person wasn’t really up to.

Looking at that picture nearly 30 years later, I’m amazed about the mastership. I didn’t know that the picture is that good. Most probably I was blessed that I didn’t know. I just produced painting after painting back then, many of them in a very short time, and most of them turned out to be real masterpieces.

The title of this musing should indicate that I associate American Indians with this face, the second of the three big ones in this painting. Well, it isn’t really an Indian face, but there is some allusion to it. Other aspects of this face seem to be rather European. Of course, there are aspects of my own face as well, which in turn has some Indian aspects sometimes — it might seem to bear a resemblance to a gypsy face at other times, certainly something not really typically “German”.

Again, this face, like the other one, is not very realistic, it could just as well be a mask, but it doesn’t appear to be one such but rather a feeling and very lively modern middle-aged person. Technically speaking, it combines the en face and profile views elaborated by Picasso, but not invented by him as commonly reported — at least in early baroque times this observation has been made, as I remember from a drawing in one of the wonderful books that I learned from. The three-quarter view of any face gives you exactly this kind of combination if you provide the proper lighting.

We all know that the bold interpretation of this view by Picasso has alienated a generation of viewers, but nowadays this trick belongs to the every-day visual vocabulary. Many cartoonists, for example, work with these means. That’s why the application of this principle here doesn’t really surprise. We all know now how to read such an image, and the reminiscence to Picasso isn’t overwhelming. This particular view has become part of our cultural heritage.

The second big face, too, looks worried, looks more to the inside rather than at the scene around it. You can’t deduce from this cutout anything about the rest of this person, and we will see more of it soon. The red forms at the bottom and to the left of the face don’t belong to this figure but to the third face of approximately the same size, appearing right beneath our Indian warrior.

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