Werner Popken on art and more

January 25, 2007

Mask in a Flower

Filed under: Art,Culture,Kultur,Kunst,Leben,Life,Malerei,Painting,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 9:15 am

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

Cutout from No.  242 (private property)

Yesterday, I had a look at the third of the three large heads on painting 242, that is the last one of those having the same size, but being significantly larger than the other seven heads to be found on that piece.

Next to the left of this head to which I associated “Buddha” in some way is one of those smaller heads, all of them having approximately the same size as well. This one is different in another aspthect but size, namely credibility or level of realism.

As we have seen so far, none of the heads are realistic in the sense of conforming with eye sensations from living people. The last one was the least distorted one among the three, but nevertheless it could not really be called realistic. Eyes, ear, nose, mouth, chin, neck, shoulders are pretty close to realistic proportions, but the forehead and cranium is not.

Still, the figure to the left is different. As is quite comprehensible, there is a head, given both as profile from the left and straight sight, most notably to be recognized by the mouth and eyes, but the face is divided at the forehead, giving the notion of having another profile looking from the right, supported in particular by the right eye.

Furthermore, this head doesn’t have a body. Instead, there are two forms resembling big leaves. The leaves are not green, though, but reddish. The interpretation of these forms as leaves is supported by something which could be interpreted as a stalk. Additionally, stemming from the same place as the leaves, there are two yellow forms sitting on a stalk each which could be read as flowers.

These flowers point downwards, not upwards, which is the rule; the place where a big flower like a rose would be is occupied by this peculiar head. If the body of this head is a plant, the head should be the bloom.

As this bloomer is composed from different parts, it looks like something fabricated, like an artificial decorative bibelot, maybe to be used in conjunction with costumes. This way, the face could serve as a mask like in the Venetian carnival. Admittedly, there is nobody using this gimmick, nobody holding the stalk, but instead the head possesses quite a lively expression, signaling self-sufficiency.

Again, this head seems to rather look inside than participate actively in the outside world, but actually things are a little bit more complicated. The right eye of the person, the eye to the left for the spectator, is looking inside, whereas the other eye is looking rather intensely to the other part of the face. Looking at both eyes at once, the impression is again more of not really seeing the adverse party. This head does not look worried, it rather observes and is amused, and this amusement seems to stems from knowledge, knowledge about the processes that it is witnessing.

© Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

© Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

The left part of the head, looked at in isolation, seems to speak or shout. This part is topped by a hat which is tied to the chin, giving it the notion of a rural worker in southern countries.

In turn, the right part, looked at in isolation, is as female as the left part is male. The female part seems to wear a scarf, and surprisingly, a mustache, while the male part is clean-shaven.

This female part, focused on the male counterpart, looks rather worried, but this worry is not grievance, in particular a totally different kind of expression the other three big heads show. This emotion seems to be very personal, superficial, based on the relation to the other part, whereas the big ones seem to worry about something much more basic to life as such.

The interpretation of the red leaves as a big bandanna would be a very convincing reading, the body of this figure being deep blue, blending with the background, so that it would not be easy to identify. But this doesn’t seem to be vindicable. The left of the big red leaves is surrounded by red strokes which would not fit well into this picture.

Furthermore, the red forms behind the left leaf seem to indicate something detached from this figure, maybe flames. Also, the connection of head and plant is not well defined. Actually, it looks like the bare canvas is shining through.

We could have seen from all the other parts of this painting that everything has been put down the without hesitation and virtually no corrections. This is the kind of “thin painting” that Max Beckmann considered as indication of quality.

I don’t know why he came to this conclusion; maybe because he used to paint thick in his early days and didn’t like that later, because the color may become dull very easily; but then it is known that he didn’t succeed in putting it right at first stroke. Instead, like Henri Matisse, he used to take everything off if he didn’t like it and repaint as often as necessary until he was content. That process might take him through long sessions of painting and repainting, and this can be seen at the final stage, because the maiden state of the canvas cannot be restored once it is worked upon.

This being so, it is very easy to see, at least with the naked eye in front of the original, that there is no part in this painting which has been reworked.

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