Werner Popken on art and more

January 30, 2007

Uniform

Filed under: Art,Culture,Kultur,Kunst,Leben,Life,Malerei,Painting,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 10:51 am

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

Cutout from No.  242 (private property)

Walking through the picture clockwise, I meet a figure looking totally different from all the others we saw so far. It is situated right below the  Blue Head whose chin can be identified on this cutout; at left a part of the  Fish can be identified.

The red line and the two red blotches below the fish again represent something like a flower/bloom; however, this is not really clear from this clipping. The center is formed by the head, but likewise the colored structure resembling to a uniform in my eyes stands out. Hence the title of the musing of today.

Well, I’m totally ignorant about uniforms, therefore I did a little research on the Internet. It’s absolutely amazing what you find there about any given subject. And indeed, this combination of colors is quite common with uniforms (see for example » Knötel-Tafel 03/30).

I would read the yellow circles as knobs; not only did they play a vital role at uniforms, they developed as objects of collections and genuine fields of knowledge as such. The site » http://www.knopfsammler.de offers a » bibliography of 151 titles on knobs only!

The red flower · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

The red flower

The wheel · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

The wheel

Nevertheless this isn’t a real uniform. If you get rid of the limits of this clipping, it turns out that the association to uniforms is due in part to the clipping itself.

The yellow form which has been cut off here is in fact part of a separate structure which doesn’t look like a uniform at all.

Of course, I knew this when I defined the clipping. I was interested in the association to uniforms, and I guess I managed to produce that association pretty well. In fact, it is present and superposed by something else which could be masked easily by the clipping.

What is this something else? Tentatively, I titled the whole structure “The Wheel”, although this doesn’t meet the whole meaning either. Accordingly, the yellow forms should be spokes — but four spokes for a wheel are extremely rare; normally, a wheel has many more spokes. Also, amid the spokes, there is another form looking more like a leaf, although a leaf should be green as a rule, while this one is yellow. Hence it should be a petal.

Read as a wheel, the circular blue structure should be the rim, while the red color could denote the iron tire equipment which was a standard part of wheels up to 100 years from now — the first rubber tire filled with air has been developed by » John Boyd Dunlop in 1888, the first rubber only tire stemming from 1867. According to this interpretation, the knobs become golden nails — the tire equipment would be more of a fitting with straight plates which hold the tire.

Having looked at such an old wheel, it is clear that the tire has been attached to the rim with a totally different method. It was rather like a ring which has been widened by heat and pressed to the rim so that the fixation would result automatically from cooling. The tire equipment definitely would not stretch to the rim, there were no straight plates.

I knew all this from childhood when every farmer had wagons with these wheels, being replaced by time through modern wagons with rubber tires. There is another reason against this interpretation as a wheel: The structure is quite uneven; it would be no fun to move such a wheel or ride on a wagon using wheels like this. But if it’s not a wheel, what is it then?

Since I was introduced to the thinking of C.G. Jung I couldn’t forget about number symbolism. For example, the red flower has three leaves which signals incompleteness according to Jung, whereas four leaves would denote completeness. In this sense, the Trinity of Christian dogmatic was incomplete for him. That’s why he pleaded for adding the Virgin Mary, thereby integrating a female element in the first place and finally achieving completeness.

Of course, the Catholic dogmatists didn’t follow him, didn’t even think about discussing his proposal, but this didn’t bother him at all, because to him people had established this logical and mentally necessity by their devoutness for a long time already. In this sense, the wheel would be complete, because although only two of the four “spokes” can be seen, there seems to be no doubt about the fourness. By the way, there are four golden nails or knobs, whereas there are three straight plates without nail and most probably three with nails — but the wheel being round, this must be left to speculation here.

The painting procedure · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

The painting procedure

I have dwelled quite some time with the proposed uniform, but the face interests me much more. This face looks pretty modern, and the person seems to be outright depressive.

As a soldier, the person should have an impressive, large headgear — but she is bareheaded, this fact contributing to the modern impression. Headgears have been driven out of fashion for some time.

Rembrandt painted himself with a house cap; the term “sleepyhead” is used only in the figurative sense. Nobody sleeps with a cap anymore. The headdresses of soldiers are either gone or extremely unimpressive (see wikipedia: » Uniform). Nowadays, it is hardly imaginable what stuff soldiers of former days wore on their heads (see » Uniformenkunde). Back then, a soldier without a huge headgear was unthinkable. How could they even fight?

With this face, I can show pretty good how painting was realized. In the beginning, there was a brush drawing with very thin color. The spontaneous brush strokes have been overpainted later for amplification, in part in a way that the original strokes can still be seen. Hence the painting has been created without hesitation from scratch. Unbelievable!

Here the Picasso combination of two views is not stressed that much. The back of the head is clearly present and reasonably proportioned, however the top of the skull is missing. Instead, to the right and left, the hair arches upward in a way that it looks like horns. I associated horns with » Moses by » Michelangelo, but with the help of wikipedia I could convince myself pretty fast that the horns of Moses rather look like fir cones. How about the “devil” on the small wood cut? Didn’t he have these swellings at the head which gave him his title?

That one was created on the occasion of the museum exhibition in Düren and the subject of my oration » On the meaning of the woodcut. Unfortunately, the reproduction is very bad; back then, I either had a bad scanner or I couldn’t do any better (most probably the latter). But that’s enough to answer my question — the “horns” of the figure at left look very differently again. In a certain way, I feel relaxed now, because this young man doesn’t really have anything martial or devilish. He rather looks seriously and innocent.

Apart from the depressive expression, the insane color of the face stands out. This young man doesn’t represent the abundance of life, rather the suffering from life.

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