Werner Popken on art and more

February 10, 2007

Hero – puzzled

Filed under: Art,Culture,Kultur,Kunst,Leben,Life,Malerei,Painting,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 8:19 pm

Nr. & · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

Nr.  669, 24×18cm, Oil / Paper, 11.08.1995

Nr. & · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

Nr.  679, 24×18cm, Oil / Paper, 18.08. bis 19.08.1995

Nr. & · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

Nr.  689, 24×18cm, Oil / Paper, 24.10. bis 29.10.1995

Some time ago I tried to interpret of painting  242, using the title  egocentricity. That’s how the term hero came into play.

Hero meant as an inner figure, bright, young, unique, numinous, in contrast to the real person, who could be commonplace, old, sick or ugly. This conception seems to be inherent to man and has been connected to “cosmic conscience” — whatever that may mean.

I didn’t have any idea of all that when I began to paint. In only occurred to me that very often, if not always a central figure, male or female, appeared around which everything else happened, to which all other figures in the painting were connected.

In rare cases there is nothing else but the hero. Quite often there is a companion, which can be an animal as well, like in  669.

Three examples, each apart by 10 numbers, made in the autumn of 1995, should make the point clear and also show the bandwidth.

The hero in 669 is it really young and bright, instead he looks rather middle ages-like an ugly, whereas the one in  679 has something like a Siegfried and reminds of the way Max Beckmann used to cope with the subject, maybe do to the buckler. The companion seems to be rather old and experienced, but in no way physically attractive.

In  689, the whole thing turns demonic — the companion in the background seems to belong to a totally different reality, although he is painted much the same way as the hero, a sphere adequate for ghosts, bad demons or good angels.

In many cases the hero of appears in the right part of the bigger, but this isn’t a rule. In larger paintings, the hero is placed more or less in the middle. In this respect, painting 242 is no exception. It only shows very many additional figures. Looking at all paintings chronologically, it is obvious that complexity increases in the long run. Although there are simple paintings without much fuss every now and then, these were much more frequent in the beginning, appearing only rarely later (compare in this respect the paintings in musing  return).

Quite similar observations apply to the background. Backgrounds were uniform and indetermined, only suggested space, if ever. Later, the background would be segmented more and more, associations to the horizon were induced, flying birds or swimming whales would emphasize the dimensions of space (see also  return).

At the same time it is obvious that the spaces are not real. Segmented backgrounds which don’t seem to have any connections whatsoever with horizons on different levels make this point clear (see for example  509). Looking through my online gallery, I noticed that for example  223 has a diffuse background whereas  227 already shows the vertical segmentation of the background, although the horizontal segmentation is still missing.

The gallery being a fragment at the time, it is not possible to draw conclusions; in addition, it may be only of academic interest to show these kinds of developments. Actually I only wanted to shed some light on painting 242 as a whole. The central figure of  longear, as has been seen, allows the association to “Buddha”. He is characterized by Wikipedia as follows:

In Buddhism, a buddha (Sanskrit) is any being who has become fully awakened (enlightened), has permanently overcome desire or craving (lobha), aversion (dosa), and delusion (moha) or ignorance, and has achieved complete liberation from suffering. However, such a negative definition should be augmented with its positive aspect, for a Buddha is also “one who has achieved a state of perfect enlightenment,”[1] which is a state of perfect mental tranquillity and non-fading bliss: “is the highest bliss” and “the bliss of peace, the bliss of enlightenment.”[2]

In the Pali Canon, the term ‘buddha’ refers to anyone who has become enlightened (i.e., awakened to the truth, or Dharma) on their own, without a teacher to point out the Dharma, in a time when the teachings on the Four Noble Truths or the Eightfold Path do not exist in the world.

Generally, Buddhists do not consider Siddhartha Gautama to have been the only buddha. The Pali Canon refers to Gautama Buddha at least once as the 28th Buddha (see List of the 28 Buddhas). A common Buddhist belief is that the next Buddha will be one named Maitreya (Pali: Metteyya).

Buddhism teaches that everyone has the innate potential to become awakened and experience nirvana. Theravada Buddhism teaches that one doesn’t need to become a Buddha to become awakened and experience nirvana, since an Arahant (Sanskrit: Arhat) also has those qualities, while some Mahayana Buddhist texts (e.g., the Lotus Sutra) imply that all beings will become a Buddha at some future point in time.

» Buddha

Buddha as enlightened on his own — this doesn’t really fit to the wealth of figures populating 242. Apart from that, the association doesn’t seem to be really wrong. Obviously the hero has to travel the path that is spiritual in nature and bears lots of defiances. That may be the reason for the reluctance, faint signs of fear, seldom anguish which is present everywhere, mostly accompanied by definite signs of inevitability and the necessity to walk this path.

In general, the accompanying figures are the ones that show confidence, who seem to know the goal of the journey, who empower and encourage the hero, although it isn’t clear in most cases, that he knows about them. The “personnel” in 242 looks pretty exotic. The whole scene appears to be menacing, and in particular the  cactus-figure points to associations nurtured by the fantastic “Don Juan”-series written by » Carlos Castaneda which interested me for some years at the end of the ’70s, beginning of ’80s. Indian rituals do indeed have something threatening sometimes.

But even there — even if everything is fictitious which seems to be pretty obvious nowadays — the spiritual development of the hero is the central topic, even if he is a gawk in reality. The spiritual / mental / religious ideas of Castaneda seem to be pretty half-baked, however. So the question is, how does the hero find his path? A Buddha doesn’t need a teacher. Are helpers teachers in this sense? Rather not. Is the hero doomed to find his path on his own? Seems to be the case.


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