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.

January 18, 2007

Do the right thing

Filed under: Art,Blogroll,Culture,Kultur,Kunst,Leben,Life,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 12:30 pm

Cutout from No. › 271a (private property) · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

Cutout from No.  271a (private property)

The last couple of days, I was writing in German about the questions “Who paints?”, “Blue Period” and “Become who you are”.

Most naturally, I hit upon Picasso, as he is one of the greatest masters of the past century and we know very much about him. Here I mentioned an article I wrote a couple of years ago about the famous painting » Guernica.

Today, somebody told me about an article on the question of screaming horses. Most everybody knows that horses cannot express pain, but then people pretend that horses do nevertheless, especially in the context of war.

I was reminded of my article about Picasso once more and finally read it in full length. Picasso used tormented horse heads and bodies to express extreme painfulness. I wrote that I have witnessed horses groan from pain twice in my life, once during the death struggle of my horse. But as I thought about it again, it was actually rather a scream than a groan. But this was absolutely secondary to the article as such.

The whole article is highly interesting, but unfortunately not translated yet. I don’t know of any essay about this picture featuring these thoughts. Also, I found that I have expressed many of the ideas that I wrote about the last days much better and much more elaborate in the context of Picasso’s works centering around that masterwork. It’s kind of easier to write about somebody else than about your own stuff.

The question is, of course: What is art? When does form and color become something meaningful, something important, something not just illustrating any cheap old idea? There are so many pictures in this world, and every day some millions more are produced. You might look at auctions, museums, galleries, magazines, the Internet — you will find plenty of stuff more or less exciting. Which of all that will still be meaningful in a year, in five, ten, a hundred years, in a thousand years from now?

Yesterday I happened to stumble upon an essay called » How to Build a High-Traffic Web Site (or Blog). The answer is: It’s easy. Do the right thing and everything will care for itself. Don’t ask for immediate rewards, ask yourself what future generations will think about your contribution.

Do you know » Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? This is a very interesting novel digging deep into philosophy. After discussing so many things, the author asks: “How to paint a perfect painting? It’s easy. Make yourself perfect, then just paint naturally. That’s the way all the experts do it.”

Well, easily said, but very hard to do, and in fact even the masters fail very often. Picasso for example failed most of the time in his later years, and he knew it, and that was the tragedy of his life. It is in this respect that the above-mentioned essay is revealing insight into the deep dimensions of great art.

The funny thing is that this picture doesn’t have anything to do with modern times, war, Spain, Guernica, and on top of that all the figures and symbols are utterly private to Picasso and have been used by him for years. But everybody understands, feels that this picture has something fundamentally to say that could not be said in any other way.

So that’s what art is about. A statement that could not possibly be made by any other means. Well, again, this sounds easy, but it isn’t. Take any big canvas, some buckets of color, some big brushes and put this color at random to the canvas. That’s a statement, correct? Couldn’t be done any other way. But it isn’t art, sorry. It doesn’t have any meaning. It could be more or less decorative, aesthetic and so on, but that wouldn’t make it any better in terms of future times. Any good designer has enough good sense to produce something nice or disturbing, whatever you expect from great art. It doesn’t make him an artist and it doesn’t make his product great art. If it would be that easy, everybody would do it all the time.

Don’t be fooled by all those guys telling you that this is really great art because it fills the museums and galleries and is private property at high prices at auctions. That’s all nothing in terms of the future. The higher you rise the thinner the air will become. The more you know the less you will appreciate, but what you do appreciate you will like more and more, beyond all means. And that’s great. You know and you enjoy. You don’t want to fool yourself. You don’t want to sell yourself something.

There is a nice story behind the picture that I took a cutout from as illustration to this contemplation. It was an eyecatcher in a gallery for many years, but nobody wanted to buy it. And one of these days when I thought I should have a look at it, the owner told me that it had been private property to a young couple who fell in love with it. Great! This picture is about something very substantial, and it is good for young people to have a look at it every day. It will remind you what life is about. Don’t waste your time.

January 14, 2007

Blue Period

Filed under: Art,Blogroll,Culture,Kultur,Kunst,Leben,Life,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 2:26 pm

Cutout from No. › 223 (private property) · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

Cutout from No.  223 (private property)

”Painting is stronger than I” » Pablo Picasso is said to have claimed in his old days. Most probably he meant that he was not capable of controlling a painting, something different than he originally intended would emerge for sure.

This is most remarkable considering the high degree of virtuosity Picasso possessed, but it is even more astonishing that he even made the statement in the first place.

It emphasizes what was known from the report of » Françoise Gilot: Picasso tried to replace inspiration by construction. In other words: Sometimes he didn’t know what to do.

For most people, this is probably a normal state, but Picasso knew phases where he invented and developed outrageous things. And then he experienced longer times where he had to fight hard for his work to be done. Imagine this: He envied » Vincent van Gogh for the invention of new pictorial themes, for example his chair or his old boots, whereas he would only paint Madonnas or Eves. Incidentally, van Gogh is the prototype of an artist who doesn’t know what to paint, who always needs something in front of his eyes which he can copy, and sometimes it is the work of his admired colleague » Jean-François Millet.

»  Found at Google · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

»  Found at Google

Picasso tried to get along with cheap tricks, as he lectured to the young Gilot. Small head on huge body or the other way around, one hand large, the other small and more of this kind of petty games. The well-known theme of Memento Mori, “remember that you must die”, traditionally given by a skull, an extinct candle, thighbone and other appropriate symbols, was altered by him in substituting bones by leek.

So what? His lover took it as a revelation, and he himself didn’t notice anything.

As a matter of course, he used the well-known trick to copy and alter pictures of other painters in a big style fashion. But that isn’t it. He knew it and was very dissatisfied with himself and his work. And then once in a while something happened which he didn’t want and didn’t foresee, which surprised him. “Painting is stronger than I”. But that was the whole show anyway all the time. It isn’t important what somebody has in his head, and actually he knew that as well. Allegedly he didn’t want to paint what he knew, because he didn’t want to fool himself.

He really should have committed himself and let “painting” do its thing. Take an expedition’s journey, accept what comes along. With all these terrific repetitions and slight alterations he cannot have committed himself really. On the contrary, it seems to be quite clear that he circled around himself and wasn’t really open.

Well, that’s a tough thing to be. The surrealists have tried and declared “automatic painting” a method, but this collapsed very quickly. The involuntary production is obviously contradicting the artistic will to form. In contrast to a chimpanzee who swings a brush, for an artist it is common to presume a will to design, and indeed the artist claims exactly that: At least he decides if and when the work is valid and done.

Here we have the problem: I can only intend something that I already know and understand. If I refuse that, what can I do? Or to put it differently: How is it possible in the first place that something eminent will emerge which has not been known beforehand? It is undoubted that Picasso has created deep messages never seen before with many works like » Guernica, even if it emerged seamlessly from work done before, like in this case, as I could show in my essay » Studie zu Guerníca (not translated yet).

So I am back at my question: Who paints the painting? If I paint something which I know, then this is basically illustration, not art. Therefore painting not only has to reveal a certain degree of mastership in containment of the means, but also creation, just like a scientist can be considered initiated only after he has touched scientific virgin soil and has come back laden with new insights. An intellectual contention with artistic material can never satisfy in this respect, regardless of how ironic or virtuous it is presented. The existential shudder that we experience with great art can never be produced with these means.

If art works, the artist reaches beyond himself in this way. He produces something which he cannot understand himself. Therefore, it looks like something superimposed expresses itself through him, uses him. The jazz pianist » Keith Jarrett felt this very strongly during his very long solo improvisations; there is actually very little of this kind in modern art, although the artist claims the touch of the genius vehemently. The modern artist is ratiocinated, reserved, intellectual, he constructs more than he creates, he illustrates his thoughts. As the public is not deeply moved by these works, she tries to “understand” them to get at least an intellectual experience. For art historians and art facilitators, being rational thinkers themselves not able to be creative in this way, this state is enjoyable.

But what can we think at all? The real big thoughts befall the thinker just like the dreamer is getting his dream or the painter his picture. At the end of the 19th century, the first psychological societies were formed in Paris and London. The most eminent mathematician in France of that time, » Henri Poincaré, was asked to lecture about thinking for the Paris society. They presupposed that a mathematician should be the first to be able to reveal what thinking its. Imagine the surprise when they heard of an strange inspiration which solved the problem that he worked on for a long time already. Where did this sudden and unexpected inspiration come from?

Put this way, the phenomenon seems to be unusual, but actually we are prey to a very big illusion if we assume that we are master of ourselves and express ourselves all the time actively and consciously. Even in a day to day conversation the thoughts flow faster than the speaker can control, the ideas rush in, and we cannot pretend that “we” rule anything.

Of course, this puzzle is a challenge, we want to understand what happens. The time I was painting the picture from which I took the cutout above, I have produced a lot of photographs documenting the momentary condition. I hoped to gain understanding of the creative process in this way. It took quite a while until I realized that this isn’t possible at all. One of the figures that I would have liked to paint had to come to me in one of my dreams and elucidate me. Unbelievable. You just can’t invent this kind of thing.

January 12, 2007

Who paints?

Filed under: Art,Blogroll,Culture,Kunst,Leben,Life,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 10:17 pm

Cutout from No. › 227  (private property) · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

Cutout from No.  227 (private property)

I started this series in English, but I don’t really know why. Today I will write in German.

At the end of yesterday’s musing, I emphasized that the meaning of a work of art seems to be the major point. But what is the meaning?

“Bedeutend” (meaningful, significant, important, eminent) was one of the favorite words of the collector-at-large » Peter Ludwig. Needless to say he didn’t want to collect unimportant stuff — who would like to?

Nevertheless, people very often flirt with the unimportant, especially in Modern Art, which is understandable as a reaction against the overemphasis of the profound and the important of the saloon painting of the late 19th century. Considering this, it’s quite amazing that Ludwig liked eminence that much.

In a certain way this might relate to a kind of cat and mouse play between artist and collector. How void of meaning must a work of art be in order to make sure that even the least amateur will not find anything significant in it? Is this possible at all?

I dare to doubt it. In our society, the artist has adopted a kind of sacred role. He is the drunkard having a special direct connection to creativity no other can claim, who may safely be called genius, who may dare to despise and frighten the middle classes and who will not be penalized for this, quiet on the contrary he can count on adoration for him being different, being not integrated.

A couple of weeks ago, I have found an endeavor on the Internet driven by an Australian painter (» www.artquotes.net). More or less regularly he sends citations of famous artists via e-mail. Yesterday I received another one, one of the citations being by » Georg Baselitz:

The artist is not responsible to any one. His social role is asocial.. his only responsibility consists in an attitude to the work he does.

» http://www.artquotes.net/masters/georg-baselitz/baselitz-quotes.htm

Exactly, Baselitz is the master of the bad boys. You have to really contemplate about this statement. It doesn’t count that the work is important, it only counts that the artist states his claim. In the long run, this perpetual attitude of protest and the stress of provocation must be pretty strenuous. The public opinion gets used to most everything very quickly. You can hardly find any taboo that you can break these days.

One of those taboos concerns creativity — I just emphasized the common equation of artist and genius. In an interview some twenty years ago and most probably ever since, Baselitz has stated that talent is not crucial at all for the production of art and gave himself as a proof, because he lacked any talent. If that’s not shocking, what is?

But again, the number one rule of the public seems to be: Don’t let anybody make you feel insecure! The artist may act as insane as possible, we simply know that he is the genius, he can’t hide from us. And if he presents most banal productions, we know that every work of art is bliss, received directly from heaven, given in order to bring us redemption.

It’s absolutely absurd, and at the same time there lies some truth in this myth. It’s really hard to distinguish things, no wonder everybody is completely confused. By the way, even this is part of the game: How to confuse the world? In some sense I think this is a matter of self-defense. Just try to imagine it for a moment: A young man wants to become an artist. There shouldn’t be anything bad about this. But where would we get if we expected every young person trying to study physics to be granted the Nobel Prize within ten years?

But that’s exactly what happens with artists! The whole society is confused and the artists should produce meaning because nobody else considers this as his business and artists obviously have a special connection, a connection to some not really known instance, but in any case to some unit that can tell us something, that obviously uses artists and that can open up a dimension for society which cannot be obtained otherwise.

Not surprisingly, the young artist feels this expectation. He should produce something which nobody else has. No wonder that he grows angry. In the middle of the 60’s, as happens every once in a while, several artists have been interviewed about their work. Paul Wunderlich was one of them. I remember a section of his essay, although it’s more than 30 years now that I read it. He complains exactly about this expectation: He must produce importance every day, that’s what society wants him to do, although society doesn’t care how he copes with this demand.

Quite similarly, the wife of Joseph Beuys was cited. Most probably, her husband complained about it. Where should the artist take from what the public expects? In the case of Beuys people suspected that the artistic vein has to be seen in conjunction with his head injury in WWII. Most obviously you are a little bit different if you have something with your head. In this case it would be clear of why the artist is a little bit weird.

“Andy war hohl” (is it possible? My speech system DragonDictate writes what » Horst Janssen has transmogrified — Warhol = was hollow — Janssen had an uncanny sense for the language and very much language wit) — of course I meant » Andy Warhol who has stylized banality to a brand: “All is pretty”. He definitely refused to produce meaning, but naturally in vain. The critics and collectors have found tons of meaning and messages in his works.

» Gerhard Richter, he too, pretends again and again that he doesn’t have a message, that is painting you don’t contain meaning, and nobody wants to believe that (» “Mich interessiert der Wahn”). The title of the interview (”I’m interested in delusion”) seems to suggest that even a most sober artist like Richter is somehow related to delusion, delusion and genius being very close to each other as is commonly known, the one not being in reach without the other anyhow.

Well, it’s time for a change in subject. As an illustration for today, I have chosen a cutout from number  227. Again a woman is the center figure, adjacent to her a man being younger and obviously inferior. Does this painting possess meaning? Is it important? Or is it senseless, devoid of significance?

One thing I can tell: I didn’t put any meaning into this painting myself. In contrast to the painters of the 19th century I don’t have any idea how a painting should look like and what it should express. Of course, as a young man, I have tried to paint like this, but it was horrible. This way was definitely no way. Now I have painted this picture myself and in some sense I didn’t, because if I would say: “I have painted it”, it would sound like I had an idea which I realized in consequence. It definitely wasn’t this way. I wouldn’t be able to paint a picture like this at all. That’s why I rather say: “The painting has painted itself”, which isn’t correct either, because I have played my part in it. If it wasn’t me and if the picture couldn’t paint itself — who did it then?

January 10, 2007

Male or Female?

Filed under: Art,Blogroll,Culture,Kultur,Kunst,Leben,Life,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 6:53 pm

Cutout from No. › 292  (private property) · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

Cutout from No.  292 (private property)

Don’t be mistaken by my post of yesterday — money isn’t really everything, and it definitely isn’t a valid measure for art unless you put time into the equation.

Again, proof is easy. Every now and then, we witness weird fashions. Everybody must have this or that, and this applies to art as well. People try to be different and alike at the same time.

They want to be different from everybody not of their kind, but alike to everybody they consider their peers. And they express their conformity through things and behavior.

Actually, fashion is just that: If you own this, then you belong to us. I don’t care for what you have, because I own different things, and by acting so I really mean: I don’t care for you.

Therefore, things adopt meanings and importance that is not inherent in them. And everything that might be used for that end will be used, art included. As an artist, to become famous, one of the ways always has been to cling to the wealthy and seemingly important people and to try to please them. And they used artists and their art to distinguish themselves from others. You can please snobs by offending them, no problem, maybe this is the only way. So scandalizing society has been a foolproof recipe for more than a century and maybe it still is.

This way art may be valued for wrong reasons, and as soon as the fashions change, the value of the art which has been used for wrong reasons wanes, and sometimes it wanes pretty fast. Examples for this phenomenon are known from many centuries and many societies. Hence the amount of money somebody has paid for a picture doesn’t prove its value, and the fact that nobody is interested to pay anything for a picture doesn’t prove that it isn’t of any value either. Again, there are plenty of examples, and some of them belong to the urban legend of the artist genius, poor and misunderstood and unknown until his death. This legend is so strong that most people believe that artists are poor by definition. They may believe, for example, that Picasso was poor until his high age, but actually it was only a few years that he was poor. He was very wealthy before 1910 already and never suffered from the lack of money ever since. In fact, all of the famous artists of our time are really, really rich, and most of the time most of the artists had the same fate.

This isn’t very surprising, because most people believe that they “cannot draw” just like most people believe that they “cannot compute”. Artistic and mathematical talent are thought to be inherited, something which sits in the genes. And if you have some rare gift you can impress others with, you can be pretty sure that they will reward you for that special ability.

If art is valued for something else, you have to wait until this something else is stripped off. And this is what time does invariably. When fashion has gone, all that is left is the work proper. And if nobody is interested in it any more, this may be forever. But if there is something that is really valuable, we believe that one day somebody will come who will see that value and tell the world about it. Again, examples are well-known.

To be able to see value you have to be educated. This sounds complicated, but it isn’t. Education is inevitable. If you are interested in something and care about it, you will gain knowledge. You will become a connoisseur pretty fast. And you will know. You might not be able to talk about it or justify your judgment, but you’re sure that there is no doubt about it. And this is why you will pay pretty much money if you can afford it. So here money comes into play. You pay the money not for wrong reasons, but for the work of art as such.

Okay, this was just an afterthought to my musings of yesterday. Another one must be added: The hero to the question “Who am I” was male. Is this politically correct? Of course not. Man is not male, man is not female either. Man is just male or female, at least in general. There are cases where you maybe in doubt, but these are really a minority. So the question still arises if artists are male, and if they are, if they should represent themselves as male or not.

Now there is little doubt these days that females are pretty much the same and pretty much different from males. This sounds contradictory, but it isn’t. Males and females are very different creatures, so different that you might ask how they manage to communicate at all. On the other hand, they’re capable of pretty much the same things. We had examples of artists or scientists of equal qualification. There are still many more male movers, but this is not so much a question of capabilities but rather opportunities and preferences.

Okay then, there are good and bad artists, and there are good and bad male and female artists. If an artist paints a picture that maybe comprehended as a statement about man — does that mean that the figure the artist is using has to be of the same sex? I don’t think so. Well, sex is an enigmatic quality anyway, and frankly, I don’t know how we recognize somebody as male or female. We do, and in most cases we don’t hesitate and in almost all cases we are correct. Imagine that! How do we do that?

Try to judge the sex of a horse just by looking at the overall picture, and you know what I mean. The differences of the sexes in humans are so obvious that we can find out at very far distances. The situation is even more complicated as we have any varying degree of maleness in females and vice versa. You most certainly know any number of examples. Also, we are not what we look like, but we rather are the persons we feel inside, some invisible quality, and this person has its own mixture of sexes as well.

Some psychologists believe that everybody is a mixture of female and male components, and some esoteric people believe that everybody has been reborn numerous times as man and woman, and although the do not know exactly, they basically know about the other side more or less. In my case, central figures are very often male, but not always. The above picture is one example of a person which is most definitely female. And again it is only a part of a painting (No.  292), comprising other persons as well and some other stuff in addition. So the question of “Who am I” is definitely not restricted to male people, and it is not the sex of the artist which defines the sex of the hero representing some kind of deeper meaning.

Meaning — this is a keyword. We have seen artists trying to produce art without meaning. That’s not easy, and maybe it was worthwhile to try it. But actually art is not about meaninglessness, rather the contrary. Art maybe comprehended as a means to understand our world and find meaning hitherto unknown and otherwise incomprehensible. This special kind of meaning is what people pay for. You rather feel this meaning than understand it.

December 31, 2006

Who am I?

Filed under: Art,Blogroll,Culture,Kultur,Kunst,Leben,Life,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 5:56 pm

Cutout from No. › 250 · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

Cutout from No.  250

Art, I pretended in my first post yesterday, is essential to man. But what is it? Is it just entertainment? Illustration?

If you take a pen or a brush and some material to draw on and do some strokes, will the product be art? When does paint on board or canvas become art?

There is a very easy answer to this question. The answer is: Art is in the eye of the beholder. In other words: It’s all up to you. If you think it is art, it is.

Unfortunately, easy answers tend to be wrong. And this one is definitely as wrong as any wrong answer can be.

The proof for my claim is easy and everybody will understand it. It is a financial proof. Any chimpanzee can put paint on canvas. But nobody will bid on such a product at Sotheby’s. On the other hand, people obviously do pay huge sums for art. And the reason for this surprising fact is that there is something quite objective about art. It is definitely not up to you.

Of course, you can do what you want and you can think what you want, but nobody will care about that. And actually nobody cares about all the pictures of all the painting chimpanzees out there, although there is one famous individual who produced quite a number of paintings resembling pretty much to what contemporary artists pretended to be the most exquisite art of the time.

Well, this only raises the question about the value of the artwork those paintings were compared with. Was all that acclaimed artwork of the same kind? And did this mean that modern art was crappy and not worth a dime, or would chimpanzee painting be worth thousands or millions with the same argument? Could everybody become a millionaire by buying a chimpanzee and some cheap tools?

You could sell any crap you find to somebody and even make him happy if he doesn’t understand too much about the subject. This is a sad truth not limited to art proper. You can draw millions on bad music, for example, which is quite unbelievable if you think about it. But this is fact, and all the money doesn’t make that music any better.

OK, here we are: What is quality in art? Why do people pay fortunes for some work and don’t care for another? Interesting questions with no easy answers, but there are answers, of course, and I’m going to talk about them in due time. The title of today’s blog indicates that art is at least in part about one of the most urgent questions in man’s life. We don’t know where we come from, why we are here and where we are going to. But we want to know, right? We want to know who we are.

The head on the left is a cutout of one of my paintings with no title but a number, No. 250. You can see that there must be other persons on that painting as well, because you can see one more eye belonging to somebody else. It is obviously not a realistic portray of some real person, but then again it is clear that this is a person indeed, and it is a male person, grown up far enough as to raise this question: Who am I?

December 30, 2006


Filed under: Art,Blogroll,Culture,Kultur,Kunst,Leben,Life,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 4:22 pm

A short and simple word. Art. Just three letters. But what kind of a world is given by that notion!

Some people can’t do without, some pretend they do — but most probably, they don’t know that they need art just as well. Art may be one of the very few things distinguishing man from animal.

Did you try to live in a room without pictures? I did. I remember a visit in a hotel in the vicinity of Barcelona, Spain, back early in the seventies. Every room was decorated with small paintings, all by the same artist, mostly still lifes, lemons and the like, pretty dull and boring. It made me sick after a few hours, so I decided to turn them, facing the wall, showing their backside.

Surprisingly, after only a few days, I felt such a need for eye food that I rather wanted to look at these inferior pictures than living without. It was an experience that showed me something I never forgot. “Man shall not live by bread alone” — this is really true, and if the basic needs are taken care of, man feels an emptiness which has to be filled.

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. This is the whole citation attributed to Jesus, and the emptiness may well be the indication for that longing. Art cannot becalm that longing, but may indicate the direction the soul wants to go. Anyway, I’m eager to find out what my musings will lead me to.

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