Today I finally sat down to a make a new blog entry. Actually, I wanted to do this regularly, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to put into words what’s on my mind, what I’m dealing with. The complexity of the world almost triggers a kind of speechlessness in me. But don’t worry, it sounds worse than it is. But in fact I do ask myself what else I should add to what is already available on the Net, what could be of interest to other people. Everyone is informed and perhaps sated with images and words.
The Corona crisis makes abundantly clear to us the long-smoldering, sometimes burning problems of our time. Forward-looking political decisions will have to be made worldwide if our livelihoods, as well our freedom are to be preserved and how, to this end these efforts are to be supported in other parts of the world. But ultimately it is we ourselves who will have to make the decision in which world we wish to live. We may have to give up some things that we thought were an essential part of our lives.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau said that no oppression is greater than that which gives the appearance of freedom. In this sense, let us be vigilant.
But I actually wanted to share with you today some excerpts from the wonderful little book Kleine Philosophie der Vögel (The Short Philosophy of Birds), published by Droemer. Philippe J. Dubois and Élise Rousseau. The authors draw insights as to how we humans can learn from the behavior of birds. Among other things, they raise the question as to how we can do our part to make the world more beautiful. You know, beauty is one of the imporant themes of my life, because beauty also involves freedom of the mind and that freedom is sacred to me.
The authors relate that they heard “a highly serious discussion of art presented by a lady of an equally and highly respectable station. The lady said that every “animal” art form is not a “creation” in the real sense, but rather the expression of that which the human eye regards as beautiful. But she said this animal beauty is simply “beautiful” and not “conceived”. Thus, here the conceived becomes the criterion of the “concept” of art. However, as a painter I cannot share this definition. Repeatedly I have made the experience that it is not just the conceived gesture which actually creates beauty. Here I would also like to refer to the book Woher? Wohin? (Wabi-Sabi. Where from? Where to?) by Leonard Koren, published by Wasmuth Verlag.
The discourse in art for decades has moved away from materiality to an intellectual approach to artistic creativity. This has its justification, but in my view one should avoid accepting this view as the only valid possibility.
In his work Vom Geistigen in der Kunst (Concerning the Spiritual in Art) Kandinsky describes the beauty of abstraction, of pure colors and pure forms. He wanted to purify his art from all material things.
To me, on the other hand, the material is far more than a substance. I would go so far as to speak of the “spiritual” in the material.
I suppose Dubois and Rousseau look at it it in a similar way. Using the Silk Bowerbird’s method for the building of a nest as an example, they cast a critical light on the concept of art when, for example they pose the question as to whether the building of a nest could not also be regarded as a kind of artistic creation. And whether the deep midnight blue plumage of the Silk Bowerbird could be the reason why it uses violet, black and blue berries for its nest and also decorates it with found objects which are also blue, such as bottle caps, cigarette lighters or blue pieces of plastic. It apparently also lays out stones, always with the larger ones placed in front and the smaller ones behind. This creates an “optical illusion” that leads like a lane to the nest, which then makes it appear larger than it actually is.
Isn’t that an ingenious feat? Why does the bird do this? How does it even know about perspective and the effect of large spaces? We can now say that all the decorating that birds and other animals do serves the purpose of reproduction. But even if that were the case, it shows once again that beauty is persuasive, that through beauty something can be achieved. And thus animals are able to recognize this and have the ability to distinguish differences.
Ultimately, we simply do not know whether birds and all other animals also have a real sense for beauty. But after all, it has been proven that they respond to music, which is also the case with plants.
The blue nest of the Silk Bowerbird may seem to the female like some kind of blue hall – at least like a long-extended dwelling. At least, that’s how I imagine it when I try to get a bird’s-eye view. It feels quite similar when I enter a beech forest – a green passage of peace and serenity.
However in my work, to paint using green during the winter hardly ever comes to mind. I always find that I react to the seasons in my painting. They have a direct influence on my work. Lately I’ve been doing some blue paintings – completely unrelated to the Silk Bowerbird. At the moment I am experimenting with waxed cloth and paper. I am searching for an even more abstract level in the depiction of forests and trees, while maintaining depth and atmosphere. I cannot wait to see what my efforts will bring in the new year.
Now, I will definitely see the birds with an entirely new pair of eyes after having read Philippe J. Dubois and Élise Rousseau’s little book.
When they begin to sing in the spring and the trees uncurl their leaves, my paintings will once again resound with colors different from those prevalent in the muted season. But what remains for me at any time of year is the search for truth and beauty in the image.