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Water on water is the third volume in a series of publications, subtitled Painted Poetry & Painterly Poetics — an ekphrastic notion, conceived and produced by the contemporary painter Joost de Jonge, whose work is also featured here. Edited by Dinah Berland, Peter Frank and the painter. This website, along with the other volumes in this series, represents an interdisciplinary, international project based in the Netherlands that explores the poetics of text and image.

Contact Joost de Jonge

With Contributions by Derek Berry, Emily Bilman, Dinah Berland, Helen Brandenburg, Koos Breukel, Kathryn Brown, Richard Cándida Smith, Mary Ann Caws, Peter Clothier, Robert C. Morgan, Sarah Colby, Robbie Dell’Aira, Sharon Dolin, Norman Dubie, Susan Finch Stevens, Penny Florence, Peter Frank, Marietta Franke, John Fuller, Michael Gallowglas, Richard Garcia, Ed Gold, Karen Holden, Juliën Holtrigter, Ron Horning, Joost de Jonge, Mindy Kronenberg, Janis Lander, Deborah Lawson Scott, David Lehman, Kit Loney, Jimena Mendizábal del Moral , Susan Meyers, Daniel Thomas Moran, Ceilidh Newbury, Jamie O’Halloran, Ricardo Pau-Llosa, Mathieu Daniel Polak, Lucas Reiner, Piet-Jan van Rossum, Wendy Steiner, Ira Schneider, Richard Shiff, Mariska van Schijndel, Loek Schönbeck , David Sullivan, Jazz Allen Sutton, Laura Thomas, Hubert Thomas, Brian Turner, Brenda Yates, Inge van de Ven, Katherine Williams, Robert Wynne and Cilja Zuyderwyk

Design by Autobahn

Words by Penny Florence

This is the final part of The Ekphrasis Project, the culmination of an international collaboration between artists, poets and theorists on the interrelation of the arts. The touchstone is, of course, ekphrasis, or the relation of poetry to painting, a concept whose complexity is explored throughout. And the the artist who has brought it all together is the painter-poet Joost de Jonge. Thank you, Joost. It has been a great adventure. Your work in word and image affords us all a great opportunity to explore, in your words, “a conscious application of the primary aspects of one art in another”.1

The Project has come a long and illuminating way from the classical idea of ekphrasis. But this is not to imply that its trajectory is in any way a linear progression or an advance from the introductory. Rather, it traces a tidal rhythm that forms and re-forms, as suggested in the title and arrangement of Part I Oceanen van Kleur; The Ekphrasis Project (2010). Here, music is a strong presence in the exploration of how poetry and painting intersect, and, as many readers will immediately recognise, the musical is the condition to which all the arts are said to aspire.2 We do not, however, have to install hierarchy; we do not have to think of all arts moving ‘upwards’ or becoming ‘like’ music.

If we bear in mind the metaphor of the sea qua metaphor, we are reminded both that there is constant motion and that there are borders. There is containment. Etymologically ‘metaphor’ contains within it the idea of transfer. What flows like the sea in all the arts, what is transported in and through them, is a ‘condition’ towards which they all ‘aspire’. It is not medium or form; the arts do not merge.

As between languages, an act of translation - or transposition - is required. Indeed, in the Ekphrasis Project, writings are presented in 6 languages, flowing between the cultures of language and nation as they do between those of the various arts. This is an essential part of the thinking of the Project overall: transposition opens, not on to a problem, as is often thought, but rather on to the fluid potential of a creative and constantly changing space, affording new perceptions and apperceptions, and bringing insight especially into abstraction as specifically embodied, not as generalised and conceptual. So the hybrid metaphor of the sea and the condition of music both invoke shores and infinity; one could almost say that the oceanic is the condition to which the arts aspire.

Part II, Painted Poetry & Painterly Poetics. An Ekphrastic Notion3 (2015/16) equally inhabits this brilliantly elusive space, and if I say that it focuses primarily on ekphrasis as the relation between words and images as much as music, it is not to imply that it is in any way narrow in its exploration. Like the rest of the entire project, Part II is wonderfully free in its pathways, while remaining clear about its terrain. Essays range across the relation between writing and seeing, the quality of abstraction and of creative power. They come together in the carnivalesque figure of the Fulehung, as mythic embodiment of the creative act in its totality, from experiential seeing to making to renewed experience. The Fulehung introduces a playful, yet dangerous element; making art can carry you to a higher reality, but - to return to the metaphor of the sea - it can also drown you. You need to be able to swim.

Both Parts I and II were published in book form as well as online. Part III will also appear in print, but in a very limited edition of up to 50 copies.The books are beautifully designed and produced, contributing their strength and grace to the collective exploration.The same care and inventiveness is evident in the web sites. Online presentation calls attention to the ways the Project as a whole has explored the book, the picture frame, and the digital as virtual. Again, the articulation of what ‘virtual’ might mean in the shifting of form and sense between the arts is what directs us, an innovative ‘change of mind’ rather than a closed comparison.

As Joost said to me in an email “[…] part one of my project really reflects upon the traditional book with all its flyleaves, its a try for the online book to be in line with the printed book, but also an ode to it and as such a sublimation, a reconsideration of it online. […] The moving capitals at the start of each text are inspired by the illuminated capitals of many old Bibles from the 14th century for example.”

The forms of all the arts, and how they interrelate, are changed by the virtual. Therefore, whether or not you already have a clear sense of what ekphrasis means to you,I hope as you explore our project online you might change your mind. I say ‘our’ because it is a characteristic of Joost’s initiative that all of us as participants feel an engagement with it that goes well beyond that of an invitee.

“To change your mind” is quite a phrase, when you consider it. Although, of course, it generally means simply to alter an opinion, what I hope you will gain through our exploration of ekphrasis is altogether far more powerful. I hope that it will act like all art worthy of the name and alter the way you think; not just what you think, but how you think. Such alterations do not have to be vast and dramatic. They do not even have to be conscious. They work exponentially, like deeds and like the pragmatic reason for ethical behaviours: each time they are repeated, they magnify.

Ekphrasis is by definition trans/formative. It flickers in the space between signs, disrupts what we think we know and even projects backwards in time to what we thought we knew. You could say that ekphrasis begins as soon as you engage with art, for example in the moment when you turn to your companion and try to tell them what you think of it. As you do so, you search for the right words and so enter this tricky and brilliant territory.

It’s much more supple as an idea and means much more than the loose notion of a verbal description of visual art.4 Interestingly, we can explore this even while we stay with the word ‘description’. For it holds within its meanings both words and images: ‘to describe’ is an action in words and in drawing; even though its usage is less common in relation to the visual, ‘describe’ is almost a synonym of ‘draw’.

You can move about in ekphrasis, yet remain anchored, like John Donne’s ‘twin compasses’, and for the same reason: the movements described, or traced, belong to twin souls, so that when one moves away from the other, there is no breach, but rather “an expansion/Like gold to airy thinness beat”.5

So it is that the wonderful line ‘the cry of the gull is torchlight’ in A Third Scroll of Malachite (Part III) perfectly locates why ekphrasis runs deep in art. We understand the thought through a shift from sound to sight, from the cry to the torchlight, both cutting through the dark to sharpen our senses and to reveal a new truth. In this way, ekphrasis is cousin to metaphor, and metaphor is embodied truth. Both bring the qualities of difference together to forge new sense both comprehensible and experienced, thought and felt.

Especially in the present multimedia, global environment, ekphrasis can have the combination of flexibility and precision that we need to be able to make sense from our senses. It enriches and deepens our awareness as we shift from digital to analogue, from screen to painting to words to music to moving image to abstraction to figuration to scaling up or down, to the fabulous complexity of signs and signification that we experience almost daily. There is an intriguing and fruitful paradox in the reduction of signs to zeros and ones that yet produces a shimmering illusion of painting, poetry, books, music …

           Si clair,
Leur incarnat léger, qu’il voltige dans l’air
Assoupi de sommeils touffus

… a sensuous, embodied experience that makes its language and form both disappear and appear natural. The emergence of what digital grammars and art can bring to the ekphrastic has barely begun. It is surely a medium that could claim ekphrasis as its own. Arguably, of course!

1 Part 1 p.226. See also another online book"The Archeology of Person Hood Series; a romantic notion of an unbroken modernist tradition”. Joost has compared this to ‘an embryonic part of the project (though there have been more stages)’.
2 “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.” Walter Pater, The Renaissance: Studies in Art & Poetry, ‘The School of Giorgione’, 130-154. (1873).
3 The full title of the online version is The Convergence. Painted Poetry & Painterly Poetics. An Ekphrastic Notion. (
4 Ekphrasis also has a very long history; take a look at the invaluable exchange between de Jonge and Cándida Smith in this volume for a fascinating discussion of the territory.
5 John Donne A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning. (1611/12)
6 Stéphane Mallarmé, L’après-midi d’un faune. 1865/76. ‘So light/ their airy flesh floats free/tumbled in drowsiness’. My translation for today!
Words by Prof. Dr. Richard Cándida Smith
13 Variations on Ira Schneider’s series of videos, H2O (2011-2017)

worlds nestle in a corner of the earth, but for humans, earth slips into background, ever-present noise ready to hand for translation as concepts of nature, transpositions into extensions of limitless world

Can there be a language where an utterance means only one thing and nothing else? Will we ever invent a medium that projects exact experience from one person to another?

No two people looking at a waterscape see it identically. Each has a personal history shaping not just their interpretations but basic perception. My blue is not the same as yours and never will be. We have no way yet of measuring the difference, but eventually scientists will propose reasonably accurate models for mapping neural activity, sensory reception, and interpretation. How we interact will not change because what we mean by “shared” has never been identity of perception but concordance about what each party to an interaction should do as a result of sharing information or a feeling. I think something similar happens between the elements and forces shaping the topography of a place—water, the wind, sand on a beach, river- or lakebeds, lava, clouds, precipitation—they all communicate with each other and, as a result of their interaction, change what they do. The ancestors used to imagine spirits with contesting temperaments animating a landscape. The intelligence of a place still speaks to us even if the myths have become quaint and amusing, but the languages of place now assume the form of physical forces like hydrostatic pressure. Humans long understood these forces even as they attributed the underlying motive to an elf or an angel.

Day after day, torrents of rain beat down. Stuck indoors, I am irritable. Gardeners say the flowers and the trees Are happy, but they have no inner life except Molecular exchanges of chemicals put in motion By hydrostatic pressure. The inner life of corpses must be Something similar. Pools of water speed up rot, And if motion is a form of happiness, Then the dead must all be smiling in a way Only those who have come to rest can understand.

God sits among the dead. He moves with them, He shares Their contentment as they turn from flesh into soil. The dreams that sparking synapses sounded have gone The way of the sound of the church bells down the block calling The faithful, of the heat rippling out from the wood crackling In my fireplace, of the dancing I and my wife enjoyed last night, Of the moments when love seizes us and we comply. I can no more complain about the position of my dreams In the divine design than a daub of burnt sienna About its place in the Sistine Chapel, or the word mercurial Complain about its place in a Shakespeare sonnet. Form reveals.

If the Law-giver is the same as the Form-giver, does a form Imply a law? At one pole the conjugation. Night and fog. Running dogs. Eyes whose movements are a form of prayer At the last possible moment that patterns find completion. Forms that escape and replenish the world as they evaporate. A return. At the other pole pure signs—

“morning cup of coffee,”

“I love you,”

“all complex zeroes of the Zeta-function have real part one-half.”

Flesh-word, object-image, appear-disappear. Sounds in the throat Teeth clicking, tongue licking, figures flying out, shooting away, A feeling left behind not unlike the scent of an animal.

Question for co-investigators, most of whom are not yet born: What didn’t I hear when I started collecting the data that I hoped would give me definitive answers? What could be said about what I heard that I thought was just frustrating silence? What continues to reverberate in a phenomenon? What could be said yet is what you hear clearly. So why did I miss out?

in late fall deer nibble bark
stripping away strings
leaving white lines
raw wood scars
across the darker shell
hunger a need to survive
emit signs of an existence
a peculiar way of life
whose activities say
you know me by how I
defeat enemies
too many for me to count
they fill every moment

extinction stands in every shadow

it would be easier if elves
shepherded cosmic energy
appealing to their sense of humor
or to sentiment might win
amiable cooperation
in a world of friends
in a world of guardians

activity needs neither elves
nor angels
simple laws—
nature vacuum abhors
—pushes events without will

facts and results
traces of existing the shape of hopes
if you, oh name of pairness, see me as an object
hunger physical or habit spiritual
must have driven you
to strip me
isolate from activity
a frozen moment telling
what both you and I needed
simply to be here

Adolph Goldschmidt (1863-1944), the famous German art historian, did not want his students to start their relationship to an art object by describing their responses or, even more foolish, by looking for evidence of underlying cultural frameworks that imbued artwork with meaning for its contemporaries. He told his students: count basic forms, count ridges on ivory miniatures, count nubs and dimples on bronze busts, count hatch strokes in a drawing, record the exact number of horizontals, verticals, and diagonals in any painting you study. Goldschmidt’s method was both tactile and visual. Vision saturated with meaning is blind, he thought. Through quantitative exercises, an object slowly touches a scholar. Did Goldschmidt imagine that “to see” was the same as “to enumerate”? That it was possible to forego response until after arithmetical patterns emerged?

As I pondered the painting that Gerrit Joost de Jonge sent me with his invitation into the Ekphrasis project, my thoughts turned in directions other than a translation of one medium into another. I recalled musical transposition: as a tune is adapted to new circumstances, its inner relations are preserved but the specific notes are in fact radically different.

We know nothing of a phenomenon beyond its appearance until we start guessing why it does whatever it does. To make sure, we start recording, images first! Then data, numbers collected. Like people, things for themselves are deceptive. Obvious meaning is often nonsensical. With people, sometimes we read nonsense as a garbled form of a message that we hope to make straightforward and eloquent if only we trace it back to some original intention. Better to count, assign a code to whatever crosses our paths, and begin computation. Stop fretting, no metaphysics!

Subjective interaction with external reality is what is knowable of the constitution of things. Objects are objects for our purposes. They are also always objects for many other purposes, or in an ideal or absolute paradigm, they may be objects without purposes. But the instant an existent thing becomes an object for us, it steps out of nothingness as an object for our purposes. We cannot think of it without reference to those purposes. All things exist for you insofar as you are trying to determine who you are and what you want.

The recognition of signs follows social learning, so that in a community, different individuals find themselves discovering more or less the same sets of signs when they interact with the same object, or even one that is merely similar. Interpretation is even more of a social act, for the vast majority of the meanings we attach to signs come from the communities we inhabit. Each of us is part of a larger process stretching across time and space of observation and assessment. Stretching really to points we cannot even imagine, much less speculate about the origins of our most basic responses to the things sharing our world.

In the act of observation, the self also appears as a sign requiring interpretation. That is, our ideas about ourselves emerge in the acts we perform. In interaction with objects, human beings must define themselves for themselves. In the process, interpretation becomes an act of intentionality that must ask, What is it that we want from the world? Entering into relations with things/processes/being, we ourselves are a problem, not a given.

I am nervous this morning
wilderness trembles reaching into my heart
my subsurface moves with the tides and the stars
I fight the temblor with ideas

hypotenuse square root life cycles
peace is a condition of self-discovery

so many concepts

filling up holes and cracks
generating places for worms and bugs to live
inching through the safety of roots
the garden of a mind, my mind, forms, builds up,

trees, shrubs, flower beds
arranged in an architecture
that substitutes for the deep reality
of a universe not to our scale or our taste

the hard discipline of a garden is never a form of peace
imagination of a home that is the foundation of who we are
imagination projected into activity and objects that please us

we push back the dark forest
we force the remaining trees to serve as decoration
we channel water into a fountain
our children build forts and play house
they make villages between the flowers where
their dreams are tamed into the laws of the garden
and our children grow not knowing they too should be morsels
that animals, other humans, viruses, the soil consume

the wilderness of my heart shakes
a temblor sinking me back into the black lake
deep beneath the gardenlands

Words by Prof. dr. Inge van de Ven

In a course on Intermediality I teach in Tilburg University’s Online Culture program, we investigate the relations between different art forms. What influences from the plastic arts can we discern through a clos reading of poem? How can music influence painting or literature? What do we mean when we speak of ‘cinematic’ novels, or ‘literary’ cinema? We analyze these art forms from inter-, trans-, and multimedia perspectives, and situate their interrelations in a broader cultural framework including themes like the network society, interdisciplinarity, differentiation, the post-network age, and the death of the individual.
We understand all media as ‘intermedia’, as ‘medium’ already implies a middle between at least two things. Intermedia, in Dick Higgins’ understanding (1965), reside in-between existing or traditional media, resist fixed aesthetic categories, and therefore cannot (yet) be classified. With Kiene Brillenburg Wurth (2004), we take this one step further and understand all media as essentially intermedia. Monomedialiy, she holds, is impossible without the dynamics between media, and is in fact the effect and not the cause of intermedial ‘infection’. This makes intermediality the original interval that enables the identity of media as we know them. This frame allows us to gain insight in the hybrid character of art forms: their intertwinement with each other, but also the everyday, science, philosophy, and societal engagement.
Within this context, we devoted a week to ekphrasis, understood as the description of an (often visual) artwork in terms of another art form, usually (literary) language, which reorganizes or usurps the visual. This makes ekphrasis an instance of transmediality: a transposition of material from one medium to another. In Irina Rajewski’s words, this regards “medienunspezifische Phänomene, die in verschiedenen Medien mit den dem jeweiligen Medium eigenen Mitteln ausgetragen werden können, ohne dass hierbei die Annahme eines kontaktgebenden Ursprungsmediums wichtig oder möglich ist.”
For this assignment, Joost de and I asked the students to formulate a response to Ira Schneider’s video H2O#22 in an experimental form of their own choice: poetry, prose, word and image, or critique. As part of a series depicting water, this work by the acclaimed video artist presents us with a beautiful and haunting moving image of blue and purple waves, accompanied by a dramatic, swelling sound composition by Flaut Rauch.
Before class, the students, watched the video, drafted their ekphrastic text, and read those by their peers. The responses included personal associations such as emotions, impressions and thoughts. Language is used here as an ekphrastic act, to fill in the gaps left by the audiovisual medium and add something that could not be expressed in the original. It conjures the object so to speak, renders it present before the mind’s eye as if it were really there. It could also be used to convey the emotional intensity of the individual experience of the object, including thoughts and associations. During our in-class session Joost de Jonge gave a thought-provoking lecture about his artistic process and history, after which the students performed their texts for the group and provided feedback. Each student handed in a top three of most successful artistic responses. These were then assembled by a jury consisting of poet Esther Porcelijn, Joost, and me, and together we came to the final top three which you find below.
Ceilidh Newbury’s text is in-between spoken word text and analysis; Laura Thomas has written two poems, one in Dutch and one in English, which enter into a productive tension. In the words of Esther Porcelijn, “the first is more tense and has a ‘propulsive’ quality, whereas the secnd one is calm, as if someone has surrendered”. Mariska van Schijndel makes innovative use of symbolism and embeds hyperlinks in her text, which add a fitting soundtrack to her poem. She thematizes how a ‘natural’ image like water becomes digitized, with all the ‘errors’ that can occur in the process.

Works cited
Brillenburg Wurth, Kiene. “Tussenbeide: differentie, intermedialiteit, en het wonder van het monomedium.” Vooys 2004. 22-36.
Higgins, Dick. “Intermedia.” 1965.
Rajewsky, Irina O. Intermedialität. Stuttgart: A. Francke UTB, 2002.

Words by Joost de Jonge

Water my rivulet
Of blazing gold
Absence of change
Turns the dark into
A staccato of immobility

A river is pinkishly green
Did you turn off the light?
This digital show drowns
The old technique of accident

A boy 15 years of age
Looked for the stars
A cosmic orgasm
     of a childhood dream

Words by Prof. dr. Inge van de Ven
(or: I cannot even see my comfort zone from here)

Stalwartly substantial, uncaptured by the wave
Solidly unwavering, decoded by the source
Pixelating. Breaking the current with
chunks of why
lumps of how

Elementary, this is not my element,
I am out of it
Elementary, I am neither fluid
nor transparent
Blue nor purple: I am white
I am noise
Static electricity in waves of fear

But this is where I need to go
to learn
to swim

Words by Ceilidh Newbury
A response to H20 #22 by Ira Schneider

Amelia opens her eyes; wrenches her eyelids apart, breaking the crust that has glued them together, only to find the sun staring back at her. She can’t see for the brightness, even as she twists her neck to avoid its gaze. She closes her eyes quickly but it has been burnt into her retinas.

She doesn’t remember how she got here, or even where here is. She tries to focus on remembering, but her head is searing from the sun and about to boil over. Her skin feels raw, exposed; every breeze sends a stinging whip up her arms.

She can’t hear anything. Or rather, her ears are ringing. Shrill sounds, alien, distant, wrong sounds fill up her head. She clenches her teeth and tastes something metallic.

The sounds are growing louder, they are making her head split down the middle. She tries covering her ears with her hands, but the sounds continue to swell and her wet hands are sliding around as if on ice.

The noise, the sun, and the wetness overwhelm Amelia. Everything feels wrong and her memory loss is making her dizzy.

The last thing she remembers: sitting at her desk. It had not been so bright there.

Amelia works in an office. A dull one. An anonymous advertising agency where she is an underpaid assistant. The last thing she remembers: trying to carefully word an email to a man heatedly demanding something or other.

Her job involves being yelled at by many people who are angry with her boss. At first it had made her outraged and upset. She had tried to solve it by talking to her boss, then her boss’s boss, then anyone higher up she could find. Soon she discovered that nobody cared.

“This is how it works,” they would say. “You just have to have thicker skin.”

Enough people over enough time say these things to you and you start to believe them. So Amelia tried to be “less sensitive”. She talked about it to her friends and family until they were bored. She argued about it in her mind until she was bored.

Eventually, she lost what little passion she had for the job. She became numb. She went through the motions mechanically and began to get good at ignoring hurtful things. To Amelia, this didn’t feel like a win. Yet, everyone congratulated her on her new “thick skin”.

Amelia’s skin doesn’t feel thick now. She begins to open her eyes again, but this time looks down, hoping to avoid the sun’s glare. She slowly pulls them apart to find that she is now looking into a body of water. Her feet, she can see, are submerged in the brightly reflective surface. She cannot feel the water on her legs.

She kicks them forward, seeing the water ripple as they move. Still, she does not feel it. She slides her hands down her legs and pinches them, noticing reddish brown liquid dripping from her fingertips, leaving painterly streaks. She pushes her hands urgently into the water to wash off the blood.

A loud shriek breaks her concentration and she turns quickly, frightened, to see a little boy or girl crying up at the sky. Looking up, Amelia sees a small balloon disappearing into the clouds. The child is making the noise, but it sounds wrong. It sounds like faulty brakes, not a human being.

Looking around Amelia notices that nothing sounds as it should. Birds chirping sound like a dial-up Internet connection, car horns are like someone beating on oil drums, and the people talking are aliens from a far off galaxy. Amelia splashes water in her ears, trying desperately to purge them of whatever is making the world so strange.

She looks down into the water, watching the blood swirling around her feet. She catches only a glimpse of her reflection. Her face is so covered in dirt and blood she hardly recognises herself.

She wipes her wet hands on her skirt. It is caked in black dust that is sandpaper to her broken hands. It is too hot, too bright, too loud, too wrong. She can’t breathe. She coughs and wretches and it strains her ears.

Without thinking, Amelia stands up, on shaky legs, dripping dirt and blood and water onto the warm sidewalk. She cannot see her shoes, and doesn’t even know if she ever had them. She looks over the water, its colours wrong too. She looks at the screaming child and the trees full of birds. She coughs again, her whole body threatening to crumble.

Taking deep breathes, or trying to, she realises that she is in a park. Grasping onto this thread, feeling her breathing become less jagged, she allows herself to believe that she is in the park nearby her office.

After a few moments she feels confident in her belief. She turns to face the direction of her office and she remembers why she is here.

Her building is nothing but a cloud of black smoke on the horizon. She feels tears begin to bubble over her eyelids and falls to the ground again. Her stomach is rumbling. Her hands, propping her up, are burning on the pavement. Thick skin isn’t enough.

She lays herself down on the pitiless ground. She lowers her arm into the warm water. Amelia watches the blood and the dirt, the tears and the sweat melt into the pond.

Words by Mariska van Schijndel

‘H2O’ is what I read
I think I was misled
First I saw water, so quiet
Later my view was disrupted by a riot

The image stayed quite the same
It was the music to blame
The text and video matched with what I heard
But then the audio became absurd
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ / / [ e r r o r ]

The electronic sounds pulled me out of my peace
The mismatch increased my feeling of unease
The water became d i g i t i z e d
T h e r e _ w @ s  #t h i n g(  )  n a t u r a /;  [I] < r e c o g n i z e d > ; (

Words by Laura Thomas

Het is de paradox van slikken of stikken
een eindeloos doorgaan van wrikken,
hikken, trappelen, stuwen, duwen, baden,
niemand kon mij in het water schaden.

Zwevend, glijdend door de baan, bleef ik
gaan, altijd doorgaan, geen stop, maar mik
ik op het juiste doel van scherpte en kracht
ervoer ik nog altijd de trance van de macht.

Het was ongekend weergaloos, die snelheid
kent geen spijt, van gedachte en narigheid,
de leegte gevonden in de snelheid van gaan
schreeuwende gedachtes bleven ver vandaan.

Rust staat recht tegenover ontberende angst
van een onheilspellend bestaan, het bangst
te zijn om niet te gaan, ver vandaan, missend
van snelheid en capaciteit, gedachtes wissend.

Geen gestroomlijnde gedachtes in reactie op
het gevoel van gewichtloosheid, mijn kop
zinkend, verzuipend naar de woedende storm,
hoe kan ik leven naar de maatstaven van de norm?

‘t gevoel van veiligheid in de geheimzinnigheid
reflecterend aan de tweestrijd van zinvolheid,
een beschermende laag, van wikken en wegen
als een warme deken omhult, geeft het zijn zegen.

Words by Laura Thomas

Through the water
my mind came through.
As a motion of my memory.
it reminds its way to move
out in the open, performs
the water, an ongoing story
of love and hate. Drowning to
the bottom, but flying away.
Standing and going with no
sorrowful sorry, feeling and
caring, focusing on losing ends.

It is the poison to my heart
to hold on, to care, to feel
to surrender my thoughts.

Words by Mindy Kronenberg

Can you hear my quick-silver lullaby
glimmering on the water’s surface?
My head is a shell swollen with desire,
sweet briny dissonance calling
through a cacophony of clouds
to the water’s persuasive

Through shimmering light a storm
brews, stirs our maelstrom
of heartbeat and mayhem,
the wind’s breath suddenly sliding
into thunder. We collapse
in a bubbled plume, cocooned
in the brackish depth of waves

until all you knew of childhood
dissolves, the life that lured you
to the open seas, bright horizons
tunneled into dark, the small
insistent voices from the past
shrinking to the curious silence
of release.

Words by Emily Bilman

1. Hypnosis

Like a hypnotic Fabergé bird, I glide
on a turquoise water-field shifting
with the sun’s timothy rays. The water
re-circles itself, confining the shore’s elegy
inside a convex water drop, recalling
the staleness of my mother’s dead
lead-seas: a stifling immobility,
a hollowness upon me,
land-shielded by Ira’s wrath.

         seven…breathing in … five…breathing
               out… three… breathing in… two…breathing
     out…one…hypnotic zero

II. Migration

with the blackbirds, I flew out.
with others, I descended into
the taboo-zone
where water’s immanence was
censured …. as if by babies’ cries
by subsided water- bournes
and electronic sirens
their grief into
the black-hole of Ira’s wrath.

III. Mirth

like horses galloping on D-day beaches
the waves’ ire smite the shoreline, still

sea-sentinels rejuvenate the protean
shore while cerulean currents stream

beneath where the plankton abounds so
the spermwhales sing with Flaut’s rhythm

until circular crotchets close Ira’s water-cycle.

Words by Daniel Thomas Moran

There are
those strands
of our reality
which defy our

Limply, they
render answers,
Which simply
to appease.

I thought that
I knew blue,
Until I chanced
to sail on the

Now the bluest
of skies only
It makes me blue
to think about it.

Trapped in
the cage
of our senses,
All is but
air and light,

In a sea of
things which
move inside us,
in colors we are

Words by Karen Holden

a vision growing darker

sweeter, then dissonant
at once, stop, it, slow, it

there's a body in...there
under all that – glowing

you, think, u/know (what)
what you r seeing, then
..........     ..

An interview by Joost de Jonge and Dr. Inge van de Ven

Joost de Jonge visits the incomparable Ira Schneider for an interview at his place in Berlin. Being there to speak and interact with this renowned video artist and creator of engaging digitally enhanced photographic images. Ira is an artistic force of great magnitude, propelling humanity, through the conscious conception of beauty, forward into the manifestation of a form of liberated spirituality, a democratic and wholesome co-existence of all the different flavors of mankind. This all started out with the Raindance Foundation a 1970s group of video makers who sought to challenge the monopoly of commercial TV by cultivating the artistic use of video, pioneering the ecological uses of the medium. They were the first group cautioning against use of fossil fuels and warning of humanities detrimental effects on climate and environment. Schneider joins the third part of my Painted Poetry project with a beautiful video from the H2O series, which I discussed at Tilburg University, Online Culture in co-operation with Dr. Inge van de Ven, who joined in, to compose the questions. So that’s how things get started.

Inge van de Ven (IvdV): You are a self-proclaimed TV-junkie (at one point you even married your television). Do you see television and video as competing media? How would you describe their interrelations? To what extent, and in what respects, is your work influenced by Marshall McLuhan's media theory?

Ira Schneider (IS): So the thing I said about the difference between film and video is that video has always been immediate. It has always been that film has to be processed chemically and then dried before it can be played. In fact there was an artist, Tony Conrad, who had a 16mm film camera and the film came out of the camera into a dark bag and went through the chemicals and came out of this dark bag into a projector. So he was able, in minutes to play back a film he had just recorded. He was up in Buffalo at the time. He is a genius artist. So I never got into the argument, which is better, film or video or the differences. I always went from one recording medium to the next, when the next became available. The video immediately gave me sync sound, which meant I could work alone and didn’t have to have a sound person with me, a clapboard and later to sync it up. So I went in favor of video.
I didn’t read McLuhan’s The Medium is The Massage. So, I wouldn’t know. I just do it, I don’t read about it. I do not know if I do what it says, but I’m doing what I’m doing.

IvdV: Were you at one point involved with cinéma vérité ? Has your view on the 'truth' of your art changed since then? Have your works, for instance, experienced an inward turn?

IS: I wasn’t involved with the cinéma vérité. I watched it! I was there when it was happening, like the French and the Italian. I thought they were great, but I did something different. I curated some of them and showed them in the Midwest at the University of Wisconsin, I also showed Flaming Creatures and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, and Stan van der Beek, in fact I was just in a show at the Prada Foundation in Milan where they revived a festival, that happened 50 years ago in Turin. Jonas Mekas’ curated new American Cinema 1967 and one of my films was in it so I went to Milan and it was shown at the Prada Foundation April 21st. It was Lost in Cuddihy – a non-narrative quasi-documentary, I call it an “Information Collage”, about American culture in the 1960s.

IvdV: In her book Film and Video Intermediality, Janna Houwen addresses the concept of medium specificity in order to determine how video and film can be defined as distinct, specific media. What is it that video can do, that film can't? How does your work relate to contemporary cinema?

IS: I never thought about it.

Joost de Jonge (JdJ): So the narrative isn’t there?

IS: No, I’m anti-narrative, non-narrative for the most part. No authority telling you what you are seeing. The viewer decides the meaning, if any.

JdJ: When I look at images, photos by you. I feel you have really composed this image, where balance can become the starting point of Beauty. Rudi Fuchs wrote to me and he still saw beauty in my work. He said it was the most important thing. He stated: “Beauty brings stillness to the mind.” I think the harmony in your work is the same, beauty, bringing stillness.

IS: Could be, I’ve been cropping images since I was 10. It’s all about configurations, intricacy and abstractions from images of the real world, which appear as paintings.

JdJ: Would you look upon your video's as an exposition of a Bergsonian"Durée”?

IS: Yes, It’s like meditation. I read Henri Bergson’s writing in 1956, I read all he wrote about comedy, though.

JdJ: How does your work relate to Fluxus?

IS: I have done a lot of work with Fluxus-people and I am bringing out their comedy and their post-dada expression. I think I am being faithful to their performances, passing that on where the originators of Fluxus are no longer around. They have passed on for the most part and frankly I don’t think much of the new Fluxus, I don’t want to say imitators; followers! I always claimed I was not a Fluxus performer but Peri-Fluxus.

Symphony (2012)
30 × 30 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Mary Ann Caws

What a colourful and joyful surprise. It was sent to me as a piece of painting, entitled"symphony."Indeed, this is a symphony — in no way a harmony, or at least not a peaceful one, because part of the excitement is the clash — the reds, a middle core, and underlined below in an arc — against the canary yellow, breaking in from the very right top, and finding a response on the left in a smallish incoming wave. Now I am not equating, not at all, smallish with gentleness. And again, not with peacefulness.

This is a powerful piece, reading out from the central life-giving blood-red — toward which the swish from the bottom left of the same color confers its energy. This upsurge rushes in, dominating the blue arch which enhances the small rising cream color, as if in a kind of altar itself raised above the bottom orange of the ledge serving as frame.

Overhead, a light lavender-blue from the top left, so that in a sense, this is a landscape: cloud, sun wave, tree-formed arch and interior space left mysterious.

I love the roughness of it, the squiggles here and there, the crudeness unapologetic — it is like the contrary of program music, abstract joyfulness in this burst of colours. This is poetry, in a deep sense of the word.

A Third Scroll of Malachite (2017)
65 × 100 cm
Acrylics and oils on paper
Words by Norman Dubie
Music by Piet-Jan van Rossum

Circa 800 AD

The magus as a small boy in Egypt
in his faded linens
thought that the torchlight reflected in the harbor
was a simple exchange of sleeping gulls
over their sea of salt—a dark disk in the sky
believed the other brother
resented the elders in the cliffs’ cavities
because their birds and scales full of dry bread
were both blackened. The serpent

offering quinces like stadia tickets to the women,
just a joke about the boats in the sky
resembling the green scudding clouds of the sea.

The winter chorus of martyred infants
sings with hesitation.
So, the cry of the gull is torchlight
climbing over the wharves at midnight. This is a slight
of mind and some hillside soliloquy saying
there will be sweet figs threaded
there where inside the seed
yet another seed is nesting like some Roman poison
in the wine of a country wedding.

Here, tacking the sincere jewels
of the pomegranate substitutes for golden
songbirds in trees. The mother dreaming
of a new Jerusalem with tilting sticks on a hill.
They purposefully wield him through the colored garden
where the sleeves collect
like cold waters in a stone fountain.

More gulls snoring up inside
the young master’s dress that is folded jade
like an ocean with buttons of bone and alabaster

up in the branches of olive
the wind whispers… do not touch me
for I have not yet descended, I am
the old sun that will kiss you on both cheeks
repeatedly, with an extra scent of solemnity, the full
daymoon now dressed but shoeless…

like a kind whore
she calls us to her breasts
which are labeled opalescent rubbish. Now, please,
be well for less with more.

Painterly Abstraction (2015-2016)
64 × 50 cm
Acrylics and oils on paper
Words by Juliën Holtrigter

Als uit verdronken land komt het licht,
nat en wit. Het strand is verlaten.
De zee komt traag in beweging.

Schepen op weg naar een haven,
afgeladen of leeg
maar altijd achter een loon aan,
brood, een bestaan.

Alles is tijd in dat langzame licht,
regen wordt mist en weer regen.
De wiegende wind in de bomen,
heel even.

Ik loop met het zout van je huid
op mijn tong naar mijn kamer.

Een pluisje tolt in de wind, zweeft
loom omlaag
en hecht zich
aan mij.

Mystic Multitude (2010)
140 × 180 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Richard Garcia

When she washed her hair
she washed her face away.

No problem—she is what you can’t
help but see, in the water-stained plaster,

in the cracked and pitted ceiling.
How clever of her to make a bookshelf of the ladder.

And a bin for yellow yarn.
And a bin for storing fire.

She is only color, only vibration.
No need for a face here.

No need for the inviting coolness
of her shoulders.

Impasto Improvisation 9 (2014)
50 × 35 cm
Acrylics and oils on paper
Words by Mindy Kronenberg

Remember me by my succulent years:
ingénue, novitiate, neophyte,
the luscious verdant scarves of light
penetrating windows against my skin,
and the golden moments rising
on my limbs, desire glinting in the edges of my hair.

Air, ether, water, fire, gossamer
joy and grizzled wisdom captured
like sunsets melted from bright lipsticks.
What sweet and oily music still slithers
at my ear? The brush grows thick
with time, catches the glint of sunsets,

bristles in the dying summer sun.
I wear bracelets of reeds and thorns,
golden stones gathered in a henge
around my neck.
Can beauty be slathered with fear,
each stroke rising as it dissolves into night?

Sometimes Forms Can Transpose The Infinite (2006)
25 × 25 cm
Acrylics and oils on paper
Words by Marietta Franke

Meanwhile worlds emerge,
allowing a little infinity along the margins,
facets between body, plane, and space,
angular and egg-like forms in secret conversation,
lenses, an endoplasmic reticulum, scrolls,
forms attempting to change,
wild precision.
A dark blue square
on a green ground.

The colors take their time.
The pneuma holds an embryo
that is long in coming.
Ice-slicked surfaces, crusty goings-on,
sights set on the longing for fervor,
blood in the veins.
The painter imagines himself
floating through the universe
where art is wont to reside
if it is not travelling,
the ocean right next to it,
who or what goes where?
The heart belongs to wisdom,
which is running its circles.
These distant parts is
where he lives all the time,
in the nowhere land of art,
a stranger among strangers.

Music sounds,
the spheres are stirring,
the hand draws its lines,
a sentence unreadable
vanishes in the moment.
A flower in bloom in the poet’s garden,
a flower that loves pictures
and speaks about them, continuously,
things may stay that way.

Derweil treten Welten auf,
lassen am Bildrand ein wenig Unendlichkeit zu,
Facetten zwischen Körper, Fläche, Raum
winklige und eiartige Formen in geheimer Konversation,
Linsen, ein endoplasmatisches Retikulum, Voluten,
Versuch der Formen, sich zu wandeln,
wilde Präzision.
Ein dunkelblaues Quadrat
auf grünem Grund.

Die Farben nehmen ihre Zeit.
Das Pneuma birgt ein Embryo,
das lange auf sich warten lässt.
Eisglatte Flächen, krustiges Geschehen,
im Blick die Sehnsucht nach der Glut,
Blut in den Adern.
Der Maler schwebt
in seinen Gedanken durch das Universum, wo
die Kunst zu wohnen pflegt,
wenn sie nicht unterwegs ist,
der Ozean gleich nebenan,
wer kommt zu wem?
Das Herz gehört der Weisheit,
die ihre Kreise zieht.
In dieser Ferne lebt er
die ganze Zeit,
im Niemandsland der Kunst,
ein Fremder unter Fremden.

Musik ertönt,
die Sphären rühren sich,
die Hand zieht ihre Linien,
ein Satz, der nicht zu lesen ist,
verschwindet im Moment.
Im Dichtergarten blüht eine Blume,
die Bilder liebt und immerfort von ihnen spricht,
es möge so bleiben.

Untitled (2014-2018)
48 × 32 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Peter Frank

Among the brushes inside the fire
Quick notes taken on a febrile condition
The hoarse voices of trees suggesting
a not-entirely-futile path through soul’s-edge
lamination and glistening
You have to have been there earlier this year
to have heard the racket of robins
the lamentation of ravens the bleating
of wrens and how they drowned out (or
abridged) the egret’s gentle crackle
the shushing of swifts

Untitled (2014-2018)
48 × 32 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Kathryn Brown

Colours change in the light: brown to gold, green to ochre, black to metallic blue. Brushed, stamped, and imprinted, the surface of the paper vibrates and hums. If I surreptitiously touch the page, I can detect the traces of handprints, knots of paint, scratches and sweeps, transitions from smooth, blank space to layers of acrylic and oil. The topology of an unfamiliar terrain slowly emerges.

The paper itself has a secret history: the uneven edge of the upper right corner, a barely visible watermark, a fingerprint, a penciled signature. All these things are traces of the page’s navigation through a world of people and technologies.

What can words do when confronted by the markings that comprise this work? The imagination grasps for hooks, patterns, and metaphors that will pin the colours within a familiar framework. Once we’ve talked about the image, we’re sure we’ll know where we stand. Its nakedness will be properly covered by conventions of language; its strangeness will be gone. As soon as we have tamed this image with words, we’ll understand it. Then we can all relax.

And so ekphrasis is understood to be an act of violence: the beating into shape of a recalcitrant visual medium in the interests of logic. Critics, admirers, opponents, and scholars dissect and judge according to their own preferences, sure that there is a winner and loser in the battle to control the page. There is an overwhelming sense of confidence that words will be victorious.

Failure is inevitable. Words slide around the painted page in a game of snakes and ladders. Descriptions fracture as they collide with the ‘thingness’ of the object. Conjectures about what is seen are met with counter-examples:

‘It’s this’.
‘No, it’s that’.
‘Is it anything?’
‘Does it matter?’

Is silence the answer? It takes a powerful act of self-control to let an image stand on its own terms. To abandon words. To refrain.

Yet if we do just that, might we hear differently, see otherwise? If our ekphrastic exuberance could quieten down for a moment, maybe we will have a chance to glimpse the new ‘dimension’ promised by the image’s title. Perhaps, after all, the work is primarily an invitation — an opportunity to leave behind the taxonomies that hold thought in check and to let a new and unfamiliar language come into being, one that from our earthly perspective has sometimes been known as ‘poetry’.

Now (2017)
41 × 39 cm
Acrylics on paper
Words by John Fuller

Now is not past, but will be soon,
With everything that is to come
Under the stars and the white moon.

An argued choice we make at noon
By midnight sees us drained and dumb.
Now is not past, but will be soon.

If Armagnac absorbs the prune
And tells us it was once a plum
Under the stars—and the white moon

Silvered its rustling leaves one June—
The memory’s a pendulum:
‘Now is not past, but will be soon.’

The hands of history have strewn
The ruins of Byzantium
Under the stars and the white moon

We’ve nothing but this ancient tune:
The tricks of time are wearisome.
Now is not past, but will be soon,
Under the stars and the white moon.

Untitled (2014-2018)
48 × 32 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by David Sullivan

Mad blue swarming, inky swim of watery
colors colliding and dividing, as if the octopus
in me used its multi-tasking arms to accomplish
its to-do list at one go.
                              Those arms are equipped
with one third of the animal’s neurons—like me
those rare mornings fleet fingers fly. Even sea-
monster-flick-severed, the arms retract in pain
when prodded, curl around a stick.
                              Its schtick
is to ink enemies, blind and numb them, but if
it doesn’t flee fast enough it will succumb
to its own venom and die. Now it’s me I see
in this inked scrawl, flailing to do everything
before me, throwing down a trail of distractions,
                              Can’t you see I’m trying, don’t reprimand me.
Look how far I’ve progressed from the globular
splat embedded in sea rock from the Carboniferous
era of my childhood. I try to do good.

hearted purveyor of the dark, two for its gills
and one to pump up organs, keep it on track.
Copper-based blood’s blue, allows it to survive
in depths of cold, and it changes colors too,
changes shape to mimic and mask.
                              I lag behind,
flagging, breathing hard, merely single-hearted.
I yearn to partake of depths where darkness
blesses, for words that can be seized and drawn
towards those paired, hard claws of a beak, for a poem
that will make the many-armed grow weak.
                              I want
to mate like an octopus, externally, to hand off
my sperm for her to impregnate the world with,
to partner with another artist who’ll know all
I fail to know, the way the right lover makes me
better than I am, wiser, more noble.
                              An octopus
produces 400,000 at one go. She obsessively guards
her brood, creating worlds beyond comprehension.
O to discover in me the feminine, to cross over
from this isolated beast of masculinity, to tie
myself to the greater good, to cease obsessing
over whether I’m doing what I should,
                              to know
I’m only a vessel for something beyond what I see,
then to implode in cellular suicide, to die
from the outside in. O to have birthed something
astonishing, a plankton-cloud of offspring
eating anything that doesn’t eat them,
                              or poems
that both sink and swim, that know when to end.

Abstract Landscape (2014-2018)
60 × 120 cm
Acrylics and oils on panel
Words by Robert C. Morgan

Offerings of ointment
Softer scale, the drop
Goes down ascending
N’er stopping to let it
Rest, the crux matters
More than ever, hung
Into space rather than
Outside of it, as most
Might tell on the edge
Of peeling away what
Has been lost in time

Icarus (2017)
110 × 80 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Emily Bilman

the reaper has left
the dun earth
to its fallow leisure

the stone shack
on the prairie near the sea
is a harbour of peace

under a thatched roof
keeping the sun’s warmth
inside the primal hearth

your colours helm me
through harvests
of contentment

with your voice you gift me
posies of pine and needles,
parsley and your fragility

our souls’ palimpsest
the potential of the canvas
on the scraped surface

Untitled (2014-2018)
48 × 32 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Richard Cándida Smith

Rosy light flashes on the buildings, color
Suffusing into stone while bright whites burst on blackened
Glass in an explosion of energy moments before
The sun disappears for the day. At street level, a beggar
Chews his hamburger, between his bites, repeating
A request for spare change. The scene is a fine
Subject for an etching or a watercolor
In the manner of Sloan, Bellows, the Ashcan School,
Documenting cities where inequality
Balloons. The sky above turns violet. Figures
On the sidewalk turn black. Windows turn orange,
Warm-hued stages for intimate expectations. Black strokes
Thicken around the frame, swallowing detail into
The black ink of suburban night. We kiss in the bathroom.
I take off her bra. Her breasts rest in my hands.
Another etching of intimate moments. Her hand reaches
To turn off the light, her smile invites me
To come into her once again. Our bones and flesh provide
A vacation from the sadness, the nothing, the black engulfing quiet.

After the orgasms, what is this path that separates us?
In the innocence of sleep you see the gardener scattering
Sand. You follow the pathway constant work recreates
Around the flowerbeds. Across the garden bursts of pink
Attract you, so explosive and intense, their warmth. Pink
Untinged with black, a pink of raw flesh budding, moving with life.

Oceanus 1-3 (2018)
120 × 100 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Ricardo Pau-Llosa

A war between two mirrors rages, pensively.
The ocean one—prism-armored, harp-veined—
the sky the other—impalpable ubiquitous.

Who authors and which reflects? A hand
paints, and there the horizon. The hand will not
swim out just yet to the drowning mind

calling for resemblances to save it
from immediacies of color and form.
These are body-simultaneous in the painting—

heart and foot, lung and bone, indivisible
in the cradling grave parentheses, yolk and white.
But we struggle for a tide of familiars, the simile

as beloved shore. What then, facet music,
but know it is not things that haunt these flows
on page but processes these mirrors score

in tropes. We only let their duel endure—
which imagined, who retorts? A forge of waters?
Did they descend to make of surface a labyrinth,

or rather rise that muscled clouds uphold?
Even the simple demand of paint to be.
No accidents, no emptiness. For painting

makes invention add as life subtracts.
All cleansed and slaked, the wave, the cloud.

Untitled (2014-2018)
48 × 32 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Richard Cándida Smith

the pianist sits down
hands run across the keyboard
arpeggios racing just like
water over pebbles
bubbling and popping
leaping above obstacles

so effortless and fluid
the sounds caressing my soul
tears well up
wetting my cheeks
falling onto my lap

impossible to escape
the monotony of tears
of pianists warming up
of streams and winds
of cold returning from the arctic

polar lovers never lose the waters of life
their tears stick to their cheeks
preserved for the moment
until a heart needing heat flows south

where love drains away beneath desert sands
and we wear white lilies to remember
the first death waiting inside our hearts
longing that neither goes away
nor comes back
the pianist’s agile fingers
have dug a furrow inside me
and he was only warming up

Untitled (2014-2018)
48 × 32 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Richard Garcia

Your letter, arrow of joy that pierced my heart.
Effused with your letter I plunged into the world.
Your letter, were it merely a single letter
of the aleph-bet, would be enough.
litterae me magnopere delectarunt.
Your letter, neither summons nor warrant,
was singular and multiple at once.
Your letter, rain on the pampas after drought.
There were seven ways I read each
of the seven languages of your letter.
If the envelope of your letter arrived empty
your letter would lief please me greatly.
Greatly letter me your pleased,
spitball on the ceiling of knowledge letter.
Your letter happied me, thus in happiness
I shall be for forty days and forty nights.
Let me proclaim it, post it and drag it
from a small airplane across the sky,
copy it in water, smoke, fire and ice,
your letter, verily—indeed—your letter,
such a surprise, your letter which pleased me so.

The Dream of Reason (2005)
170 × 200 cm
Gouache, acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Robert Wynne

Pull the quilt tight under your chin
and let sleep lull you into believing
images are less treacherous without words

absolving them with such quiet reason.
Night is the season of monsters
disguised as doors, as passageways

pulling you into the unknown
like all knowledge: buttery moonlight
bathing the water’s bright surface,

jasmine sneaking open in the dark,
the crunchy shock of an apple’s surrender
singing from the silent kitchen

as you feel the sheet, cool beside you.
Forget how easy desire is. Just accept
that thoughts can clash like color-blind siblings

dressing for the first day of school.
Imagining otherwise is a denial
of the difference between blue and orange,

forgetting how irrational it is
to simply spread our arms wide
and expect to soar through the sky.

Untitled (2015)
32 × 48 cm and 48 × 32 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Sharon Dolin

sun nipples
          lower sky »
                    godlike flange

nudges wingtip
          of striped fledgling
                    from cliff edge »

try again »
          cicadas ratcheting
                    down to quarter notes

early fall » each edge
            touches the under-leaf
                      of words » woods

striated with
            red yolk dying
                    to mottled brown »

are you slowing down too?
          pine cones rut
                    the path » nothing is clear

anymore from falling »
          even El Capitán drops
                    a boulder » size of

an apart-
          ment building
                    killing one climber »

even my childhood
          baby grand » thrown
                    onto the trash heap from

the Humble flood » mahogany
          hacked to haulable bits »
                    bring negative space

to the fore » let it be a white dog
          in the oncoming snow
                    with wings for ears »

let it exit:
          deer hind pursued
                    by snow goose

Untitled (2014-2018)
48 × 32 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Jazz Allen Sutton

However much I try
I can’t paint without thinking
I can’t let go of the past

Whatever I do
The paper is never blank
And the ink isn’t formless

The materials interfere too

What makes my work
Is the struggle between my history and my tools
As they thrash around with my most earnest intentions

If you said to me

That this painting was made by a heap of a man
Who wanted to gorge on the meat of pure invention
And ended
With the tingle of desolation in his fingers
Blood on his clothes
Spit on the floor
And eyeballs that might as well have been physically lifted from his face

I could easily believe you

Untitled (2014-2018)
48 × 32 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Daniel Thomas Moran

In my head
are many rooms.
A bed with the linens
tossed by sleep,
A table where
a meal will be waiting,
The chair which
holds me best.
The gentle scent of
coffee and new flowers.

In my rooms
are many walls,
papered with the photos
of long dead antecedents.
A wedding day
one hundred years gone.
My Great Grandmother,
a toddler on her father’s knee.
A poem written
in a prior life.

The air is damp with
the mist of the many lines
I have written, and
the ghosts of those
which yet evade me.
The air I breathe is
sweet and familiar.

And there is a window.
A pale curtain half-drawn,
where I can lean, and
call on the world.
I watch the flutter
of a luscious song in
a grand tree which
guards my roof.
The light is alive.

It is another season and
Time, a young lover.

Untitled (2018)
56 × 38 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Mindy Kronenberg

And this is the first line.
It’s as if you are crossing a street
for the first time, looking both ways,
knowing the drill:
the roughened dip of the curb
under your shoe, the blurred parade
of cars between yourself and the light.

What will the next stanza foretell?
Pedestrians cross from line to line--
some with their arms swinging,
some dragging luggage,
some realizing that green has gone to yellow
and run, breathless, to the other side.
Perhaps a siren is wailing in the distance.

Will this continue to the next page?
There’s always another block to explore,
another idea to refine.
There’s a glimmer of neon
in the corner of your eye. This is where
it’s supposed to get good.
You’ve been walking and watching
and taking it in, but there’s no map
to tell you that

you’ve arrived.

Twelve Roses (2018)
70 × 105 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Brian Turner
Translation by Roel Daamen

The Militia kick a soccer ball
in the street. Young men. Greybeards.
Rifles, heavy weapons. Stories. Laughter.
Their shivering hands boiling coffee
in a tin over a crude fire. The buildings
no longer buildings. Landscapes of rubble
given to howling when a storm comes in.

The ceasefire will be announced soon, and
the fighting will resume until the deadline.
A vital rail line must be captured, or defended. Or
perhaps a sympathetic town must be liberated…
In high-rise offices somewhere far away, architects
design new orphanages, new hospitals, maybe
a mausoleum to be placed in the cemetery
as a way to honor the dead.

There is too much good work to be done.
Lists of provocations, demands. Diplomatic teams
negotiating in distant cities, flashbulbs ringing.
And so the Militia oil their bolts, check their radios.
They smoke their last cigarettes and fall in line.
It will take hours to reach the front. Enough time
to consider the smoke drifting over the treetops,
that grim dark grove of chestnuts marching
toward the horizon before them.

And the dead woman lying on the roadside
as they pass by? She continues to be dead,
perfecting the task, though not one soul
stops or offers her the slightest bit of help.

De Militie schopt een voetbal
door de straat. Jonge mannen. Grijze baarden.
Geweren, zwaar geschut. Verhalen. Gelach.
Met bevende handen wordt koffie gemaakt
in een blik boven een simpel kampvuur. De gebouwen
geen gebouwen meer. Een landschap van puin
waaruit gejammer opklinkt wanneer er een storm opsteekt.

Het staakt-het-vuren zal snel afgekondigd worden, en
dan wordt de strijd hervat tot aan de deadline.
Een vitale spoorverbinding om te veroveren of verdedigen. Een
goedgezinde stad, misschien, om te bevrijden...
In hoge kantoren ergens ver weg bedenken architecten
nieuwe weeshuizen, nieuwe ziekenhuizen, misschien
een mausoleum voor in het kerkhof
bij wijze van eerbetoon aan de doden.

Er is teveel goed werk dat gedaan moet worden.
Lijsten met provocaties, eisen. Diplomatieke afvaardigingen
die in verre steden onderhandelen bij het licht van de flitsers.
En dus oliën ze hun wapens, controleren ze hun radio’s.
Roken ze hun laatste sigaretten en nemen posities in.
Het zal uren duren om het front te bereiken. Genoeg tijd
om de rookpluimen boven de boomtoppen te beschouwen,
die grimmige rij kastanjes die marcheert
richting de horizon die voor hen ligt.

En de dode vrouw langs de kant van de weg
die zij passeren? Zij blijft dood,
beheerst het dood zijn tot in de perfectie, zonder
de geringste hulp van de een of andere ziel.

Untitled (2014-2018)
48 × 32 cm each
Mixed media on paper
Words by Penny Florence

1. Presto (colour)

now water my medium,
now light
now line, I weave te deum,
catch me if you might
I flit yellow pink
blue green out of sight
shimmer blue so you think
sense my distance
far gone in the blink
of an eye to dance
tarantella in red
not one single chance
the joy that I spread
won’t be caught
fugue-it-i’ve sped
electricity wrought
in pure fire
out of frame to desport
laughing loud to desire
to trace “j”,
cell-u-lar sign,
bluejay way
becomes “o”
snakes up and away
dal segno
virtu-o-so your
inspired impasto

2. Largo (form)
stops time.
water slows, weed slews side to side
refracting light, motion
in blue shadowed grey now you hide
floods without end, oscillation of ocean
drowns thought to conceive
pearls of vision in unknown emotion
slanted rays of our sun’s starry eve
spark deep prisms
where few who have been can believe
what they see through the dark, Ophism,
sinless, beckoning, strange,
conjures serpents; unbridled slow rhythm
pulsing far out of sight, out of range
yet present as thrillingly sensed
in the spine, alert, to exchange
form to form unformed, yet tensed,
sending ancestral code, dendrites,
whose mutating creating unfenced
messages pass from interminable nights
to breaking days
and emergence in light of life

3. Allegro Moderato (transformation)
to float free in bright waves
                                             in pulsating curves
                                                                           red mouths, living caves
whose song is to serve
                                   its ancestral greeting
                                                                     to yours, and with verve
through moments far fleeting
                                                  breaks open to morph
                                                                        all around to the stars, meeting
airy delight in the surf
                                    conjoining the sirens
                                                                      in innocence.

Icarus Journeys (2018)
120 × 80 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Joost de Jonge

Worlds divided by
Sanctified reds fall
Halves, seem
wholesome unities
Those daubs of paint
A vase with flowers
The empty touch of
A disappeAred
The savior hides
A “tournesol”
Luscious plush

A radiant everywhere
No place in particular
To immortalize at will
A multifarious
Of the nether world
Daubs of paint
Forms floating on
An empty touch

Doundounba (2011)
105 × 90 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by David Lehman

You can tell that the guy
who wrote “I’ll Be Seeing You”
(in all the old familiar places)
was listening in the langsam last movement
of Mahler’s third symphony
at the time but in a less
exalted though equally schmaltzy mood

Just as you can be sure that Mahler had
Nietzsche on the brain
in the fourth movement
when the alto asks the deep midnight
to speak and it does it says the world’s pain
is deeper than daytime can guess
but pain passes and joy seeks eternity
as do I when I wave my baton

March on, march on, but first let’s dance
a ballet blanc with Chopin’s Les Sylphides
on a nuit blanche the ballerina in white
the shape of a bell the dress down to her calves
does this have to do with Stravinsky’s
Soldier’s Tale-Suite, which follows,
sounding Russian to my ears as Mozart’s
piano concerto no. 27 in B flat sounds Viennese
now why is that I don’t know but that is what
I am thinking when the strings take over
the woodwinds interrupt
like birds on spring mornings and the mood
is lively with a fantastic script
now if I could only put it into words

Five steps towards the symbolic dimension of sky-blue and Gregorian-gold (2016)
65 × 50 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Janis Lander

Like most of de Jonge’s work, this painting – one of a pair that could easily comprise a diptych – shifts between solid reductive shapes and a complex interaction of intervals. The result is a jagged, syncopated rhythm of emotionally charged colour and sinuous forms. There is no moment of rest offered, but a pulsing movement of continuous action describing our own experience of materiality. The simplified forms, the heightened colours, are combined with an aerial perspective (like swooping over a landscape), suggesting an inner journey, an experience of consciousness that we may decode according to our degree of empathy with the artist’s visual expression.

In a 21st century visual culture dominated by digitally enhanced imagery, Joost de Jonge prefers to work in the tradition of Abstraction. In figurative work the subject matter is clearly stated, but ambiguity is the crux of the abstract genre, because an abstract work demands active participation by the viewer who decodes the subject matter in a personal way. Even though abstract paintings may be recognized and identified as the work of a particular artist by virtue of the artist’s preference for a characteristic lexicon of forms, colours, and painterly techniques, the subject matter of abstract art is implied rather than stated. The narrative remains packed. An abstract composition may be analysed as a response to the formal elements of composition, colour, drawing, handling of paint; but there is a more elusive result in the calculated effect of the work on the mind and emotions of the viewer. An abstract artist relies on the sensitivity of the observer’s response to corroborate the painting’s meaning, and its significance.

My own response to de Jonge’s painting >Five steps towards the symbolic dimension of sky-blue and Gregorian-gold is in terms of its compositional musicality. Even without the title to assist interpretation, any malingering existential question is dispelled by the vigorous brushwork and brilliant stained-glass effect of light shining through pure colour. The dominant mood is life affirming. The artist’s theme of spiritual dimensions is achieved in the rhythms and cadence of pure colours – skyblue, the colour of purest intellect, and Gregorian gold – a reference to the sonorous plainchant tradition of sacred music supporting Christian worship in the West, and the gold of the Solar Logos, the light of the universe. These combined elements suggest dimensions of pure thought and archetypal forms both as a memory of divine origins and as a goal to achieve in life. However, lest we lose ourselves in naivety, an antagonistic counterforce is provided by two screaming flamingo-pink shapes and a few high-pitched orange gashes. Sinister elements of greenish and brown and somber notes of ultramarine, evoke other impulses. All these competing shapes are reined in by a blood-red border as dense as gravity, as fluid as a hemorrhage.

It is a sensuous experience to rest in the rhythms of this lusty work, allowing the ebb and swell of sound-in-colour to wash into the mind’s drifting thoughts and random memories. The appearance of relaxed doodling and rough brushwork is countermanded by a firm control of colour dynamics and spatial intervals; it is precisely the intuitive gesture cultivated in expressive abstract compositions that, like handwriting, embeds the candor of personal revelation.

The 20th century modernist movements were particularly disposed to the synesthesia of music and colour, and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) created specifically musical compositions, (harmonic symphonies of the Spheres), in the relationships between forms and colours as independent entities interacting on the canvas. Kandinsky’s contemporary the Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner, (1861-1925), based a module of his spiritual teaching on the connection of colour with the creative generative forces in the universe. During the same era the Theosophists published books about the symbolism of colours associated with “thought forms”. However, Steiner and the Theosophists were prescriptive in their descriptions and constructed a moral narrative to guide the viewer in an appropriate response. Kandinsky’s response was a criticism of “their excessive anticipation of definite answers in lieu of immense question marks”.

In his book >Concerning the Spiritual in Art Kandinsky dismisses the doctrinaire approach and encourages viewers to develop their own sensitivity, likening the process of an individual’s response to paintings as a musical experience: the colours are like musical notes acting upon the instrument of the individual soul. Kandinsky’s rigorous intellectual approach in his abstract work laid the solid groundwork for opposition to any misinterpretation of abstract art as arbitrary and merely subjective.

The intent of such art is to shake the viewer out of habitual cognitive patterns, to offer a fresh perspective, a new way of interacting with materiality.

Words by Dr. Inge van de Ven
Tactility, Immanence, & the Erotics of Seeing

Joost De Jonge’s sketch has been decorating my office for some time now and I often catch myself staring at it or quickly stealing a glimpse while I should be writing. And sometimes my hand reaches out as if by no intentional design to briefly touch it. I think this is so because it is striking in its materiality. The thick layers of paint in sober, autumnal colors have been smeared on the paper in a way that invites the sense of touch as much as sight. These are then playfully combined with thinning layers: absence juxtaposed to presence, thickness to thinness. The depth that these contrasts create, paradoxically draws attention to the work’s surface materiality. That is why, in what follows, I draw on some of my favorite works of literary or art criticism in order to propose an ‘erotics of seeing’ as a framework for engaging with this work.

In her book Art/Porn, Kelly Dennis discusses the common need in art criticism to bracket off art from pornography, based on the criterion that the former incites us to think whereas the latter urges us to act. Then she goes against this all too easy binary representation by citing several Classical and Renaissance examples where beholders are seduced by visual art up to the point where they transgress the distance prescribed for the ‘disinterested’ pleasures of the Kantian aesthetic experience. Thus, she opens up a discussion of the centuries-old anxiety about the potential materiality of the image – at times fleshly and sensual, at times uncanny and even aggressive, but inevitably figured as feminine” (2009, 4). It is this materiality of the image that sometimes make us nervous, as it invokes a closeness that we deem inappropriate if we wish to think of art as inspiring thought instead of action. I discern a similar breach of the boundaries between the tactile and the visual in De Jonge’s painting. By mixing these senses and drawing attention to the surface level, it embodies a resistance to interpretation.

In her seminal essay “Against Interpretation” (1966), Susan Sontag criticized the specific practices of interpretation that emerge as a result of the reign of mimetic theories of art since Plato and Aristotle, which in her time have become unproductive and stifling in the wake of Marx and Freud who separate manifest from latent content. Because of the notion of art as representative of reality, she claims, art has always been in need of justification. Art becomes a problem. In order to come to a solution, we have begun to separate a category called ‘form’ from another called ‘content’. In this binary opposition, content is always privileged over form: the first essential, the second accessory. Whether you believe the essence of an art work to be the picture of reality it gives us, or a statement by the artist, doesn’t matter: content always comes first, it is all about the what instead of the how. Art is “saying something,” we say. Even when we think of it as an expression of the artist’s mind, even if it is non-figurative, it is still saying.

This is how we have read allegory since Homer: assuming that words do not mean what they say, and taking the texture of songs and stories as a “stepping stone for the construction of a hidden, derived text hovering beyond the materiality of words and letters” (Brillenburg Wurth, forthcoming). The embodiment of this figure is Hermes with his winged shoes who mediated between Gods and mortals and who gave hermeneutics, the study of interpretation, its name. Interpretation, then, as going beyond materiality as that which the eyes can see and the hands can touch. In Greek allegoresis, in the exegesis of the Bible, in the Gnostics, in Plato, Freud and Marx… the word or thing never seems enough.

This is why art is in need of defense, and we can only debate the means of defense. And at the time of writing, in the 1960s, Sontag feels something should change in this regard. She attacks the notion of content which has become a hindrance, and this notion is in fact the never-ending process of “a conscious act of the mind which illustrates a certain code, certain “rules” of interpretation” (5). Interpretation thus presupposes a discrepancy, or a gap, between the clear meaning of the text and the demands of its readers. And it then seeks to resolve that discrepancy. The interpreter has to make the text acceptable by changing it without admitting this: she will state she’s only making it intelligible by disclosing its true meaning. The work can never just be what it is, we will decode the phenomenon and say that X is really Y. Thus for Marx, social events like revolutions and wars were occasion for interpretation; for Freud the same thing held for the events of individual lives and texts. Sanctioned by Marxism and psychoanalysis as ‘metalanguages,’ such practices of interpretation ‘excavate’ and destroy, they dig behind the text’s surface (neurotic symptoms, slips of the tongue, dreams, art works or social phenomena) to find the true, hidden text. Latent versus manifest, langue versus parole.

In this context, interpretation turns into a refusal to leave art alone. This is so, Sontag has it, because art has the capacity to make us nervous. We tame it by reducing it to its content and then interpreting it. For Sontag, this was especially pressing in the Zeitgeist of the sixties, which she characterizes as

a culture based on excess, on overproduction; the result is a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory experience. All the conditions of modem life-its material plenitude, its sheer crowdedness-conjoin to dull our sensory faculties. And it is in the light of the condition of our senses, our capacities (rather than those of another age), that the task of the critic must be assessed. … What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more … in place of a hermeneutics, we need an erotics of art (13-4)

And I would like to suggest that, albeit for different reasons, this still holds in our times marked by information overload, as a result of which we are bombarded with information on a daily basis, and on multiple platforms simultaneously. Advocates of datafication,’ the transmission of all kinds of phenomena to a quantified format, allowing for real-time tracking and predictive analysis of social behavior, believe that everything is quantifiable, including the self. “When all dimensions that affect the reality effect—detail, tone, colour, shape, movement—are quantified,” Lev Manovich predicted in 1996, “reality itself can be related to a set of numbers” (np). It is precisely against this idea that everything consists of disembodied information, or numbers, that Sontag’s call for an erotics of art is still relevant today: we need an erotics of seeing, of looking without instrumental intent.

In its untranslatable sensuous immediacy, this work by the Jonge actively resists interpretation as excavation, as ‘digging behind’ the surface. As an interpreter who reached intellectual maturity in a climate marked by poststructuralism, I feel I cannot tame this work. It flees from interpretation, it has no content. It invites what Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus have called, albeit in a slightly different, literary studies context, a ‘surface reading’. Very much in the vein of Sontag’s essay, they offer this term in distinction to ‘symptomatic readings’ which are built on the premise that the most interesting aspect of a text is that which it represses (an unconscious of the text), and that meaning always lies under the surface and needs to be disclosed. It is what Paul Ricoeur has termed, in Freud and Philosophy (1965), the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion,’ where everything is put to work to demystify the ‘illusory’ surface level. It is also what Fredric Jameson meant when he wrote “If everything were transparent, then no ideology would be possible, and no domination either”, and “We should never assume the text means just what it says” (1981, 61). I side with Best & Marcus who indicate that this suspicious way of reading, or encountering objects of art and culture, has now run is course as a dominant strategy: “what lies in plain sight is worthy of attention but often eludes observation—especially by deeply suspicious detectives who look past the surface in order to root out what is underneath it” (2009, 18). I side with them in thinking that we would do well to focus on what is actually there, not in hiding, awaiting and awarding our perception; in looking at, instead of seeing through. In case of this painting, it means actively resisting seeing the brown-purple shape in the center as a leaf with yellow flowers on it, or ‘reading’ the two shapes on the far left as the initials of the painter: “JJ”. To let it be just what it is.

In its refusal to materialize as a finished form, the work is an instance of the postmodern sublime as theorized by Jean-François Lyotard. Lyotard’s sublime is an immanent sublime: a sublime of, as opposed to in art. In The Inhuman (1988), the describes this postmodern sublime as a break with the familiar forms that the Romantics used to figure the unrepresentable at a great distance, as something residing beyond the horizon of sensuous grasp. The Lyotardian sublime does not refer to something ‘beyond’ the work of art but resides rather in the manner of presentation, in “what is closest, in the very matrix of artistic work” (1991, 98-9). This beautifully describes the deceivingly simple structure of this work by De Jonge, were everything that happens is there in the act of presenting itself, it is unfolding before the eyes. I don’t have to ‘read between the lines,’ to use an awkward ekphrastic metaphor, or find a way to decode or translate the colors, the lines, the thickness of the layers into something else. For me this sketch does not refer to another, supersensuous world ‘outside’ of it. Instead, it is radically immanent. Lyotard, mainly elaborating on Edmund Burke, locates the sublime in the art of the avant-gardes, and recasts the fear of privation as pointing to the possible termination of ‘something new’ happening:

What is sublime is the feeling that something will happen, despite everything, within this threatening void, that something will take ‘place’ and will announce that everything is not over. That place is mere ‘here,’ the most minimal occurrence. (84)

Like the Romantic sublime, the postmodern sublime resides in the inexpressible. Unlike the Romantic sublime, it is not located beyond the work, but rather takes place in the artistic material itself. Suspense in the postmodern sublime is caused by the question ‘is it happening?’ Delight is caused by the relief that ‘it happens,’ “dass es geschieht” (90). The question as to ‘does it happen,’ or the “Arrive-t-il?” evokes fear and restlessness, and we can never know what the occurrence or Ereignis will be, we tend to anticipate it. This is, for instance, what institutions of art and literature do when they construct systems, programs, and theories: they forget the ‘It happens,’ the Il y a, and ask what there is instead. They determine the indeterminable and forget about the remainder, instead of allowing for the “indeterminate to appear as a question-mark” (1991, 91). In its synaesthetic merging of senses and in its inviting us to engage in a ‘surface reading,’ I see De Jonge’s work as going against this and opening up the indeterminable yet again.

Works Cited

Best, Stephen, & Sharon Marcus. “Surface Reading: An Introduction.” Representations 108 (2009): 1–21.
Brillenburg Wurth, Kiene. “The Material Turn in Comparative Literaure: An Introduction.” Comparative Literature, forthcoming 2018.
Dennis, Kelly. Art/Porn. A History of Seeing and Touching. New York: Berg, 2009.
Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. Ithaca, 1981.
Lyotard, Jean-François. The Inhuman: Reflections on Time. 1988. Trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1991.
Manovich, Lev. “Global Algorithm 1.3: The Aesthetics of Virtual Worlds; Report from Los Angeles.”
Ctheory, May 22, 1996. (accessed November 12, 2012).
Sontag, Susan. “Against Interpretation” [1966]. Against Interpretation and Other Essays. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001. 3-14.
Ricoeur, Paul. Freud and Philosophy, 1965.
Words by Huub Thomas

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is a striking statement. After all, the experience of beauty takes place within the subject, within the observer who comes into contact with the object, the work of art. This cannot be a fleeting encounter if a deep emotion is to arise. This is a special category of experience that does not have a time-spatial dimension. Experiencing beauty is like a flash in which time and space give way and subject and object merge.

This view is at odds with the idea that beauty is a matter of outer form that results from the use of certain proportions. Classical architecture with its emphasis on fixed measurements forms a good illustration. They were not only intended to please the eye, but would also represent a reflection of the Divine. This, of course, is a subjective association conceived by man, comparable to the way in which innovative movements such as Gothic architecture were interpreted as an imagination of the Divine.

A different view on beauty developed under influence of the alienation brought about by the First Industrial Revolution. Utopian thinkers such as William Morris – the figurehead of the English Arts and Crafts Movement – linked the concept of beauty to social goals. In his book News from Nowhere, published in 1890, Morris sketches a society in which ‘every man is free to exercise his special faculty to the utmost and every one encourages him to do so.’ Unfortunately, humanity has yet to reach this stage.

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ certainly applies to the work of Joost de Jonge. This is a universe in itself; a realm that requires no prior knowledge. It only assumes an open mind and a willingness to be touched. Beauty can be discovered in this relationship between object and subject, and this is perhaps the highest attainable and most meaningful goal.

The experience of beauty that De Jonge’s work generates is the result of a form of appropriation in which the subject links meaning to what he perceives. First there is the short flash in which the object penetrates the emotions of the viewer and appeals in a way that is hard to explain. The free composition and the striking use of colour play an important role in this moment of recognition that his work has something to do with you, something that appeals to you in your subconscious.

How does De Jonge manage to achieve this? This is not due to the use of figurative means or a striving for far-reaching abstraction. ‘What you see is what you get’ and no more is needed to seduce the viewer. Compositions of mostly free forms and quirky colours invite the viewer to enter an unknown universe. Then, under the influence of the length of perception and the mood of the subject, ambiguous and fleeting associations begin to surface.

This is art that invites introspection: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is een treffende uitspraak die nog steeds actuele waarde bezit. Het ervaren van schoonheid vindt immers plaats bij het subject, bij de aanschouwer, die met het object, het kunstwerk, in contact treedt. Dat kan geen vluchtige ontmoeting zijn, wil er een diepe emotie ontstaan die zich als schoonheidsbeleving laat omschrijven. Sterker nog: het betreft hier een buitencategorie van ervaren die geen tijdruimtelijke dimensie kent. Het ervaren van schoonheid is als een flits waarin tijd en ruimte wijken en object en subject met elkaar versmelten.

Deze opvatting staat op gespannen voet met de gedachte dat schoonheid een zaak is van uiterlijke vorm die het resultaat zou zijn van het respecteren van bepaalde verhoudingen. De klassieke architectuur met zijn nadruk op maatstelsels vormt een goede illustratie van die gedachte. Die maatstelsels hadden niet alleen tot doel oogstrelend te zijn, maar zouden eveneens een afspiegeling van het goddelijke inhouden. Dat is uiteraard een door de mens bedachte, subjectieve associatie, vergelijkbaar met de wijze waarop later vernieuwende stromingen zoals de gotiek, als een verbeelding van het goddelijke werden geïnterpreteerd.

Onder invloed van het humanisme en, geruime tijd later, de vervreemdende effecten die de eerste industriële revolutie teweeg brachten, ontwikkelde zich een andere kijk op schoonheid. Utopische denkers als William Morris – het boegbeeld van de Engelse arts and crafts – koppelden schoonheid aan sociaal-maatschappelijke doelen. In zijn boek News from nowhere uit 1890 schetst Morris een samenleving waarin ‘each man is free to exercise his special faculty to the utmost and every one encourages him in so doing’. Helaas heeft de mensheid deze fase tot op heden niet bereikt.

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ gaat bij uitstek op voor het werk van Joost de Jonge. Het laat zich lastig duiden en vormt in zijn eigenzinnigheid een eigen universum. Een universum dat geen bijzondere kunsthistorische voorkennis vergt: het veronderstelt slechts een open blik en de bereidheid geraakt te worden. In deze relatie tussen object en subject valt schoonheid te ontdekken, en dat is misschien wel het hoogst haalbare en meest betekenisvolle doel.

De schoonheidsbeleving die het werk van Joost kan opwekken, is het resultaat van een vorm van toe-eigening waarbij het subject betekenis verbindt aan hetgeen hij waarneemt. Eerst is er die korte flits waarin het object binnendringt en op een moeilijk te duiden wijze appelleert aan de emoties van de aanschouwer. De vrije compositie en het opvallende kleurgebruik spelen in deze korte fase van herkenning een belangrijke rol. Ik bedoel dan herkenning van het feit dat het werk van Joost iets met jou als kijker te maken heeft, iets in jou aanspreekt dat zich in het onderbewustzijn ophield.

De vraag dringt zich op hoe De Jonge dit weet te bewerkstelligen. In ieder geval is dat niet door de inzet van figuratieve middelen, maar evenmin door een streven naar verregaande abstractie. ‘What you see is what you get’ en meer is niet nodig om de kijker te verleiden. Bijzondere composities van doorgaans vrije vormen en eigenzinnige kleuren nodigen de kijker uit door te dringen in een hem onbekend universum. Daarbij treden associaties op die – onder invloed van de lengte van de waarneming en de stemming van het subject – niet eenduidig zijn, maar vervloeien.

Het is werk dat tot introspectie nodigt: ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’.

Golden Clouds (2017)
34 × 19 cm
Acrylics and oils on panel

Words and music by Mathieu Daniel Polak

Due to the folkloric image of the carillon, one might assume that composing a carillon work would be easier, and less appealing, to composers than would creating a piece for piano. In the nineteenth century, in particular, composers of serious music regarded the carillon as an instrument for ordinary people.

In the beginning of the twentieth century this view changed. A “Carillon Renaissance” began in Belgium, spread to the Netherlands, and soon moved throughout the world. Since then, although carillon players themselves have composed and arranged a great deal of music, relatively few professional composers compose for carillon.

It is not possible to move a carillon from one place to another. So in order to hear a carillon, you have to go to it yourself. That could be one reason composers have not written much music for the instrument. It is a pity especially that composers such as Einaudi (1955) and Glass (1937) have not composed for carillon; in my opinion, Minimal Music sounds very good on bells. (Einaudi once visited the carillon of the Laurens Tower in Rotterdam; I assume he was asked at the time if he was thinking about composing a piece for carillon. Perhaps we may enjoy a carillon work of his in the future…) On the other hand, a number of well-known Dutch composers – Louis Andriessen (1939), Daan Manneke (1939), Henk Badings (1907-1987) – have composed for carillon.

Recently, painter Joost de Jonge came to my carillon concert in the Petrus Church in Woerden. He was impressed by my piece Dandelion Field. and saw clouds of gold while listening. Joost came up with a great idea. He would give me one of his paintings and asked for a new carillon piece by me in return.

On Monday October 10, 2016, my girlfriend Ruth Sonco Tello and I visited de Jonge’s studio in Vianen. Joost gave us a wonderful work of art in which golden clouds play a prominent role. I will soon compose a carillon piece for him.

Joost asked me how composing for carillon distinguishes itself from composing for piano. That is a good question to ponder. Considering the distinction between piano and carillon invites me to go deeper into the sounds and sound progressions of the latter instrument.

My intention is to apply the findings of this article toward the creation of a new carillon piece.

Depending on the size of the bell, the sounding time of a carillon bell can last half a minute or even longer. Meanwhile, the sound of the bell diminishes in volume but remains in the ear of the listener until the sound is fully ‘extinguished’.

In Minimal Music, as a rule, the sounds evolve very gradually. All tones are part of a sound-wholeness that continues only when absorbed by the soul of the listener. Also as a rule, Minimal Music is quite consonant, which makes it suitable for performance on the carillon.

The pentatonic scale sounds very good on the carillon. The tones C/D/E/G/A, even when sounded all at the same time, share a consistently bright quality. I regularly play Chinese and Japanese music on carillon – music generally based on the pentatonic scale or related keys – and I always get the feeling this music was devised originally for carillon.

Henk Badings composed some octotonic pieces for carillon. As with the pentatonic scale, composing with a selection of eight tones is very good. After a few bars, the ear is set to these eight tones and their permutations.

I once tried to arrange music of Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951) for carillon. As a lover of his piano music, I thought it a good idea to arrange something to try on the carillon. This was not a success. Chromatic music such as Schönberg wrote is too complicated to be heard well on the carillon. It leads to chaos. Without doubt the sounding time of the bells plays an important role in this problem.

On piano, you hardly ever hear unaccompanied melodies. On the carillon you hear them all the time. As the bells keep on sounding for several seconds, an accompaniment appears naturally. I call that Horizontal = Vertical. In my carillon concerts I try to present one or two unaccompanied melodies.

Summarizing the above examples: consonant sound blocks, pentatonic and octotonic modes, the sounding time of the bells as self-generating harmony, careful treatment of chromatism. All these considerations point in the direction of transparency. Can you “look through the image”? Carillon music should sound like the Aegean Sea: you can see the water, the soil in it, and, in its reflection, the sky.

Original works versus arrangements
A carillon concert comprises original pieces and arrangements. Moreover, carillon players improvise on folk tunes and sometimes compose new music for bells. In arranging the music for carillon there are a few problems.

If a melody is located above the accompaniment, as for example in songs, the melody on the small bells (high notes) sounds much softer than the accompanying tones in the big bells. The arranger must therefore make the accompaniment thinner by leaving out notes.
If the melody contains long sustained tones while the accompaniment goes on with a lot of notes, the listener may not hear which notes belong to the melody and which belong to the accompaniment. That is of course an undesirable situation. Sometimes it is possible to create a tremolo on the long melody note so that it keeps its strength.

After my carillon concerts I usually hear from the audience they liked the original pieces the most. Even so, arranging piano works for carillon gives a good insight in the difference between the two instruments. For instance, the Alberti bass, as found in Mozart’s piano sonatas, sounds too loud on carillon. But thinning the Alberti bass does not do justice to the composer. It’s not always possible, but playing the Alberti bass above the melody can sometimes work. In the carillon preludes by Matthias Van den De Gheyn (1721 1785) one finds Alberti motives in the manual with melodic motives in the pedal. Thus, the Alberti ‘bass’ is carefully composed into the work.

The above example would perhaps suggest that composing effective works for piano and carillon results from the application of structural rules. In that case a list of compositional rules could be derived through the study of piano and carillon scores. However, do's and don'ts do not lead to beautiful works. Pieces I have composed on the computer, according to the music notation program, should be great to play. Indeed, the Sibelius program plays them faultlessly and the music usually sounds fine. But when I bring the computer-composed piece to the carillon, nine times out of ten it sounds hugely disappointing.

Below you will find an analysis of one of my most successful works, Dandelion Field. I hope that my notes on that composition lead to a clear idea of what I personally hope to hear and to experience in a carillon piece.

Dandelion Field
The title Dandelion Field comes from a visit to the Chattanooga National Cemetery in Tennessee (USA). After an illness of a few months my sister died in June 2016 from lung cancer. She had lived in the neighbouring town of Cleveland. Because her husband serves in the military, she has been given a place in a military cemetery. The endless rows of anonymous white stones in this cemetery reminded me of a field of dandelions.

In Dandelion Field I employed a motif based on the swinging bells motif Gloria Te Deum. The title came later, becoming a guide in the composition process at a later stage. Previously I would have started with an idea or a sentence from a poem and I would try to find the right music for expressing this idea or sentence. Lately, however, I think a lot more about the sound of music itself and search at a later stage for a reminiscent association.

I used to find it strange that the great composers simply called their pieces “sonata” or “prelude.” Most likely, it seemed to me, they were not philosophical and they had no other intention with their compositions than to create beautiful music. But I came to realize that the advantage of these “anonymous” titles is that the listener is not forced to listen in a certain way to the music.

In Dandelion Field I started with a repeating note. The repeated note stays important throughout the entire piece. I call this note Neir Tamid, a Hebrew term meaning Eternal Light, specifically the light that burns eternally in the synagogue. Such a tone that sounds continuously should be sounded softly so it will not become disturbing. That is why I have written pp in bar 1 (the accompanying tone) and has the theme in measure 3 accents. The 5/8 time signature is irregular and, because it is less customary, will hopefully be experienced as unanticipated and refreshing.

The motif CDFG is derived from the Gloria Te Deum swinging bells. I found this selection of tones attractive, and to go from swinging bells to carillon (fixed bells) is not a big step. I came to the idea of a swinging-bell motif in Ooltewah, outside Chattanooga (and ten miles from my sister’s home in Cleveland), where I gave a carillon concert. Ooltewah’s carillon is small carillon (23 bells). Prior to the concert in Ooltewah a set of three swinging bells sounded.

All the above notes show that Dandelion Field is a very personal piece, full of association and emotion. It seems to me that all who have heard Dandelion Field have been very impressed with the piece. As mentioned, painter Joost de Jonge experienced golden clouds while listening to the music. My carillon student Etienne Weeda thought that the work was written by a pianist; he and several other students want to play the piece. Although compliments are nice, I think it is more important that this piece, for the sake of emotion with which it is written, is regarded as a strong work. Dandelion Field does not contain a specific melody, yet it feels melodious.

In the previous chapter I already indicated that melody has a different relationship to the carillon than it does with most instruments. You might compare a carillon composition with a macaroni dish. In such a dish you find cheese, peppers, onions, garlic, macaroni, and a few other ingredients. The overall taste is good or bad, but the individual ingredients do not stand out one against the other. This is also the case with a carillon piece. It is the fusion of melody, rhythm, harmony, and timbre, not the prominence of any particular feature, that makes the carillon piece sound good (or not). Indeed, I do not think I have ever heard a listener say that the melody in a carillon piece was beautiful or the chords were nice. The whole is observed, not the elements.

Points of reference painting and new carillon piece
On this page, you see a photo of the painting Joost de Jonge gave me. He subsequently sent me an email with notes about the work. To Joost, the blue in the painting functions as counterpoint. In the composition I plan to write, counterpoint will play a role of significance as well. This could be realized for example by a loud chord in a soft environment or the introduction of a dissonant tone that does not resolve. Joost spoke about his blue as a ‘non resolving dissonant.’ He also said that the brown could be the root of a plant. Bringing colours alive is something I also do as a composer. Melodies, chords and even clusters can be colours to me.

Unlike Joost I am not so concerned with philosophy and literature. Yet it cannot do harm to think about the place of the new composition in the totality of my works and to think about the overarching ideas connecting all my compositions. Joost de Jonge makes sketches before he eventually makes his paintings. I work in exactly the same way. It occurs to me that new compositions resulting from improvising on the piano or by singing are much purer than works composed at the computer or at a table.

A carillon work is transparent. Heavy chromatics or late-Romantic harmonies sound muddy on the carillon. It is much better to compose within a mode like the pentatonic or diatonic scale.

The whole is more important than the sum of its parts. Of course it is fine when a carillon piece is especially melodic or rhythmic, but what the listener hears is an entirety, a complex that works or not.

An irregular type of measurement could refer to the sound of swinging bells.

The carillon, a bell keyboard, offers a host of associations, ecclesiastical, historical, folkloric, and even connected to timekeeping.

The Carillon work that I will compose takes ‘golden clouds’ as a starting point. But first I must refer again to the painting Joost de Jonge has given to Ruth and me so as to gain extra inspiration before composing.

Me & Luke (detail)
Words by Lucas Reiner

To make a painting is to
fix something -
to hold something
repair something

To freeze a moment of life
hold onto something fleeting
and reveal it  -
restoring the wholeness
of it’s original design.

To paint the sky
which is always moving,
changing, in a state of flux
without the aid of depiction
to end up with a
single image of the thing
Painting the feeling of
looking at the sky -
which, when we look away
appears to exist as a
fixed image in our mind
(memory) but in reality
is always moving  - changing -
proposition of painting like Tikun -
Olam - in that one is
trying to restore to
wholeness and completion
something that (has been)
is fractured (reality)

to arrive at a final, singular
(specific) image / object
is to re-integreate all
fractured components
of separate things - into
a wholeness
Guston talked about knowing
when a painting wasn’t
working because it felt
like just parts
not adding up to a whole.

painting is working when one
looks at it and has
a sensation of movement
of the visual field moving
it feels alive
it is alive
restored, whole
like a revelatory
a moving image

T.O. gd metaphor
for painting, in which
one tried to restore
an image to wholeness, from the
components that go
into a painting - color, line, marks,
light, gesture, tone, texture, etc…

Rethinking Cézanne in Color (2018)
50 × 40 cm
Oils on canvas
Rethinking Cézanne in Color B (2018)
50 × 40 cm
Oils on canvas
Words by Joost de Jonge
Close to the skin

Paul Cézanne’s obvious desire to connect with tradition strongly motivated his choice of subjects. The greatest evidence of this traditional bent were the artist’s frequent visits to the Louvre. However the tradition Cézanne sought to emulate could be a modern one as well — think of Courbet’s bathers, for example. The bather with outstretched arm in Les Baigneuses of 1853 strikes a posture that recurs in Cézanne’s drawings and paintings of bathers, especially those with striding and drying figures. Courbet’s was the good tradition of anti-academism. Painting real life necessitated the painting of real bodies. Les Baigneuses, though, shows strange and all too affected postures for a naturalist reading, even for a purely Realist one. Those nudes (one really in Courbet’s 1853 painting) are still far removed from the more conventionally realistic flesh Manet gives us in the contemporaneity of his 1863 Olympia. Cézanne’s paintings are not to be considered realist, or contemporary, but above all highly imaginative. “The modernity of Cézanne’s bathing pictures,” observes Christopher Lloyd, “lays not so much in any specific reference to time or place as in their universality.” (Quote from “Paul Cézanne drawings and watercolors” pp. 176-177)

Courbet’s nudes still refer to art and art alone. The way those nudes must have had to pose exemplifies the otherness of the paint by which they are to appear and which translated their temporality of being into substance and permanence within a painterly continuum. The bathers posed for the painter seemingly aware of the irony of their gestures (reminiscent of Grotesque Rococo). But this irony imposed by the curator of the scene could not but be overshadowed by the truthful and Realist rendition of their flesh in paint, a foreshadowing of their incorporation into Cézanne’s art. The nude we see from the back seems to fend off any lustful gaze, even as does that of her companion; but the true gaze of the spectator will never be averted. We are free to contemplate her buttock as the possible site of sense gratification. Gratification of the senses via the all-prevailing sense of sight could be considered one of the strongest traits of Realism in painting. The eye becomes the interlocutor of the haptic, delivering messages back and forth, between memory and what is depicted and recognized as real, as a portrayal of the real world. Such a reading is an echo of the self and one’s cognitive history. The materiality of the body is delivered via the materiality of the paint, translated through vision. The light touches the eye; the line of sight is permeated by the memory of touch. Courbet gives us the sensation of flesh as the ultimate truth. It is through this, his strongest motive, that his depiction of nudes lives on in the art of painting. A polished rendition of these bodies, as in Cabanel or Bouguereau, would not have been able to reach beyond its literary and anecdotal framework. We are drenched in the symbolic reading of indexical wholes. As such, our reading will always escape the reality of the material unto itself behind those representations, though Cézanne will bring us close to an understanding of their co-existence.

An important shift relating to the content of a painting, the way such content is rendered and becomes painterly, occurs via the transition from Renaissance to Baroque to Rococo to Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism and Impressionism (the interlude of Neo-Classicism notwithstanding). Early Renaissance painting saw the depiction of Biblical and classical themes. Those early Renaissance pictures mainly suited the needs of the clerics, the latter classical ones those of the aristocracy. The depiction of a painting’s subject was embedded in written history. Bit by bit, the emulation of sensation came to the fore, replacing literary-historical narrative with one of the senses. Rembrandt gave us a strong sense of how a scene could evolve: from its climactic point you could imagine the way the story unfolds, with the protagonists active and placed in space but still within a literary construct. With Fragonard you are able to smell the flowers — think of the The Swing and the abundance of nature, how this symbolizes out of control desire. With the rise of the Impressionists, the spectator is invited to complete what is seen “incompletely” depicted. Here there is little intellectual play, no reference to any symbolic connotations the barking dog may suggest, or how the lovers in Fragonard’s work form a triangular dynamic. So I find with Impressionism a loss of the symbolic, an abandonment of the literary narrative in favor of a purely optical, visual and painterly one.

With Cézanne, it’s largely the same and his work could in this sense very well be considered Impressionist. But, the thoroughly and intensely determined structure of his compositions, especially in his later work with its deliberately constructed paths for the eye, align him in more then one way with the narrativity of Rembrandt and Poussin. Cézanne’s work requires a mindset for reading, for reading a text and holding the story together. This is all too clear in his early work The Abduction (of Proserpine by Pluto, as recounted in Ovid’s Metamorphoses) where Cézanne really wanted to align with the grand tradition of history painting. He could only be of his time, but his genius made it possible for him to translate the literary trait of history painting via his handling of paint and the construction of his image on the picture plane to the contemporary. With his Card Players, Cézanne gives us a true post-impressionist’s reading, a “Gestalt” of the literary narrative within the modernist construct of sensual painting.

In “Cézanne’s Bathers/Biography and the erotics of paint” Aruna D’Souza states that “It was a pleasure not of form but of substance, an erotics of paint that seeped beyond the body’s contours, that constituted those body’s contours, that collapsed the sensuality of medium with the sensuality of the body.” (Pg. 121). I think this is largely correct, though only insofar as the whole experience of painting is regarded as a sensual one. Cézanne’s aims were not those of the sexually prolific male. His whole life was devoted to painting; to bring about what he thought of as the highest achievements in art.Painting was above all an intellectual occupation for him, not a sensual one. He fought his battle with desire. His later scenes of bathers in particular are most of all about composition and the grandeur that arises when all elements are balanced. Now, D’Souza wants to fit the whole of Cézanne’s effort within her vision of painterly erotics and sexualize his whole venture. But it is exactly Cézanne’s ambivalence towards the sexes in his depiction of nudes that underscores not a possible homoeroticism, but indeed the opposite. It makes the human form more the object of composition and form in a general sense, desexualizing the body itself while engaging it in a larger sensual formulation. I can’t agree therefore with her statement about those bodily forms as signs of erotic connotation. “It was, rather, that the signs of the baigneuses’ erotic content were not only figurative but formal: the signs were anatomical distortions, built-up surfaces, and reworked contours that marked these images.” (pg.101) “That an insistence on the baigneurs as representations of either nostalgic memories or as insistently contemporaneous instances of observed reality was a way of managing certain sexual anxieties produced by Cézanne’s formal method is clear.” (Pg 103) Any reading of sexual desire into the bathers may be just that, a reading into it. Huysmans’s reading of erotic content in the painting of the bathers may concern far more his own sexual orientation. To Cézanne, I’m sure, the sexual context was always secondary.

D’Souza does make a point regarding the overtly sexualized connotations of the formal sign in Cézanne’s bathers paintings. She states that these signs as such penetrate the sexuality of the male bathers, eroticizing them by the very connotations of sexuality derived from their signifying similarly in the paintings of female bathers. But I do not think this is a legitimate reading of his investment in abstraction. Indeed, painting is sensual to him, as it is to Vincent van Gogh; Cézanne, too, finds the painterly jouissance, but his is more ephemeral, more ethereal and always connected to the classical heritage of his hometown, Aix en Provence, a connection he really felt, since Ovid was part of his youth’s “Bildung”. Cézanne never wanted to bid farewell to the higher emotions he experienced during his youth in connection with poetry and friendship, but sought in his painting to give those a real form within the contemporary.

In relation to the ironic gestures of Courbet, Cézanne seems very much satisfied not to impart any such implication to the postures and gestures of his nudes. Here, we feel he is on a totally different journey, a totally different quest for the essential aesthetics of art. He draws his nudes with such caressing lines, impelled not by erotic but by formal reasoning. See for example the drawing of a seated bather from circa 1880 (follow the link to Cézanne’s works in the Museum Boymans van Beuningen’s Print Cabinet). He searched the shadows looking for line and drew lines in search of shadow, shape and mass. With Cézanne we feel it is all about the interconnectedness of plane and line, of the truly painterly. Though Cézanne may have been aware of Courbet’s irony, his nudes embody true pathos. They are metaphors of composition. They serve his painterly means. There is definitely no irony here, not anymore; he couldn’t be ironic even if he wanted to. As his sketchbooks attest, Cézanne’s thorough design and ongoing concern with the figure gives us bathers that are often jotted down, as a composer writes out a theme. His longing for real art rules out any extra-painterly reading. Though art historians have searched for (the awkwardness of) the nudes to translate his fear of human contact, to me it seems clear that the artifice of this body of work is far more about his desire to be able to dream and live in and between the fulfillment of both his art and his manhood. His whole venture is like Virgilian prose describing an artist’s Arcadia.

Christophe-Gabriel Allegrain’s Bather, also called Venus, which entered the Louvre before 1824, displays a natural charm that is likely to have inspired Cézanne with his search for the truth in painting. As of the mid-1860s the “truth” was defined as clarté, the clarity of a scene regarded in broad daylight. This was achieved via three painterly approaches, as defined by Dr. Richard Shiff in his “Cézanne and the End of Impressionism”: 1) the use of strong contrasts of dark and light 2) the use of only the most attenuated contrasts, i.e. the establishment of a relative uniformity of value and also of hue (la peinture grise or la peinture blonde), and 3) the use of attenuated value contrast, along with strong contrasts of hue, usually in the form of relatively bright, pure, “spectral” colors.  With Cézanne we can find the germination of this 3rd-approach clarity most strongly within his Roofs of L’Estaque of the 1870s, a work in pencil and watercolor on paper. It is part of the Museum Boymans van Beuningen’s Print Cabinet collection and was featured there in the Rotterdam museum’s 2017 exhibition “Manet to Cézanne: Impressionist Drawings From Our Own Collection”.

I find it to be one of Cézanne’s most cautious paintings, one of the early watercolors to announce the procedure of painting color upon color, stroke of color upon stroke of color, building the form with indefinite means, unpredictable contour, indefinite possibilities of struggle. This all gives way to an uncertain but unavoidable realization of form through the application of the absolute brushstroke. There is no a priori meaning to the brushstroke, the tabula rasa of the brushstroke functions as a means for achieving pictorial coherence within the build-up of the picture. The image emerges from the brushstroke, the tache like a pool from infinite drops of rain, unified to reflect another cognitive plane, to become a different entity through unification, but still leaving visible the single brushstroke as a drop fixed in the sky. Cézanne will always linger at the essence of the painterly touch.

To Cézanne, the juxtapositions of strong, bright hues became the true building blocks of optical and pictorial clarity. It was this visual truth he observed here in 1876 at L’Estaque. In his letter to Camille Pissarro he describes the scenery as ”like a playing card… The sun here is so tremendous that it seems to me as if the objects were silhouetted not only in black and white, but in blue, red, brown and violet. I may be mistaken, but this seems to me to be the opposite of modeling.” (From Paul Cézanne Letters, edited by John Rewald.) Though this realization stems from an observation of the natural world, its rendition and as such its ultimate truth is not one of the natural world, but one of the painterly as such. Its train of thought is spurred by rendition and the image is only real as a rendition unto itself. The truth concerns not so much the emulation of the experience of the natural scene, but the enactment of its creative interpretation. It is this that is to be relived time and time again. The act of modeling is only to take place within the construct of the work of art. Cézanne’s truth is one of painting.

Look at the image of rooftops once again, how strongly the white, light-blue areas around the houses set those buildings off against the bay and sky of blank paper. This is a very economic use of expressive elements. One can imagine that this is the moment just before sunrise. The strong white smudge is the reflection of light via the expansive surface of the sea, behind the rooftops, which gives you this powerful brightness, only found in Mediterranean climes. The tree in the middle is orange, a precursor of the emergence of the rising sun. We are at the moment de l’aube — not just in L’Estaque, but in abstract painting.

Cézanne at the Museum Boymans van Beuningen Rotterdam
“Les Baigneuse” by Courbet at Musée Fabre Montpellier
Manet’s “Olympia” at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris
“The Abduction” by Paul Cézanne at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “The Swing” at the Wallace Collection, London
Cézanne’s “The Large Bathers” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Paul Cézanne’s “Bathers” at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Christophe-Gabriel Allegrain’s “Bather, also called Venus”, Louvre, Paris.

Words by Joost de Jonge
Upon a visit to de Kunsthal Rotterdam: Botero - Celebrate Life! on a Sunday in August of 2016

The old masters had a saying, which went something like this: “Choose one master and follow him. Your individual style will develop over time just by working.” Nowadays, this adage seems almost arcane: style has to be readily recognizable, with an easy readability at its core. If you do not have a distinct style, you have no voice of your own.

Truth be told, a master is indeed recognized by, and for, his or her personal style. But how do we discern individual historical masters by their works and their touch, unless figures and/or subject matter for which a master is known are included (like Jheronimus Bosch, for instance)? Contemporary artists think of themselves as brands, but, as it seems, branding is nothing new. In some works even Bosch clearly strove to be recognizable as Bosch. The persistence of style, in the hands of its originator(s) and in others’, allows us to distinguish between an evolved style and an appropriated one. Especially over the last hundred years or so, there has been a shift towards an unlikely and unwanted appropriation of style. The brand has become more important than the product.

In the work of 14th and 15th century masters we notice scalar differences among the figures depicted in direct contrast to their perspectival position and their appropriate relative size. Some figures are shown bigger than natural as a way to underscore their narrative importance. For example, the wealthy principal donor of an altarpiece looms large in relation to donors or officials of less importance.

This iconic distortion of relative size got Fernando Botero (born Medellín, Colombia, 1932) thinking about volumes and ratios. He makes direct reference to such medieval scaling in “The Vatican Bathroom” from 2006. The pope is massive; a small cardinal holds the pontiff’s towel waiting for him to get out of the bath. So here you wonder how the small towel would suffice to dry the pope, and why is he still wearing his robe? The work calls to mind Millais’ “Ophelia” and “The Death of Marat” by Jacques-Louis David. Indeed, you could think of any work with a dressed person immersed in water or in a bathtub. As such it is also reminiscent of Botero’s own 1975 “Homage to Bonnard.”

But Botero shows a distinctive grasp of psychology, through the averted gaze of the pope and the running water. The tub is about to overflow and the water will surely wash away the small cardinal. What does the water stand for? Does it refer to the purification of sins? Or, contrarily, would it imply the spilling over of sins? It remains a mystery like those hidden in the painter’s brightly colored flower arrangements. As Botero says himself, “A successful painting is one that definitely retains its mystery, that cannot be taken in from all angles.”

As he imposes his rather well rounded geometry on pictures by Italian masters, Botero thinks,: I’m my own master, master of my style, and through it, I can show you that I am a distinctive creator. As his volumetric deformations overcome any subject matter, they become the object of the depiction, overriding their artistic and historical implications.

Looking to make his mark, Botero does not comment on the role of the Renaissance works he refers to in the context of notions about the individual which arose during this period. Nor does he reflect upon more negative connotations of portrayals of the rich in this context. One could, after all, focus on the vanity of wishing to be portrayed and remembered. Velazquez, on the other hand, stressed the humanity and individuality of the dwarfs he painted, and in doing so raised the awareness of individuality as such, turning painting into a philosophic notion. Velazquez thus reflected on contemporary notions of the personal in a broader context, addressing intrinsic power relations long before Manet presented his Olympia.

We should keep in mind, however, that at least as early as the Limbourg brothers, striking details of contemporary life were depicted within images of a symbolic nature. But such incorporated upfront realism should not be mistaken for Manet’s elaborate insult of the bourgeoisie, nor for the intellectual scrutiny with which Velazquez depicted the personality of the dwarfs.

In contrast to both earlier painters, Botero puts his own style forward without contributing to the discourse around the everyday (though justly glorifying l’art pour l’art and stressing his personal pleasure in the act of  painting.) Yet elsewhere he shows a sensitivity to politics in his depictions of government officials — and in making a gift of pictures of the torture of political prisoners to the National Museum of Colombia in Bogotá.

  So we are sure of the recognizability of his style. Botero knows how to apply that style to paintings of past masters and to topics of contemporary society. This makes him in fact rather mysterious to me.

As a painter I’ve been troubled for many years by the question of style. When I entered art school at 16, I was told I already had too individual a style, At the time I couldn’t make much of that comment. I do recall, however, how conscious, even deliberate, I was about making pictorial decisions. I never just put the brush to canvas, but always had a plan, worked out with charcoal in a kind of cartone. But this was a method so close to me, so personally generated, that I could not say how I could separate myself and the subject from the style.

So how did Botero’s style come about? Was there an intrinsic connection to a particular subject and/or to his artistic practice in general that brought about those awkward ratios? Did it emerge just from a quest to become recognizable, a tour de force by an ambitious young man from what was then not just a provincial town but an invisible continent? Did he find the grotesque in pre-Columbian sculpture? Did he find his roots in the proportions of a reclining Mayan nude like Henry Moore before him? Was it his study of El Greco in the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid which provided him the model for such a strong abbreviation of the real?

Like Parmigianino, El Greco made use of an elongated human form, expressing the elegance and sensitivity of the highly intellectual and emotional Renaissance man. As he stretches the volume of everything he depicts — effectively reversing the Mannerist refinements of El Greco — is Botero telling us that as human beings we are closer to a well rounded old lady or man, young woman or boy or horse? Does this make Botero the most materialistic painter of our age? Of all times? I don’t think so; such an evaluation still has to be given to the young Velazquez.

The story goes that, around 1956, Botero discovered how gigantic the mandolin in a still life seemed after he painted a very small opening at its center. He developed his creative pathway from this point on, making his discovery the constructive basis of his entire oeuvre, underscoring the accidental with serious thought and painterly elaboration.  He built a personal style through the aggregation of structured deformation, a wondrous autonomy of vision. Botero’s vision is repetitive and relentless, like a mantra, calming his fears of the outer world and quenching his desire for a childlike inner world constituted through his painterly technique.

Botero loves to draw. You can feel his love for composition in every work, which moves the works away from the trivial. Maybe it is by emphasizing the weighing of volumes, by counterbalancing every little thing in the work by its exaggerated presence, that he stays connected to the pictorial. He doesn’t lose himself in the subject or in the overtly visual, quasi-photographic aspects of his imagery. He keeps it close to himself. He has found, I feel, a sincere way to maintain himself well grounded within the parameters of art.

Finally, Botero is much more a draftsman then he is a painter! His painting remain thin. Although the mixture of medium and pigment is sufficiently “fat” to cover the expansive distances of his colored planes, his work doesn’t speak to us from the paint itself. The picture plane remains a colored field, of great merit, but not one that inspires beyond the matter of color itself. There are none of the phantasmagorical appearances such as we find within the late Titian or Rembrandt.

Botero really works from the drawing; the drawing dictates his painterly adventures. But he is steady in realizing the painting and finishing his pictures, like a master baker taking the bread out of the oven at exactly the right time. We are grateful as he hands us his finely tuned bouquets of repetitive form and color clusters.

As Botero says, “To finish a painting is to stop thinking”

Artist quotes from “Fernando Botero Monograph & Catalogue Raisonné, paintings 1975-1990,“ Acatos Publisher, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2000.
(“Life and Work within the Century,”’ by Jean-Marie Tasset, page 199)

Icarus Redemption/Passion (2018)
120 × 100 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Icarus Improvisation (2019)
50 × 20 cm
Acrylics and oils on panel

Icarus Improvisation (2019)
50 × 20 cm
Acrylics and oils on panel

Icarus Improvisation (2019)
50 × 20 cm
Acrylics and oils on panel

Icarus Improvisation (2019)
50 × 20 cm
Acrylics and oils on panel

Detail of Abstract Landscape (2012-2018)
65 × 100 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Investiture 1 (2019)
60 × 80 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Investiture 2 (2019)
60 × 80 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Investiture 3 (2019)
60 × 80 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

UBU ROI (2019)
80 × 50 cm
Oils on canvas

Abstract Landscape (2012-2018)
65 × 100 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Time Travelling (2019)
120 × 100 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Time Travelling 3 (2019)
115 × 80 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Icarus journeys (2018)
120 × 80 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Icarus confronts the sun (2018)
120 × 80 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Emilie de Salverte Bilman, Docteure ès lettres

Conférence donnée au Centre Culturel du Manoir à Genève le 12 novembre 2017 pour l’exposition «Icarus: L’invitation au Voyage» de Joost de Jonge

Ekphrasis a pour but de donner à une peinture, un tableau ou une photographie une correspondance écrite ou littéraire. Le terme vient du verbe grec « proclamer » et se réfère à une figure de rhétorique qui ajoute une puissance d’évocation au tableau en substituant un référent visuel par le langage afin d’intensifier la perception du spectateur. Cette expérience perceptive est associée à la « mimesis » ou à « l’imitation de la nature » par l’artiste, transcrite par la perception active du spectateur, du poète ainsi que du lecteur.

Aristote (384-322 B.C) pensait que la poésie imitait les actions de l’homme selon des contingences courantes. D’après ce philosophe, la peinture et la poésie imitaient la nature conformément à leurs techniques propres. Dans son livre Ars Poetica (65-8 B.C.), Horace pensait que les écrivains imitaient les modèles littéraires d’autres grands auteurs. Comme Aristote, il donnait beaucoup d’importance à l’imitation objective des circonstances de la vie. Plutarque (46-120 A.D.) était du même avis que Simonides de Ceos, qui disait que la peinture est une poésie muette et la poésie une peinture parlante.

Plutarque a inventé le concept d’ e n a r g e i a qui signifie la vivacité artistique tandis qu’Aristote a inventé le concept d’ e n e r g e i a qui signifie l’énergie qui soutient tout objet d’art, la peinture comme la poésie. Les penseurs modernes, comme Mitchell dans Picture Theory (1994), soulignent la différence entre la peinture et la poésie en disant que la peinture est un art spatial et la poésie un art temporel car elle est régie par les mots qui se succèdent sur une page. La lecture et la compréhension d’un texte prennent du temps tandis qu’un tableau peut être saisi d’un seul coup d’œil.

Comme Vassily Kandinsky qui combinait les quatre sens du toucher, de l’odorat, de l’ouïe et de la vision dans ses peintures, Joost de Jonge s’inspire de son expérience musicale qu’il transpose en couleurs dans ses tableaux. La synesthésie, du grec «syn», qui signifie «ensemble» et «aisthēsis» qui signifie perception/sensation, est un phénomène neurologique dans lequel la stimulation d’un sens conduit automatiquement à une réaction involontaire d’un autre sens, activant divers trajets cognitifs.

Pour le peintre, la couleur peut être comparée à une harmonie de plusieurs instruments jouant à l’unisson et présentant, entre eux, une analogie tonale. Ainsi, les jaunes du tableau sont considérés comme des violons tandis que les bruns et les rouges représentent un violoncelle en basse continue. L’artiste nous dit : « Mes tout premiers souvenirs sont des champs de couleurs infinis, verts, jaune d’or et bleus. Cette expérience de la couleur en tant qu’infini, espace illimité, m’accompagne toujours lorsque je peins. Je suis alors pleinement conscient des couleurs que j’utilise, notamment du processus d’apparition de la couleur, de ses couches successives, si elle naît d’un glacis, ou si elle est pure, ou surgit/provient d’un mélange mouillé sur mouillé, ou si un effet de couleur spécifique jaillit/résulte d’un frottis ou d’une technique de pinceau sec. D’autre part, je reste extrêmement sensible à la valeur relative des couleurs, à leur interaction.»

Dans ses peintures sur le thème d’Icare, le peintre utilise différentes nuances de couleurs pour diversifier sa conception du mythe. Le mythe d’Icare raconte la quête d’Icare, fils de Dédale, l’architecte qui fabriqua des ailes de cire pour permettre à son fils de voler. Icare vola trop près du soleil et ses ailes fondirent.

Une de ces peintures symbolise la chute d’Icare par un mouvement descendant,, qui combine l’effet de chute et l’effondrement/la fonte des ailes d’Icare en un seul geste pictural. L’efficacité de cette image descendante se base sur la technique de l’impasto. Cette technique était également utilisée par Van Gogh, qui étalait la peinture en couches épaisses pour donner au tableau un aspect sculptural tout en soulignant le contour des formes pour leur ajouter de la vraisemblance.

Ces peintures m’ont inspiré quelques poèmes sur le thème d’Icare que j’aborde du point de vue métaphorique et mythique. Ainsi, on peut constater que la perception et l’aperception, qui suscite une réaction affective à une série de peintures représentant le même thème, peut aussi stimuler des réponses cognitives différentes, transcrites en poésie par une perspective historique ou mythico-métaphorique. Dans sa peinture intitulée “L’échelle de Jacob”, le peintre associe plusieurs figures dans un visage à deux faces, tel Janus, qui possédait la double vision et une double existence.

Jacob avait rêvé d’un escalier menant les anges au ciel. Dans cette peinture exécutée en nuances de bleu pastel, nous voyons une harmonie de plusieurs tons de bleu et du violet des boucles et des sphères qui évoquent les plumes et le ciel. Les échelles sont peintes en vertical et en horizontal, symbolisant l’échelle terrestre et l’échelle céleste, tout comme le double visage qui regarde la terre et contemple le ciel.

Mon poème “L’ascension d’Icare” évoque la fusion entre Jacob, Icare, et Janus dans les deux figures contrastées représentées sur cette peinture. Une des figures est Icare tandis que l’autre, juxtaposée, représente son double défiguré. Dans ce poème, je me réfère à la duplicité de l’inspiration artistique qui s’inspire de choses terrestres et célestes. Je souligne aussi la différence entre la perception immédiate de la peinture comme art spatial et celle du poème comme art temporel. Comme Freud, je constate que tout art résulte d’un rêve éveillé dans un état crépusculaire entre le sommeil et la veille.

L’ascension d’Icare

Les doubles masques de Janus contemplent
les échelles doubles du peintre inspiré

par des boucles céruléennes et turquoises
d’où surgissent des formes primaires.

Mes vers gravissent l’échelle composite des mots
régis par les rouages du temps terrestre.

Dans l’azur survolent des anges neutres qui unissent
ces contre-images dans des rêves éveillés.

Dans un autre poème, intitulé «Ode à Cézanne», je décris les associations perceptives que cette peinture/ce tableau évoque en moi. Je perçois la montagne Sainte Victoire que Cézanne vénérait et que le peintre a représenté comme le corps d’une baigneuse en hommage à Cézanne. La peau de la baigneuse évoque les strates de la montagne peinte en couleurs harmonieuses et contrastantes sous un ciel en impasto bleu. Je construis la métaphore centrale du poème en associant la baigneuse, symbole de Sainte-Victoire, à un processus de purification.

Ode à Cézanne

Comme une baigneuse purifiée par l’eau
Sourcière, la montagne se dévoile
Dans son corps de calcaire cloisonné,
Son visage tonifié par des ondes rouges,
Vertes et bleues. C’est la Sainte-Victoire
Dans sa peau de nudité en soie pure
Et ses strates écarlates imaginaires
Que Cézanne aurait certainement adulé
Dans cet hommage du peintre à son maître.

L’une des caractéristiques saillantes des peintures/tableaux de Joost de Jonge est son usage symbolique des formes géométriques. Pour le peintre, les ellipses que l’on voit dans «L’échelle de Jacob» représentent les plumes d’Icare. Dans ce sens, sa peinture peut être qualifiée d’expressionisme abstrait. Mondrian affirme que l’art abstrait est créé de la même façon que la création surgit dans la nature à partir de mécanismes physiques généraux et analogues. L’art abstrait évoque la réalité ou plutôt la géométrie qui nous entoure, cachée dans le monde visible, repoussant ainsi la réalité quotidienne pour n’en montrer que ses mécanismes sous-jacents de façon abstraite.

Joost de Jonge peint des couleurs qui s’harmonisent par la variation des teintes complémentaires et des formes. Il utilise des contrastes chromatiques pour souligner la spatialité des surfaces décorées de formes géométriques qui, parfois, se recoupent. Ainsi, il nous laisse entrevoir l’espace donnant naissance aux formes essentielles de notre vie, comme la représentation des strates géologiques de la Sainte Victoire ayant formé la montagne elle-même et qui symbolisent son orogénèse.

En variant des formes qui, à première vue, n’ont aucune signification, telles qu’un demi-cercle, une ligne parallèle, une ellipse ou des formes ondulées, le peintre insuffle une nouvelle vie à la peinture moderne en utilisant des images archaïques comme les archétypes jungiens. Comme Mirò et Kandinsky, il associe des formes archaïques à des couleurs harmonieuses pour créer l’illusion d’un mouvement vital.

Dans son livre The Sense of Order: Musical Analogies, Hans-Ernst Gombrich souligne les correspondances directes entre perception, mémoire et rythme, qui augmentent nos facultés cognitives par les liens existant entre perception et anticipation. En effet, notre idée du rythme musical repose sur le souvenir d’un intervalle de temps et notre capacité à le garder dans notre mémoire tout en anticipant l’intervalle suivant.

Saint Augustin, de son côté, souligne l’importance de la mémoire échoïque, soit la présence constante d’une sensation dans notre conscience avant qu’elle ne soit stockée dans notre mémoire à long terme, et son interaction avec notre expérience du moment. Ce qui est valable pour les intervalles musicaux peut également s’appliquer à notre perception de la couleur et à celle des variations chromatiques que nous stockons en mémoire pour en reproduire ensuite les traces à partir de notre expérience perceptive et affective immédiate. Ainsi, nous pouvons conclure que la perception active de la couleur stimule nos facultés cognitives et renforce notre mémoire à long terme.

Selon les dernières découvertes des neurosciences, la stimulation des aires cognitives de notre cerveau est essentielle pour le développement de nos facultés intellectuelles, tandis que le stress inhibe nos connections synaptiques et bloquent nos capacités d’adaptation à notre environnement. Les peintures abstraites, qui se basent sur des schémas chromatiques complémentaires et/ou , libèrent et renforcent les stimulations cognitives constituant le fondement même de notre pensée, de notre affectivité, et de notre créativité.

Selon Mitchell dans Picture Theory (1994), la relation d’ekphrasis qui se crée entre le peintre et le poète est basée sur un échange communicatif triangulaire, car la peinture est retranscrite en poème et le poème, par ses images, est retransformé en une peinture par le lecteur. La structure sociale inscrite dans la relation d’ekphrasis peut être décrite comme un ménage à trois dans lequel la relation du sujet et de l’autre, celle du texte et de l’image, est inscrite à trois reprises.

On peut aussi comparer l’ekphrasis avec le processus d’interprétation des rêves dans lequel le contenu manifeste du rêve est l’objet d’ekphrasis, l’analysant l’orateur, et l’analyste le lecteur/l’interprète. Je pense que Mitchell se réfère à la relation d’ekphrasis comme une double analogie qui requiert la triangulation œdipale de notre société contemporaine basée sur le tabou de l’inceste. Si nos rêves sont la satisfaction de nos désirs secrets, Mitchell se réfère aussi à notre désir d’atteindre une société triangulaire œdipale dans laquelle les rôles du peintre, du poète et du lecteur/interprète représentent une dimension sociale positive.

Mitchell oppose également la tradition classique d’enargeia, qui nous permet de visualiser les objets avec une vivacité théâtrale, à une théorie du langage s’exprimant par le pouvoir de l’imagination, que les poètes romantiques du 19ème siècle considéraient comme une faculté transcendante de la vision simple. Mitchell considère également l’imagerie du poème comme le corps imaginaire de l’autre présent dans l’audience et avec lequel nous entrons en relation à travers le texte poétique et/ou la peinture.

Nous pouvons donc conclure que la perception ekphrastique créé de l’espace tout en occultant et révélant partiellement la relation triangulaire entre le peintre, le poète et le lecteur. Avec l’interdisciplinarité et les valeurs de contingence épistémologique inscrites dans cette expérience perceptive, nous pouvons conclure que l’ekphrasis nous fait réfléchir à l’évolution de notre société contemporaine, dont les valeurs ont été transformées pour créer de nouvelles relations sociales et de nouveaux circuits artistiques post-modernes.

Et Al (after a poem by Peter Frank) (2018)
170 × 90 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Icarus’s Wings C (2018)
50 × 50 cm
Oils on canvas

Icarus’s Wings D (2018)
50 × 50 cm
Oils on canvas

Icarus in Space (2018)
130 × 60 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

The Virgin’s Blue (2018)
170 × 50 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Thinking of Ricardo Pau-Llosa (2018)
120 × 100 cm
Oils on canvas

Time Travelling 4 (2019)
140 × 70 cm
Oils on canvas

Time Traveller (2019)
120 × 80 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Sky-City (2019)
58 × 58 cm
Acrylics and oils on panel

The Virgin’s Blue variation A (2018)
85 × 25 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Tidal Wave (2017)
210 × 70 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Detail of Time Travelling 4 (2019)
140 × 70 cm
Oils on canvas

Heart of Hearts (2013)
115 × 70 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Unconscious Infinity 7 (2013)
120 × 145 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Lyrical Abstraction (2016)
70 × 54 cm
Acrylics and oils on paper

Abstract on Paper (2016)
65 × 50 cm
Acrylics and oils on paper

Counterpoint (2013)
115 × 115 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Danaë’s Confusion (2011-2017)
175 × 140 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Infinity Variation (2015)
70 × 50 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Ode to Cézanne (2015)
45 × 90 cm
Acrylics and oils on panel

Ode to Cézanne XL (2015)
120 × 170 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Music For Your Eyes (2014)
50 × 35 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Remembering (2013)
115 × 115 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Remembering 2 (2013)
115 × 115 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

SNAFU (2013)
180 × 120 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

The Talisman (2013)
115 × 115 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Traveling Sounds (2005)
120 × 150 cm
Oils on canvas

Ode to Pontormo (2019)
100 × 100 × 4,5 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas on canvas

Heart of Hearts 3 (2019)
100 × 100 × 4,5 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas on canvas

Icarus/Gabriel (2017)
105 × 90 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Prof. Dr. Richard Cándida Smith

Ovid’s account of Icarus, the most detailed version surviving from antiquity, is the second of a sequence of three stories about boys who come to unhappy ends—the Minotaur, Icarus, Perdix. The first two are so well known, they immediately conjure images and sentiments. Perdix is seldom mentioned, but his story is key to understanding what Ovid was doing with the tryptich of three lost boys.

Perdix was Icarus’s cousin. Like Uncle Daedalus, Perdix was a master builder. In fact, he invented the saw after examining the structure of fish spines. He saw circles in his mind’s eye and constructed the first compass for drawing perfect circles. He was only twelve but he had already surpassed Daedalus, who “in envy” Ovid says, took his nephew to the top of Minerva’s sacred temple and threw him off, intending to tell the whole world that Perdix had tripped while playing, as might any mindless silly child caught up in the excitement of the moment.

A credible story if he were as dim-witted as Ovid describes his cousin Icarus.

However, Minerva, loving Perdix for his imagination and puzzle-solving abilities, saw the boy as spiritual kin. She saved him just before he hit the ground by turning him into a bird. Newly feathered Perdix flew off, darting fast with the quickness of a master inventor eager to test a new device. Still Daedalus, as evil as they come, had traumatized the boy. The essential nature of the patridge (perdix in Latin), Ovid stresses, is never to fly too high and always to nest in bushes close to the ground rather than high up in tree branches.

In the adjacent tales of Icarus and Perdix, Ovid sets up a series of pairings that distinguish the types these two twelve-year-old boys exemplify:

• Icarus falls to his death because he flies too high and the sun melts the wax holding together the artificial wings Daedalus constructed for him; Perdix stays close to the ground.
• Icarus learned how to imitate a bird and even got good enough at it to forget that in fact he was flying a machine, while Perdix transforms into an actual bird, illustrating the critical distinction between Daedalus as homo faber filling the world with devices and Minerva as divine force emanating a constant flow of new realities.
• Icarus dies because he gets easily distracted and, enjoying the adventure, forgets even the simple instructions his father gave him, while Perdix whose agility of mind impresses even the goddess of wisdom, lives for eternity as forefather to the race of partridges.

Poor Icarus, there he is, hurtling headfirst from the heights of the sky and no divinity cares to rescue him. For Ovid, Icarus is a moron. Other commentators construe the boy’s movement upward to the light as a story of ambition and the inquenchable dream of the soul to rise above the limitations of its fleshly prison. For Ovid, Icarus ignored instructions and got caught up in the thrill of the moment. If his story demonstrates the limits of ambition, in Ovid’s telling, it’s not even his pride that’s at stake, but that of his dad.

From which flow a whole series of reactionary platitudes about not flying too high, accepting your place in the world and being content to stay within the limitations of your birth. If you are a clever working man, like Daedalus, that means never forgetting that however bright and inventive you are, you’re a technician, a fabricator of imitations. You learn mutely from your hands while you work with material stuff. Some one else, living in the pure light of the mind, will always be your better.

I rise to the Milky Way
A face appears before me
Hovering in cloud-laden skies
A personality youthful and playful
Mischievous and tricksy,
Rosy cheeked fantasm
cheerful, scary, threatening
The Unknown God
The avalanche

I fall to the soil
Dream returns me
To a place of no dream

Love is …
Love, Paul says, is of God’s gifts
the greatest. Love is
Wholeness replacing the partial
Knowledge replacing mystery
Face to face flowing into embrace
Souls blending with each other
letting go of self and time
a return to the Unknown God

In more direct language love is

reabsorption into the elements’
dances of attraction and repulsion

we infatuated with individuality
sought a singular fate defining a Me
a terrifying bark turning matter into word

There will be damage.

Two times a ghost appears
at the midnight chime
its silent bulk much reminds guards of
a fierceness like unto the old king’s
revived in blurry shapes drifting fading
resonance of fearsome & erratic
a hot glow prefiguring dawn

something is rotten
a ghost appears
rot is spreading

the guards turn to young master’s schoolmate,
a philosopher by reputation, an experimenter
In the natural sciences

a ghost that manifests to Horatio
must be so

purification is coming
those who sinned rooted out
& those who watched and complained
even those who paid no mind

God's messengers carry a cup
from which none want to drink
the dead pass by without comment
the living feel a warning but
sentences remain unsaid

In the desert cold dry shifts daily warmer dry
Wind that ripped your clothing on your walks has vanished
You slept in a cave, close to a fading fire
You meditated on the pattern you complete,
Whirl of ideas squeezing your heart when you sat
gazing at landscape, when you walked leaping
across dry waterbeds scaling sand dunes, when simple games
drove away premonitions of what awaits you

Meditative life ends
Voices instruct you:
Return home, locate friends
Call them from their jobs
Draw them into the vocation you reveal
Travel to the city, make your case
Give strangers who demand the impossible
Miracles and parables

Nothing is impossible, even the honesty of a simple proverb
The sight of Lazarus rising from his grave haunts you
You remain as surprised as the corpse rudely returned to pain
You remain as frightened as the two sisters
Who did not understand the price of the favor they demanded

Suddenly it was possible that the Word is true

My Father Who Art in Heaven,
For a glimpse of times to come,
Debts discharged if not every
Bill paid in full, I pray.

Reckoning is hard enough
When what’s due is in money.
Your accounts charge for blood,
Drop by drop, spilled by fathers,
Grandfathers, unknown forebears
Centuries past, forgotten

Progenitors profiting from,
Accruing guilt for, centuries
Suffering. Sums passed down,
Debts owed on earth as in heaven.

Can’t just pay it off. God’s ways
Are fearful and weird. Rewarding
Those desiring justice,
Those loving the Creator

Most, with extra suffering.
The cup of sorrow, I dream
I threw it, I ran fast
To nowhere, no when, a space
Crucifixion forgot.
Let the Cup pass by me!

If you slipped inside the feathers of an angel’s wings,
And they flapped to eject you,
A gale might blow.
Particles of sand and pollen and the ashes of the dead
Rise in thin sparkling strands,
Whirling multicolored specks, ascending to the heavens,
Ascending in search of God.

He sleeps in His bed, soft in the furry hide of dreams.
He belongs to no one, He knows no one.
We surround and batter Him hoping for a kiss, but He is no angel.
He is love’s shadow

Quickly expanding
Into a green canopy overhead.

In the dream life of angels
Time dissolves
The shimmer of eternity
Envelops you in its cocoon
For the hibernation to come
And the return of another Me
Resembling you.

Excelsior!"you will never more pray, never more worship, never more repose in infinite trust; you refuse to stand still before any ultimate wisdom, ultimate virtue, ultimate power while unharnessing your thoughts; you have no constant guardian and friend in your seven solitudes; you live without the vista of a mountain that has snow on its head and fire in its heart; there is no revenger for you, nor any amender with his finishing touch there is no longer any reason in what happens, or any love in that which will happen to you there is no longer any resting place for your weary heart, where it has only to find and no longer to seek; you are opposed to any kind of ultimate peace, you desire the eternal recurrence of war and peace: man of renunciation, will you renounce all these things? Who will give you the strength to do so? No one has yet had this strength!" There is a lake that one day refused to flow away and threw up a dam at the place where it had before flowed out and since then this lake has always risen higher and higher. Perhaps the very act of renunciation provides us with the strength to bear it ; perhaps man will rise ever higher and higher when he no longer flows out into a God.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science §285

His way through impenetrable blue (2017)
100 × 80 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Helen Brandenburg

so very sad -- that he will fall in --
all fall down -- downy feathers flip-flopping down the
thin, thin air -- there will be no next flight, no next
time for this baby-face to
try, try again -- but the
very saddest thing -- his very last
is his daddy’s very first bad, bad dream.

A Golden Shovel Poem

While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.
— W.H. Auden

Daedalus envied him [Perdix, his nephew], and headlong hurled / this lad of precepts from a precipice, / . . . / and lying, said the lad had slipped and fallen.
— Ovid’s Metamorphoses, translated by Charles Martin

That another story can -- and always does -- run tandem while
we focus on a plow, a horse’s ass, a red sleeve -- that someone
tiny can be back-flopping -- ka-splash -- offshore -- that something else
a few pages later, will justify this sad, sad loss of son. This fall is
payback -- for an uncle’s deadly envy -- green-eyed monster eating
at his guts -- because a lad was genius – could so simply make saw or
compass -- and so an uncle kills a brilliant boy – in this the opening
act of tragic loss -- its confusion of envy and murder – its end a
cluster-fuck of delayed recognition. And just now, outside my window
tonight, I see myself at this table -- pausing, looking up -- inside or
outside -- a green pen scratches -- a ruined amaryllis tilts -- but, just
now, outside in blackness, on some empty city sidewalk, he is walking --
some sad man who has lost what he loves most – is walking dully --
carrying his heavy guilt -- slowly along.

Icarus Variation d (2018)
50 × 50 cm
Oils on canvas
Words by Katherine Williams

Blackened, she prays, if not then in the next
Dear Weather, if all flame to the last dream
Strums hot, out-of-tune, overtones the cerulean
Tallowed with orange feet. Among all lizards here is one
Whose WINGS have not sprouted. He swims among stars
That form or wink out as we speak. The gathering speed
The sad rigging. Go tell the King, who sits rapt
For the first sign all godspeed and aglow
In his closet, no handsome grief Not
More shifty, fulsome as the plucked
Eye, glazed with sleepless, broke-string guitar
Never to dream of drowning Its empathetic
Sticky chariots passing stupid husband stupid notes
Were his three stupid sisters Not the dark
Level-candled and greasy-haired
Light, dear Weather, prays the woman,
Melt your rigging back to our whirling.
In familiar wax on small feet. Not
My son, fallen into cold starlit prayers
Blistered rising
Not my son from fingerlike
Not wings

Icarus Variation c (2018)
50 × 50 cm
Oils on canvas
Words by Susan Finch Stevens

Do not weep for me, Father.
I was not meant to live a life
of weary labyrinthian plod.
Instead, on that last day I lived
a thousand lives in the dazzle
of my ascent. A thousand more
were given in my fall.
Father, there is no fault
for me to find with you,
and I ask only for such
leniency in return.
My mother brought forth
from your embrace one life
that honored risk. And risk
in turn gave birth to legions
borne upon resplendent wings
of your deft conception.
Did you not hear my song
of descent above the chorus
of the birds I hurtled past?
I sang of life’s bright brevity
and of disorder’s surprise,
a grief you must let die.
It was praise, not lamentation,
I offered in that fall.
Let it now continue, Father.
Open my mouth.
Sing my song.

Icarus series (2018-2019)
28 × 9 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Peter Frank

They were almost never gods, the
Old Masters. Even collectively, they
couldn’t know everything. I wanted
to, knew I couldn’t, but didn’t plan
for the moment when “everything”
plastered itself so wholly out of
reach. Instead, other visions came
to define everything available. Like
curves of lavender sidling up to yellow
sinew and eyes of garden green or the
blue of the sky that gives the aviator
up to the fish, some failed futurist
coming down on the side of a nervous
and expensive peace.

Icarus series (2018-2019)
28 × 9 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Peter Clothier

You think it something
of a relief, the cool
water of the ocean
at least extinguishing
the flames? Ha! No!
Death by fire, death
by water, especially
the hard landing, it’s
still death, no? How’d
you feel, I’d like to know,
if it was your dad did
this to you? Some fine
inventor, my dad, no?
Condemns his son
to death to prove
a point or satisfy
his bloody ego!
Fiilicide! That’s the word
for it. Thanks a lot,
Dad! Oh, and congrats
on the new invention,
right? Patent pending.

Icarus series (2018-2019)
28 × 9 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Joost de Jonge

I await your stirring
of emotion in the needle bushes
beside the tree my path
like a burning daemon

touches no ground  
to honor your
reality is like darkness 
the night an abyss

a deep ocean of swirling blue
a hand grasping faith
absentminded fulfillment 
of a hunger for truth

Wings unfold through lines
jotted down roses
dreams of fires blazing
their red offers no salvation

you have fallen, as
one wing couldn't carry
the weight of your desire
touched by a sun

you did turn page after page
and read each day out loud
yet the pages looked alike
mirroring the sky effortlessly

Dozing off on a soft pillow
your desire for self-actualization
became a hesitant pronunciation
of levitation you observed

colors blend in a haze
like a field of flowers 
as you drive by at 120 mph
speed seems indifferent to your

immobility, in truth 
everything is at a standstill
how many colors can you use
how much needs to be colored

Icarus rises with great strength
tempting all to dream of flight
he must have been so alone
close to the sun 

his blackened thoughts
cows turned loose after winter
just a thought uncovered in paint
strokes of the brush merge into one

surface, the haptic has touched upon
a mind that drifted off 
a farewell to hot summer days
and blazing pink skies

Icarus series (2018-2019)
28 × 9 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Ricardo Pau Llosa
After Giovanni Bellini and Joost de Jonge

The trouble with wings is that they mirror the mind.
A nest of feathers is a knot of thought,
an inlking that the storm within will find
a howl in nature. Who hungers heights cannot
presume reward’s exception. In Bellini’s Christ
Dead with Two Angels the youngster to the right
who glances heaven—but not as Icarus might—
shoulders a maze in heart. His innocence prized,
he mercies softly, no sword in hand. He holds
the punctured limb not knowing seeming
the horizon of the saving flight. The folds
in the other’s wing have been blurred to gleaming
by a molten light. None hurry from the earth
who love the prison field or the song of death,

yet those who do vantage a view of patterns
that forget the broken life, the sigh of names.
It is this labyrinth of tiled forms, banners
of farms and blurs of sea, that passage disclaims
as having held us once. Heaven sees
but stitches, blocks, unpathed lines, spills
of world once lived. No music’s frieze,
no lyric’s singular drone can rise from will’s
restraint. And this the ancient boy sought
on the rim of sun and salt’s parentheses.
Raw beauty sans palate, chaos clocked
impersonal. He alone foresees
the crucible’s charm and the anchor’s curse.
The disowned self is the hero’s hearse.

Icarus series (2018-2019)
28 × 9 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Ed Gold

Dad always liked you better:
two birds of a feather.
I took after Mom.

I prefer ground under my feet.
I never look directly
into the exploding sun.

I would have followed our father in flight
to escape the labyrinth he devised
to confine the monster,

but I would have listened.
I would have flown above the waters
and below the fire.

Apollo liked me better,
blessed me with the healing arts
and a long life to practice them.

Now I spend my days earthbound,
mending those who break
when they fall out of the sky,

too late to put you back together
after your intoxicating descent
into the glistening.

Icarus series (2018-2019)
28 × 9 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Brenda Yates

it’s an old story of intrigue and uncontrolled lust, shame and secrets, of subterranean passages undermining society’s airy castles. No matter how well-built. Because any fortress is as vulnerable as a beautiful mind and can come to be riddled with beasts creating their own combinations of fear, violence, death. Still the case and even way back then, fame meant fathers (there were few famous mothers) built prisons for themselves—and for their children—whether or not that’s what they set out to do. Already complications were evident in those labyrinthine etymologies. The word clue, for instance, means: ball of yarn, agglomeration of things, or thread of life spun by the Fates. Enter Icarus. Like any boy growing up in his father’s shadow, he wanted to escape constraints. Hubris? Or just reckless, on a wing and a prayer. Overly ambitious or giddy with freedom? A primal concordance, perhaps. Or all those things: yet another embodied contradiction with a dreadful need to return to his mother’s waters. Whatever you call it, he fell. As humans do.

Icarus series (2018-2019)
28 × 9 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Kit Loney
In the next to the last dream, the cerulean one – Susan Meyers

She poses on stage, all long legs and outstretched arms, a photo taken in
1930. Radiating from her are eight wings, each shaped like the
helicopter seedpods of maple trees, swirls of sequins embroidered next
to lines of beads and pearls on the white cloth, making spirals to
echo her painted-on signature curls. And the
yards of loose fabric fanning out onto the stage before her. This, the last
tableau of Paris qui remue, after Forest Bird and Venetian Dream
with its ballroom scene, live pigeons flying out from the
back of the theater. And then Ocean Storm, where costumes yield to cerulean
and rose flashing lights. But here is Love and Electricity, the one they
remember. The one.

Icarus Journeys (2019)
225 × 125 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Robbie Dell’Aira
Het thema van Icarus bij Joost de Jonge

Icarus in de geschiedenis van de kunst
Het behoeft geen uitleg dat de mensheid reeds millennia, om niet te zeggen altijd, te kampen heeft gehad met hoogmoed, overmoed en grootheidswaanzin. Binnen één van de voornaamste pijlers van de Westerse beschaving, de Griekse Oudheid, kreeg dat fenomeen de naam hybris, een woord dat zo op zichzelf staat, dat het lastig te vertalen is naar een andere taal. In het Nederlands wordt hybris meestal vertaald vanuit het Oudtestamentische ‘Hooghartigheid gaat vooraf aan ellende, hoogmoed komt voor de val’ (Spreuken 16:18). Misschien nog meer dan in de Bijbel, tref je binnen de Griekse mythologie het hybris-thema in velerlei nuances aan, en niet pers se vanuit een kwade intentie. Zo betrad Phaëton de zonnewagen van Helios vanuit een soort onschuldige onstuimigheid. Dat de paarden op hol sloegen en Phaëton door een bliksemschicht van Zeus (om te voorkomen dat de aarde helemaal in brand zou staan) van de wagen viel, op aarde stortte en stierf, was eerder een logisch gevolg dan een echte straf.

Nog bekender is de mythe over Icarus (in het Grieks Ikaros ( Ἴκαρος)), die tot op heden niets aan populariteit heeft ingeboet. Ook Icarus is zich van geen kwaad bewust. In het wereldberoemde epos Metamorphoses van de Romeinse dichter Ovidius (43 voor Christus-17 na Christus), lezen we dat Icarus’ vader, de geniale architect Daedalus, op het eiland Kreta in opdracht van koning Minos ‘een huis vol doolhofwegen’ bouwde, het legendarische labyrint, waarin een monsterachtig wezen, een mens met een stierenkop, de Minotaurus, zou worden opgesloten (Metamorphoses, VIII, 166-167). De hermetische kennis die Daedalus bezat van het door hem gebouwde labyrint, bracht koning Minos er toe om de architect en zijn zoon niet van het eiland te laten gaan, en zo gevangen te houden. Maar daarop had de vindingrijke Daedalus al bedacht dat de koning weliswaar de macht had over zee en aarde, maar niet over de lucht. En zo beraamde Daedalus een plan om te gaan vliegen. Daedalus maakte twee paar vleugels van veren die bijeengehouden werden door bijenwas. Wonderwel functioneerden de vleugels na enig oefenen uitstekend, en ook de jonge Icarus werd onderricht door zijn vader. Daedalus drukte zijn zoontje Icarus op het hart dat hij niet te laag mocht vliegen, het water van de zee zou de vleugels te zwaar maken. Te hoog vliegen was ook gevaarlijk, want dan zou de bijenwas door hitte van de zon smelten. ‘Vlieg tussen zee en zon’, zo was het vliegadvies (Metamorphoses, VIII, 206). Getweeën begonnen vader en zoon de vlucht naar vrijheid. Het vliegen ging goed, totdat Icarus er zo veel plezier in kreeg, dat hij roekeloos werd en de hoogte opzocht. Maar de zon deed zijn werk al, de bijenwas smolt, de vleugels vielen uiteen en Icarus stortte in zee en verdronk. De diepbedroefde Daedalus zocht lange tijd naar het lichaam van zijn zoontje, dat hij, nadat hij het eindelijk gevonden had, begroef aan de kust van een eiland dat Ikaria zou heten.

Het epos van Daedalus en Icarus gaat over roekeloosheid, maar ook over de zoektocht naar uiterste grenzen, en over jeugdige onervarenheid versus volwassenheid en bekwaamheid. De mensheid dient zich in alle opzichten te schikken naar de zogenaamde Aurea Mediocritas, ofwel de Gulden Middenweg, tussen zee en zon. Het thema van Icarus is in wezen zo alledaags, dat het niet verwonderlijk is dat het epos vanaf de Klassieke Oudheid tot op de dag van vandaag vele kunstenaars heeft geïnspireerd. Ondanks die alledaagsheid vraagt het Icarus-thema om een zeker bewustzijn, dat de mens kan leiden naar die felbegeerde Gulden Middenweg, naar een staat van harmonie.

Binnen de geschiedenis van de beeldende kunst heeft het thema van Icarus vanuit vele benaderingen vorm gekregen. Vanuit Oudtestamentische optiek lag de nadruk op de hoogmoed, in de Middeleeuwen ook wel bekend als Superbia, één van de zeven hoofdzonden. De oudst bekende voorstelling van het epos van Daedalus en Icarus is te zien op een Griekse zwartfigurige amfoor uit het midden van de zesde eeuw voor Christus, bewaard in de Kunsthalle te Kiel. Op die amfoor vliegen vader en zoon harmonieus achter elkaar, met vader voorop. Uit de eerste eeuw na Christus stammen een aantal fresco’s in Pompeii, waarop onder meer de vallende Icarus en de zoekende Daedalus verbeeld zijn. Op een Romeins reliëf in het Museo Albani te Rome, vervaardigd in de tweede eeuw na Christus, is te zien hoe Daedalus de vleugels maakt voor zijn zoontje Icarus. Die vroege voorbeelden van het Icarus-thema uit de Griekse en Romeinse Oudheid, vormen de opmaat van een eindeloze serie kunstwerken, die vooral vanaf de Renaissance tot op heden sterk is uitgebreid.

Het thema bleek onuitputtelijk, ook omdat beeldend kunstenaars hebben ingezien dat buiten tekstuele bronnen, het visuele aspect van het epos geschikt was om nog meer facetten beeldend uit te drukken. Zo is bijvoorbeeld op een fraaie kopie naar een schilderij van Pieter Bruegel de Oude (ca. 1530-1569) te zien, dat Icarus in zee gevallen is. Twee spartelende benen komen nog juist boven het wateroppervlak uit, terwijl een aantal losgeraakte veren vanuit het luchtruim naar beneden dwarrelt. Toch legt Bruegel hier niet de nadruk op de in zee gevallen Icarus, zelfs Daedalus komt op het schilderij niet voor. De schilder, niet voor niets bekend als de boerenbruegel, legt de nadruk op de eenvoudige en hardwerkende plattelandsbewoner, die, in de ogen van Bruegel, geen tijd heeft voor hoogdravendheid. Op het schilderij, dat zich in de Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten te Brussel bevindt, zien we dat Bruegel zich heeft laten leiden door een passage uit de tekst van Ovidius: ‘Een man die zat te vissen met een dunne rieten hengel, een herder leunend op zijn staf, een boer tegen zijn ploeg zagen hen [Daedalus en Icarus] gaan, verbijsterd, denkend dat het goden waren die door het luchtruim kunnen vliegen’ (Metamorphoses, VIII, 217-220). De plattelanders hebben bij Ovidius nog oog voor de voorbijvliegende vader en zoon, ook al begrijpen ze niet helemaal wat er aan de hand is. Bij de zestiende-eeuwse Bruegel wordt Icarus’ val ongetwijfeld vanuit de Christelijke traditie bezien als een gevolg van hoogmoed. De boer achter de ploeg, de schaapherder en de visser hebben kennelijk geen oog voor de val van Icarus en lijken het tragische voorval niet eens op te merken.

Op een gravure van de Haarlemse kunstenaar Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617), vervaardigd naar een tekening van zijn stadsgenoot Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem (1562-1638), is te zien dat Goltzius als maniërist speciaal geïnteresseerd was in ingewikkelde lichaamshoudingen, gebaseerd op de zogenaamde figura serpentinata, een wervelende spiraalvorm, die uitermate geschikt bleek om de vallende Icarus in een vernuftige houding door het luchtruim te laten suizen.

En zo suist eveneens het Icarus-thema door het beloop van de kunst. In de eerste helft van de zeventiende eeuw Peter Paul Rubens en Antoon Van Dyck, vanaf het midden van de zeventiende eeuw Charles Le Brun, Charles Paul Landon in de achttiende eeuw, in de negentiende eeuw Merry-Joseph Blondel en Odilon Redon, in de eerste helft van de twintigste eeuw Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso en Marc Chagall, allen maakten zij schilderkunstige hoogtepunten op basis van Ovidius’ Icarus. Van een fijne neoclassicistische penseelvoering is een schilderij uit 1799 van de Franse schilder Charles Paul Landon (1760-1826), waarop Daedalus liefdevol zijn zoontje Icarus het vliegen leert. Het betrekkelijk kleine formaat van het schilderij, 54 × 43,5 cm, geeft de episode iets intiems, iets deerniswekkends ook. Want was het niet Daedalus die zijn zoontje ertoe bracht om te gaan vliegen? De episode zoals Landon die weergeeft, is niet letterlijk gebaseerd op de tekst van Ovidius, maar doet wel denken aan het moment waarop de bezorgde Daedalus zijn zoontje laat gaan, ‘[…] zijn wangen wel betraand, zijn vaderhanden trillen. Hij omhelst zijn zoon met kussen die achteraf de laatste blijken […] zoals een vogel vanuit het hoge nest haar jongen voorgaat in de lucht’ (Metamorphoses, VIII, 210-212, 213-214). Het schilderij is te zien in het Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle te Alençon, Normandië.

De steeds verschillende benaderingen van het thema in de schilderkunst, zijn ook van toepassing op de beeldhouwkunst. Opmerkelijk is de vallende Icarus van de zeventiende-eeuwse Antwerpse beeldhouwer Artus Quellinus (1609-1668), die een marmeren reliëf vervaardigde die boven de entree van de zogenaamde Desolate Boedelkamer te zien is, de gemeentelijke afdeling waar faillissementen werden afgehandeld, in het nieuwe stadhuis op de Dam in Amsterdam. De vallende Icarus staat hier voor de financiële val, die is voortgekomen uit onvoorzichtigheid. De benadering van de Italiaanse neoclassicistische beeldhouwer Antonio Canova (1757-1822) belicht een meer intiem aspect en sluit wat dat betreft aan op het schilderij van zijn tijdgenoot Landon, bij wie de nadruk ligt op de liefde van een vader voor zijn zoon.

Het Icarus-thema leent zich, met andere woorden, voor actuele benaderingen, steeds weer vanuit een andere invalshoek. En zo zien we dat het thema zonder enige stagnatie de kunst van de twintigste en eenentwintigste eeuw heeft kunnen bereiken. Tijdens de periode van het postmodernisme, in het laatste kwart van de twintigste eeuw, was er na een tijd van absolute abstractie in de kunst, weer ruimte voor figuratie, ja, om zelfs nieuwe classicistische kunst te maken, zoals het kunstenaarspaar Anne en Patrick Poirier dat vooral in de jaren 1980 heeft gedaan. In diezelfde postmodernistische lijn zien we de gevallen Icarus bij de Griekse tempels van Agrigento op Sicilië, van de Poolse beeldhouwer Igor Mitoraj (1944-2014), die een reusachtige bronzen Icarus voor de tempel van Concordia heeft geplaatst. De vleugels van Icarus zijn nog te zien, armen en onderbenen ontbreken. Icarus’ vleugels zijn verankerd in de aarde, en lijkt daarmee aan te geven dat de mensheid kan vliegen wat ze wil, maar dat ze te allen tijde zal terugvallen op aarde. De plaatsing van de gavallen Icarus van Mitoraj is veelzeggend, voor een van ‘s werelds bestbewaarde Griekse tempels, in de vijfde eeuw voor Christus het centrum van de onovertroffen stad Akragas, nu onderdeel van een drukbezocht archeologisch terrein.

Het verhaal over Daedalus en Icarus, dat in de Metamorphoses van Ovidius amper twee pagina’s beslaat, is zo rijk aan betekenis, dat het een bron is die wel altijd tot ons zal spreken. Of het gaat over hybris, hoogmoed of onstuimigheid, over de Gulden Middenweg, over de liefde tussen vader en zoon, over de tijdelijkheid van het leven, het zijn thema’s die ons, bewust of onbewust, dagelijks bezighouden.

De catharsis van Joost de Jonge en het thema van Icarus
Bij de Nederlandse kunstschilder Joost de Jonge (Utrecht, 1975) zien we veel van die aspecten terugkomen in een diepgaand expressieve vormentaal. In de catalogus Oceanen van Kleur; The Ekphrasis Project uit 2011 schrijft De Jonge dat het in zijn werk gaat om catharsis, om het zuiveren van de ziel. Die zuivering vindt plaats via zijn werk, waarin De Jonge niet streeft naar een zuiver wetenschappelijk experiment, maar naar het fundament van een ‘expressieve en artistieke werkelijkheid’(Joost de Jonge, Oceanen van Kleur; The Ekphrasis Project, [Vianen] 2011, p. 239). Het Icarus-thema heeft bij De Jonge een hoge geestelijke betekenis die vanuit een stemming van etherische schoonheid de grenzen opzoekt waar het hemelse met het aardse verbonden kan worden, waar het kosmisch sublieme kan ontstaan. Verkennend ‘tussen zee en zon’ is De Jonge zich ervan bewust dat tijdens de zoektocht het hemelse noch het aardse uit het oog verloren mag worden. De erudiete De Jonge, die meer dan goed op de hoogte is van de geschiedenis van kunst, weet zich omringd door een grote traditie van kunst, van jaren, decennia, eeuwen en millennia her. Het werk van De Jonge lijkt op het eerste gezicht zuiver abstract, maar de goede verstaander ziet elementen uit de Griekse Oudheid, herkent een toets die herinnert aan Van Gogh of ontwaart een schijnbaar surrealisme. Bij De Jonge gaat het niet om louter abstrahering, maar om die lange levensreis, die gemaakt moet worden om tot loutering te komen. In een gedicht dat De Jonge in 2011 over Icarus schreef, ligt de nadruk op die reis. De Invitation au voyage laat zien dat De Jonge een reiziger is, een pelgrim binnen de ziel, op zoek naar het kosmisch sublieme (Joost de Jonge, Oceanen van Kleur; The Ekphrasis Project, [Vianen] 2011, pp. 204-205). Bij De Jonge dwarrelen de veren van de vleugels die Icarus gebruikte naar beneden, maar de jeugdige Icarus blijft in het hogere. Wellicht zegt dat iets over de stemming van de kunstenaar in 2011. Waar veel kunstenaars blijven steken, gaat Joost de Jonge verder. De Jonge durft het aan om het motief van etherische schoonheid tijdelijk te verlaten, want hij weet, dat verkenning en toepassing van zware aardse krachten, de kunst kunnen verheffen tot kosmische hoogte. De serene werken die De Jonge vervaardigde tot ongeveer 2013, opgebouwd uit strak geometrische vormen en glooiende lijnen in een helder kleurenpalet, hebben plaatsgemaakt voor een impasto die geleend is van Van Gogh, De Vlaminck en Matisse, maar die in al haar innerlijkheid een plaats krijgt in de catharsis. De zwaar aangezette, soms rafelige, lijnen hebben iets onrustigs. Toch zijn die lijnen weloverwogen en beheerst aangebracht. Een belangrijke inspiratiebron voor die manier van schilderen is het schilderij getiteld La Moulade van Henri Matisse (1869-1954) uit 1905, een zomers kustlandschap bij Collioure aan de Middellandse Zee. Dit vroege fauvistische werk op doek, bewaard in een particuliere verzameling, is vrij klein van formaat, 28,2 × 35,5 cm, en laat duidelijk de invloed van Van Gogh zien, maar eveneens is de karakteristieke hand van Matisse al herkenbaar, in het sterk contrasterende kleurenpalet en de wijze waarop het perspectief tot een minimum wordt gereduceerd, zonder daarbij de harmonie van het voorgestelde landschap uit het oog te verliezen. Dat is precies wat op De Jonge zestien jaar geleden, als student aan de Escuela de Bellas Artes in Barcelona, een onvergetelijke indruk maakte. Het kairotische karakter van De Jonges werk, kenmerkt zich in een kosmische veelheid aan innerlijke gevoelsbelevingen, die geuit worden in vorm en kleur. Het Icarus-thema bij Joost de Jonge brengt in eerste instantie dualiteit aan de oppervlakte, zee en zon, duisternis en licht, maar als gevolg van een louterende zoektocht, een ware catharsis, hebben die aardse en hemelse kwaliteiten zich geconformeerd tot een alchemistisch geheel, waarin het kosmisch sublieme beter uit de verf komt dan ooit te voren. De Icarus-serie van De Jonge toont tegelijkertijd figuratie, abstractie, duisternis en licht, perspectief in verschillende dimensies. Deze Icarus heeft zee en zon aan elkaar verbonden, om daarmee tot eenstemmigheid te komen, de Gulden Middenweg, waarin plaats is voor zowel etherische schoonheid als aardse zwaarte. Sterker nog: de aardse en hemelse kwaliteiten versterken elkaar, opdat deze Icarus zich niet te pletter valt. De lichamelijke vergankelijkheid is daarmee niet per se opgeheven, maar de vettige toets die De Jonge hier hanteert, laat de expressie zien van een levende kunstenaar, die de universele taal van kunst volledig beheerst.

De prikkelende Icarus-composities van Joost de Jonge zijn werken van transformatie, waarbij na het afleggen van het oude, een geheel nieuwe vormentaal zal ontstaan. De geschiedenis van de kunst heeft hierboven, zij het in kort bestek, laten zien dat het thema van Icarus vanaf de zestiende eeuw, en zeker vanaf de late achttiende eeuw, steeds meer werd toegepast om de menselijke kwaliteit te doorgronden. Aanvankelijk richtte de kunst zich op het motief van onstuimigheid of hoogmoed, later werd de kunst intiemer, meer psychologisch, liefdevoller ook. De Icarus-serie van De Jonge sluit daar naadloos op aan door een innerlijke kosmos aan te spreken, die gelijk staat aan de exoterische kosmos, in een tijd van transitie, vliegend tussen zee en zon.

Das Thema des Ikarus bei Joost de Jonge

Ikarus in der Kunstgeschichte
Ohne Zweifel plagen Hochmut, Übermut und Größenwahn die Menschheit seit Jahrtausenden, so nicht schon immer. In der griechischen Antike, eine der wichtigsten Säulen der westlichen Kultur, erhielt dieses Phänomen den Namen Hybris, eine Bezeichnung, die so spezifisch ist, dass sie sich nur schwer in eine andere Sprache übersetzen lässt. Im Deutschen wird Hybris meist im Sinne des alttestamentarischen Spruches „Stolz führt zum Sturz, und Hochmut kommt vor dem Fall“ (Sprüche 16,18) übersetzt. Mehr noch als in der Bibel findet sich in der griechischen Mythologie das Hybris- Thema in unterschiedlichen Nuancen und nicht immer mit einem negativen Unterton. So stieg zum Beispiel Phaeton aus einer Art von unschuldiger Ungestümheit auf den Sonnenwagen des Helios. Um zu verhindern, dass die Erde in Feuer und Flammen aufgehen würde, ging ein Blitz des Zeus auf Phaeton hernieder, wobei die Pferde durchgingen und er vom Wagen fiel, auf die Erde stürzte und starb. Das war eher eine logische Folge als eine wirkliche Strafe.

Noch bekannter ist der Mythos über Ikarus (griech.: Ikaros, „Ἴκαρος“), der bis heute nichts an Beliebtheit eingebüßt hat. Auch Ikarus ist sich keiner Schuld bewusst. In dem weltberühmten Epos Metamorphosen des römischen Dichters Ovid (43 v. Chr. - 17 n. Chr.) erfahren wir, dass der Vater von Ikarus, der geniale Baumeister Dädalus, auf der Insel Kreta im Auftrag von König Minos „ein Haus voller Irrwege“ baute, das legendarische Labyrinth, in dem der Minotaurus, ein monsterartiges Mischwesen mit dem Leib eines Menschen und dem Kopf eines Stieres, eingesperrt werden sollte (Metamorphosen, VIII, 166-167). Wegen dieses hermetischen Wissens, das Dädalus durch den Bau des Labyrinths besaß, wollte König Minos den Baumeister und seinen Sohn nicht mehr von der Insel weglassen, und er hielt sie deshalb gefangen. Der einfallsreiche Dädalus jedoch dachte sich, dass der König zwar die Macht über das Meer und das Land hatte, nicht jedoch über die Luft. Und so tüftelte Dädalus an einem Plan, um zu fliegen. Dädalus stellte zwei Paar Flügel aus Federn her, die mit Bienenwachs zusammengehalten wurden. Nach einigem Üben funktionierten die Flügel hervorragend, und so brachte Dädalus auch seinem Sohn Ikarus das Fliegen bei. Dabei schärfte Dädalus seinem Sohn Ikarus ein, dass er nicht zu niedrig fliegen dürfe, da die Feuchte des Meerwassers seine Flügel zu schwer werden lasse. Auch zu hoch fliegen war gefährlich, denn dann könnte das Bienenwachs durch die Wärme der Sonne schmelzen. „Flieg zwischen Meer und Sonne“, riet er ihm (Metamorphosen, VIII, 206). Und so machten sich Vater und Sohn auf den Flug in die Freiheit. Das Fliegen ging ohne Probleme, bis Ikarus so viel Spaß daran bekam, dass er übermütig wurde und höher flog. Doch schon bald tat die Sonne ihr Werk, das Wachs schmolz, die Flügel zerfielen und Ikarus stürzte ins Meer und ertrank. Lange suchte der tief betrübte Dädalus nach dem Leichnam seines Sohnes, den er, nachdem er ihn endlich gefunden hatte, an der Küste einer Insel begrub, die fortan Ikaria heißen sollte.

Das Epos von Dädalus und Ikarus erzählt von Übermut, aber auch von der Suche nach Grenzen und von jugendlicher Unerfahrenheit gegenüber Erwachsensein und Lebenserfahrung. Die Menschheit hat sich in jeder Hinsicht nach der sogenannten Aurea Mediocritas, der goldenen Mitte zwischen Meer und Sonne zu richten. Das Thema von Ikarus ist seinem Wesen nach so alltäglich, dass es kaum verwundert, dass dieses Epos seit der Antike bis heute unzählige Künstler inspiriert hat. Trotz seiner Alltäglichkeit braucht es bei der Bearbeitung des Ikarus-Themas ein bestimmtes Bewusstsein, das den Menschen zu dieser begehrten goldenen Mitte, zu einem Zustand der Harmonie, führen kann.

In der Kunstgeschichte wurde das Thema von Ikarus von vielen Perspektiven aus gestaltet. In der alttestamentarischen Tradition lag der Schwerpunkt beim Hochmut, der im Mittelalter auch als Superbia bezeichnet wurde, eine der sieben Todsünden. Die älteste bekannte Darstellung des Epos von Dädalus und Ikarus ist auf einer griechischen Amphore mit schwarzen Figuren aus der Mitte des 6. Jahrhunderts vor Christus abgebildet, die in der Kunsthalle Kiel aufbewahrt wird. Auf dieser Amphore fliegen Vater und Sohn einträchtig hintereinander her, der Vater vorneweg. Aus dem 1. Jahrhundert nach Christus stammen mehrere Fresken aus Pompei, auf denen unter anderem der stürzende Ikarus und der suchende Dädalus dargestellt sind. Auf einem römischen Relief im Museo Albani in Rom aus dem 2. Jahrhundert nach Christus ist Dädalus zu sehen, wie er die Flügel für seinen Sohn Ikarus herstellt. Diese frühen Beispiele des Ikarus-Themas aus der griechischen und römischen Antike bilden den Auftakt zu einer langen Reihe von Kunstwerken, die vor allem aus der Zeit von der der Renaissance bis heute stammen.

Das Thema scheint unerschöpflich zu sein, auch weil die bildenden Künstler erkannt haben, dass sich abgesehen von den Textquellen der visuelle Aspekt des Epos ausgezeichnet dazu eignet, dieses Thema in unendlich vielen Facetten zu bearbeiten. So ist beispielsweise auf einer wunderschönen Kopie eines Gemäldes von Pieter Bruegel dem Älteren (ca. 1530-1569) der Moment erfasst, nachdem Ikarus ins Meer gestürzt ist. Zwei strampelnde Beine schauen noch so gerade aus dem Wasser hervor, während einige der Federn, die sich gelöst hatten, aus der Luft nach unten schweben. Dennoch legt Bruegel hier weder den Akzent auf den ins Meer gestürzten Ikarus, noch auf Dädalus, der auf dem Bild überhaupt nicht vorkommt. Der Maler, der nicht umsonst auch als „Bauernbruegel“ bezeichnet wird, lenkt den Blick auf die einfachen und hart arbeitenden Leute auf dem Land, die nach Auffassung von Bruegel für Hochmut keine Zeit haben. Auf dem Gemälde, das sich in den Königlichen Museen der Schönen Künste in Brüssel befindet, sehen wir, dass sich Bruegel von einer Textstelle von Ovid hat leiten lassen: „Diese [Dädalus und Ikarus] sah wohl mancher, während er Fische mit der zitternden Angelrute fing oder ein Hirte gestützt auf seinen Stab oder ein Bauer gestützt auf seinen Pflugsterz, und erschrak und glaubte es seien Götter, die durch den Himmel fliegen könnten.“ (Metamorphosen, VIII, 217-220). Bei Ovid registrieren die einfachen Leute vom Lande den vorbeifliegenden Vater und Sohn noch, auch wenn sie nicht verstehen, was sich dort abspielt. Bei Bruegel im 16. Jahrhundert hingegen wird der Sturz des Ikarus zweifellos aus der christlichen Tradition heraus als eine Folge des Hochmuts betrachtet. Der Bauer hinter dem Pflug, der Schafhirte und der Fischer haben offensichtlich kein Auge für den Sturz des Ikarus und scheinen den tragischen Vorfall noch nicht einmal zu bemerken.

Auf einer Gravur des Haarlemer Künstlers Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617), die nach einer Zeichnung des ebenfalls aus Haarlem stammenden Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem (1562-1638) angefertigt wurde, ist zu erkennen, dass Goltzius als Manierist besonders an komplizierten Körperhaltungen interessiert war und Ikarus auf der Grundlage der sogenannten figura serpentinata, einer wirbelnden Spiralform, darstellte, die sich ausgezeichnet dazu eignete, den stürzenden Ikarus in einer ausgefallenen Haltung durch die Lüfte fliegen zu lassen.

Und so schwebt auch das Ikarus-Thema durch die weitere Kunstgeschichte. In der ersten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts sind es Peter Paul Rubens und Antoon Van Dyck, ab der Mitte des 17. Jahrhunderts Charles Le Brun, im 18. Jahrhundert ist es Charles Paul Landon, im 19. Jahrhundert sind es Merry-Joseph Blondel und Odilon Redon, in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso und Marc Chagall, die den Ikarus von Ovid in künstlerischen Meisterwerken auf die Leinwand bannten. Auf einem Gemälde des französischen Malers Charles Paul Landon (1760-1826) aus dem Jahr 1799 sieht der Betrachter in feiner neoklassizistischer Pinselführung, wie Dädalus seinen Sohn Ikarus liebevoll das Fliegen lehrt. Das relativ kleine Format dieses Werks (54 × 43,5 cm) verleiht der Episode etwas Intimes, gleichzeitig erregt es das Mitleid des Betrachters. Denn was wäre geschehen, wenn Dädalus seinem Sohn nicht das Fliegen beigebracht hätte? Die Episode basiert in der von Landon dargestellten Form nicht direkt auf dem Text von Ovid, doch nimmt sie uns zu dem Moment mit, an dem der besorgte Dädalus seinen Sohn gehen lässt, „[…] waren die Wangen des alten Mannes feucht geworden und die Hände des Vaters zitterten. Er gab seinem Sohn Küsse, die er nicht wiederholen sollte und er fliegt voraus […] wie ein Adler, der von seinem hohen Nest in der Luft […] zarte Nachkommenschaft hervorbrachte “ (Metamorphosen, VIII, 210-212, 213-214). Dieses Gemälde hängt im Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle in Alençon in der Normandie.

Wie in der Malerei finden sich auch in der Bildhauerkunst immer wieder neue Herangehensweisen an dieses Thema. Bemerkenswert ist der stürzende Ikarus des Antwerper Bildhauers Artus Quellinus (1609-1668), der ein Marmorrelief herstellte, das über dem Eingang der sogenannten Desolate Boedelkamer zu sehen ist, einer Abteilung der Stadt Amsterdam im neuen Rathaus auf dem Dam, in der Insolvenzen abgehandelt wurden. Der stürzende Ikarus steht hier für den finanziellen Fall, der auf Unvorsichtigkeit zurückzuführen ist. Der Ansatz des italienischen neoklassizistischen Bildhauers Antonio Canova (1757-1822) hebt einen eher intimen Aspekt hervor und schließt sich in dieser Hinsicht seinem Zeitgenossen Landon an, der besonders die Liebe des Vaters für seinen Sohn zeigt.

Das Ikarus-Thema lässt sich also aus ganz unterschiedlichen Perspektiven bearbeiten. Und so sehen wir, dass das Thema ohne zu stagnieren die Kunst des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts hat erreichen können. Während des Postmodernismus im letzten Viertel des 20. Jahrhunderts war nach einer Zeit der absoluten Abstraktion in der Kunst wieder Raum für die figurative Darstellung, ja, sogar für die Schaffung klassizistischer Kunst, der sich das Künstlerehepaar Anne und Patrick Poirier vor allem in den 1980er Jahren gewidmet hat. In dieser postmodernistischen Tradition sehen wir den gefallenen Ikarus in einem Werk des polnischen Bildhauers Igor Mitoraj (1944-2014) bei den griechischen Tempeln von Agrigento auf Sizilien, dessen riesenhafter Ikarus vor dem Concordia-Tempel liegt. Die Flügel von Ikarus sind noch erkennbar, Arme und Schienbeine fehlen. Die Flügel von Ikarus sind im Boden verankert. Die Botschaft scheint zu sein, dass die Menschheit, auch wenn sie noch so hoch fliegt, doch immer wieder auf die Erde zurückfallen wird. Die Platzierung des gefallenen Ikarus von Mitoraj vor einem der weltweit am besten erhalten gebliebenen griechischen Tempel ist vielsagend. Im 5. Jahrhundert vor Christus war er das Zentrum der unübertroffenen Stadt Akragas, heute ist dies eine viel besuchte archäologische Stätte.

Die Geschichte von Dädalus und Ikarus, die in den Metamorphosen von Ovid kaum mehr als zwei Seiten umfasst, ist so bedeutsam, dass sie immer eine Quelle bleiben wird, die zu uns spricht. Ob Hybris, Hochmut oder Ungestümheit, goldene Mitte, die Liebe zwischen Vater und Sohn oder die Vergänglichkeit des Lebens, all dies sind Aspekte, die uns bewusst oder unbewusst in unserem Alltag begleiten.

Katharsis von Joost de Jonge und das Thema von Ikarus
Bei dem niederländischen Maler Joost de Jonge (Utrecht, 1975) kehren viele dieser Aspekte in einer deutlich expressiven Formensprache zurück. In dem Katalog Oceanen van Kleur; The Ekphrasis Project aus dem Jahr 2011 schreibt De Jonge, dass es in seinem Werk um die Katharsis, die Reinigung der Seele geht. Diese Reinigung erfolgt über sein Werk, in dem De Jonge nicht das rein wissenschaftliche Experiment anstrebt, sondern nach dem Fundament einer „expressiven und künstlerischen Wirklichkeit“ sucht (Joost de Jonge, Oceanen van Kleur; The Ekphrasis Project, [Vianen] 2011, S. (239). Das Ikarus-Thema hat bei De Jonge eine hohe geistige Bedeutung, die aus einer Stimmung ätherischer Schönheit heraus die Grenze sucht, an der die Verbindung des Himmlischen mit dem Irdischen entsteht und sich das kosmisch Sublime entwickeln kann. Bei seiner Untersuchung des Raumes „zwischen Meer und Sonne“ ist sich De Jonge dessen bewusst, dass während der Suche weder das Himmlische noch das Irdische vernachlässigt werden dürfen. Der äußerst belesene De Jonge, der die Kunstgeschichte aus dem Effeff kennt, weiß sich von einer großen Tradition in der Kunst getragen, die Jahre, Jahrzehnte, Jahrhunderte und sogar Jahrtausende zurückreicht. Das Werk von De Jonge wirkt auf den ersten Blick völlig abstrakt. Der aufmerksame Beobachter erkennt jedoch Elemente aus der griechischen Antike, bemerkt einen Hauch der Anlehnung an Van Gogh oder meint, einen scheinbaren Surrealismus zu entdecken. Bei De Jonge geht es jedoch nicht um die bloße Abstrahierung, sondern um die lange Lebensreise, die notwendig ist, um geläutert zu werden. In einem Gedicht von De Jonge über Ikarus aus dem Jahr 2011 steht diese Reise im Mittelpunkt. Die Invitation au voyage zeigt De Jonge als Reisenden, als Seelenpilger, der das kosmisch Sublime sucht (Joost de Jonge, Oceanen van Kleur; The Ekphrasis Project, [Vianen] 2011, S. 204-205). Bei De Jonge segeln zwar die Federn der Flügel, die Ikarus zum Fliegen benutzt hat, zu Boden, doch der jugendliche Ikarus bleibt in höheren Sphären. Möglicherweise erkennen wir hier eine Stimmung des Künstlers aus dem Jahre 2011. Wo viele Künstler verharren, geht Joost de Jonge weiter. De Jonge scheut nicht davor zurück, das Motiv der ätherischen Schönheit vorübergehend zu verlassen, weil er weiß, dass Untersuchung und Anwendung schwerer irdischer Kräfte die Kunst zu kosmischer Höhe aufsteigen lassen können. Die heiteren Werke mit ihren klaren geometrischen Formen und wogenden Linien in einer hellen Farbpalette, die De Jonge bis ungefähr 2013 schuf, sind einem an Van Gogh, De Vlaminck und Matisse angelehnten Impasto gewichen, das jedoch in all seiner Innerlichkeit einen Platz in der Katharsis erhält. Die stark angesetzten Linien, bisweilen mit faserigen Rändern, strahlen etwas Unruhiges aus. Und dennoch sind diese Linien sehr bewusst und sehr beherrscht aufgetragen worden. Eine wichtige Inspirationsquelle für diese Art der Malerei ist ein Gemälde mit dem Titel La Moulade von Henri Matisse (1869-1954) aus dem Jahr 1905, eine sommerliche Küstenlandschaft bei Collioure am Mittelmeer. Dieses frühe fauvistische und mit 28,2 × 35,5 cm relativ kleine Werk auf Leinen, das im Privatbesitz ist, zeigt deutlich den Einfluss von Van Gogh. Gleichzeitig ist jedoch in den kontrastierenden Farben und in der Art, in der die Perspektive auf ein Mindestmaß reduziert wird, ohne die Harmonie der dargestellten Landschaft aus dem Auge zu verlieren, schon die charakteristische Hand von Matisse erkennbar. Genau dies hat vor sechzehn Jahren, als De Jonge an der Escuela de Bellas Artes in Barcelona studierte, einen unvergesslichen Eindruck auf den jungen Maler gemacht. Der kairotische Charakter von De Jonges Werk kennzeichnet sich in einer kosmischen Vielfalt innerlicher Gefühlsregungen, die sich in Form und Farbe Bahn nach außen brechen. Das Ikarus-Thema äußert sich bei Joost de Jonge in erster Linie in der Dualität von Meer und Sonne, Dunkel und Licht. Doch nach einer läuternden Suche, einer wahren Katharsis, sind die irdischen und himmlischen Qualitäten förmlich zu einem alchemistischen Ganzen verschmolzen, in dem das kosmisch Sublime besser als je zuvor zur Geltung kommt. Die Ikarus-Serie von De Jonge zeigt gleichzeitig figurative Elemente, Abstraktion, Dunkel und Hell und unterschiedliche Dimensionen der Perspektive. Dieser Ikarus hat Meer und Sonne miteinander verbunden, um so eine Einstimmigkeit, die goldene Mitte zu erzielen, in der sowohl die ätherische Schönheit als auch die irdische Schwere ihren Platz haben. Mehr noch, die irdischen und himmlischen Qualitäten verstärken sich gegenseitig, so dass dieser Ikarus nicht zu Tode stürzt. Die körperliche Vergänglichkeit ist damit nicht unbedingt aufgehoben, doch in dem etwas fetteren Ansatz (impasto) von De Jonge zeigt sich die Ausdruckskraft eines lebenden Künstlers, der die universale Sprache der Kunst bis ins Detail beherrscht.

Die anregenden Ikarus-Kompositionen von Joost de Jonge sind Werke der Transformation, bei denen nach dem Ablegen der alten eine ganz neue Formensprache entsteht. Der oben dargestellte kurze Abriss der Kunstgeschichte hat gezeigt, dass das Thema von Ikarus ab dem 16. Jahrhundert, vor allem jedoch ab dem ausgehenden 18. Jahrhundert immer häufiger ein Instrument zur Erforschung der menschlichen Qualität geworden ist. Während sich die Kunst zunächst vorwiegend dem Motiv der Ungestümheit und des Hochmuts widmete, wandelte sich der Blickpunkt und die Kunst wurde intimer, psychologischer, auch liebevoller. Die Ikarus-Serie von De Jonge passt genau in diese Tradition, indem sie einen inneren Kosmos anspricht, der dem exoterischen Kosmos entspricht, in einer Zeit des Wandels und fliegend zwischen Meer und Sonne.

Aurora Borealis/Icarus (2017)
110 × 80 cm
Oils on canvas
Words by Dinah Berland

O Tutka Bay, you grant us silence
and the opposite of silence—
seashells turning somersaults
in the deep and rhythmic sea,
rain investigating pine needles
with miniature magnifying glasses, mosses
sipping dew with countless tongues.

O yellow moon, almost full, you turn
your face to the dark side of the earth
while the earth leans into the solar wind,
triggering a storm of Northern Lights
—a synchrony of color
across the whole dome of the sky,
the way my body feels as you turn
toward me, humming
with geomagnetic energy.

Icarus sketch (2017)
21 × 14,8 cm
Pencil on paper
Words by Wendy Steiner

We have not met,
but last month you sent me an email on the topic of Blue.

You could not have known
that I was already thinking along those lines myself

after seeing an Aran beach,
a curve of bleached sand and silvery spume

edging a veritable exposition
of everything that Blue could be.

Turquoise and periwinkle, sapphire and cerulean,
indigo, lapis, midnight:

that was the message I had been processing
from Galway Bay.

So when your gift arrived today by snail mail,
a pencil drawing

inscribed at the bottom in ultramarine ink:
“for Wendy. de J July 2017,”

I took it as an invitation to color between the lines
with words,

Blue words.
Thanks, Joost, for the opening.

Icarus (2001)
115 × 85 cm
Oils on canvas
Words by Mindy Kronenberg

She knew the risks
in disobeying one’s father,
wrath twisted into a maze
of distemper. The fear of
a monster lurking inside the walls
where shadows mingled and
murmurs abruptly ended.

She knew the perils of pride.
From within her mind’s chambers
Icarus appears, taking flight
again and again, a balloon
of light against his limbs,
his face eclipsed, his body
strangely tethered to the wind

and then plummets.
It never changes. He never listens.
In the folds of her subconscious
she sees him, escaping into the sky,
his pulse swelling against the air,
the sun’s heavy glaze on his sweat
like a candle lit for his own death.

Icarus variation c (2017)
24 × 18 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by David Allen Sullivan

Head and torso swallowed
by the Mediterranean,
embarrassment of scissoring legs
flailing, not yet gone from view.

How I want my shame
to be hidden too—the reverse
of rising on these wings
and wanting so badly to be seen.

The middle way of my father
deadened my heart,
but dullness looks wise

The wet slap
of these waxed contraptions
takes on water, pulls me down.
Can’t unclasp them fast enough.

Bubbles of my cries rise
above me, make their way
to a surface I’ll never see,
to air I’ll never breathe.

I imagine them popping,
these words
riffling the air—

Like Orpheus’ bodiless head
singing without the echo chamber
of the chest, no reverberation,
no depth, just the thin plea to be heard,

and the fisherman on shore
who pointed at me
was too far away
to effect a rescue,

and my father,
would-be hero,
has already flown on—
did he even see me fall?

Will he feel any guilt? Or
will his told-you-so exonerate him?
Let him have it, mother, if he reaches you
in one piece.

I’ll never to be steady
as the plowman,
who turns over furrows
and ignores the body sprawled at wood’s edge.

I’m a slap of paint,
a play of colors on canvas,
a myth, disappearing from view,
my bare legs kicking these last words.

Icarus above the Sea A (2016)
65 × 50 cm
Mixed media on paper
Words by Derek Berry

i have made the wings myself,
this time steel & tar paper,
woven each feather through skin
with a glass needle, named
myself after the smell of rain.
i announce myself the way thunder
introduces the clouds
to a new city, the lightning’s bright smack
to the ground. i am leaving lipstick
on the sidewalk’s blood-blushed cheek.
i am only a good kisser
when i am kissing someone
for the last time.

i pluck the feathers from the crow
perched on the church steeple, its cry
a sermon that borrows from every language,
magpie hex-song, thief’s lullaby in the
night. i will leave in the night, unfurl
my body into a black ribbon that floats
up into the wind, grieve the landscape
underneath me. i will leave in the night,
& the sun will not burn me
again. i am aloft,
bright & alone.

Icarus/Jacob’s Ladder (2017)
110 × 80 cm
Oils on canvas
Words by Emily Bilman

Like the painted palms,
Father and son hug as they
Leave the labyrinth

Like Janus, father
And son reflect each other
Under the sun-kiln

Icarus scatters
His feathers on the painter’s
Canvas as the sun sets

Icarus sees fields
Of yellow, blue, mauve, red, white,
and orange as he falls

Fallen leaves destroy
Janus, the cautious father
Against the brave son

The painter draws
A sea-borne blue tear to mourn
Venturous Icarus

Icky (2019)
75 × 30 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Deborah Lawson Scott

The new masters understand
suffering otherwise. With them,
Icarus catches a sort-of break.
In their Chicken Little slant,
stories unfold, and no one falls
unobserved. Everyone sees.
They see too the whole sky fall

amidst fire as hot as the sun,
and wax burn brighter today
than it might have done
on any other day—transmit
prayers’ intentions for the quick,
the dead. For a stationary moment

a cross shines brighter than
it has for hundreds of years
atop a landscape of ruin,
and each one sees something
amazing & for a stationary moment
has nowhere to get to & looks on.

Icky (2019)
75 × 30 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Emily Bilman

Like a martyr, crucified in imitation of Christ,
Breughel painted the young shepherd shorn

From his pasture and tied to the wheel hoisted
On the town’s outskirts as a scantling for the heathen

Dancing in reels while his wife, pregnant with child, shed
Bitter tears of grief mingled with the vultures’ shrieks.

Breughel painted the town’s rich politicians costumed
In silk brocades, silent in their Janus-like hypocrisy

That spun the mill to keep it grinding its grains
For bread, for the believers, baked by bitter blood.

Icarus Improvisation (2019)
50 × 20 cm
Acrylics and oils on panel
Words by Susan Meyers

1. The Young Sailor

He occupies the chair
as if it were rigging
      he has climbed,

an eye and a leathered
ear cocked
for the first sign
     of bad weather.

2. Icarus

In the next-to-the-last dream
(the cerulean one)

he swims among stars—

gathering speed,
rapt and aglow.

3. Sorrows of the King

Not the plucked guitar,
its empathetic notes.

Not the dark-haired woman
whirling on small feet.

Not prayers rising
from fingerlike wings.

Nor the single petals loosed
into the season,

a stir of them, not the ladder
of air, the self reflected—

nor even the flowers,
six yellow blossoms, floating.

Icky (2019)
75 × 30 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas
Words by Richard Garcia

In the next to the last dream – Susan Meyers

Everyone has fallen, on, out, or in.
I thud and crash on the linoleum, by the
fridge. Your face is over me, its nice and cool here, lie next
to me, I say, Lay lady lay. You call—an ambulance takes me to
the hospital. I like the ride, I like the hospital, the
bed. You bring my computer and my hat. Wish I could make this last.
You can go home, Doc says. But I could stay awhile in this dream.

Don't fly too close to the sun, Son, his dad said.
But the boy did and he fell
splashing into the ocean.

But, hell, no one gets to be a hero
by listening to their dads.
I'd say, Son, if you're going to fly, fly.
If you're going to fall, fall.

Even if the burghers counting their money
and the farmer pushing his cart
and the lusty wenches with their pop-up breasts
and the prancing lads showing off their codpieces

don't notice the boy falling,
twisting through the sky upside-down.
But there is always some old master
who will put you somewhere in his painting.

You don't get to be a hero by listening to your dad.
Last night when we embraced in the kitchen
I could feel the bones
where your wings used to be.

And you could feel the bones
where my wings used to be.
To be, to fall, slings and arrows,
isn't that what it's all about?

Wings, who needs them?
Even angels don't use them anymore.
Strictly old-school, wings,
those clumsy, waxy, dusty,

flea-infested, brittle wings.
Even those Lycra-suited guys jumping
off cliffs in their flying squirrel outfits
are not really flying, just falling.

That's what flying really is—
falling. So if we're going to fall,
let's just fall. Falling can last for a long time.
Falling can last forever.

Icky they call him now he got
spiked hair a couple of scars
where he used to have wings.
He's sipping a piña colada
by the pool. He says to me,
Charon, hear you driving for
Uber now, take folks anywhere
'cept the underworld.
That place is just a damn sewer.
Why don't you get your self
a striped shirt and a straw hat,
so you can sing O Sole Mio?
Better than poling around
a bunch of dead people
that don't tip shit. Me, says
Icky, I like it here, got the pool,
five villas around the world, my
own show on Netflix and more
followers on FaceBook & Twitter
than that asshole in the White House.
Charon says, Say how's your dad, Diddle
or whatever his name
was back then, he still stuck
on that island, hear he's got
his own cell block now. Nah,
says Icky, he owns the island.
Rents it out to Black Ops
and CIA types doin' a little rendition
on folks that nobody
gonna miss anyway. Far as I'm
concerned he can rendition
his self. Sending me off into
the sky with those Walmart
wings. Honey, says Icky to the
babe wearing nothin' but a thin
gold chain 'round her hips,
snapping his fingers,
Get me another drink will ya,
and one for my buddy here.
Say, Pluto, You still go by that handle?
I gota little job for you. But really,
you could use a new name.
Pluto sounds like a dog or
someone that used to be a
planet, or someone used to be
big, use'ta be someone.

Icarus Improvisation (2019)
50 × 20 cm
Acrylics and oils on panel
Words by Brian Turner

What more can I say. We are left
with the smallest of gestures.
Fingertips pausing over the tenuous
ruins of our lips. Eyes closed hard
against the burning of a sunlit afternoon.

At some point the folded wings in our backs
simply refuse to open. Our hands
too soon given to dust. Our voices
a moment on the wind, trembling
among the autumn leaves, then gone.

Icarus Improvisation (2019)
50 × 20 cm
Acrylics and oils on panel
Word by Michael Gallowglas

a desperate rescue at sea
among the feathery remains
of a faulty flight plan

arms plunge into the cold
a frantic struggle to save
a singular, delighted laugh

warnings reconsidered
in hindsight provide
no refuge from grief

the never-ceasing waves
disperse feathers and hope
in equal measure

Icarus Improvisation (2019)
50 × 20 cm
Acrylics and oils on panel
Words by Sarah Colby

You always loved rhyming games
so we made them up as we gathered
feathers, melted wax over the fire.
I thought you really would remember.

      One Two Three Four
     Level off- don’t dip or soar

I should have known better.
Should have thought to account
for your exuberance, your delight
in anything new.

      Three Five Seven Nine
     Follow me and you’ll be fine

Should have flown behind you.
Should have shouted louder,
looked back more often,
tied you to me with a rope.

      Two Four Eight Ten
      Over water, rocks and plowmen

I hailed the ship, cried out
to the farmer, the fisherman—
elated when the shepherd
raised his head—

      Six Five Four Three
     Feathers floating on the sea

but no one listened
to my voice from the heavens.
Why would they? Only for a moment
was it the domain of man.

      Four Three Two One
     Icarus! My child—What have I done?

Icarus' Feathers (e) (2017)
50 × 50 cm
Oils on panel
Words by Marietta Franke

Icarus, the traveller, flew over the landscapes of his experiences, as if he wanted to get the point, again and again, where he did not crash down, but would have been saved while falling. In his dreams he saw the faults of the earth’s surface, which soon took their lines and turns in hard rocks, sandy sands, in the waters, and then vanished. After all this time of flying he became more relaxed. He started to trust his dreams. Never again he would go too near to he sun. Now, his eyes were adhered to the earth’s surface, as he was no longer interested to look for the stars. Happenings like this, related to meteorits and heavenly ladders took his time far too much. Together, they tried to free him from his self, victims to art theory‘s exspectations, who want to determine how art has to be. Much more, falling evoked his understanding that modern art never came to its end and painting never died. He directed his eyes to forms and colours for another time, like all the scanners in the world who view with their ears and hear with their eyes while they succeed not to fall down.
The air was filled with a slight smell of jasmine. Again and again, they looked for him and called his name, the painter among them. They wanted to know, where he stayed. From time to time they stopped and focussed the unclear space at the end oft he avenue, right towards the point where he could appear if he came, every few meters drawing arrow signs into the gravel so that he could find them. But he did not come. The pond lay there, calm and quiet. A smell of dying water came up as they looked to the fishes, and rested in their noses. The milky darkness of the pond changed them into schemes without memory. Feathers of pearl grey colour on the green grass.
Undecided, they smoked, looked again in his direction, then turned left, leaving the park. Actually they wanted a serious conversation with him, in the park, where he could not get away easily, when they said something that he would not like.
Icarus separated himself, stopping at every bush, regarding the small shadows between its blossoms. He must have suspected it. These unspoken words were already in the air for quite some time, spreading themselves like a stranger while they drove in the car. He did not want to talk, although it was time to talk. He could have said a lot. Silence, when they were on their way to the car, no looking back. On his way back, he should fly.

Ikarus, der Reisende, flog über die Landschaften seiner Erfahrungen, als wollte er immer und immer wieder an den Punkt kommen, wo er dann nicht abgestürzt, sondern im Fallen aufgefangen worden wäre. Im Traum sah er die Auffaltungen der Erdoberfläche, die bald in hartem Gestein, in feuchter Erdmasse, bald in trockenem Sand und in den Wassern linienförmige Wendungen nahmen und dann verschwanden. Nach all der Zeit, die in seinen wiederholten Flügen zusammengekommen war, war er gelassener geworden. Er begann seinen Träumen zu vertrauen. Kein zweites Mal würde er zu nah an die Sonne fliegen. Sein Blick blieb nun an der Erdoberfläche haften. Der Blick in die Gestirne schien ihn nicht mehr zu interessieren. All das Geschehen, das mit Meteoriten und Himmelsleitern zusammenhing, hatte ihn zu lange in Anspruch genommen. Zu weit hatten sie versucht, ihn von seinem Selbst wegzulotsen, die sirenenhaften Theoretiker der Kunst, die bestimmen wollen, wann die Kunst wie zu sein hat. Vielmehr war es ihm im Fallen aufgegangen, dass die Moderne in der Kunst keineswegs zu Ende war und die Malerei nie einen Tod erlitten hatte. Also lenkte er seine Blicke ein weiteres Mal auf die Formen und Farben und auf das, was daraus entstehen kann. Er wollte sie zusammenklingen lassen, wie all die Weltabtaster, die mit den Ohren sehen und den Augen hören, während es ihnen gelingt, nicht zu fallen.
Ein Duft von Jasmin lag in der Luft. Immer und immer wieder schauten sie zurück und riefen nach ihm, dem Maler unter ihnen. Wo er denn bleibe, wollten sie wissen. Ab und zu blieben sie stehen und blickten in den unbestimmten Raum am Ende der Allee, dahin, wo er möglicherweise auftauchen könnte, wenn er denn endlich käme. Alle paar Meter zogen sie mit den Absätzen ihrer Schuhe pfeilartige Zeichen in den Kies, damit er ihre Richtung fände. Doch er kam nicht. Der Weiher lag still und ruhig da. Der Geruch des tümpeligen Wassers, der aufstieg, als sie nach Fischen schauten, hing noch lange in ihren Nasen. Im milchigen Dunkel des Wassers waren sie zu erinnerungslosen Schemen geworden. Auf dem Wiesensaum lagen perlgraue Federn.
Aus Unschlüssigkeit rauchten sie eine Zigarette, blickten wieder in seine Richtung und beschlossen dann nach links abzubiegen und den Park zu verlassen. Eigentlich hatten sie den Spaziergang für eine ernsthafte Unterhaltung mit ihm nutzen wollen, dort in diesem Park, wo er nicht einfach weggehen können würde, wenn sie ihm etwas sagten, was ihm nicht gefiel. Ikarus hatte sich langsam von ihnen abgesetzt, war an fast jedem Busch stehengeblieben und hatte die kleinen Schattenbildungen zwischen den leuchtenden Blüten betrachtet. Irgendwie musste er es gespürt haben. Die unausgesprochenen Worte lagen schon die ganzen Wochen in der Luft und hatten sich auf der Fahrt im Auto wie eine fremde Mitfahrerin breit gemacht. Ihm war nicht zum Reden zumute, auch wenn es wahrscheinlich an der Zeit war, das eine oder andere auszusprechen. Auch er hätte einiges sagen können. Auf dem Weg zum Auto redeten sie kaum und blickten nicht mehr zurück. Sollte er doch auf dem Rückweg fliegen.

Icarus' Feathers (f) (2017)
50 × 50 cm
Oils on panel
Words by Jamie O’Halloran

Dad didn’t tell me how it would feel,
      The river of sky sliding under
          And over this new-formed body.

I flapped the wings—couldn’t call them mine,
     So many feathers, so light, and the bees’
          Work weighed next to nothing.

There I was leaping into the other side of the window
     Of that tower, the only place I knew.
          A jump into Olympus it could

Have been with Phoebus Apollo shining so brightly
     Off the peaks and the sea below. What joy!
          Surely this was rapture! Surely

Freedom was the divine ambrosia!
     Was there anything but the Sun?
          I couldn’t smell the beeswax

Melting, or see the feathers counting off
     A whirl of clouds about me. All was
          Euphoria and then the sea

Surrounded me and filled my lungs with salt.
     You, see, Charon, no one thought
           To rest a coin on my tongue,

So, I arrive without the fare. Have mercy, ferryman!
     Take me across the Styx.
          Give me the freedom I died for.

Words by Antony Huen

Flying too high but not trying to
reach the sun. Fleeing the Labyrinth,
you’re reveling in the new freedom.
You knew your father’s words by heart
but overjoyed, fell and drowned.

Born a sun-chaser, Kuafu ran from the East
to the West. Draining all the rivers,
the giant died of thirst. Destined to fail.
Fu (父) means father, and Kuafu’s an ancestor.
Like Jesus, he died on our behalf.

You’ve released yourself from suffering. But we,
like Kuafu, are hamsters on wheels. We
never break free, whether living or dead.

After a studio photo by Joost de Jonge showing:

Icarus/Journey of the Soul (2017)
170 × 90 cm
Acrylics and oils on canvas

Words by Wendy Steiner

Why does Joost de Jonge photograph his painting next to a vase of flowers? It does not represent these—or any—flowers, and besides, a painting and flowers belong to different orders of visual reality. Perhaps the jolt of the juxtaposition amuses him. After all, throughout his abstract oeuvre, disjoint orders of being bump up against each other, trade places, and even merge. De Jonge’s taste for category shift and blur has blossomed into an aesthetics of ekphrasis.
Ekphrasis began as an ancient Greek rhetorical figure: a poem depicts a visual artwork so vividly, that it takes on the physical immediacy of that artwork. Poetry—a mere wisp of words—thereby acquires color, dimensionality, concreteness, and reciprocally, the static artwork it depicts turns into a temporal unfolding of ideas, uttered by a human voice in a dramatic context.
It is exhilarating—this merging of art and poetry. Joost de Jonge draws music into the game as well. He compares his approach to Beethoven’s attempt in music to realize “an ideal self, which could be considered individual, but to me could be the realization of a universal ideal echoing within the hearts of anyone participating in its performance. This could mean there is an ‘inner connection’ of hearts, another ideal self resounding in harmony with the achievement of the composer, elevating the participant within the aesthetic experience to the stage of self-realisation.” 1
In such an ekphrasis, forms and entities become fungible, and the self—artist or viewer—is fungible with any form or entity. “If anything, de Jonge is composing himself,” writes Peter Frank, capturing ekphrastically “Pater’s ‘condition of music.’”2 This is an oceanic urge, erasing borders and bounds in a limitless interaction, constantly in flux. For Robbie Dell-Aira, “De Jonge’s work seems to bring about the interconnectedness of all things, or to represent the All.”3
Picture the complexity of this interaction: a composition that enfolds and merges painting, words, music, artist, viewer. Yet, if we think about it, this is the normal state of affairs in the phenomenology of any art. The contemporary novelist Elizabeth Strout, speaking only about literature, enumerates the bewildering variables at play: “I wrote the story, but you will bring to it your own experience of life, and some other reader will do the same, and it will become a different story with each reader. I believe that even the time in your life when you read the book will determine how you receive it. Our lives are changing constantly, and therefore not even our own story is always what we think it is.”4
Pity the aesthetician charged with describing, explaining, or judging such limitless interactivity!5 Critical distance is impossible: her own words are caught up in the ekphrastic quicksilver they attempt to grasp. Stymied, she sends de Jonge a poem—a joyous poem, full of gratitude to this artist for inviting her into his art. But he writes back, asking for scholarly commentary, yet another loop in the aesthetic ouroboros: a critic responding to art that reflects an artist reflecting on All…including critical response.
Why can’t he let well enough alone?
To be alone—to be a painting alone, a poem alone, an artist alone, a critic alone—is intolerable. Far better to be All, enveloped in ekphrastic plenitude.

1 Joost de Jonge, “The Quest Continues/The Ekphrasis Project,” in Oceanen van kleur: The Ekphrasis Project (Amsterdam: The Authentic Art Agency, 2011), p. 232.
2 Peter Frank, “In the Realm of the Ekphrastic,” in Oceanen van kleur, pp. 14-15.
3 Robbie Dell-Aira, “Oceans of colour,” in Oceanen van kleur, p. 142.
4 Elizabeth Strout, Postscript: “Going Through Old Papers,” The Burgess Boys (New York: Random House, 2013), p. 330.
5 For discussions of aesthetic interaction, see Wendy Steiner, Venus in Exile: The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001) and The Real Real Thing: The Model in the Mirror of Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).


Ode to Henri Focillon/Vie Des Formes

Detail of Ode to Henri Focillon/Vie Des Formes



Ode to Wilhelm Morgner

The Isle of Maria Theresia (2018)
Image by Joost de Jonge
Words by Ron Horning

I first met my father in a Western cow town.
Young and fair himself, he puffed appreciation
of golden, gifted islands from a classic profile
and made a drawing of the prodigious lingo
of gods uniformly tall, blond, and Kentuckian.
Eventually I repudiated the entire ancient world.
Several British esthetes persuaded me that I had
been carved before the sixth century B.C., in an
atmosphere of political abuse, barbaric music hall
conspiracy, and complete disregard of the national beverage.
Religion was largely an art with no special bearing
on a grain of salt. But they invented their gods with
criminal brilliance, those hetairae who love blackballing,
approve of suicide, homosexuality, and education, and
designed the most beautiful necklaces ever to adorn
a doughboy’s throat. Eternal summer gilds them yet.

Keep away from the mainland if you wish to preserve
cool sylvan retreats where elusive women are trapped
and spotless towns are temples, clear sunlight flooding a
man’s palm one source of milk and cheese at the time.
She took a ferry to Italy, praised by frogs in a pond
hidden by trees and with cool breezes blowing over
a natural site for the worship of wine dark seafaring
men constantly receptive to freebooting Phoenicians and
betas from the Nile. Buzzing about, trading and vending,
not once did they admit the dignity of manual labor
or that they love money but love a lit marquee pro-
claiming an American movie more, and contemporary
architecture analyzes their habits and frailties as if
ready for some new wonder to look out of the past.

You were extremely lucky if you happened to cooperate
with every pinpoint of marble ready to thumb its straight
name into the copper prevalence of luxurious cultures
building tombs above lone and level sands, an effigy
as remote from the conjunction of gambling table and
couch as a stem waisted matador standing by to serve
cocktails to killers and then show them the way to a
divine belief in the embossed gold his Kentucky tutors
taught him to idolize man for man, carving for carving.

—Who watered their graves? Cooks baking bread,
women weaving cloth or grinding corn, laundresses
at their wash, all on a journey to the drab reach of
celestial categories? I was weaned on faraway places
with strange sounding names, never quite sure
that the notion was Catholic or Protestant and
always hoping for a glance at the hotel register
of the gods, one for every human vagary, I naïvely
believed, and all more sculpturesque than sacrificial
in a nakedness that was superbly chaste and lovely.
Those old horses and wild drunkards with flowing
beards hid their daughters in sheds built for America,
preferring to live on the street and argue with statues.

Drum solos lasted about five minutes. No one needs
the sharpshooter’s equipment, pointed out at a wedding
of incessant delicacies to the freakish insignia of a
plumber eating and drinking daily on the altars of Zeus,
for the simple military reason that the barbarians produce
a steady stream of pure lucent metamorphosed limestone
with bright red touches of Greek fire interpenetrated
by blurred jockeys faintly washed with hard bitten
galley slaves imported by worshipers of hybrid orchids
on the Gold Coast of Africa and in the Pacific Northwest.

To avoid being cut in half, stand on your left foot
first, with your right foot raised and relaxed, out,
like the hills of cement producing shale in America
that suggest drapery, with a head peeking from the
top. The first women were marble columns, motionless,
their furrowed legs, pressed together, exquisitely hewn
by light fingered soldiers in summer, the play, beneath
oiled skin, of muscles poised for throwing museums
and connoisseurs, perhaps, but not incised tree trunks
leading to the polished faces of wives in the nude.

Crude fetishes conspire to give the green light to slave
soldiers flogged into action by 50 years of looting and
gobbled up by parvenu raisin growers with bank balances
far more important than the faces of warriors, inanimate
and archaic, as they lie on the ground in the sharpening
angles and herald any canon of judgment except their
own, severe and menacing and barren of detail from the
sidewalk, murdered by the business of the western gable
planted upright and straight as a javelin rippling from the cast.

If the trunks of trees suggest drapery over visible toes,
long hanging arms, and a girl with pigeons made of onyx
and white action 60 feet above ground and a billowing
robe that rises from the waves, a worshiper drops incense
into an explosion of gold and ivory fates removed in the
19th century from Athens to London, where stone simulates
the prudery of a body far from Berlin, wearing a brimless
helmet as he mixes the drinks in bronze water jugs and fills
glasses of sparkling rock crystal on a black terra cotta ground.

Difficulties could have been resolved by chryselephantine politicians
pouring an archipelago of cash into the head of a benevolent
dictator whose throat was cut instead by relatives of the
victims sacrificed to those gods after losing their wives
and husbands in a room 90 feet long and half as wide—
a matter of conjecture pressed crudely into a couple of coins
owned by a collector shot in the back while visiting a woman
from the waves because the girl’s mother had boasted
to the neighborhood about the beauty of her daughter.

7. Individuals grew old and paid homage to chronic
meddling in the peerless human figure, captured
and humiliated for most of a succeeding century,
in colonial outposts and the bivouacs of a jury,
to atone for crimes organized on military lines
as vandals took a dip in the blue Ionian water
supplied by local tinsmiths, the stately thighs
and middle section swelling to a golden mean
between the fertile lines of a renowned courtesan
deftly tinted and embellished to hide the pallor of
a goddess in the city’s transparent atmosphere—
lips, cheekbones, and eye sockets—all of which
horrified the man brought up on the painted prow
of a warship, possibly executing sleek pretty boys
but refined and noble in the smaller photographs.

The oracle died thirteen years afterward, weeping
because there were no more worlds as decadent or
effeminate as this, informed by violence and nervous
disorders, by physical energy and abounding vitality.
Esthetes made a holy show of themselves, parading
about town in jewels and the common man, their
democrats seized and worked into the fertile bias
of generals struggling to grab as much as they can
from a colossal altar of furious white energy later
moved to Berlin in most of its glory, a square platform
pierced on one side by the forces of heaven and earth
and conveniently labeled with chiseled dates of duels.

Your conditioning agents are never forgotten for the simple
reason that none has survived. Allusions to adolescence
were of unmentionable obscenity, and years of scholarship
have not materially altered that warning, first voiced
by the most beautiful woman in Athens, sweat streaming
from her painted pores as a pair of swallows dart into
the roofless room and try to eat her fame and charms.
Most of the Roman copies leave you cold, like the
exaggerated encomiums of truthful reporters confronted
by deep space bounded on all sides with marble.

Conjecture and hearsay guide us from the subway
to plants, jellyfish, octopi, and other small fauna
in glass cases behind mummies and plaster casts,
the circles broken or crossed by tangential lines and inter-
lacings to divert the diarist from round and round tracings,
crude naval engagements, and funeral processions, the
double gate that gave a name to the belly put to shame
one rapid shifting day by financiers who prefer the
livid chaos of Omonia Square to a Florentine vase
covered with lustrous black pigment, filled with oil
from a factory owned by the discount chains, and
decorated with small paintings that would never pass
a modern censor plotting trouble and eager to pursue
young runners competing for the freshness of the air.

The dead are an easy target, their reclining figures
beheaded long since by warfare and astrophysics,
liquor or sports, and each pretender a critic with
sheer unpunctured walls and lawful connections,
someone riding on horseback through a large square
as dolphins bleach in the swimming pool of film stars
buried in a basement, two marble figures sprawled
on the ground between bestiality and spiritualism.
They’d been heartsick in California, where athletes
of both sexes grow tall and tanned and handsome
in the perpetual politics of the imagination, only
to become indecent, coarse, mercenary. Shivering,
with no guarantee of another change, inevitable
though it might be, how could they say goodbye?

Detail of The Isle of Maria Theresia

Nirvana / Ishu


Danaë’s Confusion

A Third Scroll of Malachite
Vase by Cilja Zuyderwyk



Gauguin’s Chair

Infinity Variation

Lovesong for Lucebert

Vase by Cilja Zuyderwyk




Ode to Miró

Unconscious Infinity

Flight of the Phoenix

Flight of the Phoenix

Flight of the Phoenix

Two Worlds


Flight of the Phoenix




The Deliriously Screaming Void (2015)
180 × 180 cm
Oils on panel
Words by Juliën Holtrigter
Translation by Joost de Jonge

Slept underneath the stars.
Wasted my gaze watching time,
the deliriously screaming void,
opens to strange pleasures of the unthinkable.

I saw a picture someone had taken from a pit.
View from a grave, the title said. You could see
a piece of sky and the thin crowns of trees.

I think of my father, very far away from home, no longer
able to return.
And of my ex who I suddenly found at my dentist
above my wide-open mouth, more beautiful and tough than ever,
with a tube in her hand to suck away
the grit and the liquid. There I lay.

I would so much like to travel lightly,
my backpack stacked
with no more than some clothes, a flask,
a pen and paper.



New Beginnings

Me & Luke (Lucas Reiner)
Words by Richard Shiff
On Joost de Jonge's Photographs

Every aesthetic object, by its physical existence, memorializes the cultural associations that can be linked to its imagery. Over time, the associations may change, but the memorializing function remains. An aesthetic object testifies to the human action that generated it and to the motivation that spurred and sustained the creative effort. The qualities and properties of the object lead an interpreter to attribute motivations to a specific agent, the artist. And interpreters contribute their own motivating beliefs. The two mentalities—that of the artist, that of the interpreter—establish paths to knowing the object. The most direct path, of course, remains sensory appreciation.

As products of engaged design, aesthetic objects convey states of emotion as well as elements of cultural symbolism. We might identify emotional content as the province of form (shape, color, light, gesture, perspective), just as we identify cultural symbolism as the province of representation (elements of the image that can be named or otherwise conceptualized). Form and representation intersect. Painting categorized as “abstract” nevertheless exhibits representational, referential features. An “abstract” case of color symbolism—blue, for instance, often signifying spirituality—becomes an aspect of “representation.”

The photograph of an aesthetic object renders the object once removed from the emotions and cultural symbolism with which it was imbued when initially created. Yet the photograph itself is a second creation that transforms and enriches the object—or rather, its image—by setting it within a fixed environment. Often such an environment is calculatedly neutral, as in photography intended only to document the appearance of the object, establishing its existence, but as if without specific place or time. Yet we never encounter absolute neutrality (neutrality itself is a cultural construct). A photograph memorializes the object it represents—the object itself, its existence—by providing a signifying context, as permanent as the object. When the photographic view includes additional aesthetic objects—paintings, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, furniture, floral arrangements—its image memorializes the relations and commonalities that a cultural discourse establishes within such an array of artifacts.

Joost de Jonge has been producing a series of composed photographs, views of interior spaces apparently at domestic scale. Each photograph becomes a still-life arrangement of objects of curiosity. Each composition features one of the artist’s abstract paintings, hung in a central location (not necessarily symmetrically) and typically sharing the wall with one or more other objects. The arrangements are exquisite, allowing inspection of the individual items, while establishing a dynamic play of color, shape, and volume, along with complex interactions of dimensionality.

Dimensionality may be the prime issue. De Jonge’s thoughts concerning one of his photographic compositions, “Me and Luke,” spurs me to venture this generalization. Further speculations—part sensory response, part cultural interpretation—proceed in turn. “Luke” is not Saint Luke, patron saint of painters, but the American artist Lucas Reiner (though any painter in the Western tradition whose name is “Lucas” cannot avoid the association with Luke of the New Testament). In the photograph, Reiner is represented by his study of a tree, gray on white, placed on a colorfully patterned Oriental rug—that is, on the plane of the floor—and leaning for support against an ornate chair. Reiner’s drawing is vertically disposed, but another drawing, by de Jonge, is situated horizontally, as if adhering to the plane of the floor rather than defying it by resisting gravity. The shape of the drawing sheet is roughly octagonal, which entails that two of its side edges turn back from its front edge at obtuse angles, as if in reverse perspective. De Jonge notes that the shape derives from the illusionistic rendering of a platform that supports the Virgin in Sandro Botticelli’s Bardi Altarpiece. As a painting, Botticelli’s image is two-dimensional, calculated to project the sense of three dimensions. De Jonge’s drawing—the configuration he sketches—is also two-dimensional, but within the context of the photograph (itself two-dimensional), we realize that this drawing—the physical sheet of paper—is a three-dimensional object reduced to a two-dimensional image of itself.

The figure within the octagonal sheet of paper, the product of de Jonge’s act of drawing, is a ladder-like form which narrows toward its top. The rendering is rough, like that of Reiner’s tree. According to the perspective of the photograph, because de Jonge’s “ladder” rests on the floor, it must narrow to the rear, as if following the laws of optics (connoting a receding roadway or railway more than a ladder). Yet, a real ladder, the physical object, if lying on the floor in the direction indicated in the photograph, would be subject to the optically induced convergence of its two sides. But because de Jonge drew his “ladder” with the convergence already apparent, two sources of linear recession function simultaneously within the photograph: first, the “real” physiological illusion caused by perspective (the sheet of paper recedes from the extreme foreground to the middle ground); second, the graphic enhancement of perspective illusion (the convention of rendering parallel lines in relation to a vanishing point). Both effects are subject to exaggeration by the monocular focus of photographic representations.

Here is the situation as de Jonge describes it: “The form on the floor, of the paper and the painted ‘ladder’ on it, address the notion of spatiality and flatness and the conceptual approach of the painted image and meaning (drawing-painting-writing/to enter the painting through perspective, the reading of the lines as a ladder, so ascending, moving up into space, the actual space of the picture as well as an imagined or suggested one though form and the workings of perspective-imagining).” De Jonge’s comment implies the association of perspective with imagination, given that both are instances of projection. His photograph brings to his composition of objects—his still-life environment—a double sense. The configuration is at once perceptual and conceptual, both three-dimensional and two-dimensional, with all its qualities having been projected as a two-dimensional image.

The figural styles of the three sculptural objects represented in “Me and Luke”—two resting on the floor and leaning against the wall, one hung on the wall—look Polynesian to me (a guess). They appear to be wooden and carved in relatively high relief. The normative view of sculpture in relief is frontal, as with a flat painting; works in relief differ from painting by projecting aggressively forward into three dimensions. In de Jonge’s still-life composition of objects (the subject for his photograph), the central table and two flanking chairs are utilitarian sculptures made of wood and fully volumetric, as in sculpture-in-the-round. But as a way of comparing the various objects, consider them all as works in relief. In the case of the table and chairs, their cubic volume ensures that their factor of relief must be very high. To the contrary, de Jonge’s painting (frontally disposed) and his drawing of the “ladder” (receding), as well as Reiner’s “tree” (frontal) and the patterned rug (receding), all must have a factor of relief that would measure very low. Because photography uniformly projects such an array of aesthetic objects onto a single, utterly flat plane, it establishes a common ground of relief so extremely low that it seems perverse to think in sculptural terms to any degree. This projection sets the formal properties of diversely dimensional objects on an equal footing as elements of two-dimensional design, with their visual analogies becoming abundantly evident. The waves of the central painting resonate with those of the sculpture to its right, which in turn relates to the decorative detailing of the struts of the chairs.

I imagine that the formal analogies must sing out, perhaps that much more, in the fully volumetric environment of three dimensions, in a studio or a residence, where the objects have been staged for the photograph and captured by it. It would be a pleasure (and aesthetically instructive) to view some of de Jonge’s still-life compositions on exhibit—in the flesh, so to speak—with their photographic projections on display beside them. Such an installation would challenge our conceptual foundation for dimensional understanding while exercising our vision in the art of dimensional difference.


Words by Daniel Thomas Moran

A poem is a chair,
a chair, a poem.
Don’t ask me
to explain.

I have built
both with only
my bare hands,
so I know.

You will just
have to trust me.

If you wish me
to also say
that a painting
is a chair,

Or that a concerto
is a chair,
I will.
They are.

But, not like
a poem is a chair.

Have a seat.


Portrait of Joost de Jonge (2017) by Koos Breukel

For any inquiries about this project,
please contact Joost de Jonge