In the Elysian Fields with August Macke

Ahhh, the good August Macke! Highly receptible as he was, he refuted Kandinsky´s intellectualism, and the Ideenmalerei (of the Blue Rider) in general. In his short life he resonated to all the stylistic and intellectual tendencies and the new developments in art in this extremely vivid era (at the turn of the 20th century), he approached them all and experimented with and included them all. As a true genius he paved his own way. His objection to Ideenmalerei was marked, but not outspoken and aggressive. His temperament was not like that. He had a pleasant personality. Instead of being overly intellectual and intellectualised, he was interested in the sensual pleasures of colour and in the melodious sound of form. He was attracted to earthly beauty. His endeavour was to paint people in paradise.

See how his people seemingly float through the Garden of Eden! You usually see them a bit from behind, or their faces are (relatively) empty. They have lost their individuality, they have evaded the personality principle. They have left behind what is bad and what seperates us from each other and from the direct contact to nature, and to beauty (commonly referred to as the „ego“).

A friend of mine, Tanja, who teaches children how to dance said to me: in order to get children to like you, and that they accept your authority, you have to call them by their names, and adress them personally. Indeed, people are very fond of that. Evil leaders give the lead the impression that they do (that they personally adress people), and usually it works, and then they can do whatever they want. In the ficticious Q Continuum (from the Star Trek series), the nearly omnipotent, god-like Q, who are referred to as the highest point of evolution, have NO names and obviously do not place any importance on having names. In Macke´s paradise, his floaters also seem to have left that behind. – It is true that Macke´s floaters through paradise don´t seem to really notice the beauty of their surroundings (often they just look down and seem to have a limited, egocentric, purely functional perspective), but let us say it is a reference to the real world, let us say they are occupied with their inner processes which are of a higher nature, let us say they´re simply at one with their surroundings, and let us say we do not actually understand it and we should just celebrate it.

Look at how Macke´s young women are attracted to hats, clothes, boutiques! Some say, this is evil, and mistake it for evil. I, however, have always resonated a lot when someone has bought a new thing – a mobile phone, for example – and then sits in the park, unpacks it and gets immersed into it, tries it out, tries to get into contact with it and to handle it. I like this because this person has made herself happy and is happily curious. This is the best part of the human experience! I say, anyone unable to resonate to that, very likely has very shitty mirror neurons, and no empathy – fuck that. Macke´s woman Before the Hat Shop has cleared her individuality and resonates (in a sovereign way) to the hat she might like. Practically everything that is good about humanity is in that painting.

Macke was a master of colour. His colours are contrasting, but not in an aggressive way. Rather, you have an emphasis on the colourfulness of nature. Macke was a master of illustrating the gracefulness of form. It can be said that Macke´s most personal style which evolved in his later years is set in the continuum between absolute geometric clarity and impressionistic dissolution. Macke managed the conflict between individualisation and generalisation, he managed the objectification of the subjective, and the subjectification of the objective. This is never a trivial problem in art, and was not a trivial problem at his time. In doing so, Macke navigated his way through the probably deepest intellectual problem of art.

August Macke had a very pleasant, charming, optimistic personality. Unlike many other artists he did not particularly display quasi-depressive ruminativeness and getting lost in one´s own inner complexity. Although an idiosyncratic outsider, he was not an isolated loner. He liked high life but did not succumb to alcoholism, drugs, or other shit. He remained an innocent hedonist. He found his sweethart, Elisabeth, at a young age, and they lived a happy marriage. He loved to go to the theater, the cinema, the circus, he loved all things horseplay and slapstick and felt especially attracted to clowns. He reportedly was always moved to tears when he was watching a scene in which a woman was miserable.

August Macke died at age 27 in Perthes-lès-Hulus in the Champagne on Sept. 26th, 1914, in the Great War. In his letters he depicted the horrors of war, but he did not display resentment. Maybe because he always was actually inhabing the Elysian Fields. He is buried in a mass grave at a soldier´s cemetary in Souain. In the obituary Franz Marc mourned Macke´s transformation as an irredeemable loss, with no one ever being able to continue alongside this specific trajectory. Soon thereafter the two friends reconciled in the Valhalla.

Clement Greenberg

„Hervorragende Kunstwerke zu machen ist für gewöhnlich eine beschwerliche Arbeit. Doch im Modernismus wurde nicht nur das Herstellen, sondern vor allem das Betrachten von Kunst noch anstrengender, musste man sich die Befriedigung und die Freude, die die beste neue Kunst vermitteln kann, mühsam erringen. In den letzten mehr als einhundertfünfunddreißig Jahren waren die beste neue Malerei und die beste neue Skulptur (und die beste neue Dichtung) zu ihrer Zeit für den Kunstliebhaber eine Herausforderung und eine Prüfung, wie sie es früher nicht gewesen waren. Doch gibt es den Drang sich auszuruhen, wie es ihn immer gegeben hat. Er ist eine permanente Bedrohung der Qualitätsmaßstäbe. Dass dieser Drang auszuruhen sich in immer anderer Weise ausdrückt, bezeugt nur seine Dauerhaftigkeit. Das Gerede von der „Postmoderne“ ist eine weitere Ausducksform dieses Dranges. Und es ist vor allem eine Art, sich dafür zu rechtfertigen, dass man weniger anspruchsvolle Kunst bevorzugt, ohne deswegen reaktionär oder zurückgeblieben genannt zu werden (was die schlimmste Befürchtung der neumodischen Philister der Avantgarde ist).“

(Modern und Postmodern, 1980)


Wols said to Ione Robinson that van Gogh is the end of paining, in the paintings of van Gogh everything explodes; and I said elsewhere (in the Books of Strange and Unproductive Thinking) that – as it occurs to me – while in the paintings of Vincent everything explodes into an outer space, in the paintings of Wols everything seemingly explodes into an inner space; I may have failed to thorougly describe it: They are maybe the projections of explosions/happenings that materialise in a higher dimensional spacetime into man´s limited dimensional prison, or they, so to say, capture the inner intensity of explosions, make the inner intensity of explosions visible, show these explosions/happenings in a kind of phase space. Wols is a reincarnation of Vincent some decades later and the projection of Vincent into an enlarged, respectively more complex inner phase space (or so). I may have failed to thoroughly describe it.

(Like Vincent) Wols was exceptionally intelligent, an extremely divergent thinker, very handy with making associations; his life was chaotic, impulsive and he lived intuitively, he repelled organisation and institution and regulation and unfortunately progressed into a heavy drinker which may have contributed to his untimely death at age 38 (due to a meat poisoning). He was an outsider from early on and discribed his adolescence as „horrific“ („After a rather unfortunate youth, at odds with myself, nowhere homogenous, I faced at the same time all kinds of problems. I have never been particularly well up to date about what happened with me and in my surroundings despite all efforts of work and contemplation.“)

Sartre, who knew Wols, supported him financially and tried to help him, called Wols a „hybrid between a human and a Martian“ – and it is true that fellows like Wols are both most at the center of the human experience as well as they are aliens who try to communicate with the Earthlings, with mixed responses, and to not very much avail – Sartre tried to understand Wols as an incarnation of existentialist nausée who would fit into his philosophy, Wols however was always heavily reluctant to offer explanations to his work or to his approach, in his encounters with Ione Robinson he announced that he does not know what he is doing, he may be a microbe („I am a victim, by natural history. A microbe, probably observed through a telescope by inhabitants of an atom, or by the secret service of the milky way“, he said in one of his aphorisms), he said to her that it is of no use trying to explain his paintings to her (Ione Robinson was a figurative painter) since she would not understand it anyway („Often I observe with my eyes closed, what I observe. Everything is there, it is beautiful, it exhausts“; „Those who dream when they are awake have knowledge of a thousand things, which slip the attention of those who dream only when they are asleep“; „Observerving means closing the eyes“, as he noted in his aphorisms), most famously, while having a walk with Ione, he immediately drew his attention to a crack in the pavement and announced that this crack would resemble his art: the crack would live and grow, it is an expression of the forces of nature – which lead to the interpretation that Wols is a kind of microbe which recognises the invisible, or other universes than ordinary (and even extraordinary) man does.

Because of being a mismatcher par excellence, Wols never felt at home in the art scene. His endeavour reached into the creation of a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk, the Circus Wols, with not only his paintings but also his aphorisms and scrapbooks being an integral part of it (and unfortunately the ultimate realisation of Circus Wols was made impossible by his early death). In his aphorisms and scrapbooks a vision and understanding of everything being connected and every thing being a window through which one can see eternity (for those who CAN see) is prominent. He liked Kafka, Baudelaire, Lautréamont, Poe, Rimbaud, van Gogh and others he called „Irrlichter“ (ghost lights) … me, I also had this vision of these guys (especially when thinking of Kafka) being Irrlichter, a light that illuminates the human condition reluctantly, ponderingly, flickering (I have also called them Negative Buddhas) … because the only true, and upright, light in the circus humanum (and therefore always threatened with extinction) are they, the Ultracomplex. – At his time and after his death Wols had influence on art informel and tachism but his popularity became soon overshadowed by pop art and the like. It is true that Wols´ art is not an extroverted art. It is true that it is singular. And it is true that it comes from the shadow realms of human thought, it even comes from the shadow realms of the Continuum (where the geniuses and their eternal ideas/creations dwell), as an mixture of explosion and implosion, explosions that happen in the exurbia regions and then maybe get sucked into, implode into the unknown, the uninhabitable … „ahhh, the exurbia regions of human thought, , where the dances of signifiers and the signified become most dislocated and most elementary, hyper-authentic, hyper-innocent, ready to return to base again … after that the seam of infinity, which we love“, as I put it elsewhere; Wols may have put it differently, in another language, in other „symbols“, then he disappears…

It got noted  by Dominique de Menil that Wols was „a rebel who did not even care about rebellion“ (and „Painting or not painting, it is equal to Wols. But it is strange how he wanders about like Poe´s „Man of the Crowd“, and from time to time may leech off a glass of booze, whereas the Guilty comfortably relish literature and their beefsteak“, was one of his aphorisms), and it got noted that Wols´ paintings are beyond any truly comprehensive intellectual interpretation. I happened to browse to the tables of painting in that book and saw, on a double page, Vert cache rougé (1947) and Ohne Titel (1946/47). Especially in Ohne Titel I saw a kind of face which presents itself in a grotesque and confusing way to the intellectuals, or to humanity in general, to those who want to decipher it, and also to those who would like to make an intellectual toy out of Wols, but will never succeed.

And I had to really laugh about this <3

It made my day.

By second observation/upon reflection, the face presented seems to be neither particularly happy or unhappy, as well as it is neither particularly loosened and unchained from the space it emerges from nor particularly spilled by it and submerged. Wols was considered by some as an unhappy artist, an artist who paints, displays and represents „damaged life“. Wols, of course, was aware of this, the misera conditio, but refuted interpretations of him as an artist who mourns about the horrors of existence. „I am a lover of life“ (depite all that, and despite his own miserable condition), he confirmed to Ione Robinson. It was noted that in his encounters with Ione Robinson Wols remained evasive, overly associative and metaphoric, and enigmatic. Grohmann noted that Wols constitutes upon multiple and eternal contradictions (and through this, may achieve completeness). I have called them elsewhere the Ultracomplex People, and we are actually not evasive, metaphoric or enigmatic at all, our minds just appear somehow bizarre to others – while in reality we are overly sane. In our inner life, due to absence of ego, there are no true inner anchors, just, more or less, fluidity. What others see as contradictions, battles or explosions within us – well, maybe on the vast wide sea: there are two ships colliding, maybe there is even a sea battle… but there is, first and foremost, the vast wide ocean, with all sorts of life and things happening in no way ever affected by them, being of a different logic or embedded into another subsystem, like the fishes and the deep sea fishes, and the good morays… there is also land and shit, and sky, and open space… that is the arena! The inner life of the ultracomplex person is its own phase space. So to say. The ultracomplex person may only appear to be complex, because the UP is the all, the „living microcosm“, there is perfect fluidity; the complexity may come into being by the circumstance of the UP being thrown into an intractable, internally segmented world, which therefore makes the efforts to communicate and the efforts to establish communion of the UP with his surroundings apparently convulsive and seem like apparently enigmatic explosions. Wols was one of us, of the Ultracomplex.

wols_2002-19 001

Prelude to Note about Abstract Expressionism and stuff (Newman, Reinhardt, etc.)

„Für die Menschen der Antike war das Quadrat ein Ausgangspunkt für ideale Proportionen – das eine Struktur mit Beständigkeit und Stabilität versieht und sie dadurch zu einem konstanten Faktor in einer kurzlebigen und korrumpierbaren Welt macht.“

Lucy Lippard

„Mir genügt das Quadrat, weil es so akkurat ist. Das Rechteck und die Bogenform werden von der Sensibilität diktiert wird. Das Quadrat befindet sich in der Gegenwart, unveränderlich.“

Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee

artist6„Strange and Unproductive Thinking“ is a chiffre for (quasi-)introspective endeavour to find genuine modes of expression. It is likely to run counter the mainstream or contemporary cultural hegemony, as a sort of untimely meditation, yet not for the simple sake of rebellion but in order to establish new master signifiers. The so-called mainstream will strike the strange and unproductive thinker not as an enemy per se, rather as a mindless neutrality (which, of course, also contains hostile elements). The strange and unproductive thinker will be a kind of rebel against it, but an apparently conservative rebel who is inclined to think that the genuine, the elementary, authentic idea is already out there, or has been formulated in the past, but has been submerged and spilled by contemporary mainstream. In order to rediscover them, to get down/up to the elements, the strange and unproductive thinker will wander along an „eccentric pathway“ (as Hölderlin calls it), respectively he will, like a mole, dig an underground pathway (as Nietzsche puts it, and Kafka can obviously relate to it), in the dark. If he succeeds, he will finally gain access to the Continuum, where the elements, the immortal archetypes reside, which he then can redesign. For the strange and unproductive thinker the contemporary „mainstream“ will be a material in order to gain access to that which is both the highest abstraction as well as the most concrete, the most elementary, the most natural; he will understand the contemporary „mainstream“ as a black hole through which a wormhole to additional dimensions can be discovered, or established. His visions will be both highly personal and idiosyncratic as well as they are formulated at such a high level of analysis and integration as that his visions become solidified in the „primal ground“ as well as in the „spheres“ in „space“ and „eternal“ in „time“ (which means that they then belong to the Continuum). – Meditate about that.

At the turn of the 20th century new modes of expression had to be found. Urbanised life had become unrepresentable, as well as with the death of God ideals respectively the ineffable spheres have become unrepresentable. The subject as the new demiurge became increasingly questionable as a solid unitarian entity and therefore unrepresentable. Modern art in the 19th century had become much more flexible but therefore also a bit wobbly, and with the concentration on elements (like colour) or demanding specific modes of perception and heuristics the representation of totality had become endangered. Therefore, at least in retrospect, the highest point of analysis and integration and of abstraction became abstraction per se.


Wassily Kandinsky was an outstanding student of economics, but alongside his synaesthetic inner perception he became more attracted to the arts and the possibility of becoming an artist. An epiphany he had when he attended a performance of „Lohengrin“ as a young man: „I saw all my colours in my mind, they were right before my eyes. Wild, terrific lines were drawn in front of me“ – ahhh, that is genuine strange and unproductive thinking, and you will recognise a strange and unproductive thinker when he comes up with inner impressions like that… When you look at Kandinsky´s artistic progress you will sense he somehow tried to penetrate into his own vision ever deeper; you have eccentric „colourful life“ in his early paintings, progessively overwhelmed by autonomous colours/light, a non-symbolic reduction of forms, a hallucinatory disintegrative integration (Sketch for „Composition II“), a charged reduction to elements (Lyrically) – finally the breakthrough and opening of the Continuum (Painting with a Black Arch). The Continuum itself appears as enigmatic, it is the realm of highest objective significance. That which is of highest objective significance cannot be objectively expressed, it is brought to life when it is envisioned by the competent subject, the strange and unproductive thinker. In the vision of Kandinsky it was the disintegrative integrative *****AB—____/7, where you have the dissolution and reconfiguration of forms, the permanent swirl, the permanent bubble, amalgamation of elements that signify objects, ideas, forms, geometry and colour that equals sounds etc., a shattered geometry in space, a perfect geometry in hyperspace, the projection of higher dimensions; and so on. – Kandinsky himself was aware of the danger that his approach might lead to a simple gaining of independence of artistic means, others, like Carl Einstein, dismissed the notion that a representation of intellectual processes in a quasi-scientific way would ever be possible, and it is true: we don´t know very much about their logics or mechanics of intellectual processes (although Einstein himself obviously was, as a child of his time, too occupied with mechanical and linear notions, at least he was not completely aware of the more network-like nature of intellectual architectonics). Kandinsky made theoretical eleborations (which I have not read so far), in which he tried to give to his emanations an underlying structure, a universal translation of the meanings of his artworks, of colours, etc. As I said I have not read them so far, yet I guess they´re not the best part of his work (as far as I know Kandinsky acknowledges the primordial role of the privileged subject, the strange and unproductive thinker, and the processes, and the condensation as well as logical loosing of the processes inside him, but he seems too eager to give a purely objective, quasi scientifically/rationally grounded structure of meaning to his emanations, he wants to establish objectivity where there is privileged subjectivity, respectively wants to give the a-rational, the meta-rational, a rational structure, which is likely to be inadequate, and, to such an extent, not necessary (respectively he seems to forget that Kant already refuted objective categories for that which is rooted in aesthetics, because it primarily belongs to the realm of the sensual, not to the realm of reason) – yet proneness to dogmatism was infectious those days bygone and only very protean artists like Picasso or Klee could ever do without it). Kandinsky, as an artist, did not display logics or mechanics of what is, essentially, strange and unproductive thinking, but established allegories. And in the case of Kandinsky, they carry high inner truth (and the inner truth is the locus of aesthetic truth). Over time, Kandinsky enriched his visions as he became more geometrical or, in his last period, introduced quasi-representations of small, bacteria-like life forms, but it is true that Kandinsky remained trapped in abstraction, respectively – seemingly – in the inner realm, which was, then, his personal shortcoming (take into consideration, though, that shortcomings and reductions are an ingredient to deepen and solidify vision and ideas). It can be said (and Carl Einstein said it) that the highest point of art is Gestaltbildung, new, innovative creation of objective forms (respectively the forms of the object world) – maybe this is true (yes, it is likely to be true) but such a viewpoint would appear dogmatic, a dinosaur from the past when you have undergone postmodernity – Post-postmodernity shall amalgamate modern dogmatism and stringency with postmodern playfulness, rejection of authoritarian center, etc. New Gestaltbildung is what Paul Klee did.


Paul Klee displayed his high genius (which becomes visible also, for instance, in his language) from early on. Likewise, his paintings remained distinctly childish and playful until his death. There is no parallel concerning this childish playfulness in the history of art, as well as there hardly is any parallel to his protean personality and the overwhelming diversity in his output. Of hardly anyone it can be said that he was constantly creating the world anew the way Klee did. – Carl Einstein puts Klee above Kandinsky, because Kandinsky never managed actual and true Gestaltbildung. Klee, however, managed even less the representation of Gestalt, but reached the (supposedly) highest point of painting/the arts: autonomous, fresh and virgin creation of Gestalt. Klee was a creator of worlds. Klee mixed abstraction and figurative elements, he amalgamated the natural, the cosmic, the mathematic (it is true he did not juxtapose them but created a meta-dialectical synthesis). When asked about the nature of his style, he answered: I am my style. Whereas Kandinsky linked his art to the spiritual and became programmatic about it, Klee was mainly interested in the illustration, representation (and, eventually, the productive mimesis) of natural processes – since that´s what the high genius is: an expressive agent of nature. It was programmatic for the Blue Rider to try to establish a connection to the deep structure of the world and a vision of conciliation of art and science; Franz Marc (who died too early) tried to find purity via immersion into and contemplation of the animal realm, Kandinsky in the abstract expression of the spiritual, Klee´s was a „Zwischenwelt“, a world between immediate perception and conscious representation, a world into which „the children, the primitives, the psychotics“ are able to see. Strange and unproductive thinking. The Zwischenwelt is, however, also a kind of stasis, respectively there is not necessarily a dynamic interaction with the macrocosm and the effable spheres, and in a way, it is a world somehow trapped in itself. Klee however introduced dynamics by the shift of lines, mismatchtings; he introduced depth by configuring people and entities via eccentric lines which again get lost in the infinite or by letting them emerge and submerge inside a dynamic enviroment (aaahhh … the multiple layers of reality <3 ). Genie ist der Fehler im System, he annouced; the productive defect which introduces dynamics into the system.


The heraldic animal of the Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking is the bird which descends into the abyss in front and rises again from the abyss behind, obviously having encircled the dark side/fond of the earth, coming up with new wisdom and vision, to fly into the horizon of the night again, and to rise from it again, forever. This is a nightly vision which occured to me, relating to Finnish ritual drone doom folk project Bird from the Abyss. – Kandinsky gives us an impression of what you may see down there, in the profound sector of the Continuum, the sector of disintegrative integration, the dark fond. Klee gives us an impression of the bird rising from the abyss again, on a forever new day. Kandinsky´s best paintings display hallucinatory depths, which are, however, the deep structure of the network. In Klee´s emanations, frightening depths are actually absent, the relations and correlations of the object world are represented/established, but their solidity is ever loosened, not actually by the means of subversion, but by the means of (tragicomical) humour; the will to the great gesture, to the gigantomaniac is not prominent in Klee (which is something that is actually a missing element in his oeuvre because the great artist has to be gigantomaniac as well). Kandinsky is meditative, Klee practical intelligence of how to overcome shortcomings via ego-less spontaneity and creativity. They´re both messengers from the Continuum.

Kandinsky on the Spiritual Element in Art and the Three Responsibilities of Artists

Am Universum with Sarah Sze

Years ago, in 2001, Finnish metal band Amorphis had an album with the intriguing title „Am Universum“. At that time I did not listen to Amorphis any longer and when I now try to get closer to it I fail because I find that kind of progressive metal into which they have amorphed over time unbearable. I like the title however, and it is true, they have expanded their sound spectrum and elevated their vision, nevertheless I have hitherto been unable to find out exactly about the motivation for that uncommon title. At any rate „am Universum“ is German and it would translate „at the universe“.

I first came across Sarah Sze via Brandon Taylor´s book „Art Today“. Two of her sculptures are featured, Untitled (St. James) (1998) and Second Means of Egress (1998). What comes to mind is that these sculptures/installations/environments seem to relate to a cosmic whole, respectively seem to express something which is infinite and larger than life, but within finite size – maybe we can say that Sarah Sze manages to express, or to give resemblance, to the infinite (or to openness and to anti-closure) with finite means.

sze1It is true that her sculptures transcend categories, and that they are sculptures, installations and environments in equal measure. They are composed of everday objects Sarah Sze buys at 99-cent stores which she then assembles and/or juxtaposes. So you can say you have the whole pseudo-fractal-like geometry of nature in there: when you zoom from the cosmic whole, the sublime, into distinctly smaller scales you have the mundane, the ephemeral, the seemingly insignificant, fabricated, exchangeable but also seemingly innocent, and pieces that are equipped with some distinct, though limited functionality. Indeed, Sarah Sze says she is not interested in objects themselves, but in relations between objects. She asks herself how would the compositional whole grow, alter, transform, and how would it decay, and also how would it look like or need to be rearranged when exposed in (that is to say: interact with) different environments. „For me, meaning is happening in the in-between, in the transistion of things, not the things themselves“, she says.

Sarah Sze´s objects are carefully and skillfully designed. They demand respect both of the vision they express and of the craftswomanship involved. They are quite a counterpoint to nowadays common pieces of art which may consist of a half-inflated rubber raft on a floor, a magnetic tape which displays a „Ha Ha“ in an endless loop and a camera which films the scenery supposedly forever (although it just appeared to me that would actually be a cool piece of art, we could name it („The Illusion of) Permanence“ or so…). And, as mentioned above, their primary strength is that they seem to represent the unrepresentable: the unrepresentable city, the unrepresentable universe. They are finite in size, but allude infinity in scale, they reach out into the depths of the unknown, therefore also cover the unknown. Again, as you have it in all valuable art, behind the world that is directly expressed, another world seems to indicate itself and within that interplay physics is transcended into metaphysics, respectively there is an interplay and an exchange between both the physical and the metaphysical.

sze2„Am Universum“ would translate into „at the universe“. The universe is everywhere, it is equally where we happen to be at the moment and it is forever „out there“. Especially Second Means of Egress gave me the idea of someone having established a tangent between those two „universes“: the total universe which is the all (in a primarily abstract, secondarily concrete sense) and the local universe which equally is the all (in a primarily concrete, secondarily abstract sense) (you can further elaborate this into „where ontology and epistemology meet“… but that is, to be correct, a „message from the future“ of humanity… or so) – and this intersection is where the magic happens and both avatars of the universe seem to merge into a kind of synthesis – at this intersection you are am Universum (with Sarah Sze).

Amorphis released a promising debut in the early 1990s, The Karelian Isthmus. and progressively amalgamated death/doom metal with Finnish folk music; their 1994s Tales from the Thousand Lakes made us very happy those days when we went to school, though I like the follower Elegy even more; it gives a really appropriate impression of elegy and of the northern territories in reality and inside us all. After that they morphed into a cosy progressive metal band, and I do not like such a kind of music. I do not deny sophistication in metal, but, you know, metal has to be the antithesis and uncompromising, or it is not. On that occasion I want to mention that the creativity, the craftsmanship as well as the transcendence involved in and articulated through metal is underrated.

Alice Aycock

aycock_theangelsI do not remember well, respectively in my memory there seems to be someting substituted, I guess it was The Angels Continue Turning the Wheels of the Universe: Part II In Which the Angel in the Red Dress Returns to the Center on a Yellow Cloud above a Group of Swineherds (1978), maybe also A Salutation to the Wonderful Pig of Knowledge (Jelly Fish, Water Spouter, … There´s a Hole in my Bucket, There´s a Hole in my Head, There´s a Hole in my Dream) (1984) or the majestic From the Series Entitled How to Catch and Manufacture Ghosts, „Collected Ghost Stories from the Workhouse“ (1980) which first attracted my attention to Alice Aycock years ago; if I would have been a child then, which I was and in the future will become, it would have given me a concept of some kind of mystery of the universe, an expression of some mystery of the universe; somewhere there are clock-like forms or eccentric cycles (as an expression/symbolisation or measurement device for cyclical/hypercyclical time (on the one hand repetetive, on the other hand coming from the unknown and progressing into infinity/entropy)) as well as the enigmatic, idiosyncratic, semi-arbitrary looking extensions give you a concept of (the ramifications of) space. I have failed to thoroughly describe it. If you´re a guy with metaphysical imaginarium inside you you will probably think of the regions located in space where the elements are or so, the metaphysical principles are expressed in some kind of form – remember Beckett who announced „Above there is light, there are the elements, some kind of light“, etc. when starting his second Text for Nothing – … and indeed there is also a piece by Alice Aycock titled The Machine That Makes the World (1979) – you may imagine that as the eccentric, accessible-inaccessible center of the universe where a strange mechanics within a strange organisation/compositional system is performed (leaving us in wonder about the idea of any mechanics and any organisation or composition per se as well)… I can only give this kind of resemblances of explanation (necessarily, because of the darkness the metaphysical naturally involves), maybe on another occasion or in some years or some centuries I can add something to it, but as I guess not actually revolutionise it, because the core of what I want and what I can say about it I have just expressed, and the final expression is/are the Machine/s it/themself/ves; I guess Alice has had the same qualities on her mind, centuries ago, and still  quod erat demonstrandum

aycock_fromtheseries aycock_themachine

It is legitimate to say Alice Aycock is a true metaphysical artist. She gives you an impression of the ungraspable whole as well as its elements. Her sculptures are concentrates of the ungraspable whole and its elements. She emerged from the 1970s, the decade when the great (competing) narratives of what art is or should be, respectively when modern art in itself became buried or elusive, and opened space for multiple (non-competetive) styles, increasing individualisation and personalisation, reflecting an increasingly complex society within the postmodern condition. Some say: when the road was paved for degeneration – and it is true that some of the hitherto concentrated innovative power of art increasingly wasn´t that visible (or, probably, possible) anymore; but, as far as I can see now, the death of art, or loss of its greatness within „postmodernity“/postmodernism is overstated (and I hope I can soon be elaborate on that). – With her personalised, complex, idiosycratic vision she made a kind of eccentric counterpoint to minimalism and pop art. Her rejection of an authorial center may be accounted as both postmodern and feminist. That some of her sculptures can be walked on/in was in line with an extension of the understanding of how art can be exhibitioned/experienced pioneered in the 1970s from different angles ranging from the inputs by Robert Morris to Gordon Matta-Clark, and extending those understandings further into the ideas/possibilities of art as an environment. Her personal iconography and mythology puts images of whirlpools, hurricanes, turbines, vortexes at a prominent place, as well as highway intersections, war strategies and roller coasters and amusement parks — Project Entitled: „The Beginnings of a Complex…“ (1977) gives, at least to me, the resemblance of an amusement park, as well as wider allusions to architecture, man-made environment; it seems strange as well as all-too-familiar; useful and useless; harmless and frightening or dangerous; fresh, maybe futuristic as well as it gives resemblance to a ruin respectively an object (object world) which signifies its own entropy… you have a subsumption that seems to be made up of, or at least contain or signify, contradictory elements. With this method, Alice Aycock manages to give us an impression of a (unlimited) totality. In fact, Alice Aycock announces that she wants to create something that is „broad enough to display its own past, present and future“ (i.e. doing metaphysics). In fact, Alice Aycock is interested in an interplay of her artistic sculptures and environment, most notably human architecture. In fact, Alice Aycock´s sculptures have been called „nonfunctional architecture“ (by herself) that „sheds a new light on human-made environment“ (by, for instance, the Journal of the American Institute of Architects).

aycock_tree aycock_kaba aycock_twister

From early on, Alice Aycock was interested in covering as much as possible; „I want to play with history. It´s also necessary to play with science“. She loves things that are intertwined and complex. She admits she loves chaos. Alongside this trajectory she became more explicitly interested in giving her art a metaphysical touch; you have diagrams of the cosmos or the world order in  Circling `Round the Ka´Ba: The Glass Bead Game (1985) or in Tree of Life Fantasy: Synopsis of the Book of Questions Concerning the World Order and/or the Order of Worlds (1990-92). One of her principle points of reference is the „tear in the universe“, a vision elaborated in a story of Borges (The Aleph) – a vision „about a half-centimeter in diameter“, hologram-like, where you see „everything that was, everything that is, and everything that will be.“ And it is true that her idiosyncratic sculptures provide such a kind of vision. In her more simple and direct pieces you have beautiful and intriguing twisters, giving us an idea of what sculpture, and the art of sculpturing can ever be. 

H. C. Westermann

H.C. Westermann is not very well known in old Europe; I got introduced to him when I was in Chicago, in 2001, after I have been in New York, when the towers fell. There was an exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art – which I, unfortunately, missed (there was something unspectacular, a most contemporary thing instead). But an immediate look at his uncanny-funny, paradoxical and well-crafted sculptures makes you fall in love with them <3 <3 <3 You immediately sense something profound has happened; earth, landscape, was shaken, mixed up; through his art.westermann7

But what?

On a visceral level you sense that his sculptures are simply cool and lovely; although they may laugh at you; but you see there is no actual sarcasm in them; you end up laughing with them (not a loud, vulgar, visceral laughter – an intellectual laughter which happens inside); to the educated commentator (like Robert Storr) John Ruskin may come to mind when he said that the grotesque ususally comes both in a „terrible“ and a „sportive“ fashion, there are „few so grotesques so utterly playful as to be overcast with no shade of fearfulness, and few so fearful as absolutely to exclude all ideas of jest“. You may associate this with Westermann´s art, although it may take you some time to register that it would be grotesque at all, respectively that their outstanding moment through which it may possibly be catched would be the grotesque. It is rather a complete juxtapostion of material, aesthetics, concepts; on the whole: the ingredients that make a work of art, of theses and antitheses – although you also soon realise that the language of dialectics appears to be rather inappropriate… Westermann´s art rather seems to be centered in individualistic expression and its own subversion, forming, via that gesture, a whole, which both allows possibilities for openness as well as closure.

westermann5Yes, Westermann was an individualist; also some kind of outsider and renegate in the art world. He was, on the one hand, a charming, multifaced, though unpretentious person, but on the other hand a misfit within the art scene which, despite their (assumed) embrace for iconoclasts, requires certain standards of conformism and of being „the right fit“. He disliked the pretentiousness of the epicenter of the American art scene in New York and experienced disdainful snobbishness by New York-based critics in the early days. At any rate, New York with its predominant trends would have rather not allowed him to find his own voice; Westermann moved to Chicago – as a somehow fresh and virgin territory for artists (as well as there was quite a striking a disinterestness of the public in art in those days) – and later to his own farm in Connecticut where he spent the rest of his life, living in an extraordinarily happy marriage with his wife, Jo (which also broadened his vision as an artist concerning the more ethereal aspects of existence).

westermann4Westermann displayed a natural talent for the arts early on. As a young man however he had to fight in WW2 in the navy. The death and destruction he witnessed – in its climax the destruction of the USS Franklin with 800 men dead – had a lasting impression on him. Nevertheless he enrolled for the Korean War, after he felt unable to find a place escpecially in the art scene and after his first marriage with June Laford had gone wrong. At that time the sentiment was that America was still the good guy fighting evil, as in WW2; yet especially the brutality of the Korean War transformed Westermann into a strong anti-militarist. In the immediate sense Westermann´s war experiences resulted in the Death Ship series. In the more general sense it solidified Westermann´s ambiguous humanism.

westermann1What immediately comes to mind when getting exposed to Westermann´s art is its playfulness. And, with reference to Ruskin, both a terrible and a sportive playfulness – but both elements seem to hold each other in check. You may experience to fall into the abyss of the vile aspects of human existence – even existence in a more general sense – as well as you seem to get elevated or levitate to a – probably cosmic – playfulness. That apparent conflict is not directly resolved in Westermann´s works, rather transcended into some kind of meta-stability. Those sculptures/objects somehow strike you with their impenetrability, evoking sentiments of them being autonomous or even sublime as well as humble, shallow and helpless, respectively of being the Great (or Small) Other who materialises in various and unpredictable ways. Maybe Westermann had the same kind of awareness when he often layed bare an „interior“ of his sculptures which is no less enigmatic, for instance in its seemingly arbitrary relation to the exterior or to its apparent arbitrariness in itself … if it is not empty at all or designed to merely to consist of dust which will accumulate over time (as you have it in Westermann´s last work Jack of Diamonds (1981)). In Westermann´s sculptures you have the power and strengh of life, as well as its pitifulness and abjectedness as well as its innocence, harmlessness and its need for protection. His objects/personage gets dehumanised only to appear more human and more identical with itself than before Westermann´s intervention. And when you look at Westermann´s abstract-concrete, uncanny-funny, idealised-degenerated, sportive-terrible, meaningful-meaningless, competent-incompetent, impenetrable-frail, those eccentric sculptures like Brinkmanship (1959), The Evil New War God (1958) or the Angry Young Machine (1959); well, you somehow feel that they actually ARE the definite appearance of the Evil New War God or the Angry Young Machine, and not „eccentric“ representations at all (which may account for the grotesque, since when something eccentric becomes the definite reality what you are likely to have is the grotesque).

westermann3Although Westermann´s themes are, to some degree, recurrent, his works are always fresh and they surprise; he does not repeat himself. There is a Westermann style, but it is a style of endless variation, actually his „style“ is rather a territory, an island, where things emerge, where the emanations take place, and they rarely emerge from/at the same spot. (The ends of a personal style are endless repetition and endless variation, and the major artist will always be fresh and virgin if his style is repetition as well as he will have his distinctive signature in variation; the dangers of repetition are of course that it may become boring and insipid, the dangers of variation are that people or critics won´t follow you any longer or that the energy may become too diffused to make a very distinct impact: and such seems to have been the case with Westermann – the perils of individualism. (The other thing is that while Westermann managed to keep his level all over his career he did not actually produce a signature masterpiece which made him very famous or distinguished (in the eyes of the public; he made an impact in the art scene, but rather as an „artist´s artist“))). Upon reflection, Westermann´s oeuvre is a territory (yes, I think we can put it that way).

Westermann was a very careful, scrupulous craftsman who worked with many materials – and you are under the impression that he managed to establish not only a different perspective on the object of his art, for instance an Uncommitted Little Chicago Child (1957), but also on the material (wood) itself. Likewise Westermann displays his objects not in an actual sense but in a conceptual sense, i.e. his personage, his death ships, his war gods etc. refer to concepts, not to their actual apperance but he does so in a way seemingly indebted to comics. While being conceptual, Westermann´s sculptures are full of idiosyncracies and particularities, establishing an interplay between the abstract and the concrete, the idea and its realisation, leaving us wondering what is actually more alive, more authentic, the „real“ living thing, or coming in with a higher degree of reality: the concept, the idea of something, or the concrete, individual appearance (in a way, the realism or/vs nominalism thing)? Respectively is the common human experience prey to conformism (i.e. not to a „high“ idea, but to a low one, casting light on the concept of idea itself not necessarily as an elevator but as a grand leveller)? Westermann´s Memorial to the idea of Man If He Was an Idea (1958) is, in that fashion, not only one his most well-known pieces, it is also an underlying texture of his oeuvre in a general sense.


Westermann´s sculptures are apparently childish. The art genius is childish; respectively is a hybrid between a child and being as old as time itself. Again, the sportive and the terrible grotesque (and the grotesque maybe, in general, as an extension or abstraction of a fierce individuality?). Throughout his life, Westermann remained an outsider to schools and dogmas. He said in doing his art he wanted to do things that, in the first place, please himself. Because of this, his art is vivid and full of life. Because of this, the impact of his art may not be strong and concentrated but diffuse and surrounding. Because of this, it cannot be fully deciphered as it is based on immediate ideas which are translated and elaborated within an architecture, a personal (though objectified) system of reference to make „sense“ out of them, where, howver, the archaic nature of the idea – and of anything else – remains present. It remains as idiosyncracy. What is the meaning of his art, of his sculptures? „It puzzles me too“, Westermann said. Puzzles and enigmas – that still seem to remain after all is acutally deciphered, said and done or maybe overinterpreted about them – are good. They keep the fires and flames alive. And they do not cease to bother and concern us. H. C. Westermann has left a body of work which allows us to experience the multiple dimensions of existence and the multiple dimensions of art.



Edward Hopper

American Regionalism and the Ashcan School were (pseudo-) movements in the first decades of the 20th century where (among other concerns) American painters tried to establish a territory against European predominance in modern art and tried to find their own voice and to develop their own style. However (as the term „regionalism“ indicates, and also due to the nationalism and conservatism of some of its proponents), they did, on the whole, not transgress and transcend the particular and the peculiar, the „local colour“ as Vincent would have said, into something more universal.

Edward Hopper, who originally was embedded in those traditions respectively who was confronted with them, he did. – The possibility of great art arises when someone embraces the local, the contigent, and penetrates it to such a degree as that he finds the universal and the eternal in it. The idiosyncratic is an emanation of the abstract, of totality, respectively is the modus in which the abstract, totality, seems to actualise itself, as a shade of God; at least that´s how great art presents it to us, the incompetent. In that fashion Hopper was not only a „painter of modern America“ but of universal truths.

hopper7Art, painting in particular, is about the evocation of things (respectively their inner essence). In the paintings of Hopper what immediately seems to be evoked is the facade of objects; of unspectacular Houses by the Railroad, whose facades seem impenetrable; an unmysterious, unspectacular exterior as an inside-out of an interior supposedly of equal quality; if these houses in the middle of nowhere are inhabited at all. They´re presented as outposts of civilisation, maybe, as evidence that man has penetrated into nature by the means of culture, construction, technology, standardised mass production and taste, yet not into a nature that is presented to us as particularly violent, dangerous or overwhelming (i.e. with which man had to struggle which would involve drama), though also not actually as peaceful and tranquil. In Hopper´s paintings they´re presented as inexpressive objects in a vacuous nature. And that is where the actual artistic quality is rooted. It´s the inexpressiveness and the vacuousness which establishes a dialogue, telepathy, with the recipient. True art does not confront us with the meaning of something within a particular setting, but with meaning per se. It distills objects in a way that they become signifiers of meaning per se. And, as such, can circulate as a currency of meaning within all human context.

As Markus Gabriel notes, the meaning of art is that it confronts us with meaning per se. Art presents us objects of everyday life in a light in which they suddenly seem questionable, respectively in which their meaning isn´t entirely clear anymore. It displaces and disturbs objects in a way that both the objects as well as the entire world in which they are situated become both unfamiliar and hyper-familiar. Within such a loosening as well as definite identification of an object with itself, meaning itself, meaning per se, is revealed, as a both clear-cut and nebulous center which both can be located and always seems to be, evasively, on the move, which can definitely be looked right in the eye just to (make you) twinkle in the next moment, opening another perspective – in sum: a multitude of perspectives, a (pseudo-fractal) geometry of perspectives, etc. The greater the art, the higher and more comprehensive is the evocation of meaning.

hopper8In their unspectacularity Hopper´s objects are highly charged with meaning and they are highly evocative. AAAAAAHH… what an evocation of facade! AAAAAAHH… what uneventfulness! AAAAAHH… what flatness! You have ambiguity in unambiguity; metaphysics in flatness; eventfulness in uneventfulness; familiarity in unfamiliarity; alienation in intimacy. A world, an object world (populated by subjects), which is so much identified with itself that it becomes truly meditative. It is not spectacular, but it is authentic. Hopper´s paintings bring out the element and cast light upon it. They function as a regognition of the single element, the uneventful, the imponderous. In great art you have a singling out of elements which then are charged with meaning. In great art the concretisation of the element at the same time means extraordinary abstraction of meaning from a regional context into the universal context.

hopper3However it is not a world locked in itself, and although Hopper was somehow conservative he was not reactionary und staunchly unprogressive. It is not a small world, a petty world, a regionalist, xenophobic world that is presented; you rather have the openness of the prairie and of the city – although you have, of course, an ambigous look upon openness as well. Hopper´s paintings usually are cut-outs and out-takes, although, in some way, they are not actually segments. The roads and railroads usually seem to come from nowhere in particular and seem to go to nowhere in particular (House by the Railroad (1925), Road and Houses, South Truro (1930-33), The Camel´s Hump (1931), New York, New Haven and Hartford (1931), etc.). In Solitude (1944) the destination is an uninviteful one. In Road in Maine (1934), however, you have a curved road, leading to somewhere you cannot look at (which I find therefore terribly interesting). In Gas (1940) you have a solitary gas station explicitely as an outpost of civilisation along a street which leads into a seemingly consuming wilderness – it can be noted that in those paintings Hopper presents seemingly frail human architecture which obviously is bound to eventually get digested by nature the same way he seems to present is as an upright, in a humble way even heroic human effort to create his own realm and shelter within nature – and it seems the conflict between meanings is resolved that both visions are true, in addition to that: that there both seems to be a communion between man and his artifacts and nature as well as that there is incommensurability between them. What he actually seems to present is the synthesis of a kind of (meditative) indifference between them and the possibility for both communion or incommensurability, depending on the subject and depending on circumstances. There is, at least, a juxtaposition between nature and culture as well as there is a sense for amalgamation of both realms. (And concerning Gas, it was the metaphysicist De Chirico who spoke of the suggestiveness of an obscure background the picture seems to get drained into.)

hopper6Such a kind of outtakes which – paradoxically – do not actually appear to be segments but expressions of a, probably obscure, continuum Hopper not only sets within geography and space but also within time. Hopper suggests that he is displaying moments in time both in animated scenery and in unanimated, uninhabited scenery (Five A.M. (1937), Seven A.M. (1948), Early Sunday Morning (1930), or in the Cape Cod series, although Hopper may admit that their primary purpose is the study of light at a specific daytime). In the animated scenes Hopper seems nothing to depict but a moment. He is, on the surface, not at all a narrator. Yet those moments seem to reveal the narration of a whole life, not only in the physical dimension but also in the metaphysical dimension. – It has been remarked that Hopper is a painter who captures lonelieness, melancholia and alienation – and indeed, one of his significant epiphanies he had as a young painter who has spent some time in Paris and became aware of the stark contrast between the French joie de vivre and the vibrating intensity of Paris and the compartmentalised, secluded social life which was standard in America. But what Hopper actually seems to reveal is not a culturally relative isolation and melancholia – it is the shallowness of the ordinary human experience, an uneventful narrative, a drama of mundane scenes.

hopper1You are inclined to get to know what´s on those people´s minds or what they are looking at, reflecting upon. What are those women in Eleven A.M. (1926), Morning Sun (1952) or Room in Brooklyn (1932) gazing at as they look out of the window – or gazing into themselves as their view seems to be unfocused? What does the piece of paper the scene in Office at Night (1940) obviously is revolving around contain? What film are people watching in New York Movie (1939), with the exception of the female usher who seems to be mulling over her own thoughts (apparently it is a romantic, but trivial Hollywood movie)? What do those women read in their magazines in Hotel Lobby (1943) or Compartment C, Car 293 (1938)? Apparently there is no actual secret, and those people are but an reflection of their unspectacular circumstances, a mirror image – „emptiness reflected in emptiness“ (as one scholar, Wieland Schmied, puts it). More generally, in Hopper´s paintings – from his perspective of the „silent witness“ – you get a seemingly painfully precise and voyeuristic view on the most intimate realm of people – but what is revealed is that there actually seems to be nothing in particular, no secret, or what you would like to expect.

hopper2Likewise Hopper often depicts people who are on the move, who are waiting in a hotel lobby, riding a train, who are on vacation or who are in a transitory situation: in a restaurant, in a cafeteria, etc. The possibility of connection between strangers might arise, for instance in Sunlight at a Cafeteria (1958) or in People in the Sun (1960) but it is indicated they will not unfold. A scenario of a permanent transition which is a mirror image of a permanent stasis (in a more general sense, Hopper depicts moments that on the one hand are opened up into the unconcrete, the unspecific, the potential, the durable, the continuum; on the other hand they are frozen and static). Like everything in Hopper´s paintings the mimics and gestures of people are reduced but on the other hand more clear-cut and precise, evoking the essence and the core of the object/subject portrayed, yet again diffuse and ambiguous. Hopper´s people apparently do not display joy, it may be indicated that they express melancholy and inner tension but also that is resolved in some kind of quiet desperation, then some kind of stoicism, finally into a facade which does not actually reveal nor hide a lot – that´s the physiognomy of Hopper´s personage. Kind of unsettled are also the women/girls who look up at the sun or into a greater outside world (Summertime (1943), High Noon (1949) or Second Story Sunlight (1960)) where possibilities of another life seem to be indicated – though as a potential that is not likely to become actualised. (The light, in general, remains external in Hopper´s world. It is not a world of light but a rather dismal world where a cold light from above simply lays bare existential shortcomings, be it of the object world or of the subject world. Only the artist, the metaphysicist is light itself: As Hopper´s wife, Jo, surmised, the lighthouses Hopper often depicts in his paintings may be an alter ego; when asked about one of his last paintings, Sun in an Empty Room (1963), should express, Hopper at least replied: „Myself“.)

hopper4Hopper´s people are usually reduced to their social roles, or their genders, indicating they are, on the whole, identical with themselves, with not very much room for maneuvre. Children, who symbolise growth and potential, as well as innocence and complete absorption as well as realisation in themselves and in the moment they are situated, are absent. As Füssli/Fuseli remarks, children are lovely and charming to us because in their gestures the fullness and richness of the moment is revealed. In Hopper´s adults you seem to have the same thing – but it appears as a moment which is drained of its own substance, and of jouissance. And nevertheless: You never know what kind of drama may actually depicted and be the true substance of these mundane scenes. If the realities depicted in Hopper´s paintings do not strike you as truly meaningful to the spectator – respectively to the „silent witness“ – who knows what meaning and importance they carry for those who are situated in them? To reiterate: Great art establishes a constant dialogue with the spectator concerning what is the meaning the artwork carries, what does it try to tell, and it is, in those respects, always fluctuating. That is how those pieces of art are alive and are full of life. Yet another aspect of great art is that it immerses you. Not only intellectually or concerning pure curiosity, but also emotionally and ethically. You feel with those people and even with those unanimated scenes in Hopper´s paintings. They demand dignity and respect. They attract empathy. In the uneventfulness of the scenes a lot might go on. There´s a lot of potential, you see. In those moments, those segments, those outtakes you equally see the continuum. In those definite scenes you sense the possibility of openness. In those depictions of everyday lives, objects and people you have a singling out, an emphasis of the specific element, of the concrete, an appreciation for it. That makes the meditative, transcendent quality of Hopper´s paintings. That is how communion is established. 

hopper5Hopper´s paintings are epiphanies of everyday life. While the Hyper-Genius presents a world that constantly explodes, into negatively curved space; while the Hyper-Genius constantly dislocates objects from their meanings and therefore opens room for maneuver, the Genius strictly identifies objects and meanings, to establish lucid clarity and (ambiguous) harmony. In doing so, he reveals the complexities and the ambiguities of the world as well. The gestures and the approaches differ, the significance is the same. In Hopper´s view upon the world there is only a narrow space between an entity and its possibilities. But there is vibration and fluorescence all alike. Luminosity. That is to say the artist casts light on the world and we see a lotta more. That will feel good.

Duncan Wylie, Contemporary Metaphysical Painter

With reference to Schopenhauer Nietzsche calls art „the highest task and the true metaphysical activity of this life“. – Metaphysics aims at discovering the true, comprehensive design of reality. The true, comprehensive design of reality is not given to us, only to a hypothetical omniscient being (and I doubt whether such a being can ever exist). The metaphysicist or ultimate truth-seeker – the true scientist, the true philosopher, the true artist, and the true saint ( = the ethical genius) – aims at breaking open another window, or to remove another brick in the wall, in order to establish a potent view, a fresh perspective on the fabric of reality and its (so-called) mysteries. The scientist, the philosopher, the artist, the saint, are avatars of the truth-seeker, and the higher the personal truth of the metaphysicist the more she will encircle all those aspects, respectively embrace them, establish familiarity with them; in her endeavours to establish a new, potent perspective upon reality, therein trying to imitate omnipotence, and omniscience.

duncanwyliebild6Nevertheless the arts do not seem to be in a very good shape today. True metaphysical effort does not seem to actually be around; no omnipotence, no omniscience. We might attribute this to „the postmodern condition“, (playful) rejection of universalism, respectively the insight that the global perspective cannot effectively catch or pay tribute to the many perspectives that have legitimately been established or found their own voice in postmodern, post-colonial society from the 1970s onwards, in addition to the differentiation of art and the medias with which the expression of art became an increasing possibility, going hand in hand however with the notion that the display of true innovative power has become less and less possible in an age where, concerning modern art, all seems to already been said and done, only footnotes could be added or the perspectives upon modernity could be changed/challenged, multiplied or subverted – yet not revolutionized…

Indeed, the true metapysicist, who – in order to put it simple and in convenient terms – aims at revolution and establishing a revolutionary perspective upon the totality of reality, at first experiences herself to live in an ungrateful epoch, a non-epochal age nowadays. The non-epochal age does not seem to reveal comprehensive or ultimate truth, neither about itself nor about history in general. The grasp on „totality“, including the possibilities of establishing such a grasp, seems to be gone. Hence the depression of the true metapysicist in the postmodern age.

duncanwyliebild7However, after a while the true metaphysicist will realise that she will find truth and the possibilities of establishing views upon totality in every thing, notably in local aspects, in the unglamorous, in non-places. Apart from that, and foremost, metaphysical activity means exposing the essence of a thing, to reveal something about its inner core. The inner core might well be ambiguous, reveals itself to be embedded in a semi-darkness respectively extends into a seam which vanishes into, or amalgamates with, the „infinite“, or with the „primal ground“ – signifying the flexibility of meaning, of the multiple aspects of reality, and of any real thing. The signature of the truly metaphysical artwork is that you immediately realise someone has revealed, and is permanently revealing, the inner essence of a thing. In the case of some metaphysicists that may strike as that something, respectively the whole structure, seems to permanently emerge, to step out of itself. It fluctuates, it may even explode, it seems to process itself, it seems to live. The essence of something seemingly gets chased through its form, permanently, it seems to run over. It seems in the perception of the metaphysicist the inside of a thing is permanently turned out, and to permanently emerge out of this constellation, due to its own inner intensity.


Things of that order, of that kind, of that magnitude usually aren´t around in today´s art world. Therefore I was delighted to get acquainted to Duncan Wylie a while ago when he got featured in the Drome art magazine. When you look at his paintings it immediately arises that there is someone who actually has enhanced and refined painting, and the possibilities of painting – and that he obviously has established a deep perspective upon reality, respectively a perspective upon the deep structure of reality, from which new possibilities of painting – the deep structure of painting – arise.

(What is the deep structure of reality? All aspects of that what is given, of what is actualised as well as the projections of the virtual. What is the deep structure of art, of writing, of science, philosophy, of any human effort to grasp reality? The Experimentierfeld, the field of experimentation of its own possibilities. That is the deep structure of painting.)

duncanwyliebild5What you seem to look at and gaze into when you get exposed to Duncan Wylie´s paintings is – the multiverse, the multi-layeredness of reality. They give impression of the density of the world, of the richness of the world. In the works of the art genius a typical signature is that behind the „given“ world, as presented via the object that is portrayed, a second, a hidden and a subtle world seems to emerge, where enigmatic though profound meanings seem to be located, including the possibility that they are only illusory, deceptive, unimportant, a wrong path, or a kind of Bedeutungsrest, leftovers of meaning in a twilight zone… When both of these worlds are given, presented, illustrated, you have, so to say, the totality of reality. You have an indication of the thing and the thing in itself. You have metaphysics. That is how it has always been in great art, in great painting. In an age like ours, via the seemingly infinite layers that you have in the works of Duncan Wylie you have the metaphysical painting of our post-postmodern age.

duncanwyliebild3Duncan Wylie, a nomad and a white deviant from Zimbabwe who has been living in a number of countries, has his eccentricity somehow rooted in his origins and in his biography. His early paintings through which he has developed his peculiar style are revolving around the traumatic experience of the danger of having his house destroyed, his home, his shelter, by the government. His early works indicate violence and destruction and especially in the mechanical, semi-anonymous way the acts of destruction are undertaken, they seem to expose the direness of reality, respectively that at the core of reality there is no shelter, no possibility of a refuge, that the core of reality is not meaningful architecture but a meaningless ruin, exposed in a scenery where there is no actual communion, no participation, no commiseration. But what also is indicated seems to be that violence, destruction and the ruins do not have the final say. The scenery isn´t empty. The density of reality announces itself.  – Duncan Wylie, at that time, was interested in capturing the moment, via the expression of impact. His paintings seem to indicate that while the impact within the moment originates from the past, the future is already/virtually there as well. The past is closure, the future is openness. The moment is transition as well as totality. In order to understand the world you have to understand the past as well as the future as well as the moment. Embrace the moment and you embrace the universe. In Duncan Wylie´s paintings you see the the plethora of the moment. (And maybe, Duncan Wylie indicates, what you may sense in this approach to painting is that you must destroy your old identity and way of making an image/painting (which was the symbol of the house), while making a new one at the same time. Again, you have a kind of density of the moment, as containing and enabling transition.)

Duncan Wylie says: „My paintings are composed of many opposing forces, and must be understood from a very paradoxical viewpoint. The inherent contradictive nature, on all levels: real/abstract, local/global, individual/universal, emptiness/fullness, city/ nature, instantaneous/perpetual, order/chaos, mental/physical, create for me a fertile ground to explore the possibilities of paint. Thus I can say that these are not ruins or disasters, but constructions.“ And: „There’s always an interplay of contrast between the real and the abstract, and this involves overlaying as much as it does dovetailing.“ And yes, you can say you both seem to have the playfulness and the seriousness of the world, the ephemeral and the sublime in his paintings – indicating that both are different avatars of the same quality. Is it actually the Tao, respectively the immediate emanations of the Tao, respectively the fluctuating interchange of the material world and the Tao, that is presented to us in his paintings? In my humble opinion I am inclined to say yes. In this respect, Duncan Wylie´s world, both seemingly exploding as well as imploding, stabilises itself into and onto itself, via its own inherent competence.

duncanwyliebild2Duncan Wylie´s paintings reveal the metaphysical design of objective reality, the glamour/clamour of being. The purpose of art is to reveal the metaphysical design of reality. – One can, however, say, that the highest point of art is when not the true metaphysical design of objective reality is displayed, but of subjective reality, i.e. the embeddedness of man in objective reality. Duncan Wylie´s paintings display, in their majority, an inanimated scenery (inanimated by man, though the scenery is full of vibrant life itself). If anything, humans are kind of semi-covered by and within the multiple layers of objective reality, they do not seem to be able to transgress material reality, rather they seem to be spilled by and submerged to it. Yet more recently as a prominent figure in Duncan Wylie´s paintings emerges a tightrope walker. The tightrope walker cautiously, yet with increasing competence, seems to walk the thin line between cosmos and chaos. The thin line between cosmos and chaos is where true art happens, and all constructive human endeavour. It is where the actual human condition is situated, and the creative process itself.

duncanwyliebild1What will become of the cautious tightrope walker? Duncan Wylie´s art is an art of that kind that will come up with new solutions/revelations to those questions situated at the core of the human question also in the future (I guess). And maybe we can say that the ethics that derives from his art is the call for a flexible adaption to circumstances. And somehow within the physical and the metaphysical insecurity, the rootlessness, the Unbehaustheit of man the possibility of concealment seems to indicate itself and be guaranteed via the density and playful stability of the world, seen through the mind of Duncan Wylie. That may account for the religious aspects of Duncan Wylie´s art.

Duncan Wylie´s website