Antoni Tàpies and Sarpanitum

Antoni Tàpies produces kind of primal landscapes, sunken continents, relicts or only ground plans for ancient temples or fortresses, seeming relicts of a past long gone, traces of the most atavistic humanity, presence both of the earth and its inhabitants. It is submerged, it has lost its meaning and functionality, it has become levelled and incomprehensible but is still there and is indestructible and will there be long after our demise. Sunken into the depth and weathered those architectures probably did not make much sense in the first place but still they confront us with the enigmas of the world and of humanity that tries to overcome them and gain mastery. You want to come close to those paintings, to better understand them. They´re immersive. In their silence they seem talkative and carriers of knowledge – as they carry ancient dignity. You´re attracted to them. They´re pacifying and stirring.

Like Wols, Antoni Tàpies was a master of Art Informel, in contrast to Wols his expression was less explosive and volcanic, it was meditative and concerned about giving order. He liked to use materials like clay, sand, etc. and someone said that Tàpies´ artworks are more „tellurian“ than they are metaphysical. Yet of course the tellurian with its mystery and its depth and ancientness and reaching into the most shapeless and faceless future as well is the most metaphysical of all: That is what Zarathustra meant when he said: Die Welt ist tief/Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht (i.e. the world cannot be fully discovered by even the most advanced mind but always carries surprises). And Antoni Tàpies scratches on the strata of the earth, or throws them up. „I was obsessed with materiality … the pastiness of phenomena which I interpreted using thick material, a mixture of oil paint and whiting, like a kind of inner raw material that reveals the „noumenal“ reality which I did not see as an ideal or supernatural world apart but rather as the single total and genuine reality of which everything is composed“, says Tàpies (so again you have it that art, and creative sentiment, supersedes the epistemological „thing“ vs the „thing in itself“ puzzle and replaces it by a meta-noumenon, as it reveals the existential ontology of a thing, i.e. the embeddedness of a thing in all possible context). These artworks are haptically suggestive, and acoustically. You may want to touch them or stroke them with you hand, to get a sense of it, or hold your ear to them, to listen to the silent sound of the earth. Someone said, the earth is constantly making a sound. That sound will be all in your mind.

It is something you cannot directly communicate with, it is ancestral. It is mysterious, enigmatic, evocative. It gives you a sense of your own vanity and your own importance. Probably we´re alone, or very intelligent species are really very, very rare in the universe due to the right biological combinatory play to produce complex life being very unlikely (hence the Fermi paradox i.e. that, if the universe was so crowded with intelligent life, why hasn´t there been an obvious contact between us and them so far?). And that´s not even the end of the glorious story: In the future, as we advance, we might even colonise the mindless universe, or at least the milky way! That will be the heritage of mankind, over the long run. It is actually a very important heritage. We should not forget that.

A very sophisticated, yet underrated form of art is extreme metal, and it is good that extreme metal gained some new impetus in recent years. While more initial bands like Morbid Angel, Meshuggah or Brutal Truth sounded as if they would come from another planet, newer bands like Abyssal, Mitochondrion or Portal sound as if the came from the very depths of outer space itself (from close to the region where Azathoth dwells). Sarpanitum, a band hitherto unkown to me, are also of this kind, and what is peculiar about them is that they combine some „Mesopotamian“ elements with their chaos and forlornness in space as you have it with bands like Melechesh or Nile. (Although the album Blessed Be My Brothers has a medieval setting) you feel as if you´re in an ancient temple or some kind of stucture, long abandoned, of an atavistic high culture, so ancestral that you could not even name it. So, as well as in outer space, you are forlorn in an unreal situation/setting which is however tangible as well as it refers to very ancient humanity, to something that once made sense although that sense is faded but could be (partially) reconstructed. You have sameness in otherness, and vice versa, and that somehow feels good and chilling (at least for me, for my boring fellow humans probably not). You´re inside the continuum of history and humanity as well as you´re in the vast, but also local universe. It gives a sense of place and belonging, but not an immediate one, as it also gives you a sense of seperatedness and unrealness. Those sacred ancient halls, erected by Sarpanitum! They´re sublime, but it is a kind of undefined sublimity or infra-sublimity or transcendent sublimity, as it is something to which you have profoundly lost connection. I mean, if you´re able to get immersed into things you can somehow reconstruct it, as allegedly primitive extreme metal musicians can. Be taught: (extreme) metal mainly is surrealistic exaggeration, it is abstract and it is erudite. The lyrics (about satan, etc.) are more attached to reality than the phony love songs you can hear on the radio. With Blessed Be My Brothers Sarpanitum probably had the death metal album of the year 2015. And I think I´m going to write the long promised Metaphysical Note about Extreme Metal soon. It is good that I have already noticed some things about it, because to some degree I forgot what I wanted to say in that note hell yeah.

„When listening to the likes of “I Defy Therefore I Am” or “Thy Sermon Lies Forever Tarnished” the band’s blend of clinically chaotic but elegant almost cosmic riffage, and the historical imagery and themes makes me picture some sort of giant celestial knights clad in steam punk crusader garb usurping Sumerian thrones in far away galaxies. It’s not catchy or immediate, but presents an epic, swirling, nova of brutality and glistening beauty.“

Review of Blessed Be My Brothers by a guy named Lustmord56 at metal-archives.com

Homage to Rose Piper

It repells me that hardly anything can be found (neither in the library nor on the internet) about Rose Piper (1917-2005)! In the late 1940s she did some paintings (oscillating between abstraction and figuration) that recently had considerable impact on me. They´re about the situation of black Americans. About people who live in the social abyss, but long for a better life in the land of opportunity. It is obvious how they are trapped and their chances to ascent are dim – although there is some indication of hope. They´re painted semi-abstract, but they are – as you have it in good art – „more human than human“. In Grievin´ Hearted (1948) the grief of an (anonymous, faceless) individual as well as of a collective is expressed in the most powerful way possible. – Who has ever done a thing like that in the history of art? (Notably) Grievin´ Hearted is a very great painting and should be approached with the same awe as the Sistine Madonna or stuff Goya did (it at least was voted the best figurative painting by the seventh Atlanta University Annual Art Exhibit jury in 1948). If you like abstractions and generalisations you may even go as far as to think of a suffering humanity in toto that you have in Grievin´ Hearted – but no! Though of course such a generalisation is not without justification, Grievin´ Hearted is distinctly about the suffering of „negroes“, and the genius of Rose Piper is how she makes that clear. „Nobody suffers like the poor“, says Bukowski in Barfly. Suffering cannot so easily be generalised and thought to be a common good. Empty Bed Blues (1946) was a statement about black female sexuality – also an idol of Rose Piper, blues singer Bessie Smith, was quite offensive and confrontational against social norms as it came to being assertive about female sexuality – Piper´s The Death of Bessie Smith (1947) is probably her best known artwork. – When Rose Piper did those paintings her success was quite immediate and she began to feel that she „could make it“ – becoming a premier league artist, like Pollock. „I had the greatest time. The world was at my feet.“

Rose Piper was born in New York on Oct. 7, 1917 and grew up in the Bronx in an educated middle class family. When as a young lady she wanted to become a painter she was also heavily inspired by blues music and the situation of black Americans in the South and in rural America (she had not been familiar with up to then). She received two Rosenfeld stipendiums in the later 1940s with which she made trips to the South, originally she was a highly figurative painter who soon turned a bit more into abstraction, obviously to make her display of the human situation more universal without losing individuality. Her first exhibitions had been a success and she could earn a living with her art by then. Unfortunately, due to bad luck and family circumstances (she had to care for ailing family members) she had to give up art and instead became a (successful, but anonymous) industrial designer. When she retired, in 1979, she was Senior Vice President of her company. She then turned back to art, painting in a quite different style from that of the 1940s however. She died on May 11, 2005 in a Connecticut nursing home of a stroke.

Rose Piper was the aunt of performance/conceptual artist and philosopher Adrian Piper. I came across Rose Piper via Ann Eden Gibson´s valuable book Abstract Expressionism. Other Politics, which tries to shed light on artists of that era excluded or forgotten because of their race, gender, or sexuality (the Abstract Expressionists were actually quite macho-like and unemancipated, you see).

11 Female Abstract Expressionists You Should Know, from Joan Mitchell to Alma Thomas

Basquiat

In a crowded and overpopulated millenial art market Jean-Michel Basquiat was the rare occurence of a true genius. And his genius was for immediacy. He immediately did things right and did not need to have a program or ideology or philosophy so that, like in the case of Modigliani, there wouldn´t actually be much to add to and analyse about his artwork. – We can, however, say that Jean-Michel gave an impression about how a painting could look like at the turn of the millenium and that he made a solid statement that, with the right attitude, after the supposed death of painting (by exhaustion) authentic painting is still a possibility. – In the works of Basquiat you have the credible erection of figure! You have the masterful use of colour! You have spatiality and the location of the figure in the world (a somehow flat and immediate, but also hypertextual space that is both segmented and has open/undefined ends)! You have individual physiognomy (with the personnel being both individuals, types, caricatures and – what is essential to art – „more human than human“)! Although it is suggested that Basquiat´s painting style is „raw“ (and associates, e.g., to Dubuffet) it is actually immediate and the figures usually are complex and sophisticated. Also Basquiat has been labelled a Neo-Expressionist (like other artists of that time), but with expressionism you would, somehow, associate a content that is dynamic and that emerges out of itself, still has hidden meaning, but in Basquiat´s paintings nothing seems to be hidden. Everything is there and is fully illuminated and in bloom. Masterful – no, genius! – how the seeming immediacy (and „rawness“) he puts something on the canvas with and suddenly nothing else needs to be added (and with his immediately drawn double portrait of Warhol and himself, with which he tried to approach Andy, he immediately stunned Warhol). You have the highly associative intelligence of the genius as Basquiat never hesitates to put all kinds of stuff that crosses his mind into his paintings making up for the rich and saturated and (ironically) suggestive texture a great painting is about. Basquiat´s paintings even allude a bit of parody on painting – and in the respect that it´s definitely not but may seem to carry it, it adds another aspect and to the completeness and multidimensionality.

Complexity and immediacy – on the one hand a sharp contour and great definedness, on the other hand an elusiveness and enigmatic openness – was what Jean-Michel Basquiat possessed and what helped him make him a star. It was also this mix of coming up expectedly, but in an unexpected way. A black guy who was socialised with Afroamerican as well as white (counter)culture. Who hung around in East Village at the turn of the 1980s. Who turned graffiti into „something (artistically) serious“. A street artist who made it clear that his desire was to become a glamorous star (and, as such, was dragged into a world with which he actually could not identify either). A wanderer between worlds, both integrated in all of them and isolated from/in all of them. An early demise (at the wicked age of 27) due to heroin. This spring a work by Jean-Michel sold at a record price of 110,5 million dollars at Sotheby´s (to a Japanese online retail magnate, Yusaku Maezawa). Already when he was alive Basquiat would do senseless things like renting an entire floor in a hotel because he made so much money – on one occasion, and putting bundles of money into the pockets of the homeless on another. You had the mysteriousness and the heavenly impertinence of the genius. They called him the Radiant Child.

I took minor notice of Jean-Michel all over the years of couse, via art books like Fineberg´s Art Since 1940, etc. There are usually some paintings shown by major/remarkable artists and those presented by Basquiat actually didn´t really have an impression on me. Yet a while ago I bought a whole book about Basquiat, and that was when it did „take“, and so I wanted to write a note about him because I was shaken by his importance. When I looked at his stuff again now, I have to admit that I wasn´t that struck anymore, but that may change again and at any rate I found it necessary to sing this hymnos and paint this tableau. In the chapter about the East Village art scene in Art Since 1940 there follows a chapter about David Wojnarowicz. I have not come close to Wojnarowicz so far (so that maybe there may happen the same epiphany I had with Basquiat). Before he became an artist he worked as a male prostitute (and died of AIDS at age 38). His memoirs have the intriguing title Memories That Smell Like Gasoline. But I could not get them so far.

Remembering Lucrezia Buti, Marie Fel, and Company

Years ago, when I saw Quentin de la Tour`s portrait of Marie Fel (an opera singer of the 18th century – born Oct. 24, 1713, transformed Feb. 2, 1794) it moved me. A beautiful, lively, a bit secretive and mysterious face, a suggestive and eloquent physiognomy, staring at you, it has a high degree of presence and immediacy – but is long dead! Does this make me melancholic? Yes! The contours are soft, it seems like an emanation from an obscure, nebulous, eternal, undifferentiated background; well: a momentous epiphany of (distinguished) man out of the silence of eternity, into which it must pass again after some instants in time – or maybe still is there, behind the veil. Ahh, the human condition! Does this make me melancholic? Yes! Thoughful, to say the least. So it goes. Marie Fel´s heart will go on somewhere in mine and I have her on my mind.

As I wanted to write the note about Childishness in Art I borrowed a book from the library (Kinder in der Kunst) (unfortunately I did not find much else about that valuable subject). In that book I also saw Filippo Lippi´s Madonna with Child and Two Angels (1465), which moved me as well. The Madonna is supposed to have been a nun named Lucrezia Buti, who had been turned into a monastery together with her sister Spinetta by her brother Antonio. She fell in love with Filippo and fled from the monastery, causing a scandal, later giving birth to two children, Fillipino and Alessandra. Because of the couple´s courage and the sincerity of their love they later found pardon by clerical authorities. In the heavy book about Filippo´s paintings there wasn´t much information about Lucrezia, unfortunately. Maybe I can get a better book about her and the story of her life. That would interest me. At any rate I like Lucrezia´s idiosyncratic beauty. Because of this also she seems immediately present.

In Kinder in der Kunst there is also the fresco Leucothea and Dionysos, which was painted in the year 20 A.D. in a villa in Rome. What a gracious lady! And so you may ask yourself: How did the ancient Romans look like? How did Messalina look like? Were they graceful and, occasionally, vulgar as well, like people in our times? A while ago I read Quo vadis? by Sienkiewicz. The depiction of the massacres of Nero against the Christians are colourful, although I cannot actually tell how exactly. It is a horrible book as concerns the (exaggerated) portrayal of Nero´s holocaust-like atrocities, but the depiction of the Christian´s strong and transcendent faith and of their nice (actually, a bit faded) personalities had an impression on me. A main character of Quo vadis? is Petronius Arbiter, author of the Satyricon, the product of a very free and independent mind – Nietzsche loved it, I do it as well. Someone like the Arbiter occurs very rarely among humans. And hence it is alleged in Quo vadis? that Petronius was the only person in the culturally most high standing Rome who actually understood what poetry is about (whereas the others all took it as an extension of their ego or an instrument to flatter the emperor or so). When Petronius was sentenced to death by suicide by Nero he would say that the loss of life is not actually something to be sorry about: as things in this world are beautiful, but men are, in their majority, so wicked that an escape from them into the void is not regrettable. Long ago I was very impressed by Robert Graves´ I, Claudius, a historical novel that brings ancient Rome triumphantly to life. Graves was massively intelligent and had a stupendous output. I also read his White Goddess – although the specific anima of the White Goddess has not been a direct muse for myself, I like Graves´concept of analeptic thought: throwing one´s mind into the past to receive impressions. Indeed, it is good to have everything on the monitor, yes.

In the book there was also a portrait of young Mozart by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, a painter who painted in the style of rococo. In the book it was said that while Greuze enjoyed great success in his earlier days, he increasingly came to be seen as outdated, could not live from his sales anymore and had to become a teacher and finally died in great poverty. That moved me a lot and I got me a book about Greuze (since I also like the name „Greuze“). To be correct, Greuze´s influence declined in later years, but not substantially and he died in poverty mainly because of mismanagement and embezzlement by his wife. When I look at this Portrait of a Young Lady I wonder about her, like I wonder about Marie and Lucrezia. There is mysterious life in this face, evanescent but still very present and stronger than decay. What would the young lady have to tell? – Greuze was a painter of sentiment. His paintings usually carried a message respectively tought a lesson in moral. He lived in an age of sentiment, where a spirit of moral responsibility and enabling a good, decent life for everyone was in the air (and stood in relation to the bourgeoisie as a (proto-) revolutionary class – the cult of sentimentality could, in a Foucaultian sense, be understood as a formation of identity and self-awareness by internalising the moral codex of the state). Greuze´s most distinguished pupil was Constance Mayer, who would later commit suicide. Unfortunately I could not find much about her neither in the library nor on the internet. (Also Quentin de la Tour was associated with a female painter, Rosalba Carriera, as Rosalba made pastel-coloured painting popular again in Paris at his time. So I got me a book with Rosalba´s paintings. But I have to say that I hardly find in this book such glimpses of eternity as you have it in the portrait of Marie Fel et al. Indeed, that is rare in the domain of human physiognomy respectively art anyway.) The abbé de La Porte said: „I am sure that Moniseur Greuze is a man attentive to all that surrounds him: he is an observer who keeps nature constantly in view, and knows how to capture it in its most interesting aspects… What nobility!“

As you see, these (mostly ordinary) folks have long since passed and left no other trace in history, but they´re on my mind. Their presence is, actually, heavy. You see, I am not very talkative and I feel profoundly isolated from society (actually: from humanity), even from the high IQ societies, since these structures never seem to be resemblant to me, yet actually/but on the other hand I am so attached to and affected by the world that for instance when I look at the tree in front of me, it seems to immediately come near, even overrun me. The most common feeling I have (or had, especially when I wrote the Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking) is that I am drawn, absorbed into the universe, and stick on it (a feeling that was, when I wrote the Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking, quite painful as I felt literally enchained and grown together with the universe/the totality of being and unable to detach myself from the pain and the impositions existence includes). And so, although I am quite alone I am always surrounded by people, maybe even grown together with them, and Marie Fel and company are an expression of that. They reach into the depths of myself. When I look up, Lucrezia Buti may sit on the bench next to me. I live in a heavily populated world. Where does my self end and that of other begin? And ghosts are, in this respect, real (and more human than human).

Because of this, I am an unemployed social reject. When I was waiting for my adivisor in an institution for unemployed people recently I asked myself: When I somehow say that: after my death I am still a part of the flow/the continuum of life or so (I cannot remember the exact wording): is this a rational allegation, an emotional one, or a spiritual one? This is actually not easy to distinguish and it is correct in all those dimensions. I´ve been thinking for a while how rational, spitirual, emotional etc. sentences can be seperated, i.e. in the Wittgenstein manner. But maybe there´s some Quine to the whole problem who said that the analytical and the synthetical are not so easily to be seperated (if I remember correctly). The thing is, if your attachment to the living world/creature and capacity to get immersed in it is profound and not as superficial as in the case of ordinary man, respectively if you´re the overman, such distinctions are superfluous, indeed. But what it means among man is to be philosophised upon.

Childishness in Art

In the sunny season I like to get out and watch the children playing. I do it several times a week, and for about 90 minutes each time. I like the children´s movements and strange attractors, their unrepeated, chaotic cycles. Look how they´re doing something and immediately afterwards something else, as some other thing comes to their mind: wow, what an organic flow! And regardless of what they´re doing, they´re all anchored, resting in themselves, immersed in themselves, undistracted, unalienated. The actions of children are graceful and charming as, unmitigated, they act out of themselves and within themselves, with what they´re doing they seem to realise the full potential of the action and the full potential of the moment the action is situated. Nothing is hidden, everything is there! Kids playing signify emergence and full immersion into themselves; immanence so complete that it is somehow transcendent and unreachable to man. Kids playing are fully identical with what they´re doing and they´re fully identical with themselves. Children (in their explorative drive) are Spinozians, says Deleuze (referring to Deleuze again we can also say that they permanently fold and unfold – and that´s what Deleuze says life and existence is all about). – Blobb is at the water dispenser and produces a water bomb, something our children like to do! Little Leyla comes around and wants her flask to be filled, and four year old Sara helps her! Aynur and Aybüke and a couple of other children use the seesaw! Looking from my book up again I see how Mucahit has invented a running game, that after a while will transform into some other activity! Ines uses her scooter! Dinah marches around with her toy buggy! Hatice stands there and eats her sweets with a gaze that symbolises everything and nothing (i.e. complete immanence)! Three year old Benko and two year old Bim drive in an electric toy Ferrari over the place, undirected, meaningful, Bim all Benko´s Ferrari Bride! After a while they need to change and hand over the Ferrari to other children. Deprived of it, Bim starts to cry. Quickly, her mother gives her a tricycle and she is happy again and makes her rounds again, now with the tricycle! – The child and the genius are alike, and natural allies, in a world ruled, and distorted, by grown-ups. They symbolise the creative force, the elementary, ruthless drive of life, that triumphs over unworthiness, oblivion and obliteration. They´re uncontaminated and anti-entropic. In their clumsy movements they are graceful and the most elegant of men. In their squeaky voices, they sing like the sirens. It is good, warms the heart, uplifts the soul to see how they´re spontaneously cooperating. How their meta-choreographic patterns emerge and transform, or suddenly collapse just to give rise for something new and unexpected. That is, then, the grand scheme. – Indeed, I like to watch the scenery, the grand scheme at the market, the colourful immigrants from the lazy countries from the south, and the self-contained children. The unagitated, quasi-relaxed activity and atmosphere within which things are permanently in innocent motion. I find that meditative. It is extremely balanced and everything has its place in it. Heaven must look like this. It is the quietiv, and probably a vision of the White Lodge. It is, at any rate, exactly what the inside of my mind and of my self looks like. As I stare at this outside, I stare in my inside. Hence the immersion. Ubi bene, ibi patria.

The child embodies origin, authenticity, warmth, playfulness, innocence, relaunch and the choice of a new generation. The child is art. In art you have from time to time direct references to the child respectively its spirit, usually when the stupid grown-ups have failed again. In Dadaism, for instance. After WW2 in Art Informel and in Art Brut. Both significantly relate to Jean Dubuffet. Dubuffet tried to re/discover innocence and presuppositionlessness in art, and longed for access to the raw imagination/experience. He related to the unconscious, yet not in the sense of delirious association, as you have it in surrealism, but rather in automatism and rawness and the uncoditionality of the (artistic) expressions of children, outsiders and the mentally ill („Art Brut“). In his days the question was virulent in art of whether art should relate to reality, or the artist is to be understood as a creator of autonomous forms – and in Dubuffet´s art you have an amalgamation of both. It tries to establish an autonomous individual´s reality. Like Wols (who philosophised about the microcosm inherent in a crack in the pavement), Dubuffet found things produced by matter itself sometimes more interesting than things produced by man, and he tried to give banal things dignity. He was highly aware of the interconnectedness, of the primal unity of all things and occasionally found the space between objects more interesting than the objects themselves. In order to produce his paintings he used his fingers, he used spoons or scrapers. In his metaphysics of a keen interconnectedness and unity of things he understood this mode of unity as a permanent metamorphosis that happens between things, respectively between man and his surroundings. He also saw the primal ground of undifferentiatedness (and expressed it, for instance, in Place for Awakening, an undifferentiated, amorphous field of primal chaos) and the task of the artist to erect (malleable, flexible) forms.

In the late 1940s also the CoBrA group tried to establish authentic art by relating to the expression of outsiders in a grown up world (i.e. children, the mentally ill, etc.). However, the group disbanded after a while as they began to sense that in doing so, i.e. in trying to undermine style, a new style began to emerge – as something CoBrA was eager to avoid, although its members continued to produce art as individuals afterwards. CoBrA had understood its mission as distinctly political as well. Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, in his depictions of the full potential of human gesture, also often relied on the depiction of children. Bouguereau used to paint cool children. In our days, Morgan Waistling does.

Upon reflection, there doesn´t seem to be enough childishness in art. Well, Nietzsche once said, in the realm of the intellect there are artists, philosophers, scholars, scientists. All of them are rare among humans, and he said that artists usually are very vain and conceited. The rarest of all are individuals are those interested in nothing but digging mole gangs, subterranean tunnels, in blindness, just for the sake of discovering something new about existence. According to him, that´s the true anti-egotism (and is usually poorly rewarded). I cannot find this aphorism right now, maybe it is in the second book of Menschliches, Allzumenschliches or in Morgenröte or Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft. Vincent, the Omega Painter, for instance, was of this kind (and also Franz, who explicitely wrote about a giant mole and about subterranean tunnel burrows). According to legend, van Gogh used to get very aroused when he saw little children, and he said: A child in the cradle has the infinite in his eyes. When his acquaintance Sien brought a child to this world, Willem, Vincent again was very fond, and also in the eyes of Willem he saw the infinite (Willem later became a worker for a railway company and made himself unpopular among his comrades with his flirtations with fascism).