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Ars Poetica

An author never truly finishes a book, just as a painter never really finalizes a work of art. At some point, the artist and the work simply break off from one another. If my heart had its way, I would always paint the same lovely woman over and over again. Across a lifetime. Her eyes would be a warm brown, and she would smile enchantingly as the Mediterranean breeze tenderly caressed her hair. Another time, I would twist spiraling silk ribbons into her abundant red curls, later to color her eyes over to the enigmatic bottomless green of a cool autumn well, tears sparkling in its waters. The landscape hugging her deep inside itself, she would change with my mood. Once soft spring clouds would float in the endless blue sky, afterwards I would bestow the ripened colors of summer on my beautiful lady. Sometimes I would dress her like Bacchus, in the lavish autumn splendor of multihued grape leaves, or delicately wrap her in cozy snow-white softness, colors refracting from her glimmering frosty hair as it catches the sun. Her for-ever changing face would echo my soul with the passage of time. However often I looked at her, she would be different, but always Her. All the sundry landscapes in the world, all my works born at various times, are all pieces of the same mosaic: my Life.

Music plays in the heart of every man, pictures fly by his eyes, in his heart beautiful words transform into poetry. In the infinity of our imaginations, we formulate unbelievable things. True, not everyone is able to shape this miracle into a forth that is understandable and enjoyable to others. The Creator, in his exuberance, decided to bestow a wonderful gift on a few of us, to allow us to fulfill this vital task. This gift we call Talent, the task we call Art. Every Chosen needs to be a master of his profession, and every master can become an artist, if taking command of his gift, he goes about his business dispensing happiness for the pleasure of others. Practitioners of the arts have since the beginning of times accomplished their tasks by reflecting the world around them and the people in it in a manner others can recognize and of course enjoy. The method of expression can at times and in some places change, but it always bears the stamp of the creator’s personality. The underlying theory was constant and simple: accessibility and usability. In the course of history, the inspiration for works of artistic value tended to come from among the rich—anyone possessed of the financial opportunity — to make their environment and daily lives more beautiful and pleasant through the works of talented masters. Whoever ordered works of literature, music, fine and applied arts or architecture automatically became the natural critics of their work. It was they who recognized or condemned the fruits of the artists’ labor and compensated them commensurately.

Thus was born an Equilibrium in which the servants and beneficiaries of the Diversis Artibus lived in symbiosis. We have this to thank for the paintings, statues, other works of art and finely worked apparel and utensils from ages past that are left to us from our ancestors, preserved in architectural masterpieces that began as manors and palaces, but now serve as museums. This process bequeathed us the wonder of the Karnak and Luxor temples and allows us to stand in awe before the statues of Michelangelo or play Bach’s Branderburg concerts over and over again, or gaze up at the spires of cathedrals as they thrust into the sky. Their Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque interiors provide us with the altar paintings and graceful art objects of ages gone by. The huge preponderance of these were produced to order and serve a concrete, easy to understand purpose. Their creators were inspired by the tinkling of their customers’ gold.

None of them were ashamed to trade their talent for money. On the contrary! When Rembrandt painted his Night Watch in 1642 he pocketed a truly high sum. In order to be immortalized in the painting, the sixteen member of the Amsterdam Marksmen’s Team each paid 100 guldens. For the money received, Rembrandt also had to give the prominent roles to Captain Williem van Rujtenbuch and Lieutenant Jan Visschher Comelissen, dressed in black and yellow, respectively, and gracing the center foreground of the painting. In the center left of the 34-figure composition, placed near the two officers, beside a female figure (who bears a striking resemblance to Saskia, the wife of the artist), the painter highlighted yet another person from among the figures. Thanks to the techniques of chiaroscuro – Rembrandt’s ingenious interplay of light and shadow – we can see a figure loading his musket. According to the contemporary gossip, this “arquebusier” added generously to the price of 100 guldens paid by his fellows in order to be depicted next to the two officers in his red finery.

I have never believed those who claim with false modesty that they do not know if they are talented or not. If someone does not believe that he is the best, then what right has he to claim the right of authorship? Tell the truth: who cares about mediocre works and their creators? What right has the artist, if he is not convinced of his own greatness, and cannot judge himself positively, to expect others to do so? Such people should choose another profession. A good painter must of course be talented, but at the same time commercial. This word simply means “able to find a buyer.” This has always been indicative of respect for any creator or work of art. Nevertheless, this expression has by now become virtually an expletive. Most of our contemporary artists don’t even try to bring their own dreams into alignment with the ideas of a customer. They don’t care about the expectations of the buyer or any potential patron. They don’t even try to exploit modes of expression available to fulfill what should be their true task: to enhance people’s happiness. They have become alienated artists sealed off in their ivory towers, wasting their God-given talents. Birth—Love—Death: regardless of the relentless progress of society, these basic concepts have, stayed with us unchanged over the eons. What has happened in the world, that our millenniums-old concept of art has transformed? What has altered the tools of expression of the fine arts, and why do we use newfangled criteria in evaluating our artists?

The world began to speed up around the beginning of the 20th century. Artists tried to hold up a mirror to the newly emerging society, to show us the past present and future in a way that was suited to this ever more erratic tempo. Their endeavors resulted in a complex message, which at first they tried express by breaking their environment down in to pieces. They simplified forms and colors, and then began to reconceptualize them. They needed this retreat from the visual truth. The feverish excitement of the search replaced a mode of expression and the associated usual tradition seeing the world in a customary way. Visually comprehensible, harmoniously enjoyable works, explicable in form, began to give way to experiments ever striving for newness. The initial, experimental phase of abstract art lasted a few decades in the history of art. In addition to the many honest artists, with a firm grasp of the classic fundamentals of art, came the charlatans, who saw opportunity in the seeming “simplicity” of the results of these intellectual games. Without any professional knowledge or ethical conviction of any sort, they knocked off pitiable caricatures of art aping only the form of the new aesthetic.

In the end, owing to the rise of these petty impostors and the makeover of these so-called artistic trends, this transformative process of the previous century and its catharsis of simplification petered out. The audience, who was until then an active participant in the traditional creative process, only observing the events on the surface, uncomprehendingly eyed the chaos that had arisen all around them. Their traditional schooling did not offer enough foundation to understand or perhaps even enjoy the forward galloping experiments in visual, musical and literary arts, or set them apart from pretenders with their cheap, exploitative mimicry of authentic values. Most traditional “users” of art were receptive only to the changes that occurred in architecture and applied art. Widespread alienation in the face of these experimental trends provided the breeding ground for a new caste.

The unyielding incomprehension of society in the end gave birth to a professional branch that would have been unimaginable in times gone by: critics and art experts. The bulk of these nonsense professions are compiled from the ranks of failed and frustrated artists. Given that most of them did not have the necessary for their original calling, they tried to slap together sortie kind of career by generating authoritative-sounding explanations for the ever-increasing amount of shoddy, derivative art. Their posturing discourse, teeming with incomprehensible, bogus shibboleths and vague references, was understood by no one. To the extent that the concealed material interests many critics served demanded it, the unworthy found acclaim, and promising talents encountered scorn. People trusted their own good taste and judgment less and less, steamrolled by the high-handed omniscience of the self-appointed experts, hardly daring to lift their voices in dissent. Thus did the Arts, once a shrine celebrating human beauty, fall into the grip of manipulators. The genuine artist/patron relationship was replaced by the artificially excited speculation of the critics, bearing no relation to the original sanctity of artistic creation.

The wondrous beauty of nature is not only slowly being sheathed in a monochrome metastasis of grey concrete and the rank fumes of our rumbling machines as they cut into the body of Mother Earth. It is also assaulted by the unprepossessing, inhuman installations and happenings masquerading as art—the end products of the old abstractionism—and the sycophants and apologists who make their living from them. The harmony of Gaia, felt and understood by all, as well as the ocean of enjoyable, harmonious beauty — created by all the Masters over the millennia — these are our true heritage. We must rediscover this wonderful harmony, this treasure bequeathed to us all. I am only one of those bestowed with talent in order to share it with others in the form of artwork. I must take joy in fashioning an oasis in the intellectual and spiritual wasteland. In my work, I try to regain this Paradise Lost for my own sake and the sake of others. The gift I have received is only enough to open the path that leads there. The road itself must be trod by each of us alone…

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