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Explain me art

Yes what is art? To explain that it in an understandable way is perhaps the most complicated part of the story, for art, as old as humanity itself, is understandable for everyone.

( At least it should be. Some art forms nowadays can only be understood after having read a bunch of text on the subject, I tend to think those are therefore no art. )

Let me tell you my story, which begins in 1967. I was thirteen and was in the 5th Greek-Latin class. During the French lesson we browsed our textbook. My eye got struck by a reproduction of a painting. I leafed further, went back and again and again. At the same time I began to feel nauseous. The shocking cruelty, the atmosphere of brutality and irreversible violence that went out of the picture I saw was so insistent that I could not get my eyes off it. I was sucked into the painting and was a direct witness, almost made a part of the event. I realized now how one can get caught up and regress to a quivering pile of panic in a catastrophe situation. Across the boundaries of time and space, through a small black and white reproduction of an old dog-eared textbook, this work had proved so powerful that it hit me like a punch in the stomach. That work, was "Guernica" by Picasso. Now that is some work of art! So what is art? Well, art should touch you in a way, you should not be able to remain indifferent.

However, someone who sits in a small room of whitch the floor, walls and ceiling are painted bright red, will see his heart rate increase after a while . Scientifically proven on many occasions. So we see that even pure decoration, in the narrowest sense of the word, can affect our feelings in the most dramatic way. What is the difference between a red painted room and Guernica? Well, Guernica is a prepared dish, it is the danger of the red room but Picasso's superior display gives you perspective on the bigger picture: how fear and disgust is not simply something to merely endure, but at the same time something that makes aware of the fact that you're a human being. It is the red room with added value, with the opportunity of introspection, reflection and detachment.   And the extent to which you can be touched, makes you learn more about yourself. Simply by observing art, almost enduring art, yes, that may sound strange. Art is a form of science, science of the metafysics. It exists in itself, independently of man .It is a system, a structure, and when you embark yourself on the path of art you will be handed the signpost automatically.

Yet it is obvious that the boundary between the purely decorative and art, is an arbitrary limit, not always razor sharp. Must all artworks be like Guernica? No, of course not .We all have a semipermeable wall with which we perceive everything, fear and doom, but also eroticism and tenderness. But we all interpret things differently, hence the endless variety of art works and styles.   A kind of a sensitivity sensor we all have, artists should ideally have a king size model, one that captures as much as possible of the outside world. Artists are often a kind of empathetic athletes, thus able to give a highly personal interpretation of things. The question now is, how do you implement these impressions into a work of art? The language you use, is decisive.

Remember the very first artists, those who made paintings inside caves. If what they painted would have looked bad, their fellow tribesmen would not have had much attention for it. So make sure that the language you use to express your art has the right charasteristics. It's a tool in itself.

Must all art be figurative? God almighty no! Think of the contemporary artist Pennone that demonstrates the force emanating from the dead and living nature. All art must be abstract or conceptual? Not at all! There are artists who have strikingly well caught the discrete charm of the bourgeoisie in a figurative manner, such as Ensor. Smooth brush strokes and an apparently classical style have their merit: through an enticing showcase of soft colors and aesthetic delights you may be whatching essentially highly controversial things, think of Magritte's work. And there's more: Art is erratic and unpredictable, what is hot today, is out tomorrow. Art is the thorn in the side of the society, it is the Jester who brings critical messages. Mostly messages encoded in the symbolic language of the subconscious. It is even so that the jester himself does not always understand the critique and comments that form part of his own cryptic messages. It is like a drug that trickles slowly and constantly. Thus the messenger does not jeopardise his own life and the shamans of society can continue to do their work. This means that art and artists follow unpredictable routes. And all previous forms are just different dialects of the same language. The universal language of the artist is what took place in his heart, a glowing symbiosis of its own die life experience and the world outside. Without restrictions. And the result is just as often different from each other as there are artists. And yet universally understandable.    

And where I am myself, in this constellation of findings? Well, after years of painting classical still lifes that remain heavily indebted to the seventeenth century still lifes, I embarked on a new path. Personally, I feel no longer to show details in a specific way.. Cracks, droplets, threads of tattered lace and half peeled lemons, were inseparable elements of a typical piece of fine art. Dented pots and pans, old pipe bowls, pottery that had survived three world wars and silverware from the time of your grandmother. Because it all had to look as rustic as possible. Not that I want to leave my particular way of painting, no it should all stay detailed, but I'd suggest now somewhat different priorities. In particular, the light must move from merely supporting role to lead. It is the quality of the light which the bathing objects therein get their specific respect. And the part of those objects is to purely create sensations, which arise from their primary appearance in combination with the previously cited light.   A still life can therefore be a bit of a symbolic painting: while whatching a number of old bottles, you' may actually be watching a Shakespearean drama, or a complex political stalemate.   Oddly enough it also has to do with math and music, sometimes I'm just visiting a tune harpsichord or blues on my panel.    

Meticulously build compositions, sparing use of color, the almost painfully correct line, it's all done in the search for the definition of beauty, the very source of it. What is it that keeps it hidden, what philosopher's stone must be turned over to know its formula? Buddhist monks take the jungle hung with tinkling bells. To avoid the distracting temptations and illusions of the material world. I follow the reverse path with the same goal: the painting is the representation of the material world and provokes us to whatch. But it's only a painting, an illusion, a blueprint, a hollow frame. Composition and light and dark contrasts remain as witnesses of the worlds I visisted in search for the absolute light. And if all goes well, something of the wonder, the admiration and the joy I felt, will have cristallized in the painting. It is this emotion, that initially gave rise to something like the fine art of painting .The emotion that overpowers you when you are briefly very aware of yourself, spying through the membranous wall of your very existence and the inimitable splendor of the universe strikes you in a flash moment. At least that is my ambition .But on the way to that goal you always lose some of the stardust you saw around you. And that causes melancholy, but that's yet a whole other story.   Walter Leclair August 2011

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