About the work of art

A development with rough edges

I am trying to give a glimpse into the development process of the painting from the the past weeks and months. It has been and still is everything but straightforward and full of surprises. I cannot remember having ever developed a concept that has passed through more changes and U-turns. At times this has been quite nerve-recking. Looking back, it all came together nicely, as it often does.

It all began with a sketch that I spontaneously drew into my sketchbook shortly after my vision, in May 2009. At this point in time, the words "Love" and "Death" were in the foreground, symbolically highlighted with a heart and a cross in red and black. I looked at this image primarily as a calligraphy that represents the words in the respective language of each country. Red and black were the obvious choices and characterise, up until today, the appearance of the project. In retrospect, I felt the symbols were too bold and insufficiently complex.

For a long time, the abstracted and calligraphic solution stayed with me. I tried to find structures which are able to depict the dialogue between the forces of love and life and death. This is how the layouts emerged as the basis of the exposé of July 2009. This made the first publication of the idea possible. I did not want to reveal too much yet simultaneously distinguish the design vocabulary. Hence, I only showed sections and mainly my tools (brush, pen, bamboo etc.).
I have used my own blood for painting tests. I have used the opportunity, during a routine health check up, and had two extra vials of blood drawn by my doctor. She looked at me slightly puzzled, but naturally asked: "with or without coagulator?" This was a rather comical situation, despite the serious background.

While I was painting I was quite surprised how wonderfully smooth, opaque and colour intensiv the blood looked, once spread on paper (Thank God to hemoglobin). Completely different to red ink for example. I can hardly tell you: "hey, you have to try this yourselves!", and would not like to encourage you to do so either. But what I can say is, that this was an all through natural and fascinating experience.

Because I only need a small amount of blood to create the painting in Berlin (35ml.), I have to mix it, for example with ink. I have also contemplated using artificial blood from the movie and theatre industry. However, I noted two things: for one thing, the theater blood does look real on skin, but not on paper. For another thing, the artificial blood does not dry properly! Possibly a property that makes it ideal for an acting stage, as it will always look fresh. On paper however, this is all but favourable.

Once the (real) blood has dried on paper, it changes its color to redbrown. It appears as if the life force vanishes (biologically speaking, this is truly the case). The brown colouring stems from the blood's iron content. One can put it quite simply: the blood corrodes.

I will counteract this natural process by choosing the mixing ratio with red ink in such a way, that the red colour will remain to some extent, even after the painting has dried.

Contentual refinements

During the course of time I had the feeling that a calligraphic interpretation of the words "Love" and "Death" might not be the right concept. It suddenly appeared too simple and too obvious. It felt much better not to turn the title of the project into the image content. However, it was particularly this aspect (the use of the wording) that would allow me to differenciate the paintings for the individual languages. I had to start from scratch in some ways, because the concept needed to show that a coherent cycle of painting will be created and at the same time leave room for possible developments for differences of individual countries.

Initially, I was not particularly worried and I continued to draw, trying to find shapes that were fighting each other, dancing with each other, that attracted and repelled each other, that permeated and mixed.

But it did not 'click'. I had the feeling I was still searching. Especially the problem with the countries had not been resolved at all, because indeed, the paintings contained thematically what I tried to express, but remained on the surface. They were not telling a story. At least not a particular exciting one. That was mid October 2009. Slowly time began ticking and from all corners came the question: "how are the paintings actually going to look like?"

How does one create a surprise symphony with brush and pen? This was the question that continued to keep me occupied, especially at night. I delved deep into objectivity and studied Orpheus and Eurydice, who in a mystical sense embody the subject of love and death in all its beauty, hope and tragedy. I got the idea from the wonderful book by Patrick Süskind "On Love and Death", that I had been carrying around with me for weeks and read a few pages on occasions, if time permitted.

But after a while, I abandoned the book, as I did not want the painting to become too naturalistic and I was not able to create an abstract interpretation of Orpheus and his lost lover (maybe this could be a new task in the future?).

The vital spark

By the end of October 2009, I had done enough brooding. I gave red the form of a spherical grid, surrounded by a nature scene, initially the mountain landscape that due to its geometric permeability seemingly penentrates the sphere.

Take a look at the first rough sketch. This was like a hot lead, because consequently the symbol for life was created, like a cell, like a world on its own, in itself vigorous, protected and extensive and simultaneously permeable und virtually connected with the outside world.

The nature scene or the surrounding in this composition offers the possibility of a country-specific orientation, which means, that references can be made to a specific country, a city and culture. The grid, however, would remain the same or similiar in the individual painting, like one blood cell is not much different to another. Further, it would integrate the AIDS issue, which is related to cell structures that can represent protection and pervasion.

A journey into geometric dimensions

This seemed to me to be the right way. Initially I worked at the grid. There I encountered Plato with his platonic solids. These are five especially regular polyhedrons, meaning solids that are confined by flat faces and straight edges (for example by triangles or pentagons). The one most similar to a sphere is the icosahedron, a solid made of 20 equilateral triangular faces (left picture).

By breaking down the faces into smaller triangles, one can create a so-called geodesic domes. The more refined the break down, the more sphere-like becomes the polyhedros. I decided to break them down into 180 triangles, meaning that each face of the icosahedron is covered with nine triangles.

I constructed the solid with a computer program and broke down the faces, to create a grid-shaped structure. The result is a geodesic dome as a grid structure, which symbolises life in this project, but can also embody the virus.

It all comes together

Next up is the adaptation into the painting. In the layout, I chose a park scenery at night, as an example, and placed the sphere inside this park, floating and filled with light. At the same time, I gave the sphere an important opposite pole, a nameless, elegantly dressed gentleman, who silently stands opposite. You may recognise death.

It is now clear, that I am not able to completely create this picture within the scope of one session, as painting the landscape with ink takes many hours. Therefore, I will prepare the picture adequately and will mostly work on the red areas during the project, by using the blood with ink.

So far for the first layout, which will obviously be much more refined and detailed in the original version. The painting will be painted onto hand made paper in the format 70 x 50 cm, the drawing itself will be approx. 55 x 27.5 cm.

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