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176, grey wedding

Joe's Daily Drawing

1998, Year 1
No. 19 Aug 10

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176, grey wedding

This is one of the large paintings with can paint on fiberboard I talked about yesterday. It is a grisaille, done with white and black only. It measures 59x62", so it is slightly larger than Rembrandt's Bathsheba I am writing about in the Art Journal. The first advice there was: "It is important to imagine the size of a work. You will never get the impression of the original if you look at a reproduction on the screen or in a book. Imagine the room, too, that this painting demands, the distance you will keep, how you feel when approaching very near, what the impression might be when seen from some distance."

This picture does not present problems to most viewers. They feel comfortable because reading it is easy, just like any comic or cartoon, the distortions or inventions are all tamed. But then there is something very enigmatic about it. You might have noticed, I number my works, and that was it. Only for this series, I felt obliged to invent some piece of text.

Actually, for the first three pictures, I also manipulated the original scan, took off all the colors and colorized it again using one color only. But then I could not see any sense in this procedure anymore, but I still felt urged to use text. With this painting, I thought of a funeral or a wedding, and decided that it is rather a wedding than a funeral. But if it is a wedding, that's kind of a very peculiar wedding indeed.

You can think of the left, sitting woman as being the bride, the right man with the flowers could be the groom, the others the witnesses to the marriage, friends of the pair. But the mood is more like a funeral. Or it could be a wedding and something very sad has just happened. Considering the feelings of Bathsheba, it appears to me that maybe this is something similar here: Each of the persons contemplating the consequences of the act just executed or to happen soon, feeling the full weight of this step, bringing together a man and a woman. On this painting they are still strictly apart and separated by their peers, men definitely separated from women by little space.

If you have experienced life as I did by now, you can feel the years ahead of them full of life's abundance of joy and grief, life and death, ups and downs, health and illness, and it is at rituals like weddings that you can sometimes feel the depth of life. We all want to be happy and promise to make each other happy, we really speak it out aloud at the wedding ceremony, and we know how far we fall apart, being only human and bound to find our way through hate where we should love, and violence where we should caress. Living in a world of dualism, we cannot but fall apart in black and white, man and woman, and old implies young, and light has no meaning without dark. So we know we cannot possibly be only good, we will hurt our loved ones, too.

It may even appear to us that maybe there is no sense in stressing only one pole of the duality, man is no more important than woman and vice versa, life actually requires that they fall apart and meet again, each giving its unique contribution, light is no better than dark, and some wise people even know that love is no better than hate, life no better than death. I did not know any of this when painting this picture.

I was 26, it was hippie time, I loved my wife Erika but was not married to her, we had no children, we did not feel the weight of life that these persons obviously feel. But life hit us hard nevertheless. Three years later, she left me, and it took me three years to recover from that. I love her to this day. Then I met my second wife Elke, we married and have two lovely daughters, now 14 and 18 years old. These days, I am about to be divorced from my beloved wife to marry Sylvia, and hopefully we will have our first child in March. That's life.

In old chronicles, you find life condensed this way in few poor words. Read the short biography of Rembrandt in Art Journal 1.1: Can you feel what this man experienced? Look at his self portraits: See life's depth in his face? Look at Bathsheba: See what he felt and is able to express through her? This way read it is easy to understand. Experience and then express your experience thereafter. But what I found is something different: I experience through painting! I get to know things I definitely did not know before. And sometimes it takes me years to find out. I did not think of this painting since I sold it 15 years ago. And even before that, I did not think much about it.

There is a painting on the rear side, too, which I love very much. The lady who bought it did not like that side at all. So I thought about separating the two sides or peeling off one side to fix it onto some other plate. I started to destroy it and gave up. That painting is totally different from this one. Maybe I will show it later.


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