Nothingness and self-portraits
I have been thinking a lot about 'Nothing'.
Nothing and Art. And the connection with Nothing, Art and the whole entire bloody world. The entire bloody universe.
A week ago I received via Facebook a portrait done by my artist nephew Pete Woodley-Page I thought called: Portrait. It was a blank page. no more or no less. A small blank square.
At night in my bed, where like so many people, I do a lot of thinking. Clever, I thought that portrait being a blank page. And if you sometimes think if you should paint something pretty or intelligent, a blank space is amazing! So intellectual. So smart. So blank. Nothingness acting as a portrait. Well, it was for me something to wonder about, anyway. The approach to a self image. The big WHY does one paint. And WHY am I so obsessed with doing this latest self portrait! I have done many self portraits in my life and am working on one now, this very moment albeit in my head.
(Left and right done blindfolded and in the middle Looking at Me)
I am thinking about so many things but mostly at this moment about Infinity. Nothing new about that but as I am coming closer to the day I'll walk through some mystical door or opening or hole, I am thinking much more and much more do I realise I, we, don't understand a thing.
That is why so many insecure people need religion, psychiatry or memberships to Heaven knows what kind of organisations.
So inevatibly I have come to some conclusions. Nothing enormously special though.
As long as one cannot explain or understand Infinity one might as well be whatever you feel like and believe whatever you feel like as we, humans on planet Earth, do not understand everything but more strongly, know we'll never ever understand Infinity. Here we understand nothing. Nada nada, we say in Portugal.
Go outside at night and look up at the stars and try to imagine landing on one.
Then the next one and the next one and so on and the question I have then of course is: Will there ever be an end?
And if you reach the end is that a wall with a door and of course the question: What is behind the door!
Is that where all the departed spirits live or the Godlike dead people or what.
Where will I be? YES, where will Paul Hendrik Bernardo Bakker be?
Among a certain group or don't groups exist out 'there'?.
Or does anything exist for that matter. Shit, I hope something does or I'll be afraid of Death. Now I see Death as an extension of my Membership to the human race club.
I do not believe NOTHING exists because, yes-here I go again, we have INFINITY.
Now to bring this back to me personally and change the approach to these questions: Where do I come from? Why am I here? Why do I paint?
Painting is the only thing, the only reason I have to exist in a way. The simple answer is very simple indeed: That is all I can do. And all I want to do and not only because I wouldn't know how to do anything else.
I love saying to cheeky people that make me feel like an unnecessary something in society, like not a carpenter or bridge builder, they build very large buildings for Kings, Popes and Museums for Artists! Not for carpenters, bridge builders or brain surgeons...
(Paul at 17, at 67 and with red ears, one of my daily self portraits.)
When as a very young man, after my 4 year course at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague Holland ( I cannot leave out: the oldest art school in Europe) I got married to the loveliest girl in my class, Heleentje, and we had Renate, our daughter, now an opera singer, 7 month's later. I had to get a job to earn money. A boy from my class, Jos Tigges, told me where to go to. I was a graphic designer for a PR firm G.J.van Hulzen.
I met so many interesting people and so many real adults.
Had lunch with clients like Albert Heyn directors, a large super grocery and people from Fokker, the plane makers and hotel Krasnapolski in Amsterdam. My mentor was a lovely guy called Han Kuipers, a Van Hulzen top man, and he was a man of the world and in many positive ways opened my eyes. Also opened my eyes to the existence of naughty things and thoughts!!!
But I was not doing what I was meant to do. Not doing what I was put on Earth to do and that is to paint. Yes, simply to paint pictures on canvas with oil paints and later acrylic paints!
I was also far too young to be married and did a bit of a runner and went back to the country of my birth Australia. In a way back to my childhood.
But there I also needed money and got a dream job as Art director of POL Magazine. We, POL Magazine, were for the more intelligent and worldly women and published by the very colourful man Gareth Powell.
Clemens also did a few jobs for me. One I'll never forget. A photo of his wife Gerry with a huge nearly 9 months baby (Mark, my godson) in her tummy. Lying flat on a bed. A profile photo of a pregnant woman. Had to airbrush out her pubic hair because such was not allowed to be imported into Australia from the printers in Hong Kong in those days.
But again, I was not doing what I wanted to do.
One day I decided to stop what I was doing and go away and do what I wanted to do. Do what I must do.
I had to sell everything I had, including my old toys and dolls collection.
I had a friend living in the Azores, those funny little island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean discovered by Christopher Columbus on his way back home from the Americas. The friend I knew from the Academy in The Hague, Jeremy Colin Deller-Yarnell.
My parents didn't agree at first with me leaving Australia, we had only just gotten back after a life time in other and funny countries, Indonesia, Holland and Iran, but did help me financially in the end. My mother loved me painting and was a pretty good amateur painter herself. Even a slightly obsessed painter. Great !
My father actually understood I wanted to leave the financial and materialistic world. He was a dreamer and loved the Lord Buddha.
I lived on a very small Island called Santa Maria, with an international airport for refuelling, in a beautiful huge house built in the 17th Century. It even had its own chapel. I shared it with (mad) Jeremy. An absolute purist, vegetarian and health fanatic. Anti alcohol and tobacco. And a mad cleaner of every thing. Always polishing things and scrubbing surfaces. Washed his hands maybe 50 times a day! Me? A little bit of a barbarian and terribly messy and absent minded.
Drinking heaps of beer didn't make my image any better nor years later my health. But that is all in the past. Now as an mature (=old) man, I don't drink fluffy lovely yummy yellow beers any more or smoke tobacco or anything else. Actually, living in Holland smoking the other stuff was very normal but it never got my interest. Born 'stoned' in a way, I think. No, just beers and more beers. Painting huge canvasses with empty bottles of beer all over my studio.
Painted, painted and painted but again, something was wrong. It suddenly, one slightly lonely day, hit me like a tin of paint: I needed an audience and colleagues, other artists.
People who understood the madness of painting. People to talk to about colours and shapes and feelings without sounding like a madman to those 'other' people. The normal ones with life insurances and bank loans and voted religiously and had 'opinions' about everything, including football, the PM and the sexy girl on the Playboy covers. The people who paid taxes and incidently also bought ones paintings! Might be worth something one day and we had an empty wall anyway.
(Selection of my 'daily' self portraits dated 3, 6 and 8 March 2013. Good for the mind and an inspiration for futher creativity.Titles from left: Sad, Happy and Frustrated)
As a kid at school I always felt the odd one out. I played with paints and was slightly isolated and felt happy and save that way.
I went when I was 11 or 12 to a High school in The Hague, Holland, where my brother Norman had just done his finals with unbelievably high finishing marks. So when I walked into the Johan de Wit-Lyceum the teachers said: Ah, another Bakker! Well, I lasted a year with an average, scale 1 out of 10 in Holland, of 4-5 except for art. I was given the highest mark possible, a 9.
My teacher was the then famous artist Jan van Heel who once said to me: Paul, 10 is for God, 9 is for me and an 8 is for my best pupil. But I give you a 9. You can draw better than me!.
You can imagine I floated through the school for a few days. My latest painting was always hanging behind glass in the main entrance Hall. Yep, I was happy as Hell and all the other marks didn't interest me but I had to leave the Johan de Wit and go to a more simple school for less intelligent students. A MULO, meaning a more extended primary school! But there I also had a wonderful art teacher. I was, am, so lucky, no ?
I always say we artists, well certainly me, don't grow up because we are still playing with crayons and colour pencils. Drooling over paper.
I still cannot drive a car or handle complicated technical things. Even life style things like organising a house or paying taxes or voting. I never do. My excuse is: They never ask me.
Now I am an overripe kid with one leg, no- one foot, in the grave, I am 67, and am questioning the meaning of life, the meaning of painting and Infinity. And how honest will I be with painting my face. With all the wrinkles or leave a few out!? An artistic face lift or not?
(Clemens, my nudist friend, in his garden, at the computer and on the beach with Michael Angelo and leonardo da Vinci)
By the way, I must just say, write, quickly between the writing of my life story, I am writing all this stuff because I am so totally and completely happy !
Living here in Far Northern Queensland with my oldest friend Clemens, I have known since the beginning of time and love like a true brother. More than a brother.
I have respect for his attitude towards life, if not tiring of my type of ignoramus, and I walk around with a smile not even a German could wipe off. Sorry, not even a Martian.
I am not attracted to religions but do feel an absolute spiritual presence. At night, before I go to sleep, I ask the Whoevers, the Gods with or without beards or six arms or halos, with wings or lights shining from their noses to look after a few people in my life, I am compulsive I suppose, but mention about 15 individuals and groups, as family groups, friends and two dogs.
(Male/female Budha figure, Red Devil and Black Papuan fertility god decorated by Paul)
Even my counsellor I see once a week is on my list, thank God. I love talking to her, Helen is her name and she is maybe only a few years younger than me. She keeps me on track and an important stimulus not to drink.
Last time I saw her I told her another very strong stimulus not to drink is SHAME. I'd feel such a fool again, for the so maniest time in my life I said: just a few a day and within 2 weeks I'd be drinking half a dozen or more. Not good for my health and I cannot afford it. I live of/on a state pension.
Then I say in my mind or very softly: and thank You for letting me be here so healthy and happy and that we have the two loveliest dogs in the world. And that I live with Clemens who I have known all my life. Terima kassi Tuan Besar ( Indonesian: Thank you Big Gentleman). I was Best man at his wedding to Gerry, now departed sadly, and Godfather to his first born son Mark. He has another two boys, twins, now 40-ish, Casper and Rick.
We walk every morning and afternoon with Angelo and Vinci. We never argue or have unnecessary fights about what is right or what is wrong. I actually let allot of the daily life thinking and decisions up to Clemens as he is very level headed and generous. And most certainly not stupid, the very opposite.
But then I cross myself three times!!! Yep, three times and say: Thank you again.
I am nearly ashamed of this but shit, I went to a Catholic boarding school and at 12 was accepted as an adult Catholic by the Cardinal Alfrink who softly slaps you on your cheek and rubs some oil on your forehead so as to be accepted in the Church.
During World war 2 he was arrested by the Germans and when they came to get him he walked out of his place, Palace, in full regalia. Mitre, golden staff and golden heavily embroidered robe and golden pointed shoes!
I know, I know, it is laughable but shit, a few crosses, if that makes me sleep better.
I am NOT burning a candle for a figure of some Christian, be it Jesus or Satan,
I am simple doing my compulsive things like I MUST have my Otrivine nose drops before I hop into bed too. And give a good night kiss to the dogs and Clemens.
Nothing wrong with that for sure.
Well, I am writing too much.
I could go on for hours. My first spoken language was Indonesian outside, Dutch at school and English at home: No wonder I was an unstable and a something I cannot think of boy. Oh yes, a neurotic.
Every afternoon our walk takes us to the shopping centre and Clemens goes in, ofcourse, and I sit against a wire fence with the puppies and what must I do ?
Count the yellow cars I see. Not pale yellow, no, true egg yellow coloured cars. When Clemens comes out of the shopping centre I always tell him: I saw 7 or sometimes even 10 yellow ones.
On our morning walk I must 'spot' a pure red, a pure blue and an egg yellow car. Never fail!
Anyway, I am now older than Moses so when I do make my trip to Where-ever I'll drop my body off so it may feed the ants and go up and mix with all the other ones and after some time chose a new body.
Some silly people say if that were so why can we not remember all of this. Think about it, you fool, if we knew all this for sure we wouldn't build bridges, pyramids or Jumbo jets.
We wouldn't worry about a career but think: Next time and I'll pick a more handsome or beautiful body.
I'd maybe have a smaller nose and more hair that stuck 'till the end. And be a little richer?
No, I am happy as I am and truly, I wouldn't swap with anybody on Earth. I am a painter, Thank You.
And that is the absolute truth.