That big white canvass, in that big white mind

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Another man-god. Photo by Clemens Vermeulen

 

What is an artist? Or what am I then, as I am an artist? What would I be, if I were not an artist? Don't know and don't want to know.

Most people could think: 'Who cares'. Rightly so, maybe. But I do, and wonder at times.

 

My reply if I feel cheeky and slightly in a protective/defensive mood, is that Man hasn't built museums for dentists, accountants or cooks but performers, be it artists with brushes or artists with violins and even artists in a circus.

And to each his own. Let 'them', the others, organise the highways and electricity grids, let me rub a brush against a bit of canvas.

Paul with brush, smoking

Historically it is a dangerous question and at times very threatening to ask about culture or to paint what you wanted to paint.

Adolph Hitler, Stalin, Mao and a few other 'great' men were very pertinent about what one could or could not do!

When left to these dictatorial systems we inherited some amazing shit.

During the 3rd Reich all those pretty blond men and women shit. Or big muscular workers shit. Whatever, it never really worked.

I knew from the day I was born I wanted to be an artist, a painter. I was privileged

to have an artistic mother (in her days it wasn't ladylike to go to art school) and as a tiny kid we lived in Bondi Beach, Australia, in a house built by my great grandfather. The house was called Kenworth, after a racing horse, and in our house we had Uncle Norman and his family, the man who built the Sydney Harbour bridge! He was actually a civil engineer from Scotland who DID come to Australia in the early 30-'s to work on the building of that bridge. But he was also an amazing water colourist and as a toddler I'd sit at his table while he was painting away, watching his every move. And so did I. Paint to my hearts content and Uncle Norman encouraged me quietly. As my parents did too. I was lucky, although I didn't appreciate it at the time. I didn't know otherwise.

Brushes from God

 

Because my parents travelled around the world I never had much of an education nor understood what the hell was going on. I simply looked. I always felt on the outside, an onlooker. Finally at sixteen I could go to the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, Holland. The oldest art school in Europe, older even than the art school in Bologna!! I love telling people that. Proud bastard that I am.

 

The classes were straight to the point, no arty-farty stuff and gave us 'kids' a fundamental education in colour theory, perspective drawing, model drawing( first naked woman I had ever seen, scratching herself as she stood there bored to tears) and art history. Knowledge and practise of calligraphy, lettering, photography and typography.

All one needs in a world that didn't care too much about those things.

At a very young age I got married to Helena, a girl in my class, and had to work for a PR firm but even that was very educational. I learned the absolute nonsense about nothing to make the unknowing public believe something they didn't even worry about.

Not very last portrait

 

But after a very short time I wanted to pursue my painting. My blank canvas in my head. I lived for a year on an island in the Atlantic, Santa Maria-Azores, then Paris, hated it, too many people, then back to my beloved The Hague where I really got started.

Now it must be said that the Dutch Government had, and has I hope, a terrific attitude towards the arts and their artists. An artist was a professional thus got financial help if needed to pursue his or her career! So we got minimum wage+ studio rental help+20% material costs (30% for sculptors) and ALL Bruto, gross, untaxed. So one should remember to give back 30% minus ALL costs, including your tubes of beer and sheets of shit. Sorry, I was in Holland for a bit!

 

In other words you were treated as a small self employed person who had to do his own tax returns. Many got into trouble but I never did because, and that was my excuse, I didn't know how to fill in all those papers and keep dockets and bills and God knows what. After all, I had no schooling. Now as a full and honest pensioner I can say I probably owe the Dutch Government a few dollars but they have quiet a few of my paintings tucked away, waiting for me to die and become famous or something. I don't know and nor do I lie in bed worrying about it. I still have that next and maybe final painting in my mind, heart,hands, head and loins!

 

When I stand in front of a canvas, and I am a little theatrical I must admit, I not only greet my canvas but also touch it and leave a tiny mark on it. A finger print or often a tiny pussy cat. I write something in my secret writing I developed as a kid. Usually only how I was feeling or who I loved or didn't! Don't know why but I was told as a student that large canvasses or sheets of white paper can intimidate you so you must own it first. A friend of mine in Holland used to pee on his canvas.

Canvasses have a mind of their own and can also set the standards! Now I am not being funny, I must believe that whatever is in front of me has its own privileges and rules of conduct. One must familiarise with the canvas. When working on a canvas I get up several times a night with my torch to see if it is still ok, if I still love it. Smaller ones I take to my bedroom to keep company.

Cat, secret writing and signature

 

So who and what IS this canvas or sheet of paper. I believe it is from Heaven. Simple.

I also have now for years maintained artists sleep under the beds of the Gods and whenever They want something they get one of their angels to drag you from underneath and get to work! 'Go on Angelo, up to the Sistine chapel' or 'Come on Ludwig, you've done the 8th, now the 9th!.

It sounds silly and maybe childish but give me a better explanation and as long as INFINITY cannot be explained stop worrying to much about us. Yes, us versus you.

I know that sounds unfriendly, some would even say elitist. So be it.

I cannot drive a car, after many many lessons, and think you people behind that wheel are 'superior' to me, in that respect. Computers, who invented that thing, but thank you never the less Einstein, Tim Berners-Lee or Louis Pasteur. (Pasteur saved my life as my puppy had rabies in Indonesia!)(I'll never forget those painful injections in my tummy). And not to forget Mr.Zuckerman.

 

I have in my life had a few battles. Battles with brushes and battles with bottles of beer. So when I decided I needed help to win the battle of the bottles I spent some time in a rehab and LOVED it. I always ended up giving assistance to other 'sensitive addicts' painting and I could see in their bleary eyes the fun it gave them! No alcohol or heroin or speed, just a little bit of blue, red and yellow. Then the hour on one's own with your councillor. Mine was Tracy, still write very very often with her! Goodness, I loved the Rehabs so much I've done it three times. The things one does for Art!.

Stop smoking self portrait

But now I have only one, well actually two, battles. One my next canvas and two to give up tobacco.

 

I know the best thing before you start on a big canvas, mine is 150x200 cm, is to first do a small self-portrait. Not always good for ones Ego but good to force a certain truth and reality. I am now older than 33, in fact twice as old as JC when he was crucified., so a few more wrinkles here and there, even less hair. But it is very satisfying. Again arrogantly I look at the canvas and think, see, I can still do it.

But now the big one, the BIG one.

Maybe with the assistance of Ludwig or Prokofjef in the background?

Three green smoothies by Clemens for his flatmates...

 

No, I actually like just the sound of the trees and birds or the dogs scratching or Clemens making our green smoothies to drink all those vitamins. I have known Clemens since early childhood in Indonesia, Iran Holland and now Australia again. We share a house with his son Casper and two wonderful dogs called Leonardo Da Vinci and Michael Angelo, Vinci and Angelo for short.

 

I'll tell you the next time, I promise, how the painting will proceed. I swear to God I'll finish it before I catch the next and final ferry. I wonder, am I allowed beer and cigarettes in Heaven, or Hell? Is it too windy or hot to paint?

 

By the way, a little trivia. Do you know who is the most painted person on Earth?

I do and will tell you next time.

OK, I'll tell you now.

It is Jesus Christ.

Signed and delivered

 

 

 

 

Comments

Dearest Paulo, Thankyou :) I love your work ... in all its forms xx