JONATHAN E. RADDATZ ART: “EMPHASIZING THE SYMBOLIC”

 

I had the way to approach Jonathan Raddatz Art. He’s an artist living in Quebec (Canada). Through web we had interesting ideas exchanges about art and its future (some suggestions will be the arguments for one of my next posts). Jonathan loves to paint as self-expression. His aims “are anchored in a desire to work out theological and philosophical concerns in peace and quiet, away from the mindless consumption and selfish concerns that consume us all on a daily basis”. I invite you to have a look at his artgallery in Verdun-Montreal (Quebec, Canada) and at his web GALERIE EX-NIHILO: you’ll be struck by a talented artist who tells us the power, the energy and the mystery of colors and materials. I’ve asked Jonathan Raddatz to write something about his artistic statement. He send me an articulated and profound reflection that I’m very glad to share here.    

Faith and Myth are the key operative terms that fuel my work”

 by Jonathan E. Raddatz

TOURIST BROCHURE

There is a facet of my art that can safely be qualified as ‘Expressionist Realism’ (landscapes, cityscapes from my corner or the world and so forth). This work is all about technical rigor and self-discipline. It is about taming the beast and conscientiously applying myself to duplicating what I see concretely before my eyes. When I work in this fashion, I will often carve out the lines in my motif, while stressing the surface with fire and grindstone; this is why I gravitate to wood as a surface medium for these pieces. I have a great affection for two places in particular, and these

are the primary subjects for what I like to call my moments of relative composure: My neighborhood, St-Henri, for its history, the riot of colours, because everything sags and because the light here reverberates in a very particular way; and Parry Sound, Ontario, where the Canadian Shield crashes into the Georgian Bay and where I spent many happy moments as a child. These are all places where the rhythm of the land…our land, strikes a deep spiritual chord with me. This work is largely free of intellectual baggage in the sense that the whole process exists to ‘take a holiday’ from my brain. When I paint ‘the little things’, it is usually to come up for air, to breathe life and clarity into my lungs and convey singular instants of beauty, often found in the mundane.

 TRAVELER ITINERARY

Today’s deconstructionists propose that all categories of art are arbitrary and sight is a pleasure. If this is true then art should break the rules of this most unfortunate modern convention of ‘super flat’ sensory indulgence by exploring, in pragmatic terms, the predatory nature of the senses and how these are linked to the ‘human condition’, which we might as well come right out and qualify as the ‘despotic condition’.

Now, while our pseudo-egalitarian civilization insists that all art is meaningful (the meaning being: here is someone articulating his/her existence), I argue that only art that successfully conveys its meaning – that is to say, the motive BEHIND asserting ones existence in this manner – is (in my less than humble view) – valid (or ‘true’) art, as art of this nature is, by definition, about marrying function to aesthetic in order to tap into a meaning that points beyond itself. That is why ‘true’ art is not to be confused with ‘decorative’ art. The first points beyond itself and is more akin to the workings of religion and philosophy, the other is purely functional: to please, soothe, or clutter the senses. This statement is not meant to devalue decorative art (at any rate, in art, there is always a carry-over) but rather to make a distinction between painting the subject versus painting what lies beyond the subject.

Thus, my ‘true’ artistic enterprise is not to be contained or otherwise pigeon-holed by relativist labels such as ‘abstract’ or ‘contemporary neo-symbolism’ or other such nonsensical terms that seek to rationalize that which does not seek to be experienced in a rational manner. Nor is this enterprise going to satisfy itself by becoming predictable in technique and style. I leave that to the post-Warhol stylists. The name of my game is SUBJECT MATTER.

 To quote Rothko directly: ‘there is no such thing as a good painting about nothing. We assert that subject is crucial and only that subject matter which is tragic and timeless is valid. That is why we profess a spiritual kinship with primitive and archaic art.’ My abstract (or otherwise metaphorical) art is profoundly anti-rational. This is fitting since good art, like good propaganda, is precisely that because it circumvents reason completely. The only rational act I imbibe in my pieces is the act of giving them a title, which is done before the business of painting and after much contemplation in regards to the piece about to be painted.

 Faith and Myth are the key operative terms that fuel my work. Any talk of faith must abandon all pretence of objectivity, which makes art a useful vehicle to explore these questions, as art, while pretending to be a lot of things, at least does not pretend to be objective. Anything objective processed by humans ceases to be such the moment we contemplate it, and this is most likely due to our inherently dualistic nature, which is understood to be fallible in every sense of the term. Hence, notions of human depravity, faith and salvation can only be discussed subjectively while remaining objective concepts in and of themselves. Their truth permeates human existence but is often ungraspable by the temporal senses and even less so by language, with all it’s cultural bias. And so, we are left with symbols, which defy logic and transcend reason by their ability to sustain paradox; this is why my art emphasizes the symbolic. Faith is a mythical language, expressing ideas that defy scientific materialism.

Although abstract, symbols are the Rosetta Stone of faith. Through this endeavour I am sharing an irrational reality felt most keenly during the creative process. This grand realm is made of a mythical causality of numinous yet fleshy themes that fully transcend moral and scientific relativism. I’m talking here about theodicy, defilement and variants on sacrifice. This mythical causality is what Rothko refers to when he speaks of timeless tragedy as the agent that binds humans to their cause and condition. And so I ask, what is the cosmic variable responsible for this timeless tragedy?

 I am ceaselessly amazed when I encounter the increasingly pervasive, dangerously optimistic view of the human condition that is currently fashionable in the west. The kind of hype (‘yes we can!’) that utterly ignores the unprecedented level of violence and depravity played out during the course of the previous century and showing no signs of waning in the opening decade of the current one.

 Warm, fuzzy pseudo-messianic utopias of this type (history offers countless examples), require that we ignore the machinations of human history as it actually plays out. This history does not exactly reinforce the utopic view that humans can all miraculously come together in some sort of global group hug and resolve our problems by our own efforts or accord, most particularly in a degraded environment of want, where resources are dwindling while populations explode. History tells us that under these conditions, humans go to war and rip each other to pieces over the meager spoils.

 Trying to ‘Disneyfy’ this reality into something more palatable is adolescent naiveté at its worst and if it continues unchecked in our times, it will be the end of this civilization. Art’ states Bergson, ‘brings us into our own presence’, while St-Theresa of Avila said: ‘I require only that you look.’

A few words regarding titling…Titling is very relevant to my abstract/metaphorical work, they direct the viewer to the subject. If the pieces where not titled as literary essays, you might not link symbols and subject. Literary references are often present to indicate where the viewer might direct further inquiries. If you want to enjoy the art on your own terms and remain unaffected by my concerns, preserve your ignorance by ignoring my titles. If ‘getting’ the artist’s point is important to you, my titles contain messages that are unlikely to misguide of confuse.

 Regarding Materials…The primal notion of spirit being contained in matter plays a significant role in my creative process. Many ingredients of a widely varying nature go into my paintings. My choices of material are often made for technical reasons (the need for texture and so forth), however, the process is anything but superficial. Found objects, metals, melted jewelry, currency, animal and human hair, dirt, compost, brick, stone, blood, sand, insects, bones, ash… All these things and more find their way into or onto my canvas. Sometimes items are ground to a powder or burned for ash, or otherwise preserved in some recognizable form. Sometimes they are meant to be seen and form part of the motif; other times, they remain unseen but are included as a pigment base. More often than not, my choice of ingredients is directly related to the subject or a symbol pertaining to the subject.

 J.E Raddatz

http://www.galerieexnihilo.com/

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THE LIFE BECOMES ART: WELCOME TO PARALLAX AF IN LONDON!

I was there showing my “LACER/ACTIONS” project. I met fellow artists and I had the way to know something about their art. Here are some stories…

 By ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI

  

I may say that art world met at Parallax AF in London (La Galleria, Royal Opera Arcade, Pall Mall, October 13-16, 2011). I was there, showing my “LACER/ACTIONS” project (images from torn posters and city walls). With me, almost 200 artists coming from Australia, Japan, Italy, Israel, Chile, Canada, Denmark, Georgia, France, Germany, India, Finland, Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, UK, USA, Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Sicily, UAE (Dubai), Lebanon, Netherlands, Belgium. It was a great opportunity to share experiences and ideas. And to plan the future… I met fellow artists and I had the way to approach different expressions of their art. And to know something more about their life. Here are some stories…

The first artist I had the pleasure to meet at Parallax AF was MIIKA NYYSSÖNEN from Helsinki, Finland. We hanged artworks at the wall at the same time, in the afternoon. Miika brought to London three works, three delicious paintings-mosaics. But those artworks were only a little part of his huge artistic activity.

Miika is an installation artist. As he showed me through his tablet, his works are often hybrids of several ways to do art, in his recent works he’s been interested in combining visual decisions made by computer programs to the handwork and painting done by himself. Nyyssönen often builds the situation or the structure which determines what his work’s appearance will be. Miika Nyyssonen used cardboard as the main component in his interactive Olin Hall Gallery installation ‘M the Machine’. 700 cardboard boxes were cut according to ten different models, each surface containing between one and ten square holes that provide partial views of other interior spaces and of three sets of home movies from three decades as the viewer moves within the work, simulating the workings of memory. He has his own page on ArtSlant.com network. As me.

 Just in front of me, AMY MCDONALD exhibited her beautiful artwork communicating poetry and smooth emotions. She loves doing screenprint using graphite, ink drawing, pencil drawing, collage. The effects are really awsome. Amy has recently Graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Northampton, specialising in Printmaking and Drawing. In her works, she is particularly interested in the way in which imagery can be manipulated and represented in an abstract form as an artistic expression. Her recent Exhibitions included Free Range (London – July 2011) and University of Northampton degree show (June 2011). She says: “My artwork is about imaging my world around me. The styles vary, depending on the landscapes and influences I experience.”

Other my “wall neighbour” was NICHOLA DOHERTY, who showed at Parallax her brilliant works. She started out painting the Australian landscape, focusing on the outback, and the work was quite abstract. As her art evolved and she moved into the more urban influence of Paris, her work became more realistic. However, it remains stylised and focused on capturing the essence of Paris rather than a photo realistic portrayal. This style remained when she moved back to Australia and once more began painting country landscapes and also again when she returned to France and Paris. Nichola is currently drawing on inspiration from his life in France and also a recent trip to the Scottish Highlands. She says: “I am continuing to explore the essence of the landscape and world around me and to draw on my personal experiences in different landscapes and countries.”

I knew another Australian artist: DEBORAH ALEXANDER. Behind her art there is the inner world of a woman who really suffered in the first years of the life. She wrote about herself: “My father had no concept of family and my mother very few boundaries… home life was often unsetting and disturbing”. Deborah found in art a new life, a new reason to hope. She has engaged in painting most of her life, but it wasn’t until she was in her forties and her children old enough that she managed to study Fine Art to Honours Degree Level at Suffolk College (2005) and MA Fine Art at Norwich School of Art and Design (2007). Her paintings are a sort a trip on the dreams. They seemed to me as nice caresses for heart and soul. Deborah Alexander is working out of Newbourne Studios (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England) where a gallery showcases contemporary paintings for interiors. Deborah Alexander was Artist in Residence in Ipswich Hospital‘s Diagnostic Imaging Department (2006) and has created Artwork for both Ipswich Hospital and East Suffolk MIND.

 

During Parallax AF days we had the way “to be on stage” with Berlin-based artist MIRIAM WUTTKE. She presented an interesting performance: “Embracing the Animal Mind” from the series “Dress to Kill-The end of Post Colonialism”. The piece revolved around anxiety and existential fears in post-colonialist societies and systems; the notion of losing control over a well constructed and preserved individualised life, as well as the need to regain a lost simplicity and innocence in the face of global discomfort on a per diem basis. “The embracement of the animal mind,” explains Wuttke, “is a poetic metaphor for the satisfaction of an elementary need. The performance reflects a process of retreat in order to overcome archaic, magical and cognitive thinking to find relief in a faunal counterpart…” The performance taked place all along the gallery of the Royal Opera Arcade.

Miriam lives and works in Berlin and New York where she worked on paintings, performances and installations. The pictorial research of Miriam Wuttke is developed from figurative wood and paper (1992-1997), painting of abstract expressionism (1997-2009). Miriam Wuttke performs mostly in performance within its own facilities “site specific”. Her installations too are “site-specific”. They consist of objects, collages, fragile, objets trouvés, ready-mades, manuscripts, paintings, drawings and video installations.

 Another performance showed BETH JERVIS creativity and artistic expression. Beth – Paris-based artist – performed “A Banal Poem about a Man”, consisting of four poems and audio recordings woven together in relation to her two-dimensional work exhibited in Parallax AF, “Business Plan to End Capitalism”. She describes one of her numerous costumes during the performance as: “a projection of our idea that there is a beautiful other, trying to embody the beauty through norms rather than asking ourselves what makes us truly happy. Exuberance, success, drawn back through the vulnerability of the alternate other. We see the character and see something in the other and we see it in them but we realise we are as foolish as the character not to see it in our selves, just because the character is painted as a fool to have been all those things at once and not realised there is very little importance in the difference between those things, when it is a simple human being that is portraying them.”

 Impossible not to see, at Parallax AF, the incredible cracked paintings by JEAN MARC ISERE, from Asnière sur Seine (France). His work does not arise from an intellectual stand but from a confrontation with the erosion of matter as such. Jean Marc says: “The cracked paintings allow the gaze, beyond the figurative proposition barely outlined in the foreground, to be freed from rational given and handed over the luminescence of the background”. As Jean Marc says, the spectator become s the agent of the work and ties up once more with his vital force”.

 I had the opportunity to admire SAM PEACOCK works. He uses a mix of recycled metals and industrial paints to create landscape pieces. He gorges on the speed and power of mark making, the rawness and the ferocity of paint; how brush marks shift, scrape and overlap to build up structures and forms which compel him to paint. He looks incisively for the conversation within the form to build this up on the canvass as the work evolves. Sam ‘s painting is rooted in the abstract but links to landscape and architecture within the built environment. Colours become forged from the dilapidated wastelands of the industrial North and regenerated urbanized sprawls, right through the space of farmlands in Australia and the hectic communities within Thailand. The surfaces are constructed using a variety of rollers and industrial paints, the underlying textures show forms and motifs where the ideas all began.

At Parallax AF, just in front on my wall, on the right, AMY WRIGHT has presented her beautiful and fascinating works, that tell us some fragments of her path in the artistic life. Amy studied Arts Therapy at the University of Derby where she first began to really explore the use of oil paints. After a short hiatus starting in 1999, Amy returned to painting in 2003, inspired by living in Greenwich, London. She joined a network of artists at the Cor Blimey Art Studios in Deptford in 2005 and further continued her explorations into colour and texture. In 2006 Amy moved to San Francisco. She had a studio in Russian Hill and became a part of the Artist Community, participating in a number of exhibitions. Since moving back to the UK in 2008, Amy found new inspiration in the vibrancy and chaoticness of the London (Space Studios) until recently moving to the Kent Countryside, enjoying the more tranquil and breathtaking influence that has to offer.

Working in the Abstract Expressionistic style, Amy is influenced by emotions, people, surroundings as well as artists such as Hans Hoffman, Mark Rothko, and Philip Guston. As seen at Parallax, Amy explores the use of colour and texture. Her work is emotive and reflective, and allows the viewer to interpret through their own experiences, memories and feelings. She works in oils, the ideal medium to create the impasto texture that gives depth to her Art. Her favourite colour? Blue.

 

I was really ashtonished by DAPHNE HUGHES Art, for certain aspects so close to my kind of artworks. Daphne is working in the South East of England in Leighton Buzzard,Bedfordshire. She is a Contemporary Artist creating large Abstract paintings based on her Photography. She loves to exploring the minute details of surfaces inherent in objects that surround us. She captures images and exposes their complex surface textures, observing and translating these qualities into paintings. She uses to create large scale fabrications of texture or movement. Each painting is unique and original with strong visual qualities, and by their nature create a tactile response by the use of mixed and diverse mediums.

Daphne worked on a series of large paintings inspired by the discarded object and corroded materials in the environment. She interprets and captures the spirit of their unconventional displacement and existence into paintings in her own unique style. Her works reflect an enhanced physical version intensifying the original qualities. Daphne Hughes says: “As a passionate Artist I am focused on my forthcoming project which will be a series of individual original Abstract paintings of the surface qualities of ancient fishing boats of Bali,Indonesia and the centuries of worn paint.” “Regenerations” was the title of the works showed at Parallax AF. Daphne published a book in which she tells her incredibile journey trough Art.

 I was also captured by MARTINA KOLLE paintings. Martina – who divides her time between Italy and Germany, exhibiting in both countries as well as Turkey and the United States – works between the regions of the abstract and the representational where only myths and symbols reside. Having practiced homeopathic therapy for over 15 years, Kolle draws upon her own inner resources to give life and vitality to an art that, in the end, is always her own. Her signs and symbols sit outside of our regional languages to form a universal, pictorial grammar only accessible through intuition. Some works pay homage to Georgia O’Keefe’s quivering slips of line that flatten out into organic symmetries. We also see the muscular and assertive hard-line geometries of Joseph Stella’s late paintings. Moving past the feminine and masculine, Kolle’s pictures evade category while offering enough familiarity to be arresting. Her intensely saturated yellows, reds, and blues swirl into vortices, drip with gravity, and expand into an ethereal openness like light reflecting off mist.

Martina Kolle says: “During my long-lived therapeutical experiences as a homeopath, balance has always been my main topic, especially its effects on the human spirit, body and soul. My oil on canvas paintings are compensators. Every topic, the colours and composition of each single painting, are given to me in quiescence and are then transferred onto canvas.”

 Parallax AF gave me the pleasure to meet Czech born artist DAGMAR DOST-NOLDEN, who participated at the Biennale di Venezia “Creative Room” (2009) and Third International Forum in Bolognano, at Casa dell’Arte founded by Lucrezia De Domizio Durini. International artist-painter, sculptor and performer, Dagmar Dost-Nolden – who lives in Cologne, Germany – is fascinated by different forms of energy. Nearly all her paintings, sculptures, objects, installations and performances relate to this subject. Energy is streaming and changing, and art follows the same principle. She considers that art is not a static subject, but interacts with its surroundings. Architecture, nature, people, everything is influencing each other, changing not only the view, but also thoughts and thinking processes.

Not belonging in any of the strong art opinions she has developed her own art. It arisese out of an idea as well as an inspiration during the painting process. Both, the idea, spirit and the energy are being included. She says: “Human being, so as everything others too, is only a small part of free streaming energy that is forming all the universe”. Dagmar has been acknowledged in plenty of exhibitions in many countries. This year she participated at Art Fair Shanghai and Art Fair Beijing.

 I like also to mention artworks by DAVID ABSE, KIMBAL QUIST BUMSTEAD, MATTJ FLETCHER, KIMBERLY JEAN WEBB, SOREN MAYES, SUE SKITT, COLIN PEARCE, and the four Polish Artists MARLENA PROMNA, TOMASZ PIETREK, HANNA SLIWINSKA, ANDREI RAFALOWICZ.

 

 By Roberto Alborghetti

(reporter, author, visual artist, photographer)