Remember me on this computer
Hillel Kagan
About this artwork
Crazy Dancing
oil on canvas
h.76cm w.76cm d.0cm
Dec 2009

Hillel's Description: This is about the feeling that goes with arthritic and neurological pain and the loss of physical control one experiences or imagines.

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Hanjo Schmidt

JP Delaney

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2010-09-16 21:04

Hillel, I'm a little retiscent to ask about this painting - it's such a personally scary piece, and as it reflects your state of physical health, consequently I'm naturally worried for your well-being. The only question I'd ask you as the artist is - did it help in any way?
As it looks like some strange, dark exorcism, did it do anything to rid you of those painful daemons?

2010-09-17 19:38

Very liberating and it's my intention to do more of them. I think it's good to express what you're feeling during certain periods whatever they may be although sometimes it's hard to find the visual expression. But it's worked for me before that when during a particularly prolonged depressive period I decided that instead of being paralyzed I'd just try to paint the depression and fortunately I was able to come up with the imagery that expressed the feeling. The process actually brought me out of my prolonged funk.

I don't think this will magically work the same way and remedy my problems but I did feel better. I also happen to like the painting, at least as much as I can like anything I do. It's actually not that much of a diversion from my other work which has consistently wavered between abstract and more abstracted reality.

By the way I saw your studio log comment on the front page. You make a vague complaint about not being challenged regarding your last sculpture project. The problem is where and how does one respond or make that challenge. As has been discussed before there has to be a way to comment back and forth on those Studio Log pages. In the meantime I'll have to do it here. I liked that sculpture although I have to agree with what you said about just leaving it at the wire mesh armature stage (LINK). That's the stage where I really like your work, very ethereal. I understand only too well the need to go to the "depths" but I really think you had something there at that very early stage, feeling easy and breezy and not strained or over-worked. Sometimes "easy" (not facile) is a good thing. So I'd say stop, forget the rest of your habitual process and the painting which IS at this point facile. Have the self confidence to leave it where it was purest and stop second guessing yourself. You've already been to the "depths" and back and then back once again. Now why not make life easier for yourself and all the rest us? Just an opinion and thanks for your concern about my well being but I'm much better than I was a year ago when I did this painting. Not exactly pain free but under control.

2010-09-19 23:06

When I was a kid, I'd ended up in various institutions against my will. This painting reminded me of those times, where the psychological impact forces one to find a visual response to somehow assimilate and make translatable the fear and anguish of being alone and unable to defend oneself against a state imposed from an external source. It's upsetting that the source in this case is the physical self, and will probably require quite a bit of patience and self-awareness to negotiate over time. I wish you much success in this endeavour - in both it's physical and visual manifestations.

Artists probably regularly find themselves at this point - attempting to reconcile the spiritual and physical demands of being - despite their innate cynicism, and (communicate/translate) this somehow into a meaningful visual statement, maybe also to give strength to others.
By this statement, do you think I'm exaggerating an altruistic spirit of art?

2010-09-20 21:29

Hillel, Karen gave me the tip to have a look at artprocess again and I have to admit that I liked what I saw. The new painting of yours is very dynamic and interesting and convincing not only in it’s changing into the abstract. A thing I guess you are after since a long time. Yes and I love the square format. I wasn’t aware that you use it so very often what I found out when I checked your Oevre Complete. When I did my square formats I wasn’t even aware that you used them at all. I think that every format that is not rectangular in the normal or standard way is more interesting, a square one as well as a very wide or high one. But the square focusses enormously and gives great emotional power to what you show. I had this experience with “Tabletop” or “Three Weeks Left” or “Homage to Menzel”. One simply cannot hide in one corner. One has to show what it is all about. That I guess makes it such an intersting and strong format. And by the way: IT’S SOOO GOOD TO HEAR FROM YOU ! ! !
And not to forget: I like the above comment of John-Paul very much. It’s strange, I had the same experience as a kid and the situations were absolutely traumatic for me but I never thought of looking for a visual depiction or how one calls this in English. Maybe that from the beginning I was looking for an alternative and how to depict this instead of looking back. But I’m no psychologist and know almost nothing about the deep dark dungeons inside a human being’s feelings.
Greetings and best wishes to both of you.

2010-09-21 00:55

Hi Hanjo, thanks for your comments and it's nice to be back and read your words again. Uh oh, it looks like the troupes may be reassembling.

Mr. Delaney, I'm not sure I know what you mean when you talk about an altruistic spirit of art. (Quick story) My wife and I cared for my father when he was dying and he went in the most brutal way imaginable. He was riddled with cancer, tumours pressing on his spine. I would sit with him while he writhed in pain. One time that I particularly remember, he was in anguish and turning around on the bed, not rolling from front to back but rotating within the whole bed. I asked him what he was doing and you could see he was in horrible pain and didn't know how to answer. Then a thought hit him, "holy smoke" he said, "I'm a corkscrew! Can you imagine that? I'm a human corkscrew and I'm being screwed right into the earth!" He started laughing at the notion and the pain seemed to ease up and he became less agitated.

I've spoken about my dad before so you know he was a mechanic. But the point I'm trying to make is that we all try to understand things as best we can and however we can. Whatever method/s we use; science, art, philosophy, religion or whatever is inconsequential. Life without understanding is too painful. Until my father invented in his mind a kind of mechanical understanding, the confusion of whatever was happening to him only confounded him and he fought against it and that compounded the pain. Understanding or interpreting, even half crazed on morphine as he was at the time, lessened the pain. That's what I think artists do. They try to understand according to their individual natures, and they try to realize and convey that understanding. They do it for themselves. It's their work and they're compelled to do it. There's nothing altruistic about it.

2010-09-21 18:12

Interesting that Hanjo should note your use of the square, a format he's obviously quite at home with. I'd like to add that my own experience is having had great difficulty with squares - I tend to avoid them at all cost. Not sure why, but Hanjo is right when he says it's power is in commanding the focus of the viewer - nevertheless I think it's that factor of perfection of those dimensions that I fail to resolve in my own painting. Incidentially, as a bit of fun, would anyone be interested in doing an online "square project" i.e. the only rule being that whatever is produced should be square in format?

Secondly, he briefly mentioned trauma experienced as a child, in response to my mentioning a need for a type of visual 'processing' or 'reckoning' in order to deal with an extreme, youthful, loss of control. As he's such a visual animal, I find difficulty in his not naturally seeking a visual depiction of the state of his spirit in those young days. How on earth did you work it out, Hanjo?
Interestingly, I've seen it in my own family where a marriage breakdown, or serious illness of a loved one, spurs one on to enter the language of the visual. Grown men who had never expressed an interest in visual art suddenly reach for a brush and colour as a means to assimilate the change that is occurring around them. Incidentially, unlike the charged fury that I see in Hillel's painting here, my mentioned explorations were the early ventures into a timid series of presumably awkward and untalented watercolour landscapes, now thankfully long since lost.

2010-09-21 18:43

Well, I can’t help my unartistic behaviour as a child. My way to survive was not to deal with the pain visual or nonvisual but with ignoring. I was living in a kind of virtual submarine and when these ordeals were over or even while they occured I dived with this u-boat it into the darkest depth of the sea of unconsciousness and looked at all the fascinating things they have stored there. Maybe this is a very archaic reflex like animals follow when pretending to be dead. But instead of being dead I explored dreams of something better than the current reality. So this way they could harm my body of course or frighten me but never harm my soul. It’s a funny thing, I know, but it’s how it was and still is. So I’m sorry that I could not make something artistically productive out of those nightmares. But in the end I think that the way I look at things and in particular human beings, their faces for example, contains much of the experience as a kind of spectator to my own fate for of course I watched what happened to me.
Anyway, what Hillel said about the artist’s approach to life and it’s torments seems very wise to me. And it even fits into my story only that I did not feel like a corkscrew but a submarine.

By the way John-Paul, near Stuttgart, in Waldenbuch, we have a museum that shows only artworks that is done in the square format. I think that it is a bit silly but the foundation that runs this museum normally produces a very famous chocolate “Ritter Sport” in square bars. So one can see that the square format can support the exiting and dramatic as well as the banal. And here we are back at the beginning of the questions about the challenges of this format.


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