Evolution of the Mask Series – Part 2

“Silhouettes” is a pre-conceived painting. The opposite was true of the following artwork. In the beginning was the thought, and the thought was just to make something big. So I purchased three fairly large canvasses and let the paint do its job in leading me.

The underpainting outlined an eye that spans and unites all three canvasses, which is not any less symbolical than the vertical consideration of the same outline. These underlying symbols together created the most fertile conditions for other ideas to arise as each brush stroke became a life in itself. The “life-lines” all affected each other on canvas with a ripple effect that varied by response and either went through hundreds of other brush strokes or faded into silence in a much shorter sequence.

Introducing different predominant colours to separate each part of the triptych lead to the opposite and created new connections between them. The petals of paint slowly grouped into shapes that reminded me of the forms that I have seen before in the “Eclectic,” “Yellow,” “Gold” and “Pink” paintings. So I’ve played along. I thought that there would be three masks, yet, there were only two. They were split as they grew from one canvas onto the next – one between red and green, one between green and blue. Like two eyes on the same face that have slightly different perspectives. They extend over canvasses like perception of reality extends far over the picture that our eyes perceive at any given moment. And in this larger perspective I grasped the that the initial thought of “big” has led me to something really small.

A tiny “RGB Pixel,” two masks, three paintings. One triptych that hints at the possibility of the impossible; that seemingly tries to prove that three equals two equals one. It succeeds in a way. It is the mask of that moment when I imagine doing something grand and at the peak of grandeur the other side of the coin hits me like a rock and I realize that it was a mirage – it is no more than a single pixel of which I would need millions to portray even a matchbox. It’s a feeling of a devoted scientist, when all life’s work gets disproved in an instant and becomes just another superseded scientific theory. Consoling is that it may have paved the way for something else.

The “RGB” painting has shown me that a laissez-faire attitude to paint is fruitful in my semi-abstract case. The implication of less control over the evolution of the image intrigued me.

The thought was that perfection is a flaw, it may be somewhere in the end and in the beginning of the universe – a state of total unity in a single unmeasurable moment before the Big Bang. We are far from it and can only try to grasp truth within the limitations of reason. So why not let it flow?

A brilliant red flow so bright and glowing, hot like lava cooled down and solidified all the traces of its movement – just enough for a new layer of marvelous, transparent blue to appear on the surface like the oceans on earth that after being vapor turned into a new liquid state. A yellow flow became the catalyst for the shapes and forms to appear, as well as, green hues. The underlying red reemerged, mixed with yellow and created a shape that in my imagination resembles a mask arising from the chaos, which is countered by the orderly definitions of the black line. This evolution gave rise to the “Imperfect Conscience”.

By this time I have already been working on another painting from this series for several months. Each layer was defined by a color scheme that mirrored another painting from this series that I worked on in parallel. This gradual, slow, patient process created a growing number of reiterations of this character and from the onset it was clear to me that it would be very different one. The unifying, underlying concept of a clearly defined “openness” of the previous works in this series seemed undermined as the “flesh and blood” of this painting got hidden deeper and deeper under growing numbers of layers. This painting took on the contextual characteristics of the “Veiling” series that principally opposes the “Unmasking” as it visually blurs an artwork’s theme beyond recognition into seeming abstraction. An hypocritical move for a member of the “Unmasking” family that ought to shed some light on what one can be, however, one may also be an impostor – just like Moliere’s “Tartuffe”:

“There’s a vast difference, so it seems to me,

Between true piety and hypocrisy:

How do you fail to see it, may I ask?

Is not a face quite different from a mask?”

And who am I to hinder the evolution of paint on canvas and, more importantly, the evolution of thought? It is beyond my power and at the end of the day I am the viewer and my role is transformed, as well. So now I look at “Tartuffe” as the first bridge-mask between two opposing ideas – one that veils its nature and truth way deep, and another that lays it all bare with a single line. But it is never what I see.

In a way, this intermingling of the opposites was like an act of aggression of one idea versus another, a philosophical combat that left both participants tarnished and any implication of purity – destroyed. But sometimes in our lives (those of you that have raised or are raising kids may relate) we want to be pure, calm, moderate to create a smooth environment for the next generation to grow and thrive from the first days of their lives. In all senses we create pastel coloured walls.

“Intra Muros” is the mask that hides within these pastel coloured walls, as the name blatantly implies. The edgy, the spiky, the rough, the aggressive, the acute, the anxious, the fearing, the million other things go to rest there for a while. There are many symbols that you can distinguish depending upon the lighting, but it is the blurring effect that I want now. The top layer is performed in the technique, as in “Tartuffe,” but – no double standards or hypocrisy. Some things are just better left unsaid – so people think quite often, I suppose.

This reminds me of Franz Kafka, since he built such walls around many of his works by not publishing them and intending to destroy all of his unpublished writings. But, we most likely know about Kafka only because those walls were demolished and his works have been published contrary to his wishes after he died.

Be careful, what you wish for, because neither you, nor I – nobody is perfect – thus the title of this painting inspired by Franz Kafka – “Nikdo Není Dokonalý.” The title is in Czech to give credit to his heritage. But a few words about this painting must be said in German – the language that Kafka used for writing:

Der Prozess lief über die Buchzeilen auf die Leinwand stundenlang ohne Pause hinaus ohne den K. sogar für einen Moment um einen Schluck Wasser zu trinken loszulassen als seine Kehle wegen der dicker, gehitzter und mit Lösmitteln aus der Farbe gefüllter Luft austrocknete. Die Verwandlung des Bildes war schon so stark vorangekommen dass nicht mal ein Echo des Ausgangspunktes in Erinnerungen hinter den Figuren der Abspaltungen des Selbstbewusstseins noch zu sehen war – ohne Anfang und, was als viel schrecklicher zu sein erschien, ohne Ende. Wie sadomasochistische Hungerkünstler, die ihr Lebenssinn in Erschaffung eigener Machtlosigkeit in einer Welt, die all mögliche Freiheiten für den Willigen zu bieten scheint, suchen und damit immer wieder scheitern, finden diese Figuren höchstphilosophischen Sinn und Befriedigung durch in eigenen Köpfen eingerichtete Foltermaschinen, deren Zweck ist ein grausames Elend so extrem, schmerzvoll, lang wie möglich voranzuziehen und den Tod niemals zur Erlösung werden zu lassen. Ein Teufelskreis aus Wiedergeburten in dieselben Schuhe war sein Urteil.

Let’s move on, though. New day, new mask, new beginning, new creation that stems from roots, which are strong, wide and deep, planted with bitter tears to let the tree’s crown grow thick and high, flourish and bear the most wonderful of fruits.

The mask of “Lacrimae Rerum” – words from Virgil’s Aeneid – the work that laid the seed of national identity, which turned the city-state, Rome, into one of the most powerful empires in human history. Ethereal embodiment of angst without object for its dread, and sorrow without object of pity, dictates the sharpness of the line and shapes this painting. Hope opens the door to the consciousness at a moment of an internal conflict between imagination and perception of reality, love and hate, delight and gloom, doom and blessing. The pure tears that lie at heart of things mark the dawn of wisdom, indomitable courage and resilience in life’s fights defying fate and human foolishness.

“Lacrimae Rerum” reintroduces highly defined lines into the Mask series and plays with the number three: There are three lines, to be exact; There ought to be three eyes, as well, but one of them we can not see. The third eye is present; There are three colors.

Someone told me that the thick lines here seem to capture a demon. Or they captured time – the past, the present and the future. How far we’ve come… How far we are… How far we’ll go… I could argue that the only infinite of these is now. When looking at this painting now, from a viewer’s perspective, it evokes numerous correlations to some great artworks from the past in its own way. Time, certainly, plays some kind of a role here. Most importantly, the thought of defining a mask and its context with three freehand lines opened a new dimension in this series. I was fascinated and translated these lines into more paintings…

The first layer of this painting was Ultramarine blue. It was beautiful, even, calming, but I wished that I had real Afghan Lapis Lazuli to rub it into pigment and patiently blend it with the finest oil to see the real color that every paint manufacturer tries to imitate. This pure blue abstraction received some more hues and slightly reminded me of another painting I did a while ago – an abstract “Cityscape” that is also a square meter piece. Hence, I set out to transform it, because I do not enjoy painting anything that resembles what I have seen already.

Here the lines came in handy to cut into abstraction at its finest. At first I had a heavy heart, when I literally carved lines into the abstract (under)painting ripping its surface, destroying it like a vandal. But this was a fleeting feeling for just a few days until the paint dried and I saw the sense in what I have done… It all was to draw “a drop of heart’s blood of Mother Earth.” And this translucent, bright, blood-red color shines like a flowing river of the Sunrise Ruby. The “Ruby” mask appeared upon a bed of Sapphire, Emerald, Citrine, Garnet, Jade and Moonstone.

Where there are precious gemstones, there should be precious metals to form a setting, or on their own. Coincidentally, the same day that I’ve painted one canvas blue that turned into the “Ruby,” I’ve painted another canvas gold. The preciousness in these first stages it that I really like to see a fresh single color field painting to revitalize thought, to take a step back and zero in the scale on something new.

But the line became a dictator that forced its grip over yet another canvas and did not even think about letting me loose. And I was more than happy about it.

What that led to was something different, again. It came to be a fiery, curly, passionate, somewhat narcissistic, powerful and monumental mask, yet, balanced, graphic and defined. A tragic hero. Inspired and inspiring, able and great in his own right, but with many faults and in the end – not in control. A Caesar, but not an Emperor, like Flavius Claudius Crispus – the first son and execution victim of dictator/Emperor Constantine. Hence I called this painting “Crispus.”

Roman history and that of the ruling class, especially the Caesars’ and Emperors’ families is full of brutality, deceit, intrigues, all kinds of dirt like a cesspool. One could argue that it’s the same in many governments around the world today. I hope it’s not. At least there are fewer hereditary ruling structures and there is no need for brothers to kill each other to grab the power from the ailing father and then in a few years kill some of their own children to ensure that the favourite one gets the crown. It must have been rough.

Can you even imagine these “Three Brothers From Different Mothers” fighting each other like they are Caesars – the Emperor’s heirs – until two are torn to pieces and burned into ashes and the third one survives, but a bit ripped needing to be sewn back together? I don’t even want to. They all would be useless in the end – even the surviving one. Who would appreciate a ripped, torn and tarnished painting that is just a third of the artwork? Maybe in two thousand years, but we won’t live to see that.

“Three Brothers From Different Mothers” are in good shape and well-balanced, stable in their minds. They are big and look fantastic. They give the game with number three another twist. It is a triptych – three colors and three shapes differentiate the three canvasses, three layers on each part, three lines that form three masks in three different ways, combined they miss three eyes, but there are three third eyes. Different, yet, alike. Well defined and separate multiplicity that exists in unity. Only all together are they a single mask of a certain state of mind. Deeply dark and shining bright at the same time. The Holy Trinity of the Unmasking series.

I have a smile on my face from the description that I gave those bro’s, but it quickly fades. The sun shines bright, but deep inside the day is dark as a cloudy night like on the other side of earth. It’s that kind of mood, which of course I can make seem happy, joyful and satisfied, yet I would have to force upon myself another mask, but I decline to do so in order to give credit to the truth. Another revolution happened on canvas and ended the dictatorship of the three lines, yet many more lines contest the power here.

At birth this mask was bright in all kinds of soft blue hues on white. “The most comforting of paintings that I’ve seen” – someone has said, when seeing the newborn. The seed of darkness, depth and introspection lives deep within every healthy human mind and soul and time has come to give it its own face – the mask of “Tenebrae” transformed and fully switched its colors as it matured under my hand. Warm, but with its twists. From a few steps away it looks like in the darkness of the night unseen eyes make their gaze physically felt and quiet footsteps and whispers send shivers down the spine – or do they arouse? Are you the hunter or the prey, are you awake or in a dream’s embrace? I won’t go any further. In the end you do the thinking and choose your own direction.

What I choose for now is to seize presenting masks even though there is another, quite colorful one that follows and flows out of the “Tenebrae” – but that one is far from finished, so the show goes on into the future. This series already made an incredible transformation of my face into masks of shapes, lines and senses that I could have not imagined in my life. They seemingly have nothing in common with myself any more, but haven’t lost a human touch and became more universal in my own understanding, because I notice other people wearing them here and there. With billions of people populating this planet I think that many millions could relate to one or another image, thousands could feel that it is or was them and may regard any state of being may be just a mask, but most importantly – these masks inspired contemplation and the thought that lies at root of what makes us human. The “true” self is a great thing to look for, because such a goal opens a whole endless road of discovery of endless you.

And as for me – the masks have become characters and actors for many stories to be told through future artworks.