Post by Ken (INTJ) on Sept 25, 2018 4:12:12 GMT
"For people of color have always theorized ― but in forms quite different from the Western form of abstract logic. [...] dynamic, rather than fixed ideas seem more to our liking."
Barbara Christian, The Race for Theory (1987)
On June 27, 2017, the Castle Ruurlo opened to exhibit the works of Albert Carel Willink and Fong Leng. That Willink's third wife was a devoted patron of Fong Leng gives a pretext for the inclusion of a feminine orientalism in the museum, and serves as an attempt to soften Willink's supremely masculine Europeanism.
In Willink’s personal life, he was no strict racialist. He befriended the half Indonesian Edgar du Perron, who wrote extensively about his racial alienation from European society. Yet by 1950, Willink expresses a deep traditionalism and perennialism, in his publication De Schilderkunst in een kritiek stadium (The art of painting at a critical stage). In this publication, Willink defines art as a representation of the the eternal struggle of order against chaos. Modern art, in Willink’s view, severs this tradition and thus destroys the meaning of art. Christianity and Marxism are seen by Willink as outmoded attempts to impose order on chaos. Implicitly, Willink’s pagan worship of Rome represents a third way between Marxism and Christianity back to tradition. What modern art calls “bevrijding,” “liefde,” and “menszijn” (that is, liberation, love, and humanity), Willink calls “ontbinding (dissolution).” Willink’s conservative credentials are further boosted by the fact that in 1966, he was proud to paint a portrait of mayor Joost Boot of the conservative Anti-Revolutionary Party.
De Chirico's metaphysical style.
Starting in 1931, Willink began to take inspiration from Giorgio de Chirico. Chirico drew greatly from the German philosophies of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Otto Weininger, three philosophers who enjoyed unique favor in Nazi Germany. We can also note that Arnold Böcklin was favored by Chirico, and that, coincidentally or not, Böcklin was one of Hitler's favorite artists. De Chirico's own writing, specifically "The Return of Craftsmanship" (published in 1919) advocates a return to classicalism and argues against modern art. Like de Chirico, Willink was first a producer of modern art, but later renounced it and became a neoclassical painter.
In his obsession with Rome, Willink creates a “Romanite” response to the Dutch Italianates of the 17th century. The Dutch Italianate genre brought visions of Italy into Northern Europe. Italianate paintings guide the viewer through the rustic life of ordinary people. Their agrarian or seaside scenes bathed in warm Mediterranean light create a kind of nostalgia for the rustic life and make foreign shores seem comfortable and familiar. The Italianate connection with the past is created through the placement of Roman ruins alongside the ordinary life of the average person, creating a sense of belonging and historical continuity.
An example of the Italianate style
In sheer contrast to the Italianates, Willink's Romanite colossi stand out ― not as ruins testifying to the passage of time, but as alien visitors from an eternal realm. Ideal forms, untouched by humanity, descend from a higher plane of existence. Willink forces confrontation with the greatness and fall of Rome, symbolizing a fixed, unchanging idea, the Western form of abstract logic. And I use this phraseology in direct response to Barbara Christian, a woman of color, who writes, “people of color have always theorized ― but in forms quite different from the Western form of abstract logic. [...] dynamic, rather than fixed ideas seem more to our liking."
Willink achieves his representation of Western idealism through an angular, architectural invasion of the mindscape. Willink's invasion is not the slow, gradual rising tide of color, or a swarm of insects. It is the imposition of pure quality of aesthetics over the sea of organic quantity. Even when destroyed, the colossi die a beautiful or horrific death, but they never give way to the silence and weakness of rot or decay.
Willink's pessimism can be contextualized against the metapolitical threats facing Europeanism at that time. Whereas today, Europe seems to be degenerating into a long slumber of ignorance and old age, from the 1920s through the 1960s, Europe still remained young, vital, and vigorous. The greatest threats against Europe seemed to be sudden and deadly: the Blitzkrieg of world war or the nuclear winter of atomic struggle. Europe’s struggles were internal, with the Chthonian 'mass man' of communism and capitalism against the Apollonian aristocratic element which found its heritage in ancient Greece and Rome. Willink's portrayal of this struggle forces us to either dignify the Apollonian element with awe, to retract in horror at its destruction, or to fear its terrible day of wrath, its renewed imposition upon a spiritually empty world. We can no longer ignore the spiritual war raging in our consciousness.
The escape of the postmodernist is into irony, and the postmodernist will declare that Willink was not serious; that his painstaking realism was just a joke; that the contrast of Roman art to unusual scenes was funny or clever, or some kind of inside joke. This is not a serious analysis, but a psychological defense mechanism from a beautiful and terrible reality from those who fear its power and deep spiritual implications. Willink’s Zelfportret met Schede (Self Portrait with Skull, 1936) betrays more of a medieval memento mori attitude than that of the postmodern world.
One of Willink’s first works in his self-proclaimed style of Imaginary Realism is De laatse bezoekers van Pompeii (The last visitors of Pompeii, 1931). It shows men observing the ruins of Pompeii. One high-society man is bespectacled, another holds his cigar with great precision and poise. These men appear to be wealthy guests at a distinguished art exhibit, observing the ruins as if in serious rumination, with the outcome of their evaluation resulting in the exchange of millions for these broken columns. One man reaches out to touch a random bush, and another stands at the foot of two perfectly and abruptly broken columns. Vesuvius smolders in the background, transporting these men from the fashions of the present day into the ancient past.
As Willink develops his style, humanity shrinks before Roman art, which ascends beyond the realm of judgement and becomes a deity in its own right. It ascends beyond the awareness of human consciousness, and it cares not for the lives of mortals. Rome becomes frozen in a state of impervious resilience against the elements. Even in death, broken and lying prone on the ground, pure white marble is unmarred by moss or mold. They are recently shattered, not crumbled by time, but as if smashed moments before by some invisible hand.
Furthermore, there is an implicit violence and violation in the act of springing up hard marble forms against nature. The piece is teleported onto a background without any interaction between the object itself and the world it imposes itself on. In this mirage, the true scene is empty nature, but the imagination of the artist has imposed upon it his great idea. The land cannot react to Roman forms with vines or shade, as it remains ignorant and unconscious of the looming Roman presence.
Roman forms do become degraded and perverted later in Willink’s life, as in Evenwicht der krachten (Balance of Forces, 1979). Here, space flight seems to have usurped Roman tradition as a God to be worshipped, and so the Romanites fall into mold and moss.
In Onnodige getuigen (Unnecessary Witnesses, 1983), the effect seems to be that the nuclear power plants alter the genetic code of these “unnecessary witnesses,” making them into hideous mutants.
One painting in which Willink shows explicit violence is "Landschap met vechtenden (Landscape with fighters, 1937). Here, human conflict shrinks against the greatness of nature and the gigantic stone mountain. Eternal forms impose themselves once again over ephemeral human conflict. Occasionally Willink places animals or humans in an ''ignorant'' posture, where they wander around Romanite structures without the faintest idea of their surroundings. This is especially apparent in Trafalgar Square (1974). The children playing in this insignificant dead tree seem absurd in contrast to the gargantuan disaster befalling the ancient world around them. This is the perspective of the man who cannot help but see collapse as imminent, and sees his fellow humans as completely ignorant. In his paintings with exotic animals, the effect is vervreemding, or alienation.
When Willink places Roman statues and architecture in remote landscapes, one can sense the inaccessibility of their power and meaning. In De Tate Gallery verplaatst (The Tate Gallery moved, 1970), one is forced to imagine driving out into a wasteland and coming upon a perfectly preserved specimen of the ancient world. Looking at these scenes, there is a sense of loss. Artwork, meant to be worshiped, to be admired, to participate in culture, to enlighten and to create an ideal for a great civilization, remains alone and lost. Yet its potency is not gone. Like the portrait of a dead patriarch looking down with disapproval, Romanism intimidates and overpowers the viewer.
In Willink's magical realism, we discover ancient European temples on the surface of Mars. European history has become alien and foreign to its own continent. Rome has shown up unexpectedly, but it refuses to relent. One wonders what offenses we have committed to inspire the appearance of such Gods. If guilty for the sin of ignorance of their greatness, we bow in terror and offer sacrifices, or look away in horror. Willink makes the contrast between European technology and the barren wasteland of primitivism explicit in his Landing op Mars (Landing on Mars, 1969).
As current events advance, Willink introduces the threat of nuclear war with Einde der Wereld (End of the World, 1963). With apocalyptic, Lovecraftian horror, Willink elaborates upon this theme in De eeuwige schreeuw (The eternal scream, 1964). This passage by James O’Meara in his discussion of Lovecraftianism could just as well describe Willink:
“ancient and amoral forces violently puncture the realistic surface of his tales,” drawing the reader “into the chaos that lies ‘between the worlds’ of magic and reality.” Davis calls this “Lovecraft’s magical realism” but we have elsewhere suggested that it also resembles what has been called “archeofuturism,” the continued accessibility of the past in the future, now.”(5)
And what is Willink telling us with his 1965 work, Naar de Toekomst (To the Future)? A small white figure, something like an astronaut or soldier, walks towards fire and smoke. Behind him are gargoyles, crafted long ago to ward off evil spirits. With open mouths, they shriek in horror to one another in shock: how can European humanity walk so assuredly toward its own destruction? Willink's pessimism in 1965 about de Toekomst finds itself in agreement with the perennial perspective.
Willink criticized the fact that government officials, fearing the slur of being labeled a ‘conservative,’ supported abstract artists at the expense of classical artists. Willink furthermore argued that abstract art is no longer avant-garde, but rather, status quo. He writes: “All limits have been exceeded, all limits have gone out, all screws are completely unscrewed.” For Willink, the word ‘transgressive’ has lost its meaning. This is surely a sentiment that the deep right can sympathize with 67 years later. Willink’s revolution against revolutionaries puts him in league with Pyke Koch, Giorgio de Chirico, and even Salvador Dali.
Finally, the power and ferocity of Willink contained within the absolute control and order of European geometry could even be compared to the sculpture work of his contemporary, Arno Breker. As two neoclassical artists and archeo-futurists, they stood as revolutionaries against the modern world.
(1) Barbara Christian, The Race for Theory (1987). The placement of this quote in this essay should somewhat resemble Willink’s Kameel in het park van Versailles (Camel in the park of Versailles, 1956).
(3) De Chirico's Ritratto di Guillaume Apollinaire (1914) is the first depiction of a Roman bust wearing sunglasses, which became a meme in Alt-Right "fash-wave” aesthetics.
(4) Holzhey, Magdalena. Giorgio de Chirico. Cologne: Taschen, 2005, p. 60.