White Radiance

De Ketelfactory, Schiedam, January 12th 2014

Last month, Esther Ritman, director and librarian of The Ritman Library, spoke with three artists – Bernadet ten Hove (1957), Frank Sciarone (1951) and Ton Mars (1950) – about their work in De Ketelfactory in Schiedam. Below is a selection of the fragments which Esther put before the artists, and their associations and thoughts in response to them. An atmospheric video of the day is included at the end of this blog.

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Bernadet ten Hove

Bernadet would like to go beyond the judgemental and reintroduce the holistic element in society. This is all the more urgent for her as it is not something which is taught in our culture. She believes that self activity should be something taking place within us in the ‘now’: it is our task to achieve knowledge through insight, with ‘autonomy’ as the keyword.

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God bestowed seeds pregnant with all possibilities, the germs of every form of life. Whichever of these a man shall cultivate, the same will mature and bear fruit in him. If vegetative, he will become a plant; if sensual, he will become brutish; if rational, he will reveal himself a heavenly being; if intellectual, he will be an angel and the son of God. And if, dissatisfied with the lot of all creatures, he should recollect himself into the center of his own unity, he will there become one spirit with God, in the solitary darkness of the Father, Who is set above all things, himself transcend all creatures.

[From: Pico della Mirandola, ‘On the Dignity of Man’, 1968, p. 11.]

Answer: ‘First of all I would like to propose interpreting the word ‘God’ as an abstraction. In our culture we feel the need to think in terms of allegories as an extended form of metaphor. It is a way to turn abstract knowledge into personifications. When you thnik of a person, what you see is someone who acts and thinks. But you could also say: perhaps there is no ‘literal form’ as such. This takes me into the abstract, where you come across a notion like ‘monad’. I detect several stages in this fragment, stages that are there in all of us. Depending on which door you open, that which you are focussed on will manifest itself in the way you think and act. I think what’s wonderful about this fragment is that all stages or layers are elaborated, allowing you to take grasp at once the potential present in everyone. In the last sentence that aspect appears as some kind of crowning glory’.

The longing for the indivisible Being, for a release from the delusions of our ephemeral existence is the core of all art. The great aim of art is to dissolve our fragmentary perceptions, to show an unearthly Being that is alive behind all things, to break the mirror of life, so that we can see into Being itself. There is no sociological or physiological interpretation of art. Its effect is totally metaphysical.

[From: Franz Marc, ‘Zur Kritik der Vergangenheit’, (1914). From the current exhibition: ‘Beauty as the Imprint of the Kosmos – The Metaphysical in Art’.]

Answer: ‘When you are only led by your sense perceptions, perhaps you only have a small slice of what exists’.

Frank Sciarone

When Frank Sciarone is asked what motivates him in his art his answer is: A sense of wonder about what comes out of it. We are looking at SOMETHING with wonder! Space is an essential concept. Placing an object, however small, between our eye and the world as we see it can totally change out perception of reality.

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I have placed you at the very center of the world, so that from that vantage point you may with greater ease glance round about you on all that the world contains. We have made you a creature neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, in order that you may, as the free and proud shaper of your own being, fashion yourself in the form you may prefer.

[From: Pico della Mirandola, ‘On the Dignity of Man’, 1968, p.11 – p.12.]

Answer: ‘The very first thing that comes to my mind was when I attended yoga-ish sessions where cards were distributed at the end. That card contained a text about a lion on top of a mountain and that was me. And I looked around me and saw it all happen, it was a position I found really comfortable. I am in the middle of the universe, it is easy for me to look around and see everything going on in the world. We’re not talking about heaven or earth, this is not implied, there’s a sort openness to it. I am not someone who is quick to jump to conclusions, I think. First, you need to play with something before you can give it a place. And that is a part of that space’.

Nous sees everything and eyes all corporeal (things). And yet Nous does not become an observer for the eyes, but the eyes for Nous.

[From: ‘The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius’, translated by Jean-Pierre Mahe, p. 112, in: Salaman, van Oyen, Wharton, ‘The Way of Hermes’, 1999.]

There’s just more, so much more than we can imagine. We only have our eyes to do the work for us. I am also very happy that I can do things with my eyes, really very happy. But that there’s more, is more than obvious.

Ton Mars

Ton Mars is fascinated by phenomenology. To him, art is a way of showing the magic behind things, that which is invisible. His iconography, he says, reflect this in word and image, like an ontology of life. He has thought hard about how Spinoza sees God and comes up with the following: the divine, or the divine spark in us, humans, is reason. The highest form of reason, intuition, which transcends the intellect, can give us insight into the dimensions of our life in a flash.

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It is in the striving after the rational unification of the manifold that [science] encounters its greatest successes, even though it is precisely this attempt which causes it to run the greatest risk of falling a prey to illusions. But whoever has undergone the intense experience of successful advances made in this domain, is moved by profound reverence for the rationality made manifest in existence. By way of the understanding he achieves a far-reaching emancipation from the shackles of personal hopes and desires, and thereby attains that humble attitude of mind toward the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence, and which, in its profoundest depths, is inaccessible to man. This attitude, however, appears to me to be religious, in the highest sense of the word. And so it seems to me that science not only purifies the religious impulse of the dross of its anthropomorphism but also contributes to a religious spiritualization of our understanding of life.

[From: Albert Einstein, ‘Science and Religion’, 1954. In: ‘Ideas and Opinions’, p. 41 – p. 49. In: Charlie Hueneman, ‘Spinoza’s Radical Theology – The Metaphysics of the Infinite’, 2014.]

Answer: ‘This is something which can really only be answered with silence. Because what you are reading to us here is very complex. You might say it ends with a view of science held perhaps by the early Greeks. But reason, the feeling for things, intuition, responding to impulses, really the whole world that reaches into you in this way and which you respond to by trying to relate to reality around you in this way, is something which is not only an intellectual thing. Much of what is going on in science appears to happen within the intellect, but ‘reason’ is something else. Reason, which is wonderfully explained by Spinoza, is that we start with the affects, the emotions, we are affected by everything outside us. He calls it passion or emotions, and if you want to get a grip on your own life, you will need to turn things into the right direction by using your senses. But if you want to go beyond that, if you want to refine it, you need to turn to intuition. When I go back to the ancient Greeks, before Plato, the natural philosophers, what you then see is a kind of investigative spirit wanting to look at the whole world, though not compartmentalized, the way we now have specialisms like psychology, etc. No, it remains a whole. So within a single person the whole universe is present like a sort of ‘multiverse’. I think there is something very fine about this, it resonates with me. This is also what I can relate to in my work and this is how I simply use my intellectual abilities together with the intuitive spark. The sciences as we know them now are highly specialized and they keep on specializing along the cognitive path. It also means, that everything we say or claim needs to be supported by logic or by argument but art does not move in that direction. Art moves into another direction, allows the associations and the spirit to run free and it results in a kind of freedom which can stilll be called to account, but produces an image or a piece of music that cannot be approached ‘logically’. That is really an extension of our reality that can be called magical, because you have no grip on it. It is of a different order or quality than the extension which the sciences offer us’.

God: an inmovable world
Heaven: a movable world
Man: a reasonable world

God is within himself,
The world is in God
And man in the world.
His (i.e. man’s) deficiency is ignorance,
His plenitude is the knowledge of God.

[From: ‘The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius’, translated by Jean-Pierre Mahe, p. 109 & p. 114 in: Salaman, van Oyen, Wharton, ‘The Way of Hermes’, 1999.]

I am going to make a direct link with my work here. What’s already been mentioned in the video with reference to those diptychs and the number ‘1’, when I said that in my work I wasn’t interested in the number ‘1’ per se as it resides in itself or can be associated with God or with a particular notion of God, but that I’m grappling with something more evolutionary, more human, here, which is that ‘1’ is formed out of ‘2’. It’s a dialectical principle. This is how I prefer to see relations in the dimensions within God or the Godhead, Cosmos, Man; that there is a continuous dynamic movement of ascending and descending, left or right horizontally. All kinds of coordinates that you can experience or think of yourself. And that’s featured in my work.

An atmospheric video of the day was made by www.peaceandpixel.com, have a look at it below:

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