• A scream by Karel Appel

The body breaks apart

DSC_3079Before any misunderstandings: ‘A Scream’ by Appel is the title that came to me when I saw the work hanging on the wall. The real title is: Door een DAAD aan het daglicht getreden om zijn schoonheid te tonen (By an act it came to light to show its beauty).

As I wrote earlier (see The an Act by Karel Appel) it is a painting that was created in Groeneveld Castle in 1961 during the filming of The Reality of Karel Appel, a film by Jan Vrijman. With this film Vrijman won a Golden Bear in Berlin. Through ‘the mouth’ of this canvas the essential recordings were made for this film: While shooting Appel attacks the canvas, and by doing so, he also attacks the viewer. And with this an extraordinary poignant and stirring moving image captures the essence of Appel’s method, according to Jan Vrijman .

Appels most characteristic paintings after 1954 are extremely unrestrained and expressionist with striking colors and aggressive brushstrokes. The coating can be very fine and extremely thick. At first the paintings seem abstract, but on closer inspection there are usually masks, human faces or animal figures to detect.  In addition, also violence, fear and anger are major returning elements. The paintings are a translation of what occupies him at that time. The act is the focus: start painting and then see what happens. Do not theorize before.

From the material  ’emotional beauty comes to the front’.

The act in itself is inspiration.

This phase was further deepened after Appels first visit to New York in 1957. He was impressed by the city’s art and music scene.  He began to portray the jazz artists, whom he admired for years, and his work changed to more jazzy unfinished.

The famous philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard described Karel Appel ‘method’ in his book about Appel:

He writes:

‘The body trained to deal with worries and with itself falls apart. A contradictory body rises from it, a will to see shows itself what can only be seen at night. Who sees then? Through the sacrificed body Black sees itself red, it listens to its vibrating tones, which the day never hears. The magnetic hand and shoulder hastily throws illuminations on the canvas. At this instant of gesture, the unknown storms, and the body breaks apart.’    In: Jean-Francois Lyotard, Karel Appel A Gesture of Colour

Beautifully phrased, I think.

It seems to be written for the painting By an act it came to light to show its beauty where the body (of a killer) also breaks apart. 

When the reality of Karel Appel, was recorded Appel was, in 1961, at the height of his career. He was represented in New York by Martha Jackson, who also showed the work of Christo, Jim Dine, Sam Francis, Antoni Tàpies, Willem de Kooning and Claes Oldenburg. And, a year earlier, he had won the prestigious Guggenheim prize with his painting Woman with bird.

In short: he was an internationally, and in New York, celebrated artist and sold well.

Artworks from the sixties are back in the picture: in exhibitions (see, eg, A Bigger Splash at Tate Modern http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/bigger-splash-painting-after-performance) and in the art market.

A good time to bring DAAD(The Act)  to the attention. The past 53 years, it has only occasionally been exhibited.

And there is another reason:  this week the loan to the Cobra Museum ended and the painting was relocated back to a wall in a private house.

Transport and hanging is almost always fun. The puzzle of place, size, height, weight etc is solved in good consultation.

Here is a visual report

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