an image can express what thousands of words cannot do:
a feeling, several feelings, thoughts and comments simultaneously.

 

 

Why is it that an artist has to be able to talk about his/her work?

To me that is one of the weirdest things in our society.
I know, Western Society is all about words. I know there is a huge insensitivity towards art. Now, I do not talk about museum-art. That usually has been advertised so often that lots of people know the words behind the paintings or sculptures... Or worse: its value.

No, I talk about the more-unknown image, the highly individual work of art that one independent artist makes. Of course I talk about my art.

 

Let me tell you about an experience
that changed my art:

 

1987 - A journalist came to my studio, looked around, sat down and said: "Why?"
Why??! What...? I was in panic.  I so much wanted/needed a good article. Did this man not see what I was doing? Was it all not readable, visible in the work itself? Did the works not speak for themselves? Were  actual words needed to describe what to me was so obvious?

93rd

93rd reconstruction of the remains of the holy grail, 1993

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Now, all those years later (and having been teaching at art schools all over the world), I know that students are taught to write long essays. Art-students are trained to speak a lot about their work.
I do understand now, that it was a serious shortcoming in my education at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. But I did not know that then. (and it still is two completely different things to me)
To me art was (still is) about the hyper-personal experience of the artist.
'The world' is invited to come and share: those who want, can enjoy a trip in another (my) value-system, another way to look (through my eyes) at the world we live in.

 

This was a professional critic on art for one of Holland’s most prestigious art-magazines AND an important newspaper?? And he did not see? Was it not his job to see and feel and translate into words?

 

I had no words, as that is exactly WHY I visualized: because I had no language, unable to talk about the things that went on in my head. I made images in my own language. Text never suffices.

 

I stuttered, did my best, but was not convincing, obviously.
The result was a quite negative article in the very art-magazine, concluding "that time will tell whether Bechtold makes kitsch or art".
I was devastated. My first article in an art-magazine and this was the result... The gallery owner too, was very unhappy with the article, and after the show, I had to look for another gallery in the region.

 

Now, time cures a lot, as I knew it would.


When I made the 'reconstructions of the remains of the holy grail', I knew they were not kitsch, no pastiche. They were indeed, screams from the heart, spoken in porcelain. A material. But a material with a history of 'pretty'. I used it in a very different way, mainly because of its history.
This man, as many others, did not understand.
That was then.

We have moved-on now, some 30 years or so, and the work still stands. I am happy to conclude that the journalist just may not have been as clever as I assumed him to be.

 

The impact, however, of this article, taught me that I have to talk about the work, what it means, what I mean. I learned that this is also what potential customers want: an explanation.
In short: I needed words.

It is sad that I gave in (have to sell in order to survive, get articles in order to sell). I learned to talk. Got over my initial aversion and over the years became quite good at talking.

 

This, however, made me stop making...

No need to make when you can talk.

So much easier: talking, faster, effortless... But also meaningless.
The meaning is in the object, but I totally lost the urge to make and increasingly, in the process, my work became more a repeating, less and less from the gut, as I had the words ready before making.

 

This, again, is sad.

 

detail

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I still am very proud of the 'reconstructions'.

 

They are powerful big porcelain objects, loaded with meaning. So much meaning, that when talking about them to someone, I always forget to mention 'the other thing that was inside'...

At a certain point I compared the works wit a Mozart opera. Here you sometimes find 2 (or more, even 4!) people singing simultaneously, each their own text, each their own melody even. But together it is one music, a feast to the ear, even though you may have to listen to it several times to fully comprehend what happens. When it was first heard, the famous line: "too many notes" was uttered by an equally unimaginative mind as the one who criticised my work back in 1987.

This whole thing of course was not helpful in the beginning when an artist needs all the backup he can get. But through the years more and more people grew used to my way of expression and I am happy to say the works are now all sold and in good collections all over the world (which is their purpose, once I made them: to have other people enjoy them).

 

I KNOW you only have to look, to read, to feel the meaning. An object is made by an artist, but completed by the one who looks at it. An interesting object will therefore mean something different to each individual....

 

By talking about visual work you do lose.

see the article that played such an important role in this: see the article (in Dutch)

 

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