C.D.Hentschel (Art)

by dhw, Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 12:22 (4523 days ago)

I have just heard that my friend Claus Dietrich Hentschel has died. The name will mean nothing to most of you, apart from the fact that I used one of his paintings on the homepage of this website.-If you haven't already done so, I would ask you to look closely at the painting. Of course it's not easy to see the details in such a small reproduction, but you can make out its basic elements. At the bottom, you can discern various architectural features ... possibly in a state of ruin. On either side of these are giant leaves, perhaps a sign that Nature is taking the earth back from man, or alternatively that man is usurping Nature? Covering this ambivalent city is a huge piece of fabric. It seems impermeable ... a dense barrier between the city and the vast world above and behind it, which stretches out into infinity. The eye is drawn to the dazzling light ... but more of that in a moment. To the right of this light, barely discernible, a dark shape rises out of what one presumes is the sea. Another country maybe. And looming over all this, at the top of the picture, is a precise, geometrically patterned ceiling. But even that is not quite as it seems. We see part of some kind of heavenly body within this structure, and to the right of that, two strange shapes that might just possibly be flames. Flaring up, or dying down? They and the orb echo the colour of the cloth. Is it order coming out of chaos, or order descending into chaos? Worlds coming together, or worlds drifting apart?-The German title of the painting is Am Rande der Dämmerung, which I translated as 'On the Edge of Twilight'. Wagner's Götterdämmerung is usually translated as 'The Twilight of the Gods' ... which is fair enough, since his gods are on their way out ... but Dämmerung is actually ambiguous. It can refer to dawn as well as to dusk. The light may therefore mark a beginning and not an end. Why "am Rande" and not simply "Dämmerung"? Perhaps because something is about to happen to veiled humanity? A revelation, or an annihilation?-I'm not going to speculate further than this, except to say that I chose the painting because it seems to me to encapsulate many of the themes we spend so long discussing. It offers no answers, but only the eternal mystery of the universe and our own position in it. There's a musical quality in such art, because it gets to the very heart of things without being subject to the restrictions of language. Hentschel's oeuvre contains a lot of these wonderfully evocative, mysterious, ambivalent landscapes that intermingle man's world and Nature's. A critic once described these pictures as a "moderne Kosmographie". Quite rightly, Claus would never explain anything. The observer must interpret for himself. This is an approach adopted by many exponents of modern art, and I'm afraid in most cases I'm not interested enough to want to delve deeper. CDH's paintings, on the other hand, draw me in, and I can return to them again and again. If this picture stirs something inside you too, then you will have experienced one of those forms of human communication that transcend the limitations of materialism. That's what great art does, and Claus Dietrich Hentschel was a great artist. He was also as kind and gentle a man as you could ever wish to meet.


by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Thursday, January 26, 2012, 03:06 (4522 days ago) @ dhw

I feel it appropriate to honor Hentschel's memory, by simply offering my own impressions. I have actually stared at that image many, many times while in contemplative moods on the website. (If it would be possible, I would love a high res photo, because indeed, much of it is lost due to the resolution.)-My eye is always drawn first to the maze. I never spent much time looking at the distant "world" but my mind these days makes out what looks to be an embryo--new life. The bright light in the center seems that impermeable distance between the known and unknown--I've always viewed this piece as a dichotomy of sorts between the material and immaterial: the maze represents the thorny difficulty of reaching that world, if only you could bypass the maze and go directly there...-The city scene below, draped with cloth... I've always thought it poignant that it seems to form a mountain with the city underneath it. In many ways it says "you can only ever go this high. The cloth over the city itself, shielding the material from the world above. I never noticed the leaves really before. -As would be predicted, I don't see either world drifting apart or closer to each other, to me they've always seemed in permanent stasis... held hostage by the light in the center-left. -My condolences to the loss of your friend, he's offered much to our conversations, without even needing to be present.

\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"


by dhw, Thursday, January 26, 2012, 15:34 (4522 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt,-Thank you for your post about Claus Dietrich Hentschel, and your insightful interpretation of our home page painting. He would have been very interested to hear both views, and yours may well be closer to his thinking than mine. Your maze idea features in other paintings, but so too do rigidly geometrical ceilings and structures. There's often a stark contrast between such highly ordered forms, architectural ruins, and Nature, which is sometimes luxuriant but sometimes desolate. I wish I could point you to a full exhibition of his works, but even the websites (including his own) are very limited. -I'm really pleased that you've gazed at the picture even before now. Some years ago I tried very hard to interest curators over here in Claus's work (he is quite famous in the German-speaking world), and came up against a solid brick wall. I'm convinced that such art would appeal to people of all cultures and generations, and your response reinforces this conviction. But the world of the arts is sometimes akin to that of the sciences ... there are lines to be toed, trends to be followed, contacts to be nurtured. Claus simply went his own way, and I find that all the more admirable.-You are right ... he has provided a presence without being present. I guess that's what art does.

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