Thoughts & Insights

From Eyes to Wall

How does a work of art come into being? Impulsively and expressively with brush and palette on canvas, spontaneously as a drawing or study with pencil on paper, with hammer and chisel in hand on stone or with fingers on a keyboard? Or as an already finished image in the mind of an artist?

Each artist develops their own manner of work which can change or grow over the course of a lifetime. Picasso made countless sketches before he put his astounding work “Les Demoiselles d´Avignon” on huge canvas in 1907. Decades later he was filmed as he painted spontaneously from the wrist with brush and white paint on a glass surface. From head via hand onto glass.

Jackson Pollock let the colours drip from the brush onto the canvas, where the dynamic movement of his hand and body over the canvas lying on the floor turned them into lines, structures and finally into a picture. A spontaneous, intuitive, energetic act of discharge?

Radical liberation
Such “liberation of a picture from the handwriting of an artist”, as OUBEY called it, was something he too ascribed to in the first years of his work. In some pictures of this phase you can still see occasional thin lines of dripped paint. In others, only the materials applied to the coated hardboard in a secret formula interact with one another and form themselves dynamically into turbulences which, supported by a little thermodynamics from outside, turn into a picture. He remained true to this principle for several years, through to the final consequence of renouncing any authentication through signature.

From eyes to wall
At that time he would have preferred to have completely freed himself from the process of materialising his pictures through his own efforts. For, as he once said, he had already finished painting them in his head. They stood before his inner eye in in their full complexity and multidimensionality as completed works.
He often felt that having to actually paint them so that others could see them was an imposition of the physical dimension of reality on boundless spiritual reality because he was certain that the materialised result would never equal the quality of the vision. He once expressed this radical desire to overcome the separation of spirit and matter in this sense in words that are equally radical:” I want to blast them out of my eyes onto the wall, my pictures.”

What a fantastic idea! Drastic, powerful, irrepressible – transcending the limits of the possible. Back then, in the early 1980s OUBEY was moving with this longing in the realm of the unobtainable, of utopia. Yet in ten or twenty years’ time with the rapid progress made in both technological and neurological research it may well be possible that the images that arise in a person’s mind can be made directly and immediately visible.

When wishes come true
Perhaps OUBEY‘s dream, born of the distress of a perceived limitation in his early work, will one day become reality for other artists, scientists, and thinkers in the sense of a freeing of the spirit from the fetters of matter? Whether then the materialised expression of thought in what they make visible will always be more satisfying than the supposedly imperfect ones brought from the mind over the hand onto paper or canvas is an open question. Who can say for certain, after all, just what is hidden behind an idea or conception when it can express itself completely free of the filter system of consciousness? There may well be some unpleasant surprises in store. In OUBEY’s case, however, I would have no doubts in this respect, quite the contrary. In this way even more fascinating works and thoughts would probably come to light than those he left us in his self-perceived state of limitation. I am almost tempted to put myself in a state of dream-like yearning.

Freedom in humility
Finally OUBEY freed himself from his early notion of a picture freed from the artist’s handwriting. This marked the beginning of a totally new and enormously productive period of work. It saw the production of GENESIS, the StarPixels and many other great works, all painted with recognisable brush strokes on coated hardboard and every one of them signed, often even with an engraving in the middle of the picture. Not only to recognise the limits of our physical humanity in the “quarantine that separates us from the immediate experience of the cosmos”, as OUBEY once called it, but also to acknowledge them and accept them is part of what I would call humility. Humility doesn’t limit us, rather it opens us up for new, previously unimagined possibilities. Humility is a key to freedom.

A key to freedom
That OUBEY was able to find this key to freedom at an early age was the result of his long, radical, honest and critical examination of himself and what his calling as an artist was in this world, in this universe. To arrive at such a point of concordant self-realisation is existential. Some loose themselves in their desires along the way; others cannot bear the struggle with themselves and give up. That OUBEY reached this point of development before his life was cut off so early and unexpectedly is, on the one hand, his own achievement. But I also view it as a gift because nobody knows how much time they have left to reach such a personal self-realisation or whether indeed they will ever reach it at all.


Image: OUBEY Computer Art (OCA), 1990

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