Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Ossip Zadkine: (re)considering the artist’s empathetic work — searching for “a true reality and a real truth”

Prometheus (1956), Bronze
Ossip Zadkine (1890–1967), Sculptor
Saint-Germain des Prés, Paris
photograph by © versluis 2010

Traditionally, Prometheus was ridiculed as the purveyor of good gifts to humankind — Zadkine’s Prometheus (in a beautifully subtle contrapposto pose) asks whether humankind is using the gift of fire for good or for ill. The consideration of Zadkine’s artworks again seem relevant in these disconcerting times.

One of the best reflections of Zadkine’s work was by Dutch artist, Henk Krijger (1913-1979). The following excerpt, subtitled, A christian style, is from Jan de Bree’s fine article, “Henk Krijger and the Institute for Christian Art / Patmos, 1969-1973”:

Krijger in his article Drie Overwegingen, discussed the christian artist and the development of a christian style. In his considerations he turned to the Russian sculptor, Ossip Zadkine, and showed how Zadkine’s work was important for the christian artist. According to Krijger, Zadkine, like so many other modern artists, experienced a cultural crisis. In his distress he searched for a ‘true reality and a real truth’ and broke through to the deepest deep, ‘the primordial state in which horror, fear and lostness were the characteristic emotions.’ Like Zadkine, the christian artist also was to break through to the deepest deep. The Christian had to break through the ‘schriftge­ leerden-wet or leer’ (the law or doctrine of Bible scholars) to the depths where prayer, the cry to God (an existential outburst) broke forth and a conversion took place. Going against the certainty of human knowledge and casting oneself upon God made the christian artist not a rebel against God, but a witness of the Word. He would be a witness of the Word in his own language, his christian art, with a true style. That is conversion.
The turning away from a kind of academic knowledge or dogma, as Krijger later called it, to an intuitive, emotional knowing was one of his main points in his view of art. …(1)
  1. de Bree, Jan. “Henk Krijger and the Institute for Christian Art/Patmos, 1969-1973.” Hommage `a Senggih: A Retrospective of Henk Krijger in North America. Ed. Jan de Bree. Toronto: Patmos Gallery, 1988. 25-26. Print.

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