I van Tongeren
Email van Ingrid van Tongeren, 26 oktober 2013.
Lieve broeder Herman,
Toen ik pas weer bij jullie was en je schitterende albums mocht zien , kwam ik natuurlijk weer diep onder de indruk van je grote gedrevenheid , die tot zo'n onvoorstelbare ononderbroken productiestroom leidt, jaar in jaar uit en dag in dag uit ! Het is echt adembenemend hoe die inspiratie jou toevloeit en onweerstaanbaar tot uitbeelding gebracht moet worden !
De dramatiek lijkt nog te zijn verhevigd, sinds de dynamiek van de oerkracht van je watervallen en de beelden,waar de uitbarstingen van kleur- en vormgeweld zich nog voor een strak zwart of diepblauw gehouden achtergrond afspeelden, zoals ik zag toen je in Bloemendaal exposeerde.
Ik heb toen na afloop van mijn bezoek ook mijn impressies opgeschreven,maar nooit de tijd gevonden dat voor jou uit te typen en dat heb ik ook nu niet. Eén van mijn opmerkingen, belevingen was wel, dat die achtergronden door hun absoluut strakke vlak en penseelvoering het grootst denkbare contrast vormden met je uitspattingen en ontploffingen op de voorgrond,
maar ik beleefde er toch teveel een doodsheid en leegheid aan om b.v. als een oneindig universum met grote diepte en als mysterieuze achtergrond van het gebeuren over te komen. Dat was dus ook je bedoeling niet , maar wèl dat absolute contrast, ter verheviging van de schokkende werking van het "dynamiet "en de confrontaties op de voorgrond. Ik had je toen naar je eigen interpretatie van die leegte of die duistere ondoordringbare wand ? willen vragen.
Je had toen ook die kleine totaal andere schilderijtjes in de zijgang, waarop merkwaardige , voor ons onherkenbare , metaalachtig glanzende voorwerpen zich door de ruimte schenen te bewegen. Daarbij vroeg ik mij af, welke krachten de dragers, de Ürhebers "zouden de duitsers zeggen, van deze als een soort "techniekwezentjes" overkomende projectielen waren... Dat staat dus ook in mijn "recensie"van toen; ik kan het wel copiëren en je opsturen , want die vraagstelling blijft mij bij, hoewel die natuurlijk door honderd andere levensvragen en prioriteiten verdrongen is, waardoor het niet tot een doorlopend gesprek met jou kon worden.
Nu wil ik proberen je duidelijk te maken,wat ik daarna gezegd heb over het WEZENLIJKE van VERBINDINGEN :
Jij voelt je geroepen, ja gedreven ,aan de onzichtbare,onvoorstelbaar agressieve krachten
uitdrukking te geven , die in de eerste wereldoorlog al ontketend werden , maar sindsdien door de 2e wereldoorlog en met de ontketening van de atoombom nog verergerd zijn en nu na 60 jaar nog vele landen ter wereld teisteren (zelfs als interne strijd op leven en dood tussen bevolkingsgroepen en principe-overtuigingen ! ).
Daarbij heb ik vele vragen,waarover je mij maar eens moet antwoorden, hoe jouw gezichtspunten zijn en wat je zelf van mijn overtuiging vindt:
1. Die krachten zijn een GEESTELIJKE REALTEIT ,
Kun je ze ervaren als de uitdrukking van WEZENS ? MACHTEN?
Lievegoed heeft dat treffend bondig geformuleerd , uiteraard op grond van zijn aan Rudolf Steiner
ontwikkelde bewustzijn :
Achter elk FENOMEEN schuilt een KRACHT .
Achter elke KRACHT staat een WEZEN .
Het gaat erom dit te leren waarnemen , aanvoelen, analyseren, zich bewust te maken.
2. En zich dan bewust de vraag te stellen :
WIE wil zich hierin openbaren ?
Of juist achter verbergen ? ( NIET herkend worden ? )
3. Wie dien ik als ik aan dat proces meehelp ?
4. Als je dan de goddelijke majesteit in de natuur, je watervallen, zons- op en ondergang de sterrenhemel, erkent en daarnaast alle afbraak en vernietigingsprocessen,zowel physiek als psychisch en geestelijk ( begrijpt wel , waar je dan allemaal aan kunt denken ) , zou je eens grondig na moeten denken of het niet zo zou kunnen zijn, dat dat laatste al zo overweldigend en reëel beangstigend overal aanwezig is, dat wij dat NIET moeten benadrukken, nog eens verwoorden, een stem geven, maar dat ieder mens , die de tweespalt , de , het gewicht en de macht van het KWAAD herkent, moet zien hoe hij aan de andere kant van de weegschaal HET GOEDE kan dienen, een stem geven, zichtbaar maken.
5. Wat je toelaat zo sterk in je ziel aanwezig te zijn,dat jij het voortdurend bereid bent te vertolken, te vertegenwoordigen in de wereld, is NIET ALLEEN EXPRESSIE GEVEN, UITDRUKKINGSMOGELIJKHEID ,maar OOK ALTIJD WEER , een TOEGANGSPOORT, een reëel ENTREE in de wereld verschaffen.
6. Dat waarmee je je zo existentiëel verbindt, heeft jou anderzijds ook wel in zijn greep , ook al denk jij in je nuchtere dagbewustzijn,dat jij de heerschappij hierover hebt en de baas blijft.
7. Is dit een bondgenootschap, dat je levenslang aan moet houden ? IN WEZEN zoek jij net zo lang levenslang naar de BRONNEN en VERKONDIGERS van de betere wereld en de VOORUUITGANG in de mensheidsontwikkeling, waartoe ook je grote naamgenoten, Opa van Tongeren en je vader , zich geroepen voelden.Jij kent vele VOORTREKKERS IN DE GEEST VAN VOORUITGANG , waaroner je enthousiast kunt vertellen . Ik vroeg je onlangs, hoe het zou zijn om zich DAAR ELKE DAG : 's avonds voor je gaat slapen en 's morgens bij het opstaan ,
BEWUST MEE TE VERBINDEN.
Zou het mogelijk zijn dan innerlijk vrediger te worden, die andere stroom af te dammen en andere uitdrukkingsvormen toe te staan zich aftastend te gaan ontwikkelen ?
Brian Waltham was a weIl
known lawyer in maritime cases for LLoyds Insurance
Company and became a very good poet after his retirement. I knew him
from 1957 when he
and a friend gave me a lift when I was hitch-hiking in
He kept telling me that I had to choose one direction in my art instead of expressing my feelings in so many different ways. I tried to explain many times that I needed these different ways of expression. At last I did not write him often because he did not understand that I just had to express my feelings in my way, even when not everybody understood me. Brian died if I remember weIl in 2002,about 76 years old.
Already for years I want to write about my life, about the happenings that influenced my feelings and my work. But than I cannot paint or make drawings for sometime. That is the difficulty. Till I realise this longer story I can put some letters or fragments of letters to some friends or texts that I wrote on my internet sites to give a better idea of what I think about artists, about the art-scene in general, about composers, inspiration, etc.
Here follows a letter to Brian and a fragment of another letter to him.
Peterloo Poets published "Masterclass" of Brian Waltham.
Later came out " Music for Brass". ISBN 1-871471-45-1 and 1-871471-20-6
Peterloo Poets, 2 Kelly Gardens, Calstock, Cornwall PL18 9SA, U.K.
And there is more.
A fragment of a letter to Brian Waltham
You ask what I make at the moment. Here you have two examples of my colour-drawings.
I made many thousands of black and white drawings the last five years and
tried everything out of abstract forms in combination with what one could
call action-drawing. In them I often destroy parts of these geometrical forms
so that an interesting chaos and order combination rests. From half august
on, when we returned from our long (working and traveling)
holiday, I started to draw in colour and I enjoy this very much. All the time
one must decide which colours one must use in combination with the rest and
this is an enormous exercise with the advantage that it does not cost me as
much material as when I paint on canvas. The atmosphere can change enormously
if one makes a squaire yellow, red, blue or black
for example. One can try out everything. Often I look at the black and white
drawings of the last five years and make the same compositions and make then
many variations but now in colour. My black and white drawings were very
dramatic, passionate and sometimes very concentrated. In colour it is of
course more difficult to get the same organic logic unity, the same dramatic
movement perceivable in every little detail of the drawing. With colours it
is always difficult to get the same dramatic sentiment in the whole for black
and white are the greatest contrasts that are possible. On the other hand it
is very intriguing what colours can do, mixed or pure to call up a dramatic
world of passion, of tragic, of disaster and destruction or of a tender
longing, a happy southern atmosphere. Colours can give a tremendous vitality
and dynamic to a drawing but one must take care that there is a strong unity
in the whole and this is more difficult when one uses more colours. But I
like the adventure of these solitary hours as you call your struggling with
what is in your head and how to translate it in language. I must confess that
I make my drawings in the evening when I am not alone between some TV programs I
want to see or even during them. In my studio I am alone and there I make
mostly very little action-painting canvasses trying to get as much mastery
over the material as in my drawings, hoping that after thousands of little
paintings I can make bigger and bigger ones without loosing so much expensive
paint and canvasses in my failures. I have too many bigger paintings standing everywhere in my studio blocking my way and
frustrating me because I can not yet finish them in a satisfying way. In them
I did not succeed in realising to translate my feelings and thoughts. I hired
at last a place where I can bring hundreds of paintings so that I can get a
bit more working-space .But one can't go on painting new paintings without
finishing old unfinished paintings as well. I am always happy when I suddenly
see new possibilities to go on with an old painting but you will understand
that there should not be too much structure in the underground. For the
Apart from that I have a lot of chaos that is no good at all and often it costs me a lot of time when I have to find something. I remember from the time when I staid with you that you said you always paid your bills as late as possible. That is probably very sensible and economical but I am soft-boiled as you know and get nervous of too many unpaid bills so that I have to think of too many things and so I do what you seem to do with letters of some friends with whom you are more friendly than with others, that means, I pay my bills rather fast. With letters I don't have so much experience, I have few friends with whom I correspond and to others I don't write such long letters.
On this christmascard you see energetic flying forms and little dots thriving upwards as blown by a strong wind. In the other you can see what a strong colourfield can do together with a seemingly chaotic mass of energetic lines expanding upwards and sideways. Of course I organise my chaos, otherwise you do not get a strong composition. But one should not see it that I organise and direct my lines. Everything must look quite natural, organic, a nice agreable chaos and even if some lines look as if they are wild outbursts, no longer kept in hand, then at least I enjoy this undiciplined character, apart from the herd, thriving in another direction, going in a direction where he sees something or expects something of which the rest of the lines or dots (read characters) have no notion. He is the discoverer. I hope you can feel the energy and drive in these two drawings.
You try to get a maximum of concentration in a succession of words that must translate your feelings as exactly as possibIe with all the atmosphere, colour and associations you feel. I do the same.with these lines, forms and dots and enjoy the thousands of possibilities that can be conquered out of the nothing on that white sheat of paper.
Happely I don’t suffer from a lack of inspiration for too long and I hope it is like that with you !
Good luck Brian !.
A fragment of another letter to Brian Waltham
You should not feel embarrassed that you don't have enough feeling for my work. One can't help that but when we see each other again I can try to help you a bit in explaining the way in which I translate my feelings in my work. Did you really never go beyond Wagner? What about the impressionists Debussy and Ravel? I find the time that started with Wagner, the late Liszt, Richard Strauss, Schönberg (not the late one), Webern, Berg, Strawinsky, Varèze (not the late one) and Ives the most facinating time in the history of music. After that Ligeti and the earlier Penderecki for the last one became reactionnair after his early very fascinating work as happens with more artists or composers. Strawinsky is another example but his later work, inspired by Schönberg is again very interesting. De Chirico and Kokoschka are other examples of artists who lost their revolutionnair elan. I like music at the border region between tonal and atonal music and this music had to be as Schönberg said.
There is so much that happens in
this world that one cannot express with tonal harmonic music! What a contrasts there
are of beauty in nature, in human beings, in tender memories against the most
terrible atrocities people commit against each other! What a difference
between the beauty of many coloured flowers moving in the wind on a high
slope in the mountains with a white capped mountain with gletschers
glistening in the sun on the background when you compare that with the
terrible ferocious hate filled butchering of ten thousands of civilians,
children, woman whatever as the japanese did in
China and elsewhere, as the germans did in Russia
and in their concentrationcamps and as people in
Ruanda and Yougoslavia still do. What a tremendous
difference in feelings when you think of these contrasts. What does a
harmonic chord do than expressing memories of a far away world? Of a world
that in reality never existed. We know of Djengis Khan and
Attila and what they did with so many beautiful towns and their inhabitants,
the thirty year war in Germany, the fourteenth century in France, terrible periods in
Russia, China, Japan and Mexico, one can go on, indescribable cruelty is of
all times and the contrasts in this world are so enormous that one cannot
grasp them. I feel a strange melancholy when I hear music of Schubert,
Schuman or Beethoven and I think of the world as it is now. These composers
could not yet express what an earthquake can do in a few seconds to a town
and its people. Schubert and Beethoven can be nerve rending in some of their stringquartets but what Penderecki
does in his Threni for the victims of
All these different happenings give me.a great range of very contrasting feelings and it would be very strange if there wouldn't be echoes of all this in my paintings, drawings and woodconstructions. Contrasts, oppositions, counterforces, disturbances, erasements, energies building up, colliding and destroying, life and death, it is everywhere on our planet and it has its reflections in me and expresses through me. Love and hate too and I must say I have difficulty in keeping these two always in balance and what I love has often more to do with what the best of mankind made in works of art, music, literature and with nature more than with love for mankind in general for I see mostly the destructive elements in our sort.
Your example of a modern composer is Stockhausen and that is just a composer I don t like. Well, you spent a long time looking at my two christmascards with photos of colourdrawings. Thanks for that! You become much softer, more patient? You like the colours, that is already very important. Colours are there to be enjoyed. So you can no longer say that you are indifferent for something when you like the colours! When you talk about centrifugal or centripetal I must think of art-critics who always come with such sort of words and mostly leave it with that not knowing to talk about the contents of what I make. But you go on. After the explosion. Yes, that could be. Forms flying away and sometimes forming unexpected comglomerations together.
A letter to mr. N. MacGregor, director of the National Gallery London
Mr. N. MacGregor
Director of the National Gallery
Dear mister MacGregor,
Some years ago I saw several programms of you about medieval artists and later two lectures on Vermeer and Constable. You were an enthousiastic man and lookéd sympathetic and I thought not too difficult to talk to. I thought already about writing to you but the question wäs: Could you discover the beauty of painting and drawing in modern art as well?
Could I show you that in my art I expressed very deep feelings in many different ways? Could I make you enthousiastic for the many new possibilities in expression of feelings in modern art? Would you have curiosity for what new regions in art could reveal in beauty of line, form, colour, intensity, energy and content?
Then this summer I red the book of mr. Heinz Berggruen, “Hauptweg und Nebenwege, Erinnerungen eines Kunstsammlers”.
I saw your name mentioned very sympathetically as interested as well in more modern art as that of Picasso and Klee.
Could you go one step further I asked myself? I am 71 and older than you are. Could you follow me in my work?
I have longed my whole life to meet serious museumdirectors with an original personal opinion on art who were still looking for the old criteria of beauty and who had a concept of what good old or new art should have to be real art. I think there must be a force of expression and a serious deeper content, someth1ng I do not see in most modern art.
Please sir, will you look to my internet sites sothat you get an idea of what I make sothat I don't have to send you too much documentation? It is www.hvantongeren.nl . My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
When you are interested I am willing to give the Natlonal Gallery 20 drawings and 20 acryl sketches when they can be shown to the public now and then or still better: rather often. I am quite sure many people will be very enthousiastic and will recognise the new possibilities I discovered.
you come again to
Herman van Tongeren
Willem van de Veldekade 6
(just south of
Telephone: +31 23 5285792 from abroad, in
Naar aanleiding van een verzoek tot een onderhoud met de directeur van het Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, dr. W.A.L. Beeren:
Dear Mister Hammacher,
Some time ago I read an article by Janneke Wesseling about you and
I felt immediately, the urge to react on the remarks you made on the mediocrity
of what you saw on the biennial exposition of
Man like Beeren and Fuchs are an enormous contrast, they place
themselves in the foreground as very important man and they
harbour no culture in them at all and won't look for a moment to anything
that is outside their terrible restricted banal territory of interest. But
you seem to me a gentleman like Jos de Gruyter and that is why I write to you although I know
that there is a chance that we do not have the same opinion in everything.
Mister Jaffé has been at my home a 25 years ago I
think. He admitted that I was busy with new ways of expression but did
nothing for me. Then there was Harry Holtzman, the
friend and heir of Piet Mondrian. I had written him a letter, in despair of my isolation, together
with many photo' s of my work. I send you here the copies the two first
letters he wrote me. The first one as an answer to my first
letter, the second after his first stay at my home after he had seen a number of paintings as
they were in reality. Later he often came to stay when he was in
Yet there are still many people who go to exhibitions of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Ter Borgh, Van Gogh and Mondrian to name only some Dutch great painters. There is a serious public, people who are really interested in beauty, a word that is no longer a part of the vocabulary of the modern museum director. Marcel Duchamps has been a catastrophe for the whole philosophy about art and I think he was making a joke to see what the reaction would be and probably was astonished that the public or critics took his joke as an earnest idea. They did in the early sixties anyway and that gave many airheads their chance. A lavatory pan is not art even when the forms are perhaps elegant. Neither can you put your signature under it only because you recognise the beauty in it. And still less under a number of pots. It is all very ridiculous and this goes too for the serious meant discussions on this subject as I once saw on the British TV. So it is with the beer-cans of Andy Warhol, perhaps meant as a joke as well, but who were presented by a keen art dealer, mr. Castelli, as a work of art, to see if that stupid public would buy it as art when he said that it was. Now it became clear that nobody could get a clear image of what art should represent to be still art. I don't find it difficult. Art should have a real depth in its contents and at least show a strong composition and a beautiful or striking colour harmony. Furthermore there should be an original vision.
I would like to chance thoughts with you looking through art books. I have a rather thorough documentation of my work but want to send you just enough in the form of copies of photo's to give you a sufficient idea of what I make. I think a real connoisseur of art must be able to see in one look if an artist is serious and driven and if he makes works that are renovating. When you think that my work is fascinating, than I am ready to tell you more about everything that I want to express in all these different directions. I am the first one who expresses his feelings in such divers ways and who experiences this as very inspiring. That makes it for me very difficult to get recognition. Everything should happen once for the first time but those who come forth with something what is still unknown have it very difficult. I am 62 and hope that I will yet have found recognition for what I did and still do in my lifetime. In the abstract expressionistic part of my work I clearly found my way now.
I send you something I wrote about my work and some copies of drawings and paintings. Real photo's I don't send often any more because I often don't get them back. I thought that this was enough for someone to become interested in my work. In that case I would be glad to hear your reaction. I want to ask you one thing: You should not become frightened by the differences in ways of expression. I made so much work in every direction that I could show you that I go on in developing my ideas in them very seriously. In my drawings I even show this more clearly. I exhaust the possibilities of every theme with which I start, make variations on that theme and take then another idea to do the same. But I cannot show you the consequence with which I work in the scarce material what I send you of these most important directions. But when you look at every direction in itself, when you look at what I want to say in it and if I am convincing in my forms, colours and originality, than you must, I think, come to the conclusion that I know where I want to get at, all the time in every different direction. About the necessity of all these directions I could tell you more when I could show you some of my many albums with photo's of my work. When what I send you here does not speak to your sense of beauty you don't need to answer me but it would of course be a great thing when a nearly 100 year old art historian would discover and valuate a innovator sooner than all those museum directors still in function in Holland.