September 2, 1987


About the contrasts in my work



In my work I have many ways of expressing myself and although it seems perhaps difficult for some people to discover the underlying unity in these contrasting ways of expression, when one sees a greater amount of my paintings, one will discover that one could hang all of my paintings, even with very contrasting ways of expression next to each other in the sale room while paintings of other painters together with mine wouldn't give that same feeling of unity. This means that there is a same sort of feeling. a same sort of atmosphere about all my work.

I am more astonished when other painters have only one way of expressing their feelings. The whole universe shows enormous contrasts, for example day and night, summer and winter, spring and autumn, ebb and flood, rain and sun, white and black, life and death, love and hatred, war and peace. When one is on a high mountain and looks down on mountains and glaciers, one has other feelings than when one looks at a wild waterfall or giant waves breaking on a rocky coast. The feeling one has in a field of flowers is again different, and seeing a baby with an old man or woman gives again totally different feelings but it can all be moving.

In music one can love Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms, Tjaikovsky, Wagner, Chopin, Liszt, Mahler, Bruckner, Sibelius, Richard Strauss, Respighy, Nielsen, Schönberg, Berg, Webern, Varčze, Strawinsky, DeBussy, Ravel, Scriabin, Krieg, Rachmaninov, Honegger, Ives, Villa Lobos, Ligeti, Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Britten, Ellington and other composers. They expressed worlds of feelings in so many often contrasting ways.

Then there are the painters one loves as Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Terborgh, Manet, Monet, Sisley, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Toulouse Lautrec, Picasso, Matisse, Marquet, Schwitters, Willem de Kooning till 1963, Franz Kline, Rothko in his best moments, Rauschenberg in some of his best paintings and for Jasper Johns and Hans Hofmann the same. And there are still many others. Is it so strange that one wants to express the multitude of ones feelings in a multitude of forms and colours and combinations in oft very different ways? The possibilities are endless as are the worlds of ones feelings.One feels so many sensations, knows sorrows and joys, has tender thoughts and thoughts of horror of many things that happen in this world and against this world, a world that can be so tremendous in its beauty when mankind did not destroy it everywhere.

The acquaintance of all these composers, painters, great filmers,  photographers, writers and poets makes ones world greater, richer. So one wants to make his work an expression of this rich world of feelings and experiences, of all these nuances and contrasts provoked by these sources of beauty and most of all by God himself who manifests himself in everything. The more one can express of these sometimes overwhelming feelings, the happier one will feel. Of course one suffers more too when one is sensitive for the beauty in this world and its nature. And one has to struggle to come as near as possible to ones ideal in a certain painting and in the next one.

Picasso had great contrasts in his work and Strawinsky too. With them these contrasts happened in greater periods of time. With me the alternative ways of expression of great contrasts often come in short time lapses of months. I can have the desire to express wild energetic eruptive, even destroying feelings to compare with the eruption of a vulcano, the collision of cars, the wild surf breaking on rocks, a waterfall smashing down from a cliff on so many hindernisses, etc. These feelings can be evoked by disappointments, feeling of hatred against people who destroy our environment, our earth. They can be an expression of protest, of not being able to change the world or having to fight hard to change oneself.

Then there are weeks in which I want to go deep into myself, to meditate more, to find rest after all the fighting with paint, to find harmony and tender beauty in stead of powerfull movements. Bach gave these feelings in his violin-partitas, Chopin in his nocturnes, Liszt in so many wonderfull silent, timeless modern late piano pieces. I want to express then a deepness that is in so many of Rembrandts paintings. I work from these polarities and I am happy to have them. So I will always find new ways of expressing myself between these polarities.

I am a real ram. This is an advantage in my work for it means energy and passion but in other matters it can be harmfull. I will always have the need to express myself very concentrated in sharp forms or in concentrated signs and the other hand in rich great movements of paint and colours. Is this so astonishing? Energy and movement is in both directions. But it is easier to make a name with one way that is directly recognizable to everyone in its simplicity. That is true. But are we so simple in all our feelings, emotions and passions? We have an inner, deeper knowledge; a higher self with which our daily lower self is often in conflict. We do something while somewhere in ourself we know better. This gives contrasting, conflicting emotions. In my work it often shows itself in a building up of forms and an attack on them with a partial destruction or making partial chaos in the order. I want a rich world of expression and in the future one will accept and inderstand the contrasts in my work and find it, as I do, more fascinating and full of tensions and never ending possibilities.



Hermannus van Tongeren.