Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hundertwasser


The rabbit gave me a nice surprise today - we headed down to the southern edge of Seoul to the Seoul Arts Center which, I am happy to report, is buzzing with all ages on a Sunday afternoon.

I know next to nothing about visual art - from a critical point of view anyway. But I know a little bit about what I like, and I feel that I'm open to learning. Friedensreich Hunderwasser seemed like a pretty cool cat. His art-turned-architecture is undeniably wonder-filled. If you're like me me and knew nothing about him, Wikipedia is never a bad place to start. Walking around the exhibit today, I was equally compelled by the many quotations of his on display as I was by the paintings and models.

Basically, the guy doesn't dig on straight lines - which likely means he would have really hated on Seoul - at least the majority of the high rises here. In fact, here's a good taste of what he had to say about straight lines:

Just carrying a ruler with you in your pocket should be forbidden, at least on a moral basis. The ruler is the symbol of the new illiteracy. The ruler is the symptom of the new disease, disintegration of our civilization.


And a wonderful thought about his slow approach to his painted creations:

I believe my painting is totally different because it is vegetative painting. One reason why other people don't want to paint vegetatively is because it starts so inconspicuously, without any ├ęclat or drum rolls. Instead it develops quite slowly and steadily, and that doesn't suit our social order - people want immediate results, achieved through exploitation.
The help of time is incredible in art. Something grows; then it can't fail. Only quick things fail. You feel that they do not have that patina, the mark of evolution, the mark of age. Slow-growing trees are better than fast-growing, the wood is better, they look better.


The Seoul exhibit runs until the 15th of this month at the Seoul Arts Center, so, if anyone in Seoul is reading this, check it out if you get a chance. Even if you're a relative rube, like myself, I guarantee that you'll be inspired. There are some HUGE scale models of his creations - including a sprawling spa resort that looks like the love child of Theodore Geisel and Tim Burton on a good day.

But, as I mentioned, his words were equally if not more enchanting - I don't mind using the word. Two quotations struck me above the others. One was his painted-on-canvas reply to an invitation he had received to an art festival in Seoul in 1990. I wish I could repeat the whole thing here, but memory fails me. Perhaps reacting to the requirements of the festival, he stated that he could not attend, because he was a "sweet water frog" and however well-intentioned his salt water friends might be to invite him to make the long swim to Seoul, he simply could not do it, or it would kill him.

When Hundertwasser died, he was buried (at his request) without casket in a shallow grave near his adoptive New Zealand home, and had a tree planted directly above his grave. Shortly before his death, he had the following thought:

“A dead person is entitled to reincarnation in the form of, for example, a tree that grows on top of him and through him. The result would be a cased forest of living dead. A garden of the happy dead.”

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