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Pas de deux

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

Dance in general and ballet in particular, as a fusion of music with physical expression, is for me one of the most accomplished art forms and has fascinated me all my life. I am also particularly attracted by the fact that dance is an ephemeral art that is almost impossible to capture. At best, a dance is able to touch the viewer at the moment it happens. I owe some of my most intense encounters with art, which have moved and in part influenced me, to dance.

One of these experiences was a ballet evening at the Zurich Opera House, at that time still under the direction of Heinz Spoerli, to the music 'In the upper room' by Philip Glass. This evening was a key musical experience for me, which, in addition to an unforgettable dance experience, gave me access to the musical works of this composer. Since then, some of Philip Glass's compositions, e.g. Glassworks, have become my absolute favourites in classical music.

However, I was most deeply impressed years ago by a ballet evening of the Stadttheater Bern under the direction of Martin Schläpfer with the piece 'Der grüne Tisch' by Kurt Jooss. The performance did not take place on the stage of the Stadttheater, but in the old French Church not far from the theatre. The Gothic church space from the 13th century provided a wonderfully fitting, almost mystical setting for this unique production. What impressed me most, however, was Jörg Weinöhl in the role of the death. In a dark, long robe much like that of the dervishes, he danced the death so powerfully and at the same time subtly and profoundly that these images remain in my memory until this very day.

Recently, my interest has also expanded to contemporary dance - new territory for me. Since I have Instagram, I also follow some of the artists in this field online. I find the dance performance of Vasko Nasonov, a Russian dancer, absolutely impressive. What he achieves with his body is fascinating and simply unimaginable for me. His body control, his energetic movements and the wide spectrum of partly idiosyncratic stylistic forms of expression enable him to dance interpretations of very different musical styles and even improvisation not only on stage but also outside in a meadow or on the street. What is striking is how intensively he uses the ground for his dance. He seems to know no fear of contact and uses the floor not only with his feet, but with all parts of his body in a seemingly natural way.

Vasko Nasonov is very well present on Instagram and regularly posts up-to-date videos and, occasionally, excellent photos. Recently he posted a photo showing him with his dance and life partner Ksenya Shlezinger. When I saw this shot, I spontaneously realised that I would paint a large-format picture from this strong motif with its beautiful incidence of light and cast shadows.

Format: 100/120 cm, since a long time I choose a smooth canvas, primed white. For this painting I am considering using oil pastels again, in addition to acrylic paint. My first attempt in this direction was some time ago and failed because of the rough surface of the painting ground.

26.02.2021: In terms of colour, I decide to build up the painting on the basis of umber, black, blue and yellow. I start on a wet background with a broad brush and horizontally, so that the colour does not run this time. Background blue-grey, the dark parts of the figures in dark black-brown and some light accents in a mixed tone of yellow, blue and white. I now let this layer dry for a while.

06.03.2021: A few times I have gone into the details too early. This time I want to try to avoid this mistake. In order to achieve a multi-layered picture structure, I will use different painting media and techniques. Next, however, I apply another layer of liquid paint, partly with generous brush strokes, partly with the paint roller. To do this, I place the painting horizontally again and generously wet it with water.

07.03.2021: Today I only have time for a few accents with colour spray in light blue and brown-red. In the meantime, the whole thing seems a bit wild and without a concept, but I will now start with the details and imagine to bring a bit more order into the painting with these next steps.

12.03.2021: First I calmed down the background today with blue-grey tones and then started to work on the details for the rest of the day. I make sure that I don't go into too much detail, so that I still have room for accents with oil pastels at the end...

13/14.03.2021: I am working with a slightly finer brush especially on the details of the figures. At the end of the weekend I am still nowhere and the faces are absolutely unsatisfactory...

19.03.2021: With the distance of an office week I reassess the picture. I wasn't very brave with the colours, but I like the background and the figures... Let's see if there is still something to be done. I still plan to add some accents with oil pastels at the end and make some final corrections.

In the morning I work with the brush and by noon I have the faces to the point where I want to leave them. In the afternoon I switch to oil pastels and make sure that I use them purposefully but with a convincing stroke. Finally, I set marks in light blue, ochre, yellow, blue, orange, violet and finally in white. I'll leave it at that for the moment...

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