Poen de Wijs (Dutch artist) 1948 - 2014De Hemelschijf (The Skyl Disk), 2004acrylics on canvas80 x 100 cm.signed
TIME AND SPACE
I do not know what time is. When it started. If it is reversible. Whether time moves along a straight line or in a circle. If ‘timelessness’ exists. Instinctively it is clear to me what time is: I live in it, I live with it. I can see that time goes by. Even if I cannot describe exactly what it is, time proves to be subject to very precise measurement. Astronomy is the key to timekeeping.
I am fascinated by the ancient cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia and the Classics, the Greeks and the Romans. Their mythical art and the complexity of their pantheon amaze me. I am stimulated not only by their confusing stories, but also –and especially- by the connection between their deities and the sun and the moon, the stars and planets. Why is there a supreme Sun god, a Moon goddess and gods with names of planets? Astrology is a second key to time.
Ancient cultures related their existence to the circular course of the various celestial bodies. And that was not very surprising, after all the sun laid down the rhythm of night and day, the moon divided the year into seasons, and the planets had cycles that could also be recognized in nature. The cycles of space were linked to time and thus heaven directed earthly life. The Pharaohs of Egypt, the Kings of Mesopotamia and the Emperors of China were not only worldly rulers, but they also controlled time: they and their astrologers alone knew the calendar. That is how they knew the cycle of nature and they were able to foretell events accurately. Thus the Pharaoh of Egypt had great power because he knew to predict the exact moment of the flooding of the Nile. The position of the star Sirius near the Orion constellation gave him that information. This made the Pharaohs messengers of the gods. Those gods were stars: Sirius is the Egyptian goddess Isis and Orion her brother Osiris. The exact measuring of time had started with studying the sky. Time and space turned out to be inextricably united.
Also in later centuries, when a precise calculation of time was sought, it was the sky which solved that problem. Galilei, Newton, Harrisson, Einstein, time and space remained a unit to them.
In the series of paintings with the ‘TIME AND SPACE’ theme I show how people were seeking time. How people looked up at the skies and related their earthly existence to the stars and the gods. Time is represented as a cycle in the four seasons and the circle of life. Time as a straight line can be seen in the process of growing older and in the series of past, present and future (in ‘Triptych of Time: There was a Time – It is Time – There will be a Time’).
I have quoted from ancient works of art and, sometimes in jest, referred to classical gods. A little boy carrying a globe is model for the Greek god Atlas and a girl blowing bubbles represents Kronos, the god of time (in the painting “Seekers of Time”). Playful elements such as a timepiece, a sun dial and a shadow clock, a pendulum, a sextant and an astrolabe are direct references to the recording of time. Animals and flowers link nature to culture. And there is more: in this series gold, silver and copper paint has been used, which results in an almost three-dimensional effect. A metaphor for space.
All my studies have been painted on the original, hand-made papyrus, which I bought during a tour of Egypt. It took a lot of research to find out how papyrus could be prepared acid free, primed, worked and preserved. My refined technique on the coarse structure of this ancient material is an extra allusion to Egypt where the seeking of time once began.
Painting this series was not an attempt to grasp the concept of time. I would rather leave that to the great philosophers, who have bent their minds over it. I had been forewarned by a joke of the Holy Augustine (in Confessions – 397 A.D.): “ What was God doing before he created heaven and earth? …….He was preparing hell for those who stick their noses into such deep mysteries.”
Poen de Wijs – Schilderijen/Paintings – 1999-2005
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