The National Theatre in London staged ‘Hamlet’. For the first time in over 100 years the play was being presented in the uncut version. Though I saw and read the play several times, this presentation was a powerful experience for me. It was a discovery, a revelation as if I heard and saw the play for the first time.
I went to see it again ten days later. Playwriting ! What a marvellous form of Art ! The wonderful opportunity to reach out, to touch and encompass any subject, and any constellation of subjects, using something as direct as a word.
Painting is first and foremost a relationship between Form, Colour and Line, and therefore can’t reach a wide circle of people as the written word can.
I was frustrated.
A month later I went to Amsterdam, to see a gallery that offerd me a show. Afterwards I went to the Rykesmuseum to look at Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’. I had seen the painting before, but now I stood in front of it, spellbound. I realised that I was standing before the answer to the many questions I had asked myself.
Back in London, I started my dialogue by making a few drawings after a big reproduction of the painting I had. This was in 1976 ; it took me twenty four years to feel mature enough as a painter to have a more profound dialogue with the ‘Night Watch’. I felt that I can best express myself by working on collages of sack on jute, using my bare hands to apply the paint to achieve a rough texture.
Rembrandt, as Velasquez, was quick to realise and be influenced by the new approach to painting of the Italian painter Caravaggio (1573-1610), his realistic treatment of his models, as opposed to the ‘Ideal Beauty’ of the Rennaissance, his ‘Dramatic Space’ and the lighting of his figures.
The ‘Night Watch’ is a good illustration to the use Rembrandt put to Caravaggio’s innovations.
It’s of interest to note that Caravaggio created his most important paintings during the same years Shakespeare wote his important plays.