Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Tree of Life?

Tomorrow my Father shall be taken to the unit, Respirationscenter Øst (RCØ), which specializes in respiration; in his case the ventilator he needs to stay alive. While a yearly check on his vital equipment may sound well and good, this time we have a horrifying prospect before us: His doctor has declared him unfit to live, with the specification that he is too costly for society to be kept alive.

Now, my Father has been absolutely clear from the onset of his ALS-diagnosis that he wishes to be here for as long as there is life. Which is a deep-rooted sentiment in our family and we all stand by him in his decision.

These years assisted suicide is being widely discussed here, being seen in a romantic light by many as an easy (dubbed the "dignified") way out of an "impossible" situation when ill. Our family is experiencing the aspects of what that may entail once allowed. 

Seeing ventilators/respirators are machines which may be turned off, the doctors are slipping assisted suicide in the back door using strong language on how they alone have the professional capacity to decide who is fit to be kept alive.

You have no right to say no. Your medical team owns your right to live.

Denmark is a country of next to no corruption and yet the mechanism triggering corruption is always existent in us. The present situation is but one example. 

A quiet, hidden, clinical murder - or rather, we are not just talking murder. This is an execution. An execution since the medical team is claiming to be acting on behalf of society.

A society, which kills its citizens, has no longer the right to call itself a democracy. 

Khalid Wad Albaih, The Tree of Life, May 1, 2012.

The Khartoon shown is courtesy of Khalid Wad Albaih and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Friday, 7 August 2015

But, Why Daddy, Why?

Valdemar Andersen, Poster for the daily Politiken, 1908.
Shown with permission from
Designmuseum Danmark. I apologize for the poor quality
of the photo; it was taken by me for study purposes.

Ida Felicia Noack chose Valdemar Andersen when she was preparing her contribution for the cartoonists' exhibition at this year's Copenhagen Comics. The exhibition challenged the cartoonists of today to each draw a predecessor, interpreting him or her in the successor's own line and telling the story of what made this particular cartoonist stand out. 

Since Valdemar Andersen is known for his ethereal ink line, making his figures first and foremost art rather giving them a solid presence before us, and adding to this women and children as his preferred subjects, Ida Felicia initially toyed with the idea of entering into a dialogue with him to the point that he would be the one to transform her into his image rather than the other way round.

Ida Felicia Noack, Detail of Valdemar Andersen
and Son, 2015.
The idea proved too time-consuming, but her final contribution proved all the more fascinating in that she rotated the figure we have known for more than 100 years, so that we see her face, hearing her speak, accentuating that however ethereal she may seem to be, un-contoured as she is, the two protagonists in his life as in his work were highly intelligent, inquisitive and critical personalities even when it came to his own art.
From the letters between Valdemar and his wife Juliane, we meet her as an avid reader, taking in the latest publications such as the new Henrik Pontoppidan while their son Ib would be sleeping in his pram. She would be the one leading the conversation, discussing with their author friends at dinner. She was highly protective of her husband and would not put up with anything or anyone with whom she disagreed. All of which is in fact present in the original poster of her reading, actively staying informed with a focus on the drawing by her husband heading the page. 

Ida Felicia Noack, Detail of
Valdemar Andersen and Son, 2015.
Their son was very much a product of the two of them. He would be examining drawings before he could even speak, and once he mastered speaking he would be constantly asking his father any how and why that came to his mind. Why did his father use a pen rather than a pencil for this detail and why make that detail in the first place? Juliane would be asking on behalf of the little Ib and his father rarely saying much in the first place would have to answer in a few lines, at times begging Ib to be patient until he returned. The few explanations we have of his art are all prompted by the young Ib's questions. 
Valdemar Andersen, Ib at the easel, 1910.
Shown with permission from The Centre for Maps, Prints and Photographs, The Royal Library.
I apologize for the poor quality of the photo; it was taken by me for study purposes.

Valdemar Andersen, detail of the sketch above.
We are so privileged to have a series of sketches of the 3-year old Ib as the easel by his father studying the concentration of the boy, how he would be placing his head to this side and then the other, and how he held the brush or pen, which he had either copied or had been told how to, obviously dialoguing as he went along. A young child who wanted to learn about the world by way of drawing it. 

Valdemar Andersen, detail of the sketch above.

All of the above Ida Felicia incorporated into her poster-size exhibition entrance. What was intended to be on Valdemar, ultimately comprised both Valdemar and Ib with a defining appearance of Juliane: 

Ida Felicia Noack, Valdemar Andersen and Son, 2015.

Juliane did have the striped kimono in actual life; she posed in photos taken by Valdemar Andersen wearing it. We cannot tell the color of course, but as a mature artist in own right her son took that very kimono back to a piece of drawn Japan, making it all about the green stripes and combining them with the allusion to the Japanese block print Van Gogh once copied of running persons covering for the rain only in this case aligning the diagonal with the trees and pylons we know so well from Ib Andersen's own works: 

Ib Andersen, from "Magasinet" for the daily Politiken, 1942.

The artworks shown by Ida Felicia Noack and Ib Andersen are courtesy of Ida Felicia Noack and the family of Ib Andersen and must not be reproduced without their permission.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Orderly Disorder or The Other Way Around

Carl Larsson, Lisbeth, 1894.

Misling, one of quite a few extraordinary cats we have had the priviledge of seeing on this blog, was discussing Carl Larsson last year, whether Valdemar Andersen may have been influenced by him. By the time I joined the discussion, I could only add that we have no proof of any direct contact between the two.

But the seed was sown with a feeling that Misling was right.

Carl Larsson was a household name in Scandinavia right before and after 1900 having depicted all levels of daily life in his home and family to a degree that his work to this day seems the epitome of an ideal childhood. Children in rumpled play-clothes in a home in which every corner is decorated by their own parents, creating a warm and intimate atmosphere and where sun seems to be always shining.

Of course Valdemar knew his Carl Larsson. And to a greater degree than I had thought, once I took a closer look at the latter with Valdemar in mind.

Carl Larsson, Lisbeth in her Night Dress with a Yellow Tulip, 1984

Valdemar Andersen, Poster for Carlsberg Citronsodavand (lemon soda), 1908.
Shown with permission from Designmuseum Danmark.
I apologize for the poor quality of the photo; it was taken by me for study purposes.

Carl Larsson and Valdemar Andersen both worked across the very decade when Symbolism was at its zenith. As directly as a child may seem to have been caught on paper, the directness had a symbolical value on its own in which children personified purity. We find the profile of an innocent girl contemplating a flower everywhere in Symbolism, an eternity not touched upon by human hand (I apologize for the lewdness implied). I rather like the thought of the solemnity all going up in soda bubbles - unless that too could be misconstrued.

- which we hardly need fear Valdemar Andersen had in mind, and even if we must assume he knew his Carl Larsson, we cannot decide if Valdemar had seen any of his works in color. He might have seen a color-plate done by hand and he possibly saw an exhibition. It shall remain a guess, but the red/golden-combination, the warmest of them all, to which is added the stripes of the skirt so as to add interest and the loose curls of the hair, seem more than a happy coincidence. 

Which do not take from Valdemar Andersen's poster. He has taken the girl out of any context; she is not even a solid figure anymore. On the contrary she is light all through as a contrast to the contour which defines her chubby cheek balanced off by the fully rounded heaviness of her neck.

Carl Larsson, Mrs Alma Theorell, 1909.
The mature woman with the vibrancy of embroidered
colors on her knee now her children are gown.
It seems the key formal aspects to her as to her possible sources of inspiration are the upright posture and the folding of the fabric all around them, or order versus disorder. The seemingly disorder, the random catching of the now, while each of the girls are placed with great care.

Carl Larsson, Erik, 1905
This even more so when we are looking at presentations of the mother and child. She spells order, the sacred mother, her skirt is arranged in a cascade to the one side with that something on her knee consisting of layers and layers of clothes in disorder, the free toddler moving as it pleases.

Carl Larsson, Mrs. Dora Lamm and Her Two Eldest Sons, 1903

The free spirit to be seen as such when at rest nestled on his mother's lap, such as Valdemar Andersen's own son, Ib Andersen. A future cartoonist himself, and already restlessly checking out the world, grapping hold of his mother, who is in loving profile. She is visibly conscious of being drawn in the arrangement of her lines running to the tip of her shoe, holding on to the child to keep him still for as long as her husband needs for the drawing.

The two central K's of the text mirror the one word in the other, while the teddy bear has been dropped on the floor pointing to Valdemar Andersen's signature.

Valdemar Andersen, drawing for the Christmas Concert arranged by the daily Politiken, 1909.
Shown with permission from The Centre for Maps, Prints and Photographs, The Royal Library.
I apologize for the poor quality of the photo; it was taken by me for study purposes.

A composition with the appearance of not being composed, which is of course the epithet of the ideal at play here. The Christmas drawing proved so popular that it was repeated year after year.

Sunday, 2 August 2015


This is just a note of a blog post to explain why I am offline from time to time. My Father is paralyzed from ALS and on a ventilator. Last Saturday he suffered what was possibly a brain hemorrhage and has since fought his way back to life, regaining consciousness. He is at home as he wishes to be and we have been by him day and night. Hence the brevity here.

So for now but one observation first made back when my Mother was ill; how adjusting her in bed would bring on flashes of canvases by the old masters. Artists before our time knew the human body. Cutting into corpses to study the exact placing of a muscle was one thing, their familiarity with the human body in all parts of life quite another and all more powerful as part and parcel of their personal experience. They brought that understanding onto the canvas and into the stone; In Europe epitomized in the body of Christ placing his martyred body before us to react with compassion. When my Mother was ill I would catch myself whispering to her:

- Manet

She would nod behind closed eyes, knowingly.

Edouard Manet, The Dead Christ with Angels, 1864
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

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