nedjelja, 31. ožujka 2013.

Field Rotation - Fatalist: The Repetition Of History (2013)

Plutajući osjećaji kojima prijeti istrebljenje.


Christoph Berg's latest Field Rotation full-length, Fatalist: The Repetition of History, is an even more satisfying collection than 2011's Acoustic Tales. Five years on from the project's inception, the new work reveals that Field Rotation has matured into a fully-formed and refined outlet for the electronic music composer's classically oriented compositional and production talents. The fatalistic notion of history endlessly repeating itself is the underlying concept, but no one need be acquainted with the philosophical works of Hegel and Nietzsche (and a related idea such as Eternal Recurrence) in order to reap the recording's rewards. For the six electro-acoustic settings, Berg augmented his violin and piano playing (plus, based on the aural evidence, field recordings and samples) with contributions from vocalist Mari Solaris on one piece and violincellist Aaron Martin on two.
The forty-two-minute recording's dramatic tone is set by the opening strings-heavy drone “The Uncanny,” but Fatalist: The Repetition of History really begins to distinguish itself with the advent of the second piece “Valse Fatale.” Solaris brings her haunting vocal presence to the piece, and her wordless singing deepens the music's mournful tone, especially when it's coupled with Martin's violincello playing and Berg's sparse piano accompaniment. Part of the pleasure involved in listening to Berg's music is that the means of production never intrude upon the pure experience of listening; though an undercurrent of vinyl crackle running through “Fatalist” suggests sampling, the listener's focus is rarely diverted away from the music into pondering how it was assembled and to what degree the elements in play are acoustic or electronic in nature. Outdoors field recordings figure heavily into “The Repetition of History,” though not so dominantly that the gently cascading piano and violincello phrases are drowned out.
At album's end, the dream-like “The History of Repetition” makes good on the album title and concept in using loops to fashion a softly undulating base of dust and mist over which a celestial choir can be heard intoning ever-so-faintly. As should be patently obvious by now, the recording's prevailing mood is, of course, melancholy, with Berg shaping the elements into oft-hypnotic soundscapes of fragile and serene character. That it makes its case in such concise manner also enhances its appeal. -

The liner notes curb the discussion at fate, but the track titles expand it to fatalism and recurrence. So before the music starts, composer Christoph Berg serves up the paradox that is the classical view of predestination. Most of our lives are out of our control already, without a visit at birth from the oracles and cauldron folk. The cycle of being born, growing old, becoming sick and dying is all but completely out of our hands. The cycles-within-cycles of cold weather and warm, storms and drought, freeze and thaw, planting and harvest bedevil us even now. The sudden job layoffs, erratic energy prices and dizzying macroeconomic cycles – for which we are ostensibly to blame as a whole – even more so.
That was not a terribly uplifting salutation, but Berg’s latest Field Rotation offering, Fatalist: The Repetition of History, is not an uplifting place. The blank patches of canvas – so warm and timbrous throughout Acoustic Tales – are space-cold here, and processed to sound space-distant. The upward glance is not star gazing, but star charting, a search for signs of determinism among the heavenly bodies. When pondering Jupiter’s designs for your fate, why not start by consulting his orbit?
Departures from previous material continue: the virtuosic meandering’s of Berg’s given-name debut Paraphrasesare simply abandoned here. The alloyed fog accumulates in its opening seconds, and the rest is pre-written: a slow, horizontal, ambient myth, starring a nihilistic performer, a siren, and a pantheon of vain gods conjuring stark magic. Yet it is more communal than Acoustic Tales, the title of which implies one man speaking without a microphone, as if to a small group. Here, Berg chairs a town hall meeting. The fact that we all die alone means we’re all in this together.
The brief tracklist begins with “The Uncanny,” no doubt a reference to Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud’s essay by the same name:
This invention of doubling as a preservation against extinction … [has] sprung from the soil of unbounded self-love, from the primary narcissism which dominates the mind of the child and of primitive man. But when this stage has been surmounted, the ‘double’ reverses its aspect. From having been an assurance of immortality, it becomes the uncanny harbinger of death.
It takes only this inaugural moment to realize that the same soil has engendered a much different harvest. We are aware of Berg’s violin, but not his bow, and the gorgeous ambient echoes belie a much larger room. WhereAcoustic Tales and Paraphrases transport us to an imagined place, it is still a place. Here there is no country, real or imagined. Or perhaps the country is Shakespeare’s undiscovered one, although that, too, is a misnomer, since the late playwright has indeed discovered it by now.
“Valse Fatale” begins with the siren described earlier, and a minimal, incremental bass. Waltz, indeed. Berg responds with piano and violin: an organic, perhaps birdsong effect that is simply hypnotic. “The Repetition of History” repeats it, what could become a historical riff. (The beauty at times seems to surprise even Berg. IfAcoustic Tales was sublime to the point of preening, Fatalism is strangely modest. The violinist seems to echo our own sentiment: What was that? I rather enjoyed it.) Album closer “The History of Repetition” is droning, choral, looping, and ever-celestial. The January doldrums have just lifted. The new year has announced itself with a new, achingly beautiful release from one of our most important composers.
Fatalist: The Repetition of History will be available for pre-order from Denovali in February, in CD, vinyl and digital formats. - Fred Nolan for Fluid Radio

Last I heard from Christoph Berg he was bidding adieu to the place he grew up and was leaving for good, the port city of Kiel, which he called a cold, oppressive place where the Baltic Sea and sky were always grey. His contribution to the “Rivers Home” set of ten, 3″ CDRs (Flaming Pines) was the most emotionally wrenching of the entire series. He may have left for Berlin, but he certainly has taken a heavy heart with him. “Fatalist: The Repetition of History” is drizzly, subtly textured, etched into a dark, foliated slate of drone.
Violinist, pianist and composer Berg trades under the name Field Rotation, blending acoustic instruments, natural and synthesized sounds into gentle undulations. Fatalism means eternal and inevitable iteration, and while each of these six pieces are cyclical, a slight variation can be heard in each new revolution. Critics seem to lean toward categorizing him as one of the so-called “indie classical” composers, but the album bears more of a family resemblance to The Caretaker´s “Persistent Repetition of Phrases” and his “Sadly, The Future is Not What it Was” released as Leyland Kirby , in spirit if not matching-fingerprint style. The disc is matte black stuck onto a matte black tray and the cover  art is Caspar David Friedrich romantic, an abandoned meadow over which the full moon cannot cast enough light, and the music unapoligetically spooky. But like Kirby´s work, it recreates memories that warm as they chill, which, like the title track, is “The Uncanny” thing about his work.
The worldless soprano of Mari Solaris dances slightly macabre with Aaron Martin´s cello on “Valse Fatale”, while Berg´s violin hearkens closest to Kirby´s haunted ballroom layered in cobwebs of vinyl crackle on the hesistant “Fatalist”. Characteristic for Field Rotation is the small gesture on a wide, otherwise empty stage, the effect all the more powerful for the space around it. “History (Fragment)” is a perfect example of his economy, just a few notes eddying ambiently until joined by piano, a melody that seems so familiar. “The Repetition of History” brings us back to the ashen shores of the Baltic and to Martin´s rasping cello in poised and restrained but dramatic elegy. Finally, “The History of Repetition” stretches twice the length of most of its predecessors, sublime contemplation of the drear landscape before him lifted into the realm of spirituality, underneath a huge sky, both near and very far away. -

The work that Christoph Berg produces in his Field Rotation guise is darker than the work he produces under his own name.  The timbre is smoky and grey.  The passages seep across the sound field, acting more like tendrils than trunks.  One can imagine being lost in the woods as a deep mist drenches and descends.  If Berg’s work is mid-spring, then Field Rotation is late fall, when the world is growing more mysterious.
Acoustic Tales, released in 2011, was more immediate than Fatalist, so the sprawling nature of the new album may catch some listeners by surprise.  The elements are still present: creeping strings, thoughtful piano chords, occasional operatic ooohs.  This time around, the music seems content to coil without striking, reflecting the nature of the title.  Fatalist honors the theory that all things are cyclical, but does so with the weary resignation of an Ecclesiastes rather than with the joy of Japanese art.  In this mindset, history repeats itself like nature; we are doomed to make the same mistakes all over again.  (Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park quipped that we aren’t making the same mistakes, we’re making new ones.)  It’s not clear whether Berg shares this worldview, but on this album, he effectively expounds upon it.  It’s impossible to be motivated by this music, which seems to whisper, stay in bed, stop trying, it’s no use.
The first half of the album stays away from overt repetition, which makes it more engaging.  Strings and samples do repeat – after all, the subtitle is The Repetition of History - but they do so more gently than the piano in the second half.  Ironically, the most engaging track is the one that is almost not there: the ultra-quiet title piece, in which atmosphere trumps music.  In this piece, static pops resist the soft interruption of strings, rather than the other way around.  By the end of this stark album, the repetition itself has become a burden, which may be the point.  In the same way as Buddhists seek to escape the cycle of death and rebirth, those listening to this album may find that they do not agree with fatalism, at least on a smaller scale, and may discover the impetus to change.  (Richard Allen)

Field Rotation was founded 2008 by the electronic music composer and producer Christoph Berg in Kiel, Northern Germany. Experimenting with electronic and classical elements this project combines floating soundscapes with electroacoustic colours to create minimalistic soundtracks renouncing of visualisation but interacting with the listeners emotions and feelings. As a violinist and pianist Christoph combines the synthetic sound engineering with natural sounds to communicate his short acoustic tales and impressions.
After various EPs, remixes, collaborations, and compilation contributions, his main release so far, the album 'Acoustic Tales', was released in 2011. It is certainly an understatement to say that 'Acoustic Tales' received a positive response from both the general audience and the music press:
"like a melancholic Max Richter – but just as beautiful as his music" (Jazzthetik)
"a stylistic flair rarely seen in today's over-populated musical landscape." (The Silent Ballet)
"a work which will doubtlessly cause the last minute re-writing of many 'best of 2010' lists (…) appeal(s) to fans of Rachel's, Max Richter or perhaps Peter Broderick." (Futuresequence)
"unexpected, devastating, and timeless work." (The Muse In Music)
"eleven acoustic tales of stirring beauty" (Morpheus Music)
"... one of the most haunting albums of the year." (Fluid Radio)
With his new album Field Rotation concentrates on the more classically based production, continuing and expanding upon the musical idea of his 'Acoustic Tales' project. 'Fatalist: The Repetition of History' is marked by a noticeable inner fragility, the contrast between bitter harshness and stirring melancholy. In the fatalist view of history, the ancient Greeks thought that just as the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter repeat themselves every year, history would do the same and follow a cyclic course. This may or may not be true, however, Field Rotation has certainly succeeded once again in composing an album which will ease as many minds as it will thoroughly shake.

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (1910-1983) - As far as science goes we have only looked in the mirror, not at what is concealed behind

Još '50-ih Von Bruenchenhein je vidio ono što miksroskopi i teleskopi vide tek danas. Ali i više - vidio je da je znantvena materija samo osnovnoškolsko štrebersko pojednostavljenje beskrajnih eruptivnih energija.

Von Bruenchenhein was born in Wisconsin in 1910, and worked in a bakery during the 10 years (1954-1963) that the bulk of his work was completed. Very early on, Von Bruenchenhein would paint on the panels of boxes that he would bring home from the bakery. Then, he moved into painting on canvas with brushes. But, in 1954, Von Bruenchenhein’s technique changed and he started to paint on board with his fingers. In 1955, he began to add a white or cream base coat and he would scrape the paint with bakery tools, combs, and quills which would reveal the undercoat, adding an entirely new dimension to his work. Finally, in 1956, Von Bruenchenhein had mastered his own technique, and he would spend the next 5 years painting like a maniac!
Von Bruenchenhein produced almost 1,100 paintings in his lifetime. Unfortunately, he was never successful in selling his work or gaining any recognition during his lifetime. It has only been in the last several years that the importance of Von Bruenchenhein’s work has come to be realized. As part of the Centennial Celebration of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, a huge collection of Von Bruenchenhein’s work is available in 22 separate galleries on for download as high-resolution files! I recommend downloading a couple of these amazing pieces of art and having them printed and framed before the offer is no longer available!

 1910 – 1983

No 796  The Filament of Ages
April 12 – 1959  
Oil on Masonite panel
24 x 24 inches


Paintings, Sculpture, Photography, Poetry, Philosophy
Our Night of Life
   In dreams we float
To other worlds
And other shores,
To salvage what we may,
To build and beautify
Our night of life.

Eugene Von Bruenchehein, “Freelance Artist, Poet and Sculptor, Inovator [sic], Arrow maker and Plant man, Bone artifacts constructor, Photographer and Architect, Philosopher”, never really found contentment in the real world, except in his love for his wife Marie.  His was the world of dreams, ideas, of escaping, traveling to far off undiscovered worlds beyond Earth.  
I journeyed to the edge of Universe
Where stars collide and end in dust
The junk yard of the Universe
Where inky darkness lasts from
millenium to millenium
Far – Far – into the unwanted portion of time. . .
 Born in the year that Halley’s comet passed by our planet, Von Bruenchenhein spent much of his life exploring the unseen and unexplained relationships inherent in living things – human, cosmic, and everything in between.  He sought and provided answers to the largest of questions.  “Why is there no wall beyond the fringe of Universe?  Because something always lies beyond a wall, And because no Universe can be contained.”  Our Night of Life celebrates this extraordinary vision, through which nature is infinitely fluid, continually revealing new aspects of itself.
It is now twenty-four years since Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s works came into public light, and since that time our examination of his work still has not had the time to fully comprehend the many facets of his artistic vision, within the many mediums in which he worked.  The works themselves are journeys into their meanings, but the artist’s writings – less well know than the paintings, sculptures, and photos – add yet another dimension to his world.  Von Bruenchenhein formulated elaborate “Bruenchenesian” theories, postulating on the complexity of nature and our ability to know it.  In one selection he suggests that only one of nature’s planes is visible through a scientific lens:

                        We consider ourselves so smart and yet after the
                        great length of time man has lived on Earth he has just
                        scratched the surface of knowledge. . . As far as science goes
                        we have only looked in the mirror, not [at] what is concealed
                        behind. . .

Von Bruenchenhein spent hours looking at drops of water through a microscope, and was equally concerned with a macrocosmic order, evident in musings and paintings about the worlds beyond ours.  He made exceptionally convincing paintings of  “Lines of Force Contained” and “Lines of Force Released”, pictorializing what science could only express in numeric formulae.  Now, one only needs to pick up a New York Times daily newspaper in which a recent photograph by the Hubbell Telescope is featured revealing some amazing new cosmic cataclysm or phenomena to convince us that, indeed, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein had already traveled there. 
 In that vein of awe and respect, the Carl Hammer Gallery re-visits the art work by this amazing personality in hopes that we may thus honor him and his unique vision.  Confronted once again with his limitless ability to interpret organic potentiality – in paintings and photographs, and sculptures of clay, bone, and concrete, Von Bruenchenhein’s works remind us that the mirror has another dimension.  And thanks to his remarkably expansive mind, we too can marvel as we travel with him in journeys to the edge of the universe.

The Filiment [sic] of Ages
April 12, 1959, No. 796
Oil on masonite panel
24 x 24 inches
GS 309 CH
Jan 1, No. 535
Signed by artist
Oil on masonite panel
24 x 24 inches
GS 218
March 12, 1955, No. 184
Oil on masonite panel
17 x 15 inches
GS 90
To Everlasting Love, Hope, Faith
Wand of the Genii
Aug 17, 1955, No. 308
Oil on masonite panel
17 x 15 inches
GS 136

Oct 20, 1955
Oil on masonite panel
24 x 28
GS 148
Space Age
Oct 10, 1959, No. 844
Oil on masonite panel
24 x 24 inches

Sec Transit Gloria Mundi
June 14- 1955, No. 264
Oil on panel
17 x 15 inches
GS 117

Kings Row
June 26, 1955, No. 271
Oil on panel
15 x 17 inches
GS 121
March 7- 1960, No. 862
Oil on masonite panel
24 x 21 inches
GS 333B
Sept 30, 1959, No. 842
Oil on masonite panel
24 x 24 inches
GS 325
May 9, No. 871
Oil on masonite panel
24 x 24 inches
GS 339
July 5, 1955
Oil on panel
17 x 15 inches
GS 122

July 5, 1955
Oil on panel
17 x 15 inches
GS 122
Chinese Influence. 
Date N/A. 
Oil on corrugated cardboard. 
14 x 17
GS 20
Atomic Age 1945/ 1955. 
February 22, 1955. 
Oil on panel. 
17 x 14
GS 86
Study in Lines of Force. 
Sept. 11, 1955. 
Oil on panel. 
17 x 14
GS 140
Sept. 22, 1955.
Oil on panel.  1
4 x 17
GS 141 
Sept. 28, 1955.
Oil on panel. 
17 x 14
GS 144
Oct. 12, 1955. 
Oil on panel. 
14 x 17
GS 147

Untitled.  Mar. 3, 1957. 
Oil on Masonite panel. 
24 x 24
GS 230B

May 19, 1960. 
Oil on Masonite panel. 
24 x 20
GS 342A
Study of Forms. 
Dec 27, 1960. 
Oil on Masonite panel. 
24 x 20
GS 351
Untitled Triptych of Marie
Positive and Negative silver gelatin prints (3)
3.5 x 3 inches each
GSVB 7637

Untitled Portrait of Marie
B/W silver gelatin print
9 x 7 inches
GSPH 1255
Untitled Montage Photo of Marie
B/W silver gelatin print
3.5 x 2.5 inches
GSPH 2856
Untitled Montage Photo of Marie
B/W silver gelatin print
3.5 x 2.5 inches
GSPH 5725
Untitled Montage Photo of Marie
B/W silver gelatin  print
3.5 x 2.5 inches
GSPH 5725
Ceramic Crown
Painted green and red
Ceramic Crown
Painted gold
Ceramic Crown
Painted green and red
Leaf vase form w heart motifs
Ceramic and paint
VBC MS 207
Assortment of bone and ceramic pieces
Pair of Chicken bone throne chairs
Chicken bones, paint and glue
VBBF 101 and 87

Installation of ceramic sculpture and chicken bone thrones

Concrete Mask Construction
Concrete and paint
37 x 20 x 6 inches
Concrete Mask Construction
Concrete and paint
30 x 20 x 6 inches

Series of limited ed. Iris prints made from original Kodacolor slide
10 x 7 inches each (6)


What Sort of Impulse?

I’ve been thinking more about Eugene Von Bruenchenhein since writing about him yesterday, mainly about how he continued creating prolifically throughout his life, all the while keeping it pretty much to himself and his wife and perhaps a friend or two.  I try to compare his obsession with my own need to paint and I find they are quite different or at least appear to be.
I don’t think I could do what artists like Von Bruenchenhein and other private artists have done.  I don’t think I could maintain that intensity in the work if I thought it was only for myself.  I suppose these artists get their satisfaction in the actual creation of the work and  that, in itself, is their reward.  That makes sense but is different from what drives my own obsessive need to paint.
I think that the actual creation of the work is vital to me  but more important  is the communication that comes with each piece.  Knowing that the work is going to be seen and is going to be able to reach out to others is the driving point in what I do.  If I thought that the work would only be seen by myself I probably wouldn’t create it, wouldn’t feel the need.  The painting itself is an expression of something I hold inside already and wish to get across to others so, if I’m not going to show it to others, why do it
That being said, there is work that I do periodically for only myself.  I don’t do these pieces in the prolific manner of Von Bruenchenhein but those few I do are meant to stay with me and are painted only to be seen by me.  They are private expressions, different parts of my own personal prism that will remain hidden from sight.  Perhaps I do this because so much of my life is shown in relation to my work and feel the need to have something that is created only for my eyes.  That is different than the obsessive creators.  Maybe because their urge to create is so different than my own is why I find these possessed few so fascinating. 

never met a girl like you before

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (1910-1983) was a self-taught artist from Wisconsin. He worked in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography and poetry. Below are images of his wife Marie (Eveline Kalke Von Bruenchenhein - "Marie").

Eugene Von BruenchenheinPhotograph of the Artist's Wife Marie, 1940s, 9 1/4 x 7 1/8"

Eugene Von BruenchenheinMontage Photograph of the Artist's Wife Marie, 1940s,9 1/8 x 7 1/8"

"Von Bruenchenhein met his wife Marie in 1939 during a visit to Wisconsin State Fair Park, located just a few blocks from his family's home. After a three-and-one-half-year courtship, they began a forty-year marriage that ended only with the artist's death in 1983. Beginning in the early 1940s, Marie became the subject of literally thousands of black-and white photographs taken by him. He developed the prints himself in their bathroom.

Inspired by the 1940s pinup aesthetic, Von Bruenchenhein's photographs are strangely erotic tableaux. They often feature Marie posed seminude before lush, floral cloth backdrops. She also appears enveloped in yards of bright satin or draped in imitation leopard skin and other patterned fabrics. In many images, she wears multiple pearl necklaces or dons a sparkling make-believe crown fashioned by the artist from a tin can and Christmas tree ornaments. Marie, transformed by her exotic costuming, assumed the fictional roles of seductress, ingenue, glamour queen, pinup girl, and movie star, all before the relentless voyeuristic gaze of Von Bruenchenhein's camera. During the 1950s, Marie enacted even more lavishly costumed charades for a series of over two thousand color slide images. She also helped her husband to hand color many of his earlier photographs of her."

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein35 mm Color Slide Image of the Artist's Wife Marie, 1950s

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein35 mm Color Slide Image of the Artist's Wife Marie, 1950s

"Marie! Marie!
I long for you thru the dusky,
Hollow, fading, years.
The memory of blossom lips;
Of starry eyes; of devine being,
Mingle to form a picture,
Where the sole joy of living
Manifests itself in the laughter
And lovliness of youth!
The tremor of a singing heart;
The whisper of a soft voice;
The movement of a summer blossom
In summers breezes;
Virtues that permeate the very
Charm of living!

Oh Marie! These and these alone
I would remember.
For these were you!"
(poem by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein)

Eugene Von BruenchenheinEugene Thinks of Marie: Montage by Eugene, 1940s,
10 x 5 1/2"

(source for photographs, poem and quote: Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: Obsessive Visionary, published by John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin © 1988)

Looking at the photograph above, Eugene Thinks of Marie: Montage by Eugene, makes me think about sources of inspiration and creativity, and the role of the artist's muse, andCarl Jung's concept of the anima ...

"The anima is a personification of all feminine psychological tendencies in a man's psyche, such as vague feelings and moods, prophetic hunches, receptiveness to the irrational, capacity for personal love, feeling for nature, and-- last but not least-- his relation to the unconscious. It is no mere chance that in olden times priestesses (like the Greek Sibyl) were used to fathom the divine will and to make connection with the gods.

A particularly good example of how the anima is experienced as an inner figure in a man's psyche is found in the medicine man and prophets (shamans) among the Eskimo and other arctic tribes. Some of these even wear women's clothes or have breasts depicted on their garments, in order to manifest their inner feminine side -- the side that enables them to connect with the "ghost land" (i.e., what we call the unconscious).

One reported case tells of a young man who was being initiated by an older shaman and who was buried by him in a snow hole. He fell into a state of dreaminess and exhaustion. In this coma he suddenly saw a woman who emitted light. She instructed him in all he needed to know and later, as his protective spirit, helped him to practice his difficult profession by relating him to the powers of the beyond. Such an experience shows the anima as the personification of a man's unconscious.

...The most frequent manifestations of the anima takes the form of erotic fantasy..."

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein detail image


I first saw Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s paintings in 2003. I found them mysterious and evocative, and full of energy. The more I looked at them, the more they expanded beyond the borders of the frame. They seemed to carry with them a complex history, as if they were glimpses of a world distant from our own. Many appeared to depict an event—on land, underwater, or in deep space—drawn from some alien cosmogony. The paintings were relatively inexpensive, so I purchased a few. A couple of years later, I purchased a few more. And a few more. I loved the places they took me and the power they had to stimulate my imagination. Finally, my enthusiasm for the paintings reached the point that I wanted to share them. So, in May, 2009, we launched



EVB—Gene to his wife and friends—was born in Wisconsin, married a local girl, and worked in a bakery during the ten years that he completed his most imaginative pieces, 1954-1963. The two of them lived in a small house that had belonged to EVB’s father, and they barely got by. His first paintings were on panels of boxes that he brought home from the bakery. As his devotion to painting increased, he would purchase paint and boards from a local art supply store. Gene worked without an easel, on the kitchen table. On summer nights, he’d put up a couple of floodlights and paint in the back yard. Most of his paintings were completed in a single frenzied session, one to three hours in length. His neighbors regarded him as a weird character. EVB saw himself as a great artist, but was unsuccessful in selling his work or gaining any recognition. By his own accounting, he completed 1,080 paintings. When he died, his small house was crammed from floor to ceiling with them.
Initially, he painted with brushes on canvas. Then in 1954 his technique changed. He started painting on board with his fingers. In 1955, he began to treat his board surfaces with a white or cream undercoat, and in addition to using his fingers, he began to scrape the paint with combs, quills, and bakery tools, revealing the undercoat beneath. His experiments with this technique proceeded through 1955 with a limited color palette. Then in 1956 his technique took a quantum leap and his colors went wild. He painted like a madman for about five years, producing a staggering number of images. Then his energy flagged, along with his health. The quality of his pieces became sporadic—brilliant things mixed with less brilliant—until 1963, at which time his painting ceased.
Prior to 1954, EVB spent a decade taking photographs, mostly of his wife Marie. After 1963, he devoted himself to sculpture. He returned to painting in the late 70s, just before his death. Everything EVB produced bears evidence of his great energy and imagination. But the paintings completed during 1954-1963 are extraordinary. There are roughly 950 of them, about 70% of which have been documented by museums and the estate that survived the artist. The rest have either vanished or are in private hands. About 80 were given away by EVB during his lifetime, and many of these have never surfaced. Some have undoubtedly been destroyed. Others may be gathering dust in a closet or attic.


From the standpoint of the art world, EVB is an outsider. He was self-taught and worked in isolation. He was first embraced by the Outsider Art, Art Brut, and Folk Art communities. His sculptures, especially, said “Folk Art” because of the materials he used. But EVB’s paintings are unlike what is generally seen in the Folk Art domain. The painting style isn’t primitive. It shows great skill. EVB was a master of technique. It just happened to be his own.
EVB has more in common with artists like Bosch and Brueghel and Goya. He has a lot in common with William Blake and Max Ernst. He also has a lot in common with a novelist and story writer like Arthur Machen, and a recording artist like Jim Morrison. My own struggle to understand what gripped me and why, led to a theory of kinship and a simple definition. So here it is, for whoever might be interested.


Most people are content to live in this world. But a few of us would prefer to be somewhere else. There are lots of reasons for a disengagement from reality, but without getting into causes, people who want to disengage, and have a lively imagination and some creative ability, may choose art as a means of creating and living in a different world. For these people, their “vision” of a world apart becomes the chief reality. That’s a different kind of life, and it produces a different kind of art. The individuals I’m thinking of have two simple identifying traits:


First, they have a desire or compulsion to set the everyday world aside in preference to another world. Second, they believe that the world they have envisioned is more profound and more real than the everyday world. Plato compared day-to-day existence with life in a cave. Above the cave, he said, there was a different world with better lighting, and that world was the more important one. That’s the Visionary perspective. The envisioned world may be blissful or full of torment. Sometimes it has elements of both heaven and hell. But it is a world apart from the one we live in, and, to them, it is more important.

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein