by Suzanne Trocmé
“I think the tree is an element of regeneration which in itself is a concept of time” - Artist, sculptor, art theorist and pedagogue of art, Joseph Beuys (1921 – 1986).
One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, the German Beuy’s extensive work was grounded in concepts of social philosophy, humanism and anthroposophy – the latter (literally from the Greek for “Human” and “Wisdom”) a philosophy founded by educator, the Austrian Rudolph Steiner, who postulated the existence of an objective and intellectually comprehensible spiritual world which aimed to develop faculties of intuition and perceptive imagination through cultivating a manner of independent thinking not necessarily related to sensory experience. In short, anthroposophy claims a spiritual world accessible to direct experience through inner development. In his Philosophy of Freedom (published 1894), Steiner developed a concept of free will based upon inner experiences – those occurring in the creative activity of independent thought.
Part One of the Philosophy of Freedom examined the conditions for freedom of thought, and the second, the conditions for freedom of action, seeking to demonstrate that inner freedom is achieved when we bridge the gap between our perception (outer appearance of the world) and our cognition (which accesses the inner structure of the world). Outer freedom thus arises when we find the links between ideals and the constraints of external reality, our deeds inspired by “moral imagination”.
Later, Beuys’ famous statement - “teaching is my greatest work of art” - was followed by: “the rest is the waste product, a demonstration. If you want to express yourself you must present something tangible”. He continued, “Objects aren’t very important any more. I want to get to the origin of matter, to the thought behind it”. More specifically, Joseph Beuys’ now famous performance art piece, “How to explain pictures to a dead hare,” dealt with “the difficulty of explaining things”. The artist spent three hours explaining his art to a dead hare with his head covered with honey and gold leaf. Contemporary art on many levels may be considered laboratories for a new pedagogy with research and experiment often replacing form. As a 21st century protagonist of freedom of thought, a contemporary shaman, Arik Levy exemplifies regeneration as an expression of time with his current work, linking old philosophies with new, creating form as a by-product of thought. Arik Levy’s tree attempts to find the origin of matter, in its mathematical precision – emblematic of a balance of cognitive and perceptive expression. The 21st century perception of anthroposophy and its broader, some less palatable, not mentioned here, earlier teachings may be that its roots were watered by dogmatism but have been tempered by time, and the branches, the offspring, have found their own parlance with Levy’s tree as its conduit.
Regeneration marks, with time, the artist’s own spiritual world, a direct experience through inner development. However, its multifaceted reflections force an augmented reality of any observer’s approach. Suzanne Trocmé
Biography: Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, curator for three years of the London Design Festival pan-London, author, design and architecture editor, has written for numerous publications including Wallpaper* magazine, Architectural Digest, the New York Times magazine and the Telegraph magazine, is also an award-winning furniture designer.
ASK THE ARTIST
by Christine Mostert
Commissioning art. For several years, the relationship between art and enterprise has been developed and specialised in different formats: foundations, collections, patronage, philanthropy, partnerships, and special orders. Today, art finds itself at the heart of the strategy of a growing number of companies and, together with effective management, makes it possible to combine the tangible and the subjective, the real and the imaginary, numbers and emotions, performance and pleasure.
Obviously, the intelligent company listens to the world, anticipates its changes and seizes the market opportunities offered by these transformations. Throughout history, this one has not ceased to study the relationships between society, economy and sciences. Clairvoyant, the company of the early 21st century now integrates environmental concerns, people’s consciousness and culture. Specifically, some of them, concerned with their positioning, have perceived in art a communication medium through which they can reach for the new horizons born out of the incredible development of the cultural sector shaping the world of today. In response to these trends, some firms are trying to better understand the relationships between art and society. For these companies, it is a question of diversifying their production, and building or maintaining their image of excellence by fomenting new alliances between entrepreneurial dynamism and the person of the artist. Some have been active in offering, in addition to their usual production, exceptional products that are far removed from large series runs. The objective is to create awareness of their expertise by associating their usual activity with the creation of unique artistic objects, often mixing the conventional categories of work of art, unique object and mass production. The goal of the company is to satisfy a new clientele of enthusiasts looking for exclusivity.
As a consequence of these alliances, some 21st century artists are engaged in developing innovative work, in small series - even single pieces -, a trend which had no equivalent in the history of art of the 19th and 20th centuries.
This association is not a new idea in history, but it occupies a very particular place in a dramatically transformed 21st century, in which the globalisation of the art market, the geographical relocation of the centres of artistic influence, the opening of new economies – along with the discovery of their cultures and the resulting fusions –, have all been integrated at a speed never before experienced till now.
After the experimentations of the 1920s and 1930s, the modern aesthetic consolidated during the 1950s. This new assurance has given artists confidence, and made it possible to build bridges between art, architecture, photography, design and business. Today, the boundaries between these different disciplines have indeed diminished, even if art experts continue to wax lyrical about the status of a work of art, posing the unique against the series, the non-functional against the functional.
Thus the industry, the artist and the collector all benefit from a new mirrored dialogue: the art serving the company, and the company serving the art, for the greater pleasure of the collector.
The impulse of the entrepreneur is driven by the desire to associate his brand with a creative genius in order to bolster its expertise and values and thus to give its legend life. This “artistic ambassador” is chosen by the company, which confers upon him the subtle role of translating in symbolic form its past history, its understanding of the present and its inclusion in the future. This is about much more than a meeting. It is an alliance and a union of two visionary spirits: on the one hand the entrepreneur who is open to the world, and on the other the artist who reveals to him, through his own subjectivity and formal universe, his own feelings about the world.
Within the company’s life, the artist’s work is a breath of fresh air, a revelation.
Of course, the alliance between Hennessy and Arik Levy is not taking us into new territory: they have already collaborated these five years! Hennessy has recognised in the talent of the artist the best spokesperson to deliver its own art. And the commitment of the prestigious cognac producer to commission from Arik Levy a work of art as showcase for the Jeroboam 2012 is a real landmark decision, not only in the history of Hennessy, but also in the personal journey of the artist, and more globally as a defining example of the relationship between art and enterprise in the dawning 21st century.
Christine Mostert Curator of Puilaetco Dewaay Private Bank art collection.
Art historian. Following 18 years with Christie’s, Christine Mostert is now curator of the collection of the Belgian private bank Puilaetco Dewaay,- member of KBL epb , and art advisor.
by Arik Levy
RockGrowth represents the evolution of my project “Absent Nature”: an investigation of the genetic intimacy, biomimicry and patterns of nature alongside the social codes and rational understanding of our environment.
It all exists in relation to my own self and through my personal perception of a man-made nature and the concurrent projection of a potential existing, but yet unknown, nature from some other civilizations.
The impossible assumption - from a biological point of view - of planting a “Rock” (mineral) as a vegetal seed and observing, as a witness, its germinating process and growth, taking part of an evolving nature within its genetic intimacy, contemplating the natural progress of growth, generate new landscapes of forms and scales. When interacting with my own thought pro- cess, this whole idea instigates an urge to create my own world of possibilities and projections.
When the Rock is planted or put in the ground the mineral transforms, adopts a vegetal DNA and germinates. It grows, erects and develops both over and under ground. Each and every one of its facets grows and develops at its own speed, direction and dimension, giving birth to a faceted tree trunk that later, when cut, becomes a faceted Log. Simultaneously, both bulbs and roots produce branching points of growth where the developing facets will extend. Each one of these outgrowths I refer to as RockGrowth: if you dismember and section the growing tree, by separating roots, bulbs and branches from the logs, the isolated element reveals its mineral nature and goes back to being a Rock. RockGrowth is an endless composition of unknown nature, a representation of a unique atom, an outer space formation, a conglomerate of kryptonite or a mineral flower blooming out of a new-born formula. This evolution - the regeneration of branches, forms, formulas, biology, chemistry and feelings - allows me to implement these ideas into each and every mechanism in our lives, might that be emotional, mechanical, bio logical or mental.
The constant growth and evolution of these pieces gives the impression that the stretching branches are in an ongoing development, and each side of them tells a different visual story… infinite.