## Monday, October 7, 2013

### finishing/restoring old work 2 (academy days): our lady of the stars and the planets

our lady of the stars and the planets (own work, 1986-2014, 50 x 57 cm, click on the image for an enlargement)

i started this painting somewhere in 1986, when i just started out with acrylics. i was forced to start using acrylics since i had developed a serious allergy against all oil-based paints and their associated fumes already then. this in turn was largely due to my non-stop painting which for years took part in the same room where i slept (me being a poor student).

the painting was a complete experiment, in materials as well as form, and it didn't work out satisfactorily. but the result was intriguing and hung on my wall for well over a year until i finally gave up on trying to improve it. its merits were a certain freedom of expression, but its limitations were severe and i didn't have a clue how to proceed. i always kept it, hoping to one day find inspiration for a reworking.

this reworking took place the last few weeks. once again i had to cross certain unknown lands to get here. i decided to clarify some facial structures, and to simplify the background. then, using some painted cardboard parts that i had removed from the painting earlier, i cut out some stars. used palettes i tried in many combinations, to create planets. and i added seashells to our lady's clothing. i collected those shells last year, during endless walks by the seaside between st. maartenszee and bergen. (i will come back to those shells in a future post, but let me say already here that i picked just one sort, because i thought it would work very well in paintings. the surface of these shells is simply amazing.) of course, planets, stars and seashells refer to the traditional role of maria as stella maris (star of the sea), a guiding light for seafarers.

as in almost all my works, i find a great difficulty in achieving the' fitting expression. most often it needs to be a mixture between some (soft) sadness, some contemplation, some compassion and some (small) smile as well. [postscript 2014: changed the expression once again, and added some hair elements...to make the painting more unambiguously uplifting]

the religious connotation is largely the same as in the notre dame des anges' series, but i wanted some surprise and childlike qualities in the painting. i'm not sure how well i have achieved these qualities, but i do have a strong sense that it is finished now, and should be taken as it is, with all its history and possible shortcomings. [and it probably has a strong `outsider art' feeling for many viewers. i have decided to not hold back this side of my art, especially when restoring/finishing older work].

filippo lippi, madonna and child (mid 15th century)

filippo lippi was the teacher of sandro botticelli, his influence on his pupil is clear to see. the star on maria in the above painting refers to her role as stella maris.