This text has been written by art historian Hans Sizoo
I – A Jacob’s ladder in Wormerveer: Paintings 1999-2006
Ludo Winkelman’s recent paintings – insofar as they were not intended as set pieces of an installation – can be categorized as abstract. But what does ‘abstract’ mean in this context? There is no lack of differences among the works, yet the viewer is never confronted with mere form-play. He can sense this immediately. He feels invited to get involved in the events unfolding before his eyes, and often finds himself carried allong. Such fervour of reds and yellows and oranges, such unfathomabilities of blue, such whirls of touch and precisely there, in the midst of this whirl, the unrelenting majesty of order.
It comes therefore as no surprise that the works have all been provided with titles. Sometimes these refer to a broadly defined, apparently subjectively incorporated yet familiar reality. ‘Double Image with Landscape’, ‘Polarizing City Light’, ‘Afterimage in Landscape’, ‘The Garden’, ‘Spring’. The compositions in this category seem sufficiently fragmented to remind us of a world of allotment, of vegetation and even of human intervention, while the coloration, varying from the cool pastel tones of ‘The Garden’ to the saturated greens and blues of ‘Afterimage in Landscape’ and the red and orange burning from behind bue veils in ‘Polarizing City Light’, touches strings that would also be stirred in similar surroundings in everyday life. However, in ‘The Garden’ the playful disorder of organic and semi-organic forms has to come to an understanding with the fragments of a geometric grid of straight lines and angles. It is a geometry only found in human culture, for instance in certain gardens. This un-nature leaves room for a segment of a circle and through that, for a geometry also found in nature.
The sun, the moon, the eye’s pupil, as well as the line of the horizon where it appears to the eye without obstacles, all prove this unequivocally. According to Winkelman’s conjecture, the circle is something more besides: it is one of the basic forms of cosmic order. It connects the sun and the stars to the cycles of earthly life, in nature and even in the world of man, in which the circle is an archetype of social gathering, from the prehistoric village meeting to today’s campfire. In the vigorous whirl of ‘Spring’ – a theme that promises more room to nature than it is usually allowed by a garden – this same circle is drawn to completion, becoming a still modest, yet inescapable presence. The same form becomes a cogent presence when it appears in works such as ‘Flora’, ‘Belize’, ‘Sunlight’: an all-connecting element in a world that can only be described as nature with a very capital N. In these works, touch and colour are free and lively, like elements of a world in which has not yet cyrstallized – yet the circle puts them into place. A third group is formed by paintings with titles such as ‘Message from Far Away’, ‘Origin’, ‘Telluric Clockwork’, ‘Archis’, ‘Cosmic Circle’, ‘Aurora’, ‘Coming into existence’, ‘Anfang ohne Ende’, ‘Play of Earth and Moon’. Here, transparant blues beckon the eye to unfathomable distances, to a world in which the borderline between nature and supernature can no longer be drawn. Suns and planets emerge and seem to disappear in the distance again, or, remaining large and motionless themselves, hold a turmoil of colour and movement in their grasp,.
A disorder that yields to order: in the conceptual universe of man this is nothing new. Most creation stories tell us this already. Since the times of early Romanticism the visual arts occasionally do more or less the same thing, for instance in the realistically painted but symmetrically organized landscapes by Friedrich or Runge and, in later years, the alpine landscapes by Hodler and the fantasy landscapes of distant planets by Ernst. It is art that strives to bring the grandeur of cosmic order, as can be fathomed by intuition, within the field of vision and connect it to a nature that is nearby and tangible. Concerning this order it can raise a question or suggest an answer, but it always suggests something more than just the grit resulting from that cosmic bang, flying about aimlessly.
As with Friedrich or Max Ernst, nature nearby and tangible is always the starting point for Ludo Winkelman. Or maybe I should write that it continues to be a touchstone for what is already sensed concerning that cosmic order. It is no coincidence that after graduation Winkelman had always lived in places where vastness surrounded him or could be found nearby: near Aalsmeer, near Ilpendam, in Wormerveer. Neither is it a coincidence that he enjoys roaming these lands by bicycle. Another painting is called ‘Volare’, or ‘flying’, as sung in an Italian evergreen. Neither bounded by any circular shape nor bridled by the frame, which appears to small on either side, the forms and stains of an intangible world whirl around us. A fleeting world, in other words, but the deep layered red that carries this fleetingness indicates an intense experience.
This reminds me of what Winkelman once told me about a feeling that sometimes comes to him when he cycles through the landscape of North-Holland. Surrounded by nothing but the brillliance of light and the soughing of air and wind, his hands off the handle bars, he can be overwhelmed by a feeling of being free from everything yet connected to a world, being part of the nature that surrounds him and of the cosmic whirl that brought it into existence. The feeling behind ‘Jacob’s ladder’ must have been somewhat less extatic, but not altogether unrelated. Again, an apparently disorderly whirl, in this case surrounded by a blue that gradually deepens in a vertical direction. To me, the whole communicates a feeling of being invited by a heaven above a piece of unspoilt nature to give free rein to one’s imagination, to rise like that Jacob’s ladder to invisible distances and, who knows, to a frontier where the cosmic secret becomes cosmic revelation.
All this is fantasy, to me at least – but in the meantime I am waiting in eager anticipation just how near to that frontier Ludo Wikelman’s work will reach.