|Statement of Hendrik Arie Baartman 2003 living in the Netherlands.
As an artist of constructive geometric forms, my work deals with patterns and relationships derived from classical ideals of balance and symmetry. Mathematical yet organic, these abstract forms invite the viewer to partake of the geometric aesthetic. I use a variety of media, computer art, paper, and wood, plastic, metal.
Classical forms are pushed in new directions, so viewers can take pleasure in their Platonic beauty yet recognize how they are updated for our complex high-tech times. I share with many artists the idea that a pure form is a worthy object, and select for each piece the materials that best carry that form. In one series of pieces, familiar objects are arranged in engaging configurations, displaying an essential tension between mundane individual components and the strikingly original totality.
Because my works invite contemplation, slowly revealing their content, some viewers see them as meditation objects. A lively dancing energy moves within each piece and flows out to the viewer. The integral wholeness of each self-contained picture presents a crystalline purity, a conundrum of complexity, and a stark simplicity.
The term experimental is used in art to indicate working with new forms.
In science experiment is used to test theory, but what then is my theory? It is that art is close to science. You could simplify it by saying: physics is about physical forces, art is about mental forces. More generally there is something deeper going on in science and art. Einstein observed that a theory needs to be expressed elegantly. A beautiful equation is more powerful because it can be worked with more effectively. Its elegance gives it utility: Form follows Function was a founding principle of modernism and although we live in a post modern age, the lessons taught by modernists are still relevant, particularly when considered in the abstract. This is not about style or functionality, at issue is the underlying common nature of science and art.
The observation that art and science share a common purpose is not new, Leonardo DaVinci would have said much the same and even at the dawn of history Pythagoras declared that numbers were the underlying structure of everything. However this is not a matter of repackaging classical concepts in a contemporary context. Our understanding of the scientific method has undergone a paradigm shift within the last generation. Science is no longer perceived as seeking immutable truths, its method uses human imagination, searching for 'models', which explain and provide understanding. Scientific theories (or models) may not resemble art works but they are creations of the human mind and are subject of strong feelings within the scientific community. While orthodox theories are taught 'as if true', new theories always come along to upset the established truths in a way which mirrors the development of art. This insight has yet to be fully appreciated by the scientific community, let alone the World at large. It is important for artists to understand this, both out of intellectual curiosity and because it is directly relevant to their own creative process. We are all engaged in a common creative pursuit.
Pythagoras conviction that the universe was made of numbers took its inspiration from music, but more than that, it was a mystical revelation, of which I shall have more to say shortly. The Greeks understood the principles of harmony and those principles remained unchanged until the arrival of the tempered scale which was a revolution as radical as Relativity overturning Classical Mechanics.
In the 20th century composers have used mathematical methods for a new purpose. They used the formalities of maths to create a new kind of music which does not repeat: "generative music". The use by artists and musicians of science and mathematics is a step towards greater power. The purpose of science is to explain and provide understanding but science is much more than a dry process of reasoning, over and over again it has amazed us and transformed our lives. For art to throw more light on the human condition this will be achieved by a combination of passion and reason... although much of the reasoning may be hidden in the finished artwork. Our eyes, minds and hearts will be opened to the fullest by the new experience. The potential is there, we will be more than surprised by the results. Unpredictable, but I hazard the guess that the deepening fusion of art and science will not be artists in white lab coats, quite the contrary, we shall be moved from disbelief to be overwhelmed and astonished by the vision of the future that will unfold.
It is this sense of astonishment, wonder, magic which remains central to my continuing activities as an artist. I am a seeker in search of miracles. It is an abiding misunderstanding of our age that there is some kind of contradiction or battle between art and science, or science and religion. Far too many scientists have launched futile attacks on the magical and irrational, too many evil technologies have been developed from scientific discoveries. Too many people from what was once called the left, the libertarians, the dreamers, the idealists in search of a better World have denounced science. Don't be hasty in your judgment I ask. As artists and visionaries we must rise above such skirmishes, and recognize the power and potential in both the rational and magical. There has always been black and white in magic and so it is with science and technology. It is up to us through our own experience and understanding to discover the positive.
As children, we all have an intuitive understanding of this magical aspect to life. Children are also very good at asking questions. They are playful mystics and questioning scientists all at once. It is this child like quality I seek to encourage within myself and others. The sense of excitement is the fuel of imagination. Life can be like a beautiful beach where we all play. The sea shells we find as children are full of this energy. As artists our creations can absorb this energy from our enthusiasm and concentration on the act of creation. If we are lucky, they come to life, extra energy flows from an unknown source.
It is then, when the work itself surprises us that we know that we are really onto something.