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Zen in art

First launched publicly at the Turbine Art Fair 2018 in Johannesburg as The Immortal Nekkies, John-Michael Metelerkamp’s Nekkies will be exhibited with Candice Berman Fine Art Gallery at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2019 – showing for the first time in Cape Town.

Candice Berman Contemporary John-Michael Metelerkamp
John-Michael Metelerkamp, Nekkies 32, 2018. Mixed media on panel. 900x900mm

In his book Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury tells an aspiring writer: ‘You must stay drunk on writing so that reality does not destroy you.’
     This statement is completely encompassed in John-Michael Metelerkamp’s approach to painting. There is conscious terror behind the artist’s frenzied creations. Metelerkamp paints images that are continuously mined from his unconscious. The artist is known for creating a painting a day and has a recurring theme asking: What is reality? His search for meaning is like that of a child at play or an embodiment of William James’s idea of one that is twice-born: ‘The process is one of redemption, not of mere reversion to natural health, and the sufferer, when saved, is saved by what seems to him a second birth, a deeper kind of conscious being than he could enjoy before.’
     Clinical psychology informs us that one of the main causes of depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, namely lack of serotonin, and anti-depressants are supposed to assist in keeping the existential crisis at bay. However, just feeling good is another form of suffering when one knows the truth. Man is both a god and an animal.
     Part of what separates us from the beasts of the field is our unique ability to create. The creative power when applied induces a feeling of intoxication that turns the saliva sweet, and an escape from what can seem to be an imprisoning world. Nietzsche called this intoxicating feeling ‘Rausch’. Schopenhauer sums the imprisoning world thusly:
     ‘It then becomes clear and certain to him that what he knows is not a sun and an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels an earth; that the world that surrounds him is only there as an idea, i.e., only in relation to something else, the consciousness, which is himself.’
     The artist creates to step out of himself. Metelerkamp eludes to this in an interview: ‘I can be a very physical painter. I use my body to control the medium but I am totally unaware of it. So, it feels like an out-of-body experience. [Philip] Guston said that sometimes it feels like a third hand is doing the work. I totally relate to this.’

To read more about how Metelerkamp counters extreme self-consciousness in his paintings, purchase the February 2019 edition of Creative Feel, or continue supporting our role in the arts and culture industry by subscribing to our monthly magazine from only R180.00 per year.

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