Soul Oxygen No.8 / CEN LONG’s View of Art

Because I felt that I found a place where my soul could reside at the first sight of Permeke’s painting, I have always preferred him to many others. He is a prominent figure of the twentieth century European Expressionism. Many characters in his paintings, are grotesque and distorted farmers and fishermen whose appearances almost border ugliness, however, they are all adorable to an extent that they make one’s heart ache. Permeke relies on the personal experiences he gained by his feelings to create his figures, and depends on it to express his passion to its fullest degree. He discards many intricate details such as facial features, pleating of clothes and the surroundings, etc. so he could build the spiritual world he sought after with a deeper and more unlimited imagination.

His figures and landscapes are actually detached from the narrative of reality, meaning that he is simply finding an abstract essence that can represent some objects, and what we see is the colors and lines that solely belongs to himself. In his artworks, one can clearly experience his love, hatred, depression or his childlike innocent emotions. Everything in his painting is the reincarnation of the various forms of Permeke’s consciousness. His use of rough and stranding stokes stems from his humble reverence to the Creator, and therefore gives birth to a forceful sense of religious mysticism.

Composition is the most important aspect of his paintings, the form of painting is the abode of his reasoning for creation. All the creation of figures heeds to its judgment. The figures in his paintings are often painted as colossal giants stretching the earth and sky apart. Square-shaped people exhausts the picture, sometimes even reaching the boundary of the canvas, forcing the painter to leave half of the head out. His negligence of the rules to maintain the balance of the figures and the background in classical paintings, allows for the maximum display of visual tension. Some fisherwoman and farmers with abnormally large limbs seems to almost walk out of the picture, and suddenly, the abnormality of the proportions of their structure seems very natural, which makes his paintings very unforgettable. The subtly dark but pure and refined colors enveloping the figures, adds to the hint of the plain, natural yet slightly melancholic aura.

Permeke favors the use of earthy orange and black brown when painting big areas, and he contrasts those colors at some important points with some lightslate gray or light grey to add a hint of vivacity to the painting. This sort of splendid magnificent grey sometimes becomes the skin tone of the characters or the color for the highlighted parts. Permeke’s works are simplistically colored, one might even say he uses color economically, and the chromaticity is chosen to be of the darkest. In his artworks, the brightness and intensity of the red, blue, green and yellow are all artificially toned down. It creates an effect that makes his figures are to the earth, and assimilate to their native environment.

He also uses the same colors for his landscapes, but only changes his touches. The earth and ocean are depicted with broad strokes, and contrasts the clouds and fields that are painted using smaller touches, which is also a technique he uses in his portraits. Permeke is really detailed when tailoring the expressions in his paintings, he reaches a balance where a stroke more would be unnecessary and one less would render the painting mild. His sophistication is one that appears effortless and even sometimes unperceived, his colors are pure but not monotonous, which owes to the various strokes and touches Permeke uses to create an innocent world that is rich and diversified. It always seems as if an undercurrent of buoyant folk songs is surging beneath with a rhythmical movement, and the spirit of humanity carries the grandeur of epic history and a monumental and perennial significance. When looking at his artworks, one can feel the same content and gratification as the moment when the robust scent of coffee fills one’s senses after the tasting.