Who is Ulrich de Balbian and what do you do?
I am in my sixties, born of a German mother and Dutch-French father.
I lived and studied in a number of countries, including Great Britain, France, Germany and Spain.I have doctorates in Philosophy and Theology and qualifications in Social Science and Fine Art.When i was young I did sociological research in South Africa, so I know certain areas, of this vast and very diverse (culturally and geographically) country.I worked as an academic (philosophy, art and world religions) so that I did not have to be dependent on the Art Industry for a living.
Through philosophy I reflected deeply on many aspects of existence, including culture and more specially art, and the Western painting genre.
I specify Western as it is very different from the painting traditions from Asia, China, India, Arabic countries, etc.
As social scientist and philosopher (I published fifteen books in that discipline, two in theology and others) researched socio-cultural aspects of art , for example the code of the discourse or socio-cultural; practice of Western Painting.
As well as the Art Industry and Market. Many people interested in art and artists do not realize that the centre of the Art Market has shifted from the West (1) US, 2) UK, 3) France, 4) Germany) to Asia (1)China, 2)Taiwan, 3)Hong Kong, 4) Korea, 5)Singapore). Major Art Fairs and Biennales are held in those countries and Private Collectors built their own museums, as there used to be few national museums as in the west. Those private museum collections can compare with the best national Museums in the West.
I mention the art Market and Industry as I question the traditional system of commercial galleries, auctions and the influence of billionaire collectors on the price of works of art. I am a maverick and rebel as far as these things are concerned and i am not allowing them to control my type of work. Too many artists, similar to the rest of the popular entertainment industry, felt the need to produce sensational work, so as to be noticed. I never was dependent on the art industry as I had other spruces of income as academic. I retired at forty from that so as to work full time on my art, and writing.
I have studios in South Africa, Spain and France.
How would you define your style or art?
The lengthy introduction above had a serious point. I wished to show that I question all aspects of art, and especially painting. I intentionally choose to paint, in the Western tradition, instead of working in the so-called New Media, creating installations, performance art, ready made, etc. I think and hope that there still is mileage in the Western tradition of painting.
I see my work as totally experimental and a kind of serious research. Not merely in a cerebral or rational manner, but first of all on a sub-conscious level, exploring how we think about objects, how we perceive them, etc
I work piecemeal, something like Wittgensteinian philosophers, exploring every detail of the process of painting, bit by bit. Each of these bits are developed into a series of paintings.
I do not have one single style, but gradually discovered that I unintentionally work in series (of 2, 3, 4, 5, etc). The only other artist I have come across who works in this manner is the German Gerhard Richter. If someone wishes to understand my work better they should study his work (as well as Paul Klee, Kandinsky and the ideas of the Bauhaus) as he is my predecessor. I do not follow or copy him, but work in the same tradition as he, and they, did.
It appears as if I do not have one single style and that my work – the different series – is merely random, but this is not the case. The larger picture will reveal that my entire work form one unit, in other words the seemingly random aspects, as in Chaos Theory, will be shown to make more sense in the totality.
Given all the above, my questioning of all aspects of the discourse or socio-cultural tradition of painting, the manner in which our minds (thinking, perception, etc), emotions and trial consciousness operates – leads to what I termed New Styles, a style beyond one and all styles.
My work has a deeply spiritual side. Not in the narrow meaning of the word as forming part of a particular religion, but as tuning into the Ground or basis of existence of human beings, the earth and the entire Universe. Or rather the many universes or multi-verse, as scientists are expressing it.
All this might appear to be very abstract, but painting and the process of painting is something totally concrete. But, by means of paint, brushes, etc I attempt to arrive more and more at the (he)art of Creation, the underlying Ground or basis of all of Creation, of the building blocks of the Universe. This has many similarities to the research of scientists of phenomena that are not visible to the human eye, but that can only be thought in complex mathematical formulae. By means of painting I make Visible that what is until that moment, Invisible to usual human thinking. Most people think in a dualistic manner (because they are socialized like that), but the non-dual way tells us that the subject who perceives, the object that is perceived and the process of perception is ONE whole (all religions, contemplatives and those who meditate attempt to arrive at this non-dual, direct way of perceiving,. or of being one/d with that what is perceived).
I express the above like this in the context of looking at my work:
The human mind treats smaller paintings as if it is looking AT an object or a thing such as a table or chair.
But larger works are experienced (like installations) as if one is part of them and participate in them.
Now that you know this please do not treat these images as if they are just more objects or things you look AT, but experience and participate in them.
I always express what I think abstractly in this kind of very concrete manner. And, by this simple example the point of all my seemingly abstract talk suddenly comes together as something very concrete, and thereby shows that matter (concrete painting and the stuff a painting is made of) and the spirit (ual) is one – merely two different ways of looking at the same thing. Two perspectives on the same thing, like the two sides of a coin, or looking at a house from the front, the back, the sides, above. All the different points of view contribute to one thing. In the tradition of Abstract painting, Braque, Picasso and others tried to express this unity of many perspectives in a certain manner. I explore and express or do it in a different way.
What inspires your work?
I am first of all a painter for the sake of the Western tradition of painting. By this I mean, if it were not for certain painters who existed before me and explored and developed this tradition of painting, I would not have been able to think the way I do, and explore the process of painting in the manner I am doing. I form part of this tradition. To feel part of this tradition is what inspires me to paint – over and over again. As Richter said: one must be passionate about doing this stupid thing of being all alone most of the time because if one were not passionate about it, then for adults to play around with paint, colours, etc would be nothing but mere idiocy.
I paint because I must, I cannot not do it – like some people need to eat, drink, drive very fast, I must paint. The last part of why is because, I paint for the handful; of serious painters of every generation or century who also feel obliged to paint. Therefore, first of all I paint for a few other members of the discourse or the interpersonal (intersubjective) community of artists or painters, especially those who are yet unborn. If I could add anything to the discourse of painting, explore, question, modify and develop its interpersonal code, then my life had some meaning. Of course, I cannot judge this and it will only be seen more clearly, what and if anything, I did contribute to this discourse. I suppose I, like all serious artists, have a certain aesthetic ideal and vision, and that will be expressed as my work. If it is the case that anyone else find anything in any of my work, well – that always astonish me. That is the cherry on top of all the being alone, doubts, questionings, searches, and so on.
I think something does happen in or through my work, because I have come across a number of people who react with: stunning, it pulls me endlessly into it; I must look at it over and over again. That is what a good painting always did to me. I had to look at a Klee, Twombly, and Richter etc, over and over again, and again return to look at it.
It is as if one is hypnotized by it, one’s mind is blown away, one experiences or ‘sees’, something, perhaps like the first day of the creation of the universe, like first seeing one’s newborn baby – a bundle of massive potentials — for good, bad, or whatever.
You are about to take off to the USA, why are you going there and what lead to this?
Someone entered a few of my works for a competition called ‘Artists Wanted’. If one were to receive more than 777 “likes” one progress to the next round. In a few weeks my site – http://monkagain.artistswanted.org/atts2012 – received more than a 1000 visits and the necessary number of ‘likes’. The work of the winner will be shown on the gigantic billboard at Times Square, New York. I am now through to the final round and my work, with the work of other finalists will be shown at a VIP party on bright LED screens (9 ft x 12 ft) located on Broadway and 43rd Street. The Times Square Billboard Premier Event will consist of a number of famous US singers and groups.
I will also be visiting two museums who wish to acquire my work.
What are you currently working on?
Like, every day – putting the last series behind me, and feeling my way, completely open-minded, into the beginning of another series. Until I begin another series, I am a bundle of dynamite fuse that has been lit, and that must find some way to explode – like racehorse permanently at the beginning of a race.
What advice would you give young creatives looking to do what you do?
It is a very, very lonely road, do not do it for any external rewards. I do not mean students who attend Art School with the purpose to obtain a degree, so as to get work, but those few who realize that they must work in some area of art, they have almost no choice in the matter – it is as if one is driven on. This is both a curse and the greatest joy – to end up in the middle of creating something that did not exist before, a new vision of the world, always nearer to the art, the heart of Creation, the act of creating, but never close enough, yet. Because, when one has finished, one must start all over again. In other words: be prepared for work, endless work, and always questioning what you have done and what you are doing. It is something very mundane, totally concrete, and forget about glory, fame and other rewards – those things are short lived and pass quickly.
Where can our readers follow your work?
I mostly place my work on online galleries, as that requires little time. I no longer have time or an interest in spending a lot of time to organize an exhibition, and online galleries reach the entire planet instantly –
My work can be seen here:
A few people have recently made videos of some of my work for YOU TUBE –