10/02/2017

Henri Rousseau and the source of creativity







This week I saw a fascinating documentary on the painter Henri Rousseau, who was nicknamed "Le Doaunier". During his life he was often ridiculised by critics for a lack of traditional education and craftsmanship. Some of them said that his paintings were not any better than the work of a child. Only a number of contemporary artists, among others Picasso and Delaunay, saw this true talent and considered him as a father figure of modern art.


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The overall feeling I had after watching the documentary was that Rousseau was at the very source of creativity, connected to it by purity, naivety and the power of his imagination. It helps me to further improve my Bach-interpretation and create my own music, which is occasionally as naive as the art of Rousseau, for instance in Stillness and My friend the Indian. 


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In the documentary Rousseau's art was compared to "art symbolique" in Roman churches and "primitive" art from Africa, shown at the world exposition in Paris in 1889 (famous in music history because Debussy heard gamelan music from Indonesia there for the first time). These examples of Roman and African art gave me the same feeling of being "at the source of creativity". When I played with African musicians in the late '90s, I used to have that feeling also, because of their naive and spontaneous attitude. Similar to creating my own music, there did not seem to be any obstacle. Regarding the interpretation of organ works by Bach, however, I have always been longing for this quality, never knowing where to find it precisely. Jan Welmers made a very important remark once, which kept me thinking for a long time, about Bach making complex constructions with simple material (I remember him singing the theme of the F major invention there). This and the examples of Henri Rousseau, Roman and African artists and my own music make me feel now like being one step closer to the source.