The Backstory of a Painting
By: Kurt von Behrmann
A video that shows the creative process
My GoFund me page to support the exhibition where this work will be shown.
My Web site
|Pferd- An interpretation of what it feels like to be bipolar, 2015|
Acrylic on Canvas Painting
Pferd (Horse) acrylic canvas
Several years ago a jockey asked me if I would create a painting with him wearing his silks. The idea appealed to me. Having been raised in Kentucky may have played in a part in why I liked the concept. For reasons that I will never know the answers, he vanished. What remained with me was the idea of creating an equestrian painting.
With no previous history of ever having painted horses, I started the process with a series of sketches. Originally the horse was going to be highly stylized. As the work developed, the horse evolved into the configuration of a recognizable horse in motion, not a distortion of one.
Italian Futurism was a movement that for some inexplicable reason became a muse for this painting. Umberto Boccioni, The City Rises (1910) was one work that I recalled from art history that I felt would be starting point, along with German Expressionism. Another previous art movement that would also play a part, symbolism.
Symbolists believed that art should reflect an emotion or an idea rather than represent the natural world only. This was what I was doing with “Pferd,” to a great degree. The image is recognizable, but the emotions and ideas expressed are primary.
Although symbolism began as a literary movement, it was a natural for artists. There is substantial common ground between artists and writers. One uses words to craft a message, the other paint.
I also liked the idea of objects representing multiple meanings to express a deeper truth. The horse in the painting is representational of the human mind. Being that the horse is a symbol strongly associated with Kentucky, and Stuttgart, my home town, the references to my past are clearly stated.
Because so many artists have used horses as symbols for very human conditions, it seemed a logical idea. With the horse representing the mind, a constantly moving thing, the poles in the painting were representative of the two states of bipolar disorder, mania and depression.
The active brush strokes, the Italian Futurists love of depicting movement and bright expressive color made this what I consider a visual description of bipolar. This brain disease, to me, lends itself well to being expressed visually.
Bipolar is constant motion. One is thrown between action and inactivity. Mania is a high voltage adrenaline act that you hope lasts forever. Depression is that unavoidable descent that immediately causes the ascent into frenzied madness. The cycle does not stop. Your constantly moving between overwhelming exuberance or crippling depression. This has been my experience with bipolar.
The bipolar mind is akin to a thoroughbred. It is one that adores running. It loathes the point when exhaustion kicks in and one can no longer make a “run for the roses.” This was the first painting I completed while on medications. The drugs did change things. It certainly slowed me down. It also made me think much harder and dig so much deeper. I was depicting an interior world using external shapes and forms. Sometimes recognizable, sometimes a collection of brush strokes, Pferd was in some ways the culmination of a process started before I became serious ill.