Da Vaz - the Inventor
of American Baroque
|«He seeks to fascinate with the force
of affect, directly, overwhelmingly.
What he gives is not movement, but excitement, ecstasy, rapture. He
for an impression of the moment... What he gives is not a happy state,
but an evolution, an event; not a satisfied, but a dissatisfied and
condition. One does not feel redeemed, but is torn into the tension
state of passion.»
The parallel to the artist Da Vaz's oeuvre
is clear: his work is marked by dynamics, boundless candor and passion
for innovation, playful and imaginative investigation - all qualities
characteristic of north American art after 1950. This attitude to art
has a Baroque touch: unceasing movement, unsatisfied curiosity, pleasure
in things new and unknown, but also optimism as the basis for a view to
the future, the courage for new ventures. The artist becomes an explorer.
This is the essence of «American Baroque» created by Da Vaz. With Da Vaz
a painter enters the stage who, after decades of low-key activity in art,
now delivers a new thrust forward to open up new horizons.
Subsequent to the modern interpretation of Baroque (Alois Riegl, A. E.
Brinckmann, Dagobert Frey, Richard Sedlmaier, Hans Sedlmayr) a broader
understanding of Baroque has emerged which includes and illustrates the
international interrelationships of artists and art as well as the significant
movements in the development of art. A distinctive feature of this broader
Baroque concept is the dissolution of the borders between the individual
art genres and techniques: «Ganzheitlichkeit» (Wholeness) and «Gesamtkunstwerk»
(synthesis of the arts) are concepts which developed from the philosophy
of Baroque and which have constantly captured artists' imagination and
thought ever since. This is joined by illusionism: painting does not remain
painting in the traditional sense, but adopts plastic elements from architecture.
The plastic does not want to be seen as an individual work of art, but
as a part of the whole.
The artist - the researcher, too - is intent on unveiling the mysteries
of multi-dimensionality. The Baroque fundamental consciousness, as expressed
by Da Vaz in his oeuvre, reflects this quest for multi-dimensionality,
also in the sense of transcendence. Da Vaz is an artist permanently crossing
Today we find ourselves at the end of a long period of inquiry, of trials
and experiments which in the most extreme case have led to a total destruction
of the artistic form. In other words, the traditional form no longer satisfactorily
reproduced the world's multi-layered and multi-dimensional nature, its
complexity. The presentiments of the creators of abstract art have proved
to be inviolable reality: the part of the world not yet within our reach
is «infinitely greater» than the part we perceive through our eyes, ears,
noses, taste buds and the touch of our fingers.
This also signifies completely new chances for creativity. Da Vaz is one
of the first to discover that the computer offers a fantastic extension
and continuation of previous opportunities. Da Vaz used the computer to
develop further his drawings, forms, colors created from within themselves
in earlier years. Most important, all the formal elements Da Vaz previously
drew by hand re-emerge in the works designed by means of the computer.
In this process, he experiences the computer as an extension of himself.
The pattern of his previous oeuvre finds an undeviating continuation in
the gamut of electronic tools. Hardly any other aide is as apt as the
computer for depicting the multi-dimensionality of artistic thought and
feeling, of so-called «inspiration».
The electronic processor thus consistently continues the artistic process.
In the final analysis, it permits the creative probing and artistic fecundation
of the previously mentioned extension of dimensions, the «new intellectuality».
Certain moments in human existence evoke forms or colours, spontaneously
set them in motion to conjure forth a sculptural form. The picture in
turn unveils this mental process.
The foundation of the picture becomes an intersection, a junction of paths
charged with energy and suspense from the artist's interior. There are
many names to describe this process. The psychiatrist C. G. Jung coined
the term of active imagination: the - largely American - action painting
gave rise to the concept of psychic improvisation. But this also includes
the notion of the automatism, the creative process impaired or filtered
by the intellect as little as possible, a seismographic proceedure of
recording as a trace every impulse from within.
The crucial factor in all these expressions in abstract art is the fundamental
idea of the all-embracing sculptural freedom of self-expression, which
takes a human being's most hidden, deep-down emotions seriously and which
experiences artistic activity as a direct expression of life itself. Da
Vaz also passed through this phase in the artistic process, but he not
only continues along this path, he goes beyond it to arrive at a new artistic
vision: an absolutely process-oriented course of totally new, undreamt-of
The direction taken by Da Vaz is basically new. He focuses neither on
the search for a personal mythical element or Mythik, for pictures arising
from the apperception of the world in the subconscious - as in the case
of the American artists Rothko, Matta and Gottlieb - nor on the autonomous,
minimally filtered exposure of inner emotions, characteristic of Pollock,
Motherwell and de Kooning, for example.
Da Vaz centers on the technique - the structuring, but also propelling
element which triggers the free flow of lines, forms and colors. The result
is fascinating: new structures emerge, non-representational constructions,
layer pictures, vibrating colour rhythms. The lines run, jump, somersault,
promptly leaving along their individual course geometrical traces and
autonomous symbols, which we associate with growth curves, vegetative
organisms, geological strata.
Many drawings and paintings stretch beyond the boundaries of the picture
format, unfurling for several meters. Frequently, a section from this
Baroque pictorial profusion re-appears in another work - reduced to a
few strokes or enriched with new elements, colours and highlights. They
are creations rising forth from unfathomable depths, in a constant flux
of change and development. Whole bands of intertwining structures, proceeding
to unravel before our eyes.
The variety of form knows no bounds. New elements spring up, mutating
into new sub-varieties of the original form. Associations of musical scores
and tonal forms of architecture ensue; Johann Sebastian Bach's ingenious
fugues come to mind. The longer we contemplate these works, the more clearly
we realize that this loose, evidently virtuoso production has little to
do with coincidence, with coincidental factors. A perfectly controlled
technique compels the coincidental to become a conclusive entity. This
is all the more astonishing, since Da Vaz constantly stresses that he
has no prior conception of the work. On the contrary, such prior conceptions
would impair the free, precise flow of the lines and forms.
The fantastic element in Da Vaz' oeuvre is indeed unforeseeable. This
new, apparently inexhaustible visual language, American Baroque, opens
up new, undreamt-of opportunities for artistic creativity. A treasure
trove for our eyes, a thrilling excursion through an incomparable, unique
pictorial world. But unlike the works by Hans Hartung, Wols, Pollock,
Motherwell and others, who undertook similar ventures, these symbols are
not the result of pure coincidence, they are not the expression of a moment,
of uncontrolled, trance-like artistic activity oblivious to all rules,
adopting all coincidences.
Da Vaz's approach brings to maturity Robert Delaunay's thesis that challenges
for painting are no longer set by themes and objects, but by the heartbeat
of man himself. The perfect technique Da Vaz has acquired brings the artist's
inner, rich, multilayered dynamism straight to the surface. In Da Vaz's
work harmony is united with expressiveness to mould a new, intense, unmistakable
mode of articulation.
A New Art Technique
The word «technique» derived from Greek also contains the aspect of «artistry»;
the concept of «technique» should therefore not be restricted solely to
the level of a utilitarian purpose. The question as to whether we experience
the world from an airplane or through an electronic microscope illustrates
the differences in the meaning of technique or technology with regard
to our perception of reality: the choice of medium fundamentally transforms
the way we experience the world.
Da Vaz has applied several techniques, wielding pen, pencil and brush
but also deploying the scanner and computer. The transitions are smooth,
the individual movements can be followed from one artistic state to another
with virtually no hiatus.
Da Vaz's works develop in a specific organic fashion. But the crucial
element is that they do not develop according to a linear pattern, i.e.
from the beginning through to the end, but from several directions and
on several levels, even simultaneously. Simultaneity is a state in which
the most varied elements and mental movements appear at the same time
and thus relate to each other. The futurists introduced the concept of
dynamism - universal dynamism as the lyrical expression of a modern attitude
towards life, based on the rapidity and simultaneity of intuition, knowledge
and the message.
The latter assumes the following pattern in Da Vaz's oeuvre: every creative
impulse develops autonomously, in a structured fashion, without adhering
to the dictates of a superior order. Slowly various developing strands
approach from different directions. They collide, blend into each other,
set mutual boundaries and enter into a dialog. Da Vaz says: «When I start
work, I don't imagine anything, neither at the outset nor during the work.
I have no ready-made conceptions. I work in all directions. So much is
possible. I turn the white sheet of paper or the blank canvas like a potter
his wheel. The creative act is a 'dialogue' between the drawn line, the
line yet to be drawn (the line 'in progress') and the white sheet of paper...».
The individual figurations are the result of this multilayered, complex,
dynamic, iterative process. His creations express a world of its own,
marked by variety, intensity, autonomy and inventiveness. His works do
not portray a semblance of reality, that is second-rate reality, but are
autonomous objects. As a result, Da Vaz has achieved a new level of freedom.
He no longer thinks in isolated categories, but leaves the «Èlan initial»
of the form and colour activity to the various metamorphoses of the technical
Ursula Davaz, the wife of the artist, received a scientific education
and in her essay Kunst und Evolution (Art and Evolution) (Morphogenesis,
Washington D.C., USA, 1980) she refers to the similarity between this
artistic process and the evolutionary process in nature. A fascinating
thought, whose consequences for art and its self-image are so far unforeseeable.
But one thing is sure today: as the founder of American Baroque Da Vaz
heralds a new artistic direction, a new optical perspective, probably
a new epoch in today's art scene.