Alan Warner

The Last Romantic

I am not going to mention Eric Gill’s woodcuts nor am I going to mention Caspar David Friedrich. William Morris? No. And no Georg Baselitz either – all that stuff I thought I wanted to mention.

Instead I want to say very few – honestly felt – words about Peter Brötzmann.

Here is a man who has, from his small base in Wuppertal, Germany, produced art like sweat’, month after month, year after year, for fifty years: constructions, watercolours, oils and of course music too: an exhausting and global traveling itinerary as a performing musician. Numerous CD’s, usually adorned with his own art work, are released annually. While journalists might use phrases like “a one man whirlwind,” such language ignores a steady and very disciplined need to honestly create. People can view Brötzmann’s music as wild and crazy stuff; but while this music – made with a vast array of collaborators – is surely full of boisterous, honest spirit, it also contains sober reflection; it reveals modes, thoughtful repose, fugue-like processes and responses. People forget Brötzmann’s music also features gentle passages – the way the tiniest and most beautiful flowers flourish in the spray of great waterfalls.

His music is connected to his art work and vice versa. Why do people always want to make distinctions between art forms when they should be considered together? He has mentioned to me how he finds ideas for his painting inside his music and vice versa, and musicians often conceive aural forms as physical texture and colour related – like the composer, Scriabin.

Peter has also called himself a Last Romantic – he works with representation and the materials around him; he is no victim of fashion – like so many artists today, bound up in their strangulations of wire to their flat screen video projections. I would argue Brötzmann’s art is far more “audio-visual” than some of the fashionable stuff I see around.

This is why Peter always reminds me of the great Scottish novelist, James Kelman. Their work may seem to have little in common, but I am sure of this connection. A very great artist starts off in relation to other artists but ends up only in relation to themselves. There is a difference – often confused – between utter cortviction and utter arrogance. You cannot have lived and created like Brötzmann and Kelman without real conviction. Here, unpretentious and unadorned, art is born into motion: individualistic, sure of voice, the ongoing flow surprising and delighting and responding to itself. Here, sublime blocks of colour on beautiful texture, fine Schiele-like draughtsmanship and stark expression. Everything that it means to be human.

Here: a man who reflects all life: who can howl like a hurricane yet produce something as fragile as a whispering clarinet. Or as weepingly delicate as the beautiful watercolour, Small Lagoon.

Alan Warner-Edinburgh, December 8, 2009

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