Until when is a portrait still actual? Is not a portrait by definition a reflection from the past? And what is it representing anyway?
In fact the photographic portrait is pure fiction and at most guides towards reality. The portrait is telling, suggesting, raising questions such as: who is this human being?
In that way the photographic portrait does not differ from the painted one, the drawn, filmed or written one. All are interpretations, with expressive means realized, from someone at a certain moment in time.
This young portrait of me, represents a layer in de stories I am telling, the reflective one, the dreamer, the thinker. In this view it’s closed up, as space, in this borderland between in and out, in this exchange from the eye inside to outside, the secret exchange, which is always there, in each human being of course.
I remember the moment quite well, it was December 1960. I was just thirteen years old and still recovering from a severe sinusitis. At the request of my parents, a friend of the family, Ru Hensen, made a series of portraits of all twelve children, which my parents had put on earth with the help of the universe. My youngest little brother Maarten became one in the same month of November as me. The family was complete now; the always-wanted dozen was made. Or as a journalist wrote as a caption below a portrait of my father: he worked day and night! This was of course also the case with my mother.
The wish was to hang these twelve portraits framed above the Saint Marie statue, above the fireplace. Ru made these small portraits, cheerful, animated, we were a willing life! My parents had picked up life’s experiences from the war, with all its suffering. I write about this in Etude 5, about Louise Lobatto. It was also the time of reconstruction, just as the family, a growing, tumultuous movement, it should be fine to see them for a moment silent, in a row of age. But also as an altarpiece. This means: Jan on the left, Mieke, Lidwien, Veronica, Leo, Herman, Paul, Frank, Margriet, Joost, Pieter and finally on the right Maarten.
The right tone falls in my portrait, in fact such a beautiful expression. But which tone?
Colour, melody? It should disturb the vital dynamic stream. A new protrait should be made of me. When I was completely recovered, Ru made a new portrait. this time animated and a lust for life, totally present, although the reflective layer is still there.
I was also addicted to the first portrait, so I glued them together in my photo album and wrote a caption: Who am I today? So or so? What a mysterious question, which I haven’t solved all my life.
But if I have to choose, it will be the first one. The laughing one is very animated, but a laughing portrait is somehow always closed. You can’t touch the pleasure. Why this laughing and what has this to do with me, who is looking at it.
The one not laughing is giving space to enter, to solve, to connect with; it is indeterminate, open, full of questions about life.
The just thirteen old young boy is beginning to discover his identity, to define, is asking himself who he is, a question which didn’t exist before, only for the others. Yourself is just who you are.
Of coursed I am both, the laughing small boy and this serious looking small boy, staring in the undefined distance. I chose this portrait as signature for my blogs. It’s an actual portrait, I can’t say this differently, of course time has passed and life itself since the moment of existence, but it never lost its actual value.
Who am I today? So or so? Krzystov Kieslowski, one of my favourite cineastes, answered this question in the same named film portrait made by his co-operators, the cameraman and the soundman: I am so so.
That’s what I want to say: I am so so. Follow my view in the blogs, which will appear twice each week during the whole Piano Etudes period, till the end of April. One on Monday, to recover from the weekend, the other on Thursday to start the weekend.