surreal composition

new territories to explore

hommage and opera

I haven’t painted as much for a long time as I did this year and my vigor, joy, and urge to improve is unbroken. Now we are in the 4th lockdown here and I take it very calmly – more time to paint….

I deliberately took a short break from my Corona series. That prevents me from moving too much in the normal course. This is not new to me, when I enter the “feel-good phrase” I make a caesura. I think it was Jean Cocteau who said: “Bathing in lukewarm water makes you anemic”.

I’ve done a few more paintings that follow on from the last works of the Corona series and now I’ll let the whole thing take a rest and then reflect on it again after some time. The last two works, which are shown below, are a logical continuation of the thoughts or painting style that emerged in the earlier series, now mingled with a couple of new aspects.

If the image looks blurry, it is not your screen. I thought more about the state that you sometimes feel when you are completely absorbed in the music and you get into a kind of limbo. I’ve tried this a few times before, and it seems to me to have worked best on this work.

surreal composition

With this work, I have reached my ceiling for the time being. My core topic, the technical and painterly implementation, essentially corresponds to my ideas.

1 hommage – tributes

So I jumped back into the deep end and turn to 2 other topics. Theme # 1 tributes. I will write more about this in a separate post. A new example is this work as a tribute to Hans Hartung. I have not consciously seen any of his work in the last few decades, but I am sure that I liked him at the time I began to paint and so some of the works seem to have deeply impressed me. Only now, when I was looking for reference work, did I come across one of his works auctioned at Sothebys. However, I approached the matter differently.

In my work, I painted the black lines first and only later the background. This should help to create additional tension.

2 belcanto versus Wagner

I belong to those species who rather prefer to listen to an opera and – if necessary – create my own vision of it. The time is long gone when I absolutely had to see certain performances at the opera. Since I live in Vienna, I am very spoiled in this regard. One of the few exceptions is Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen in the production performed by La Fura dels Baushat and Zubin Metha conducting, performed in Valencia (Valencia Ring).

If you don’t like arias, you can skip the Brünnhilde and start at 3:50.

Valencia Ring

This production from 2009 dwarfed everything that had come before in many ways. Particularly noteworthy is the final scene from Götterdämmerung. This scene has impressed itself so deeply on my optical consciousness that I finally have to implement it in my work. Not in a superficially imitative way, of course. The work should not be illustrative in any way, rather archetypes should be addressed or provide a level on which one can build one’s reflections on the topic.

One of the works (finished or not?) goes very well with this production. Walhalla and with it the world of the gods (elite, superman, ruler of the human race….) collapses gracefully. The original light for which the gods stood is enveloped in dark ominous suggestive clouds and a new light emerges when Valhalla collapses and falls into the lap of the Rhine.

(For a better understanding: the figures in the air, first standing then hanging, symbolize Walhalla.

The written characters cannot be “read”, they are asemic. I could have used western characters as well, but I think Chinese characters are not entirely wrong.

A few more drafts for “Opera and Painting” turned out to be quite encouraging and I hope to be able to implement something of them over time.

More such works: HERE | trying environment topic


22 responses to “new territories to explore”

  1. swabby429 avatar

    Incorporating the Chinese characters gives the image a universal feel.

    1. Zettl Friedrich avatar

      Thank you, I just think so too. For a short moment I was thinking of runes but that would open a different window….

      1. swabby429 avatar

        Yes. Runes are visually attractive, but more arcane.


    I had to come back to this one again. Both the video clip and your paintings are mesmerizing.

    1. Zettl Friedrich avatar

      Thank you very much for your kind words, which are all the more important as they come from the mouth of an expert whose taste in art I greatly admire.


        Oh, no expert here – but I do find joy in learning about all types of art. 🙂

      2. Zettl Friedrich avatar

        Regardless, of all the people who blog here and introduce traditional works of art, your blog is by far the best. The good choice of artwork presented shows your profound sense of art.


        You are kind…and I really appreciate the encouragement.

  3. Martha Kennedy avatar

    “The presence of works of art, like those of Nature, makes us. . .wish to express our feelings and judgements in words, but . . . in the end we return to a wordless beholding.” Goethe Italian Journey

    That is my favorite opera. This is a fascinating production.

    The “blurry” painting is (OK here comes something really useful for you) beautiful. Unformed and luminous.

    1. Zettl Friedrich avatar

      Thank you, Martha, your kind words are balm on the battered soul of an old man 🙂

      Who would have ever thought that we would quote Goethe at an advanced age!

      As for the blurry picture. In the years when I mutated from teen to twen, I meditated a lot and intensely. Sunday morning, in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna, a concert with Nathan Milstein (and his Stradivarius Marie Teresa) and I meditate with the music. The sun shines through the ceiling windows into the hall and when I open my eyes I am completely bathed in gold.

      I would like to make this feeling visible – I will paint it one day for sure 🙂

      This Valencia production is so lifted! A “Gesamtkunstwerk” in the spirit of Wagner. Great ideas for the set and the best cast. BTW the entire ring is on youtube.

      1. Martha Kennedy avatar

        You know I didn’t read Goethe until I was 46! And then it wasn’t Faust; it was Italian Journey. I imagine that I’ll probably quote Goethe for the rest of my life. 🙂

        I was thinking how it must be to be in Wein in contrast to here in Back-of-Beyond Wild West America. As I read this comment, I thought of the day I was wandering around in Munich and a man was playing the violin in a small gazebo in a park. Although I was living in San Diego at the time, and there was music, there was nothing like that.

        There is something about a WORLD and the music from which it comes, a kind of — I don’t even know how to say it. So… Every year here in Back-of-Beyond Colorado there is a Christmas concert in a lovely church in the local “city.” My friends and I go. The beauty of it isn’t the music; it’s the love the singers demonstrate for the moments of making music together and the 300 or so people who are there because that is what we have. I sometimes wonder how the old composers would feel seeing that.

        I went off on a tangent there…

        But a couple of years ago I investigated what it would take to go to the Opera in Santa Fe (2 hours from me). Turned out it would cost about the same for me to travel to Milan or Verona. This so-called democratic nation is as elitist as any culture has ever been. MORE, in fact.

        I guess at the moment I am painting a moment of profound emotion. I don’t want to say more in front of a painting 😉 I hope you paint that golden moment. It was clearly transcendent.

      2. Zettl Friedrich avatar

        Whether in an Italian city or, of course, in Vienna, there are always people who make music on the street and some are incredibly good. However, they mostly adapt to the audience.

        To operas and concerts. When I was a student we had a social democratic minister who introduced the following: 15 minutes before the start of a performance (opera, theater), students could get a card for 20 shillings (less than 2 USD). In this way I was able to experience all the greats in the music scene, Menuhin, Gulda, Richter, Nurejev ….. And if you flirted with the cashier, you got top seats. Otherwise I would never have been able to afford that – only standing room.

        “…painting a moment of profound emotion” sounds good to me. For me it doesn’t matter as much as I feel emotionally, the main thing is that you have something that drives you.

        BTW. I mostly have concerns about writing my opinion on blog entries. It seems that I write quite a lot of nonsense. And it is in the nature of things that one can hardly convey complex content in such short statements.

      3. Martha Kennedy avatar

        I loved in Verona that you could sit on the distant seats — the Roman, marble seats — in the Arena for $9 US and hear the opera and watch it, too, if you had binoculars 😀 I was rained out of Madam Butterfly but that was OK. I ran down the Roman stairs with everyone else (lightning storm) then walked back to my apartment across the Adige and under the linden trees. I am not sure now which experience was the opera <3

        I don't think you write nonsense.

      4. Zettl Friedrich avatar

        Today a lot has changed here too, but by and large we have a great cultural offer at reasonable prices. But I don’t think that you can still get in touch with any artists today as you often did in the past.

        I would like to tell you a story about this. Do you know the jazz trumpeter Don Cherry (father of Neneh Cherry). He performed at a multi-day jazz festival in Austria. In the morning I went jogging with him, just him and me. When we had made our rounds, we went to a stream to bathe, of course we were in the water without clothes. A policeman came by and we were ordered to pay a fine for causing public nuisance. Somehow I managed to make it clear to him that Mr. Cherry didn’t speak German and that I couldn’t offer any money without pants …

      5. Martha Kennedy avatar

        What a wonderful story! It’s pretty hard to pay a fine without pockets and they aren’t going to search you for concealed weapons!

  4. Goff James avatar

    Hi, Friedrich.Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post filled with such mind blowing images and music. Great Work. Have a wonderful day.

    1. Zettl Friedrich avatar

      Thank you Goff for your kind words! Your site is always a source of inspiration and viewing. Have a most wonderful day too!

      1. Goff James avatar

        Pleasure. Have just shared your post.

  5. Rolfe DH avatar

    Yes. Now, I’m seeing many different planes where before I didn’t.

    1. Zettl Friedrich avatar

      I am very happy about that! Ideally, the viewer should be able to discover and recognize different ones again in the course of his life. In general, one can say that the more someone has dealt with Asian art, the deeper he/she can understand it.

  6. rob stolzy avatar

    really interesting stuff; thanks for introducing… will return later when I have more time to absorb better

    1. Zettl Friedrich avatar

      Thank you very much! Please let me know if you have any questions!

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