Archive for To the Unknown Helper

Peter’s Crazy Aunt!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 2, 2010 by spinoza1111

Edward G. Nilges, “Study for Peter’s Knuckleheaded Flibbertigibet Crazy Aunt”, pencil and pen with Gimp colorization, 2 Nov 2010.

Peter’s Knucklehead Flibbertigibet Crazy Auntie!! And her necessarily sensible Sister, who keeps the cards that read have mercy on her soul.

To all the spirits that are free and all the Mamas that do see
To matters of enormous complexity,
Such as finding schools in a community
With three different major languages and no provisions for ADHD.

But also to those who say I want
Like Peter’s Crazy Aunt.

Edward G. Nilges 2 Nov 2010

“For Lacan, the ego ideal, this seemingly benevolent agency that leads us to moral growth and maturity, forces us to betray the ‘law of desire’ by adopting the reasonable demands of the existing socio-symbolic order.” – Zizek

There’s a rather offensive poster for a play in the MTR in Hong Kong. A fully dressed Mama is pursuing a baby with his bottle in diapers and a husband with his beer in underpants. This poster says it’s “natural” for blokes to regress while also pretending to be critical and superior to blokes.

But blokes, to perhaps a greater extent than women, are confronted in meaningless but well-paid blokey jobs (financial analyst, banker, financial journalist) with “contingency” pushed to the point of absurdity, more so on average than women who tend on balance to gravitate towards slightly more meaningful work, or who, in blokey and contingent positions seem to try and succeed in creating islands of meaning.

[For example, women supervisors in software tend to make the job more interesting and fun while meeting meaningless deadlines.]

Blokes are in my view corralled by a society which no longer needs them to climb ship masts nor stand to at Quatre Bras into jobs whose real *telos* is social control; in my direct experience, much of what passes for software development is welfare for white males, in which nothing ever gets done.

Which creates infantilization, my response to early on (circa 1981) was transformation and escape, a by no means highly successful strategy. But at least my elder son got in touch with me after seeing that movie American Beauty. He is good.

The (Zizekian) obscenity is that I don’t even want to be their Uncle if I cannot be their Father. Uncles are scarey, especially if they are Uncle Fun.

The counseling, advisory and consoling spirit can be of your gender or not, part of his or her counsel, his-her advice, and his-her consolation is that in Heaven, sexual difference persists but as comedy.

Edward G. Nilges, “Our Conversation is in Heaven”, detail of the grisaille state of a painting (To the Unknown Helper) as of 24 July 2010 assembled using Paint with an old Chinese print of Guan-Yin, 观音菩萨, Boddhisatva of Mercy, who observes the crying of the world (Der Trinkliede der Jammer der Erde) with calm-attentiveness and unperturbed-concern.

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To the Unknown Helper #32: Finale

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 14, 2010 by spinoza1111



Finale – The only philosophy which would still be accountable in the face of despair, would be the attempt to consider all things, as they would be portrayed from the standpoint of redemption. Cognition has no other light than that which shines from redemption out upon the world; all else exhausts itself in post-construction and remains a piece of technics. Perspectives must be produced which set the world beside itself, alienated from itself, revealing its cracks and fissures, as needy and distorted as it will one day lay there in the messianic light. To win such perspectives without caprice or violence, wholly by the feel for objects, this alone is what thinking is all about. It is the simplest of all things, because the condition irrefutably call for such cognitions, indeed because completed negativity, once it comes fully into view, shoots [zusammenschiesst] into the mirror-writing of its opposite. But it is also that which is totally impossible, because it presupposes a standpoint at a remove, were it even the tiniest bit, from the bane [Bannkreis] of the existent; meanwhile every possible cognition must not only be wrested from that which is, in order to be binding, but for that very reason is stricken with the same distortedness and neediness which it intends to escape. The more passionately thought seals itself off from its conditional being for the sake of what is unconditional, the more unconsciously, and thereby catastrophically, it falls into the world. It must comprehend even its own impossibility for the sake of possibility. In relation to the demand thereby imposed on it, the question concerning the reality or non-reality of redemption is however almost inconsequential.

TW Adorno, Minimal Moralia (Reflections on Damaged Life), 1948

The painting is finished in the sense that most of it will never catch up with the apex of intensity in the Helper’s face. In my next painting I need to take greater care in the Grisaille phase.

Edward G. Nilges, “To the Unknown Helper”, 14 August 2010 amdg. Acrylic on canvas, 50×60

Edward G. Nilges, “To the Unknown Helper”, detail, 14 August 2010 amdg. Acrylic on canvas, 50×60

Edward G. Nilges, “To the Unknown Helper”, detail, 14 August 2010 amdg. Acrylic on canvas, 50×60

Many thanks to the following people whose advice on this work was invaluable: Supriti, Liz, British Clare, Chinese Clare, Jenny, Greg, Kieran, and others I may have forgotten. Thanks also to John Diehl of Diehl Art for earlier encouragement. Thanks also to Nancy for support and help at various times.

Thanks also to Phil the Northern man for various introductions.

Thanks, as well, to Global Artist Elizabeth Briel for her invaluable support starting with her courageous intervention in an online “flame” war on a cheesy site to assist my return to the art vortex.

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam 14 Aug 2010.

To my children.

To the Unknown Helper #31: reflections on Mahler

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 11, 2010 by spinoza1111


I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.

(Emily Dickinson)

Hmm, the eyelashes seem to work. Yet there is a light, there is energy and mass, that emerges from the helper that must more consistently, yet naturally, pervade the canvas.

Edward G. Nilges, “State of the Unknown Helper as of 11 August 2010”, acrylic on canvas, 50×60 cm.

Edward G. Nilges, “State of the Unknown Helper as of 11 August 2010: detail”, acrylic on canvas, 50×60 cm.

Edward G. Nilges, “State of the Unknown Helper as of 11 August 2010: black and white reproduction”, acrylic on canvas, 50×60 cm. 2010: detail in black and white”, acrylic on canvas, 50×60 cm.

To the Unknown Helper #30: reflections on Mahler (and eyelashes)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 11, 2010 by spinoza1111

By what mystic mooring
She is held to-day, —
This is the errand of the eye
Out upon the bay.

(Emily Dickinson)

I realized that the eyes look wrong since they have no eyelashes and also was advised by a ferry mate to expand the iris to the lower eye to make her less Popeye and more Olive Oyl. I altered the black and white photograph of the colored painting in Gimp and this seems to work. I will alter the painting.

To the Unknown Helper #29: reflections on Mahler

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 8, 2010 by spinoza1111

GOING to heaven!
I don’t know when,
Pray do not ask me how,–
Indeed, I’m too astonished
To think of answering you!
Going to heaven!–
How dim it sounds!
And yet it will be done
As sure as flocks go home at night
Unto the shepherd’s arm!

Perhaps you’re going too!
Who knows?
If you should get there first,
Save just a little place for me
Close to the two I lost!
The smallest “robe” will fit me,
And just a bit of “crown”;
For you know we do not mind our dress
When we are going home.

I’m glad I don’t believe it,
For it would stop my breath,
And I’d like to look a little more
At such a curious earth!
I am glad they did believe it
Whom I have never found
Since the mighty autumn afternoon
I left them in the ground.

(Emily Dickinson)

More work is needed on making the details more precise and both softening and hardening the contours. Aldous Huxley, in an essay on Vermeer, said that the edges are a fundamental problem.

Planes of glazes and scumbles must unify disparate shapes. There is for example a light (a triangle) that unifies her face and breast.

At this point, the child’s face needs a Lot of work. It’s a racist caricature. The problem is that the face needs more light, and there are complex planes under her baby fat.

I got my first harassment post today. I think it’s from a guy who’s a moderator at the dysfunctional site http://www.lamma.com.HK who was offended at my correct grammar. The post said the painting was ugly and misnamed it “the Oriental helper”. It said it was a self-portrait where the usual Internet bully likes to say “you want to be a woman and you failed” when he says, more usually, “your gay” (with the neglect of the apostrophe being a stock in trade of these creeps).

I have to remind myself that this bullying attitude is generalized. It’s risky to be an artist. The male of the species is striking out in all directions as the world goes to hell and cannot understand vulnerability. People on this island are drinking their faces off and I could go back to the sauce at any time were it not for steps I have to remind myself to take.

Bad day overall despite making progress. My landlord complained about my swearing at my computer and initially threatened, because we don’t have a current lease, to evict me. I was terribly frightened but handled the situation well. I pointed out that his kids also make noise, that the rent’s been on time for five years, and the place is clean.

I was able to calm things down. He agreed to provide a new lease and not even raise the rent, and I agreed to watch my noise. I seem to be Beethoven, the scourge of landlords, but only in this small regard.

Interestingly, I never lose it as a teacher at the kids, nor when doing art. Only at computers.

Doing art can suck. There’s that mad dream of finally being Culled Out and Seen to be A Genius After All, in a world where people in Pakistan are running for their lives, a selfish dream. There’s the constant feeling of inadequacy: my studies for this painting are overall better rendered than the painting itself. And there’s the Internet, and Photoshop, which render meaningless my ownership of my own images, the concept of the work of art and its aura, and what skills I have with the hand.

There are these Internet creeps who strike out at the vulnerability you project.

Nonetheless, I feel I owe this work something, some sort of effort no matter what.

Wow. This is interesting. It’s a photograph of the current state of the head but with color removed. She’s tired, and a storm is brewing. This should make a nice print.

Do I ignore the turmoil whilst striving to paint a Poussinesque serenity? Duh, yeah. “Remember man thou art dust and to dust doth thou return”.

My paintings start in black and white
In the uncertain hour at the end of night,
When a consciousness emerges from voiceless pain.

I mean that. Pain requires and constructs consciousness. What the Buddhists mean by a sentient being emerges from sensation, and the earliest sensation I remember is pain. I was sick a lot, like my eldest son, and when you’re sick you start thinking about the entity that complains. General U. S. Grant when dying of cancer from whisky and seegars said I am the pain.

To the Unknown Helper #28: reflections on Mahler

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 5, 2010 by spinoza1111

I dreaded that first robin so,
But he is mastered now,
And I ‘m accustomed to him grown, —
He hurts a little, though.

I thought if I could only live
Till that first shout got by,
Not all pianos in the woods
Had power to mangle me.

I dared not meet the daffodils,
For fear their yellow gown
Would pierce me with a fashion
So foreign to my own.

I wished the grass would hurry,
So when ‘t was time to see,
He ‘d be too tall, the tallest one
Could stretch to look at me.

I could not bear the bees should come,
I wished they ‘d stay away
In those dim countries where they go:
What word had they for me?

They ‘re here, though; not a creature failed,
No blossom stayed away
In gentle deference to me,
The Queen of Calvary.

Each one salutes me as he goes,
And I my childish plumes
Lift, in bereaved acknowledgment
Of their unthinking drums.

(Emily Dickinson)

Edward G. Nilges, “State of The Unknown Helper as of 6 Aug 2010”, acrylic on canvas 50*60

Edward G. Nilges, “Detail of State of The Unknown Helper as of 6 Aug 2010”, acrylic on canvas 50*60

Edward G. Nilges, “Detail of State of The Unknown Helper as of 6 Aug 2010”, acrylic on canvas 50*60

To the Unknown Helper #27: reflections on Mahler

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 5, 2010 by spinoza1111


I’ll tell you how the sun rose, —
A ribbon at a time.
The steeples swam in amethyst,
The news like squirrels ran.

The hills untied their bonnets,
The bobolinks begun.
Then I said softly to myself,
“That must have been the sun!”

(Emily Dickinson)

Of course, the first applications of color are ragged, but this gives life to later modeling. The point being to avoid any part of the canvas turning opaque save perhaps the highest lights. Everything must be a “glaze” (darker transparent or translucent paint over light) or a “scumble” (lighter paint over dark, but applied drily so that the warp and weft of the canvas catches the paint only).

Which means that the painting is a memory of the clear white gesso ground which can never match its purity but tries anyway.

A painter of the Umbrian school
Designed upon a gesso ground
The nimbus of the Baptized God.
The wilderness is cracked and browned

(TS Eliot: Mr Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service)

Up until the late 18th century, a painting was a transparent or translucent record, a “written” record, of a labour process. What you did mattered and if you messed up you had to resolve it by doing even better in the pentimento, even as the Church had confession. What people hate about Poussin is that he did stumble, whereas that psycho Caravaggio had an unerring instinct, but only within a narrow and sado-masochistic range.

But, as a Marxist would say, economic relations became ever more complex and as what Ezra Pound called “usura” entered the market the painter began to think of painting as covering up, obscuring, mystifying the base by the grand superstructure.

Fra Angelico’s paintings in egg tempera allow us to see straight through to the light of primal creation, everything is silly, saelig, holy, blessed.

Sir Joshua Reynolds painting in the last gasp of the ancien regimes piles mud, bitumen, and ground up Egyptian Mummies in an attempt to make Lady Sarah Bunbury of all people look like a mythical creature.

The time was ripe for the Impressionists to say merde, and say, what you see is what you get, and once again let the light from the canvas through.

The skin tones are going to take work to use the roughness and the redness to give life to later glazes. I started out at the top of the forehead forgetting how powerful Winsor and Newton’s “cadmium” (nonpoisonous) red is but lightened this. I can use this redness along with siena glazes, because she is brown from the sun. I see more red in her hair while keeping it blonde.

I picked up the wrong blue, a “Winsor” blue but it turned out to be perfect for the chiton-sari. I realized that the entire garment needs to be this color in reference to the Virgin Mary, rather than a multicolored sari which just seems too garish in my coloured pencil studies.

I have a jar of Winsor and Newton’s gloss medium which is good for details. The nose and face have a subtle bone architecture which needs to be brought out.

with usura

hath no man a painted paradise on his church wall
harpes et luthes
or where virgin receiveth message
and halo projects from incision,

(Ezra Pound Canto LXV)

Edward G. Nilges, “State of the Unknown Helper as of 5 Aug 2010”: Acrylic on canvas, 50*60 cm, photo taken with cheapassed digital camera and computer enhanced.

Edward G. Nilges, “Detail of State of the Unknown Helper as of 5 Aug 2010”: Acrylic on canvas, 50*60 cm, photo taken with cheapassed digital camera and computer enhanced.