Welcome to the website of Irma den Hertog. A website where I have uploaded drawings, paintings and texts. To me word and image comprise an inseparable unity. Over time I will regularly add new drawings, paintings and texts. That way I hope to provide insight into what, both as an artist and as an art historian, for years has preoccupied me intensely: the ‘Invisible’. The depth dimension of reality.
‘Art’, said painter Paul Klee, ‘art does not represent the visible but makes visible’. That does not apply to all art but does to Klee’s, who moreover uses visible reality to give us an impression of the Invisible. Klee himself refers to the Invisible both as ‘Land of the dead and unborn’ as well as the ‘Paradise of poetry’.
Anyone who like Klee is able to enter the domain of the Invisible via mystical death appears to have entered a limitless cosmic space in his deepest inner self. A confrontation with this Invisible is a confrontation with a domain that was referred to by the Greeks as ‘Hades’. ‘Hades’ or ‘Aeides’ literally means the ‘Invisible’. Hades is the Realm of the Dead that people must traverse before reaching the Light that the Greeks called ‘Apollo’. He is the god of the artists, the healers and the ‘seers’. The inspired Apollo is also the leader of the Muses, who from olden days are associated with inspiration.
The mortal who goes this way becomes a ‘Bacchant’ on his journey through Hades. A ‘frenzied’ one. A madman. A follower of the tortured god Dionysus, who is the god of madness, wine but also the arts. Just like his half-brother Apollo. Dionysus symbolizes regression, Apollo progression on the path of the artist to the Invisible and back to the here-and-now. The journey through Hades is horrendous but at the same time very impressive and inspiring.
This confrontation with the Invisible is not a figment of the imagination of artists, philosophers and other seers but the description of a radical religious experience involving the entire body. Consciousness in this complex way reverses to move forward and hence I refer to this journey as ‘Regressive Progression’. Out of this psycho-physical experience of the Invisible springs the universal religious imagery about Hades and Elysium, about Hell and Heaven where we supposedly return after death. Throughout the centuries artists have tried to give us insight into this Invisible with both words and pictures.
Art and science
Under ‘Inspiration’ I will go into greater depth about Regressive Progression. I will also do that in the accompanying texts to ‘Work on paper’ and ‘Work on canvass’. Under ‘Text’ I will also revert to it at length with texts on myths, visual arts, poetry, philosophy, religion and science. I already wrote much of these texts. I have here several hundred pages of text written earlier, which I am at present editing for the website.
I chose to adapt the form of the whole to the complexity of this Regressive Progression and to deviate from the usual linear narrative form. Just as the body of the god Dionysus in myths is torn to pieces by the Titans only to be put together again on Olympus afterwards, I will chop the corpus of the available text into fragments to be merged together again into a new whole. Each text functions independently and in turn refers to other texts. The texts can be accessed via hyperlinks. These are all available together and the journey is to a large extent determined by the reader himself and can be long or short. By juxtaposing texts and quotations I in fact work as does a painter, composing a canvass by individual brushstrokes. In this way a striking image arises of this complex journey of human consciousness to the Invisible and back to the here-and-now to make the Invisible, visible.
The inspired artists themselves are the ‘scientists’ in this ‘Science of the Muses’. I elucidate philosophic texts with the words of these seers. I will cite exhaustively but not every poem or quotation will be analyzed. Many texts will be self-explanatory as soon as one knows what it means to practice how to die and become inspired. The aim of this work is for readers to realize what Inspiration is when preceded by Expiration. To realize also just what it is that inspired artists and philosophers must endure during such Regressive Progression.
I will include footnotes and an extensive bibliography with texts and also provide references for the various quotations on the introductory pages of this website, which at present is not yet complete, but a work-in-progress.