Year Zeroby Mick Raubenheimer / 04.06.2013
Koos Van Der Wat has his fingers in many pies. Guitarist and occasional producer for six stylistically distinct bands – Havoc Vultures, Black Pimp’n Jesus, Battle Cock, Pink Noise, Gay Thing and Mollusc Messiah – Van Der Wat recently revealed another aspect of his creative output, unveiling Year Zero, his debut solo art exhibition.
Van Der Wat’s art is different from most contemporary art: he exclusively employs a glowing palette of colours and the vibrant work seems to leap off the wall. Several of his canvases squirm with detail, so multitudinous are their inhabitants. Throngs of humanoids passing through day-glo gates to Heaven or Hell or Fourways Shopping Mall, while astral Hindu Gods look on and amoebas fornicate and split themselves into new organisms. In another picture a gigantic phallus gives birth to a naked, bountifully breasted woman.
Van Der Wat believes in the pliant, multiple nature of reality, the good and polite and lustful and dull and generous and cruel and blood-stained and erect and moist and fertile and arid – all swirling together to shape this crazy, gorgeous tumult called Life. The Devil might be in the detail, but what Koos calls the Supersoul is everywhere else.
The visions that ultimately led to these paintings were born of psychedelics, says Van Der Wat: “Psychedelics awakened me to layers of reality I’d previously only sensed. I don’t believe only in the casual use of psychotropics, for me it’s also a spiritual and shamanic endeavor.”
On his usage of bright, charged colours, Van Der Wat says: “Well, I wanted to push through everyday reality, move a step beyond it. I used to call this ‘abnatural’. Some weeks back I placed some of these paintings in my garden, to see how jarringly they juxtapose with natural environments. The colours combined with the images also convey how much further humans can reach creatively, if they move beyond the mere given. I enjoy how, on psychedelics, colours that are already ridiculous, become even more ridiculous.. you literally experience colour in a heightened way. On the whole ‘kitsch’ angle, I find that there are kitsch works of art that are very cool, it’s just this staid, modern critical milieu which rejects it, in a knee-jerk fashion. Look at Tretchnikof’s use of colour – these unexpected contra-instinctive colours that really entertain one’s eyes and mind… People are also afraid of idealism.”
Van Der Wat’s work communicates levels of reality that most people don’t engage with. “Everything vibrates, everything is constantly growing and decaying – every seven years your entire body’s cells have been replaced with new cells. There are spectra of colour that the human eye doesn’t acknowledge. My paintings convey levels beneath and beyond supposed everyday reality: the cellular, molecular world and the world of Supersoul, of Cosmic consciousness. My work also embraces comedy, something I find sorely lacking in the Art world. Lord Neptune has a great sense of humour. The nature of the Supersoul is comical and vibrant.”
The perpetual transformation of the world and its cornucopia of teeming organisms resonate through Van Der Wat’s art; nothing stands still. “It is with the retentive aspect of human nature that this erroneous notion of static, discrete phenomena was introduced. In truth everything is constantly shifting, disintegrating even as it grows, interacting chemically and molecularly. Alchemy is also very important to me, the notion that you can affect the world, or, at least, a civilization; that you can project change into your surroundings.”
“Year Zero signifies the founding of a fresh civilization, starting with the inauguration of the new calendar, the Super Excellent Calendar.”
The transformative potency of sexuality, the life-affirming warmth of a good chuckle, the mystical and elemental all combine in these paintings. In Van Der Wat’s world death is just an aspect of ongoing, divine Life – the absurd dances in the arms of passion and reason both.