Transformations of the classics

Those of us who ask ourselves why there has always been so much importance in the meaning of the term "classic", if it's classical music, architecture or painting can possibly be challenged by the English artist Robert Pothecary. He shows us in his paintings that classic is not boring or neutral, gone or even superseded, but indeed fundament and inspiration. The past has never left him, but reflects strongly into the present. Even more reason to go back to the roots. In this way the heart of the matter will be revealed. The constant appearances of "renaissances" clarifies that culture and history have something in common with the fugue of Bach: a single theme sounds in different transformations and rich improvisations; different and yet the same, identical but each time fresh and completely new.

lt's not the rejection of the present that Robert Pothecary is seeking: for that matter his splendid figurative compositions are too contemporary and without precedent. The shine and lustre of the past, the sculptured head of governor Pericles, a lions head with wild mane and the slender Corinthian pillars with acanthus leaves are not tourist souvenirs but symbols of a living tradition.

A tree sucks live through its old roots to be sure that every year new leaves will be formed. With culture it's the same. Robert Pothecary makes contemporary transformations from the bearing cross links inside. The columns of the European society, hidden under layers of cultural brickwork, under passing styles and esthetical flows, don't appear to be dead wood. They form roots again in the classics and will flower again.

Greece, Rome and the antique Mediterranean world are the cradle of our art, literature, science, justice, constitution and others. From Hadrians wall up to the palaces of queen Zenobia at Palmyra, in the wilderness of Syria, ruled a pure cultural climate. Everything that once was developed and is still being developed puts the stamp upon its origin. From his recent trip to the Middle East, the inner see of our civilization, Robert Pothecary paints his memories. Like the classical geographers Strabo and Pomponius Mela he's surprised at every new place of call and shares his surprises with us by means of his paintings with gold leaf and natural pigments. We gaze over his shoulder and a gone but lively world appears between broken mosaic floors and ruined triumphal arches of Petra, the hidden city in Jordan.

Together with Robert Pothecary we turn the pages of the cultural family album and the period of time that parts us from his colleague Apelles, a highly praised painter from the antiquity, has suddenly disappeared. We find ourselves in the middle of his studio, smelling paints and view, sitting on a small bench, his client Alexander the Great. The conqueror is portrayed holding a flash of lightning, the destroying weapon of Zeus. The latter speaks for itself because Alexander considered himself to be a son of the Greek supreme god and therefore invincible. Art, mythology and history gear into each other like the paddles of the clock-work of culture. In Pothecary's paintings we loose ourselves in deserted amphitheatres where the echoes of the past are still present and the noise of the crowd has only just died out. The distance to the present is less than a second. Every painting is layered, both figural and literally. Done in tempera-technique enriched with collages, sand and sometimes even pasted old coins and textiles, always richly layering each other. The layering of the meanings and contents show from past till present. Invariable the fibres of the complex fabric come through to present times. A kind of Ariadnes cord that doesn't have to be followed with Pothecary to find the safe road back out of a labyrinth with a monster to the treasuries of the past, that have lost nothing of their esthetical value and beauty.