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Richard Bouwman
Imago Magica L, 2017, 190 x 140 cm, acrylic on canvas

Imago Magica
A Pursuit of Happiness

The series Imago Magica consists of paintings and works on paper inspired by the life and character of Giacomo Casanova. The autonomous abstract-figurative works are the residue of impressions and emotions evoked in an imaginative way by the facts, events and ideas in the ‘Histoire de ma Vie’, the memoirs of Casanova, published in the 1990’s in the beautiful Dutch translation by Theo Kars. The works have mainly been executed between 2007 and 2017, but a number of works on paper were already made at intervals since the early 1990’s, as if a period of reflection was needed for the realization of yet another variation on the same theme. Casanova, who lived from 1725 to 1798, is known in the first place as a master in the art of living and a seducer and attests to the frivolous nature of the XVIIIth century by his way of life. He can also be seen as a representative of the French Enlightenment, which in turn is considered to be an essential point of departure for our modern society. Personal liberty which, especially since the 1960’s, plays such an important part in the general pattern of life, already occupied centre stage in his life and is, politically as well as sexually, all-embracing. In his honesty concerning his intimate life, his attitude is astoundingly extravagant: he is a thoroughgoing libertine, but then one living under the ancien régime. He creates his own religion of the imagination, in which magic, in the form of his oracle based on the cabala, plays a major part. ‘Sequere Deum’ is his motto, but interpreted here in the sense of not following God, but the god in oneself, one’s own intuition. If one really listened to oneself and reacted spontaneously, one would fully experience liberty: ‘la liberté sublime’. His guideline was zest for life coupled with curiosity, a true impulse for ‘the pursuit of happiness’. The memoirs end in the year 1774, two years before ‘the pursuit of happiness’ is included in the American Declaration of Independence as an unalienable human right. Maybe it was not the same happiness Casanova was looking for and often also finding, but the search for it continues to this day to be considered a truly authentic human mainspring. The works in the series Imago Magica are a spontaneous mix of figuration and abstraction. In most of the paintings and works on paper one sees, beside anthropomorphic shapes, a blend of image and language. Words such as: extravaganza, Sequere Deum, Paralis, Seramis/Semiramis, Giacomo, the names of women and toponyms, numbers, letters, the concept of the ‘enigma’ and nabocodonosor, the name of a cabalistic oracle of numbers, occur frequently in the works and spring from the rich source of inspiration. In a number of works the technique of collage is used and the colours are intense. When larger areas of colour have been used as (back)ground, they are combined with bright and potent colour accents: the painter in search of ‘la vraie vie’, as Rimbaud put it. And Casanova responds: “Thinking of reality and the imagination, I prefer the latter, because the former is dependent on it”.
Translation: Hanny Keulers


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