Interview with Norbert Engel (part 1)

Norbert, you began by painting nudes, mostly women’s nudes, with brushstrokes of bright colors. Then you are particularly attached to landscapes, which you have captured a moment of light or the opposite of shadows, everyday objects, louvers, doors or singular objects, on the contrary as cases of deportees exhibited at the Budapest Museum, even angels … What do you attribute this evolution to?

The fact of having painted the body of women during the 3 years of my training at Arts Déco Strasbourg, made me feel that I was deep inside myself, painter. My master Franck Helmlinger strongly encouraged me to continue and to stand on my own. Shortly after, I had the chance to meet the painter Roger Dale with whom I worked for a while on the outdoor landscape motif. With Roger and other painters we reflected hours and hours on the following questions: “why paint? What to paint? “For whom to paint? »,« How to paint »,« what is style? ”

There, you ask me the question of the successive “what to paint? “.

The first theme I chose was the horizon. This theme deeply affects me irrationally. I try to understand.

– the meeting of heaven and earth: yes it is very strong this notion of meeting. this notion of “the entre”.

– the sky: yes very strong. I think of Baudelaire’s poem: “who do you like enigmatic man? … I like the clouds … that pass … over there … the marvelous clouds” I spent all my adolescence observing the metamorphoses of the clouds and I the impression of having stored in my memory all the processes of metamorphoses that I want to restore.

– the earth: no. it’s weird, absolute drought on that side the earth does not interest me!

Ah, but I think about it, the horizon is also, the meeting of the sky and the sea!

– the sea, yes it’s huge effect of the sea! She terrorized me for many years, evoking the nightmare of suffocation and engulfment. Now having the chance to live in front of her, I took the time to master some demons. Sometimes calm, warm and welcoming, sometimes agitated, cold and disturbing. I take advantage of her moments of calm to visit, gradually get used to the situations of precariousness that makes me discover, learn to deal with it, discover with her that calm is the best advisor and that panic is a deadly creation of the mind that it is possible to gradually master. By daring to venture there I can find calm, pleasant sensations, and discover the union of letting go and “stay on course. ” Here, “Letting go while staying the course”, that could be my definition of style in painting 🙂

And to answer your question: What do you attribute this evolution to? 

Would say that the different themes that follow each other in my painting are perhaps the consequence of a self-confidence in me allowing this letting go that makes me want to paint what I see. Yes, I feel like a painter of the moment. I paint what touches me in total freedom. And it is a complete transition with the next question, because this total freedom makes me not worried about the “what to do” of the figurative or the abstract, the decorative or the intellectual. This freedom that could be felt “like a void” by Hélion. Each painter struggles with his own demons: some are afraid of falling into the trap of the decorative (compose a painting as the florist makes a bouquet)