Art for Life's Sake
“To represent terrible and questionable things is, in itself, the sign of an instinct of power and magnificence in the artist; he doesn’t fear them. There is no such thing as pessimistic art. Art affirms.” 1 Nietzsche
I immigrated to the United States from Lebanon in 1981. Living the war in Lebanon tore through the passionate brainwashing rhetoric of political and religious holders of power. Witnessing the justifications of secular and religious politicians to incite division, conflict and war in the name of patriotic and religious values led me to look for these patterns everywhere. People killed, died, sacrificed and terrorized in the name of God and the Nation.
Confronting the tragic in life to bring understanding and healing is rather life affirming. Clashing realities propel me to search for unity and meaning amongst chaos and absurdity. Paradoxes fertilize my art with evaluations of Good and Evil and observations of Man's rhetoric and deeds. Thanatos and Eros dance eternally.
Humanity's true yearnings, needs, and aspirations are more similar than opposed. Our sufferings, fears, and losses are not strange and different from one another. The resemblance of our wounds can be a unifying, not a dividing factor. The sameness of our insecurities may become a bridge, not a wall in our coexistence. Crises have an equal power of turning into dangers that threaten us with discord and collapse or changing into opportunities that offer us understanding and healing. My engagement is a testimony of the difference each one can make to bridge our differences, celebrate our diversity, and be a voice for human rights, justice, and peace.
Donald Kuspit writes: “He constructs a spiritual space in which the contemporary public can feel emotionally at home, however troubling the emotions his imagery evokes in them.”2
William Zimmer remarks: “Chawky Frenn is a painter who has nailed down the figurative mode, and this accomplishment gives him the license to convey anything he wants, including the grand theme: the elusive meaning of human existence.”3
Mark Daniel Cohen says Frenn’s paintings “took the eye as the royal road to the soul - it is astounding how few works of contemporary visual art do that - and, on the soft bed of exquisite painterly technique, did contentious battle with the alluring horrors and beckoning powers of destruction that plague the human spirit at its very center. His works were filled with images fused of tenderness and carnage, of passion and destruction, of faith and perfidy, of life and death.”4
1. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, trans. Anthony Ludovici (Digireads.com Publishing 2010).
2. Donald Kuspit, “Chawky Frenn on the Eternal Verities,” Art for Life’s Sake (Fine Arts Consulting & Publishing S.A.R.L. 2005).
3. William Zimmer, “Asking, and Answering, Some of the Big Questions,” The New York Times (July 8, 2001).
4. Mark Daniel Cohen, “The Nietzschean Return: Art Where Philosophy Begins Again.” NY ARTS, (October 2001