THE INFINITE WORLD OF TON MARS1
A room in the Academy, completely empty except for a table and a chair. There are no drawings on the wall, as is usually the case. On the table, a thick art folder; on the chair, a young student nervously awaiting his teachers. This is the final work review before the examination. When the teachers enter the room, he speaks: he will not open the folder unless a majority wants him to do so; a vote must be taken. The Academy director objects: this is not proper procedure; he should show his work without further ado! The student gets up, takes the folder from the table, puts it on the chair and sits down on it. After some squabbling, all are willing to play along and a unanimous vote is cast. The student then opens the folder, which contains all the compulsory work he had to produce at the Academy. He has ordered the still lifes, model drawings and perspective drawings in a particular way and added a photograph of James Joyce’s death mask. Nobody notices that this is the key to the order in which he presents the compulsory work. It is the way in which Joyce used the city of Dublin as a topographical model to‘map out’ all the narrative fragments that make up his novel, that interests the student.2
What was regarded as rebellion at the Academy formed the origin of the artistic attitude which Ton Mars has been developing and refining for more than thirty years. The scene depicted above was the first instance in which he showed how he appropriates cultural elements and imposes his own order on them. It was also the first time that he dictated how people should look at his work. After graduation, he regarded his training as finished and in 1976 he left for North and South America where he traveled extensively.3
In retrospect, it is obvious that this formed the starting point of Ton Mars’s oeuvre, but much had to pass before he had found his personal work method and style. The development toward three-dimensional, multi-part paintings with small openings between the ‘panels’, with monochrome planes and signs resembling letters, would take another fifteen years.4 It was clear from the start, however, that the artist always felt a great need to understand everyday life by converting it into his own artistic ‘language’ and encompassing it in his own system.
WORKING ON THE SYSTEM
From 1980 onward Ton Mars made small, roughly-textured canvasses roughened with a wire brush, containing arbitrary signs that became more abstract when he linked them with decorations derived from architecture and furniture.5 The emphasis in these works was on the visual interplay created by the shifts between foreground and background. After a trip to Japan in 1986, he became impressed by the linear quality of the script and his signs became more precise. Eventually, he constructed them exclusively from straight and curved lines, the basis of our alphabet. Thus the signs increasingly began to resemble letters.
In the early 1990s, the artist began to arrange the ‘letters’ in horizontal compositions, which also evoked associations with words and sentences that sometimes seem to be readable but never form a real language. Moreover, he realized that the works should not become conventional paintings. When the physical quality of the work became increasingly relevant, he began to construct his ‘panels’ in such a way that they stood out from the wall as three-dimensional objects.6 This gave the work both pictorial and sculptural features and also linked it with architecture.7
But the system was not quite finished yet. Although the signs in the paintings and drawings did seem to refer to written language, they were not yet accompanied by texts. In 1991, Ton Mars produced the first multi-part work of the Synonymous Works for Continents of the Mind series. It was the first of his works to which he gave a title.8 Through this linguistic addition, the artist related the world of objects to the world of thought, by metaphorically linking the regions of the world (the continents) with domains of the mind. This would open up many new avenues for him to explore.
It proved to be the starting-point for a grand metaphorical play with lines, shapes, colors and languages that continues until the present day.9 Ton Mars can now include everything he experiences in the outside world, both in the personal and in the cultural sphere, in his work and assimilate it within his system. This system has clear ingredients and rules, which gives the works their characteristic austere look. It is particularly its appearance, however, which indicates that there is more to the work than just abstract painting. The viewer is compelled to pause in front of the work and reflect on the image-language combinations, if he is to understand the system to any degree.
MAKING PERSONAL WORLDS
Nevertheless, attentive viewers will be able to penetrate quite far, just by looking at these paintings. Initially, they will see radiant colors and blacks and whites on three-dimensional ‘panels’ on which an almost readable combination of signs has been inscribed. The organization of the works into polyptychs with two to fourteen ‘panels’, suggests that someone is constantly counting, while the (for each ‘panel’) monochrome colors evoke different moods.10 Surfaces have been worked with great precision and have a sensuous feel to them but the colors express something stronger and more varied. Some works are austere or elevated, others are playful and frivolous, while the colors may sometimes be soft and accommodating or, conversely, hard and inaccessible. Most of the time, however, the colors are deep and radiant and reminiscent of flowers. The effect of the colors is enhanced by the combinations of colors in some of the works. Since the late 1990s, the artist has been making diptychs with various secondary color combinations which, simply through their color scheme, suggest that this oeuvre tells ‘stories’ about real and imagined worlds.11
In this way, the viewer is invited to enter the artist’s private cosmos. He will only be able to cross the threshold, however, when he relates the works to the titles and reads the poetic texts that Ton Mars writes and adds to his work in publications.12 Because these titles often mention continents and points of the wind directions, they help the viewer to approach what he sees as a world, in both the geographic and the poetic sense. He can then undertake an imaginary journey to a place whose natural and cultural atmosphere can be sensed in the work and where the work could be presented as an appropriate gift. And it is the texts that show how one should behave in that situation.
The texts are ‘spoken’ by Giovanni, Anthony (Mink) Swindon and Rachman, three imaginary personages hailing from the south, the north and the west respectively. They have different characters and talk about reality in different ways. Swindon is an aesthete, who desires and searches for beauty, while Rachman is more of a philosopher, who critically examines everything and puts things in perspective. Giovanni, on the other hand, is spiritually oriented and explains what view of life one should adopt.
Although the three personages are imaginary, they do constitute aspects of the artistís personality and provide insights into the complexity of life. Ton Mars conceived them so that different styles of thought and different attitudes toward reality could be heard and used in the work. Thus, they function as directors and supervisors of the work, reflect on the structures of reality and show how these may be transformed in the work. Sometimes Swindon, who emphasizes beauty, is more present than Rachman, who carefully considers everything, but Giovanni always hovers in the background to keep watch over the final destination of the work. Giovanni, after all, is the one who represents the general state of mind of the artist: away from chaos and into a lucidly organized spiritual world. This creates a parallel reality, a utopia that offers a model of what should ideally happen in everyday reality. Still, the artist realizes that he is building a make-believe world. Within the model of the work he can promote a spiritual order that may also inspire him outside the work; however, in the outside world it will always be frustrated by others.13
In this context, it is interesting to notice that the personages, who are engaged in an ongoing discourse, speak out precisely when the work is presented to the outside world. Then it is important to get to know them, to experience how the spiritual aspect of the artists worldmaking unfolds.14 This knowledge is not essential to enjoy the works, but the additional information does activate viewers to reflect more deeply on the system and also to see and expect more from this construct aspiring to reach into the infinite.
After Synonymous Works for Continents of the Mind (1991-1994), Ton Mars continued his metaphorical play with the geographical and spiritual directions. He linked the continents, points of the compass and the center of the earth to mental attitudes such as ‘Intuition & Experience’, ‘Faith & Perseverance’ and to social/psychological roles such as ‘Worker & Dreamer’ and ‘Fighter and Searcher’.15 Such attitudes and roles not only have a poetic function; they are necessary for the artist to make his work. He uses everyday life as a starting-point, to come up new images and ideas, but these still have to be associated with other kinds of impressions stored in memory if creative solutions are to be found.16 Then the steady work on the worlds begins, worlds in which the artist has come to believe, which he dreams about and which require hard labor, both mental and physical, to realize.
THE ORIGIN OF THE ONES
In the 1990s, the links between the wind directions on earth and aspects of human existence led to the monochrome Directions for the Centre diptychs (1993-1994), for which Ton Mars made small black and white diptychs as preliminary studies.17 The first of these was entitled One, Preface (1993), and the signs on the two panels almost formed the word ‘one’. This was followed by other Ones. Their titles were formed by the name of the numeral ‘one’, in various European languages. When the artist saw these works together, he conceived the plan to create ‘Ones in all languages of the world’.
Thus he set himself a huge task. Not only was it necessary to continue and/or to complete the series he had been working on before and leave room for continue to feed these with new ideas, he had now burdened himself with a sheer endless encyclopedic sequence. But this complication did bear fruit, since it focused the artistís strong will to order reality and his desire to relate the everyday world to a spiritual sphere. The ‘Ab Uno project’ became a model within the model of reality already comprised by the oeuvre and refined the view and the tasks of the artist.
Although this suggests an analogy with the Creator, who is seen in various mythologies as the One and the First and thus the primary source from which the many aspects of the world arise, this does not apply here. While the divine creator is often omnipotent and can continue his worldmaking for all eternity, the capabilities of the artist are limited.18 He may crave for an interminable continuation but he also knows with absolute certainty that his life will put a stop to this some time in the future. Ton Mars does not regard this as a frightening prospect, however. Although he may desire the many and the high, an awareness of the finite is always part of his work. As in everyday reality, chaos always disrupts the order he wants to impose, and nothing can be entirely completed.
In Ton Mars’s case, however, the ‘huge’ nature of his self-imposed task is also put into perspective by the process of making itself. Since he does not use representations, all observations and ideas literally have to be converted into his artistic language. He needs to develop and picture all the building blocks for his complicated works. Moreover, each transformation and mutation within the work is a poetic act, which requires great concentration.19
When the oeuvre thus became much more extensive and the artist gained an idea of the amount of work awaiting him, he was forced to consider practical matters. After several Ones, for example, the artist had reached the limits of his linguistic knowledge and he had to find someone who would collect the numerals in all languages for him.20 In 1993, the present author accepted the invitation and since then artist and art historian have been working for fourteen years on their ‘Ab Uno project’. Together they have produced three Ab Uno/Ad Unum books, which contain the complete series of Ones. They include the poetic texts written by Ton Mars, inspiring quotations and interpretative essays to make the context of the work insightful for others too.
These books only show part of the oeuvre. They illustrate the artist’s desire to explore all cultural possibilities and to map the world, as ‘personified’ by the three continents, through language and images. The books Ab Uno/Ad Unum (Eurasia), (1998), Ab Uno/Ad Unum (Africa), (2001) and Ab Uno/Ad Unum (America), (2007) contain series of diptychs, each of which bears the name of the numeral one in one of the languages of the continents.21
The Eurasia book, which has a black cover, can be regarded as an overview of this part of the world. It is devoted to small black-and-white and white-and-black diptychs with vertical panels that present themselves as an open book (32 x 24 cm). Their skin is inscribed with sharply outlined signs in a contrastive tone. Sometimes the diptychs seem balanced or stately, sometimes teasing or playful and they bear titles in the languages of Europe and Asia, with the signs often evoking the atmosphere of the language.
In addition to the interpretative essay ‘De twee die een genoemd is’ (‘The two called one’) by the present author, this book also contains texts of the three personages and quotations dealing with counting, dividing and combinations of black and white. The book also shows a glimpse of the creative process, because it includes drafts and examples of the larger works in the Directions for the Center series.22
The Africa book, with a red-orange cover, is like a journey to and through the African continent.23 It contains pictures of small diptychs, with the same dimensions as the Eurasian Ones but rotated, so that they are horizontal in orientation (24 x 32 cm) and evoke associations with the eyes of masks.24 The black-and-white has also mutated, since each panel of the African Ones has a different color. But they, too, are inscribed with signs: in black on the lightly colored backgrounds and in white on the dark backgrounds. Because the signs resemble eyes somewhat, some of these diptychs have a sassy expression, while others look surprised or sleepy. The connection with the continent is emphasized through the poetic combinations of colors, which resemble the colorful gowns of African women, and the titles of the diptychs, each in a different African language.
Besides various associative texts written by the present author under the overall title ‘The journey to everywhere’ this book contains texts spoken by Ton Mars’s three personages and stories and poems from Africa. To provide some insight into the environment of these Ones, two black pages contain the titles of larger polyptychs from the Arrivals and Departures (1996 -) and Peripherical Works (1995-1996) series, made by the artist before he began working on the African Ones.25
The subject of the America book, with a turquoise cover, is the world of the North American native peoples. While the Eurasian Ones have a vertical orientation and are painted in black and white and the African Ones are horizontal and polychrome, the artist has opened up a third possibility for these new Ones. The American Ones have square panels. Their dimensions are the average of the previous diptychs (28 x 28 cm) and they are monochrome in color. This is not simply a formalist ploy, however; through their compact form and deep colors, these works are reminiscent of North American landscapes and art objects, while their titles are derived from numerals in Native American languages. To evoke an echo of the languages and decorative motives of the Native Americans, the signs have been placed on the panels in new configurations. As with the other Ones, the artist has not simply adapted and extended his repertoire; he constantly translates the nature of the continent into his ‘language’, so that the geography can reside in his own geometric world.
Besides the present essay and texts of the personages, this book contains stories from Native American cultures. Moreover, some pages have photographs of three exhibitions in which the various types of Ones have so far been included: Ab Uno/Ad Unum (1998), Ton Mars, WeltenSammler (2001) and Die Qual der Zahl (2002).26 To show what the Ones have grown into, pictures of the larger works which these ‘prefaces’ have inspired Ton Mars to make, are also included.
The two players of this ‘Ones game’ have decided that this will be the last book of the ‘Ab Uno project’ for now; the three books make up a fine ensemble. The project may be continued one day, however, and the artist will continue to paint Ones. But the Ones he has produced so far have given rise to many ideas that are just waiting to be worked out in more detail.
The three series of Ones have led to further developments, since they constitute a framework in which the larger pieces function as ‘expansions’. The most recent of these are multi-part works with the overall title Device and Expansion. They belong to each of the continents treated in the books. Works with the subtitles ‘Eurasian View’, ‘African View’ and ‘American View’, however, also provide a vista of the four points of the wind directions.27
One example is Device and Expansion, Eurasian view to the East (2005), a work in fourteen parts, in which white and black panels alternate. Each pair of panels evokes the Eurasian Ones, from which they are derived. In the white panels of the ‘Eurasian view to the East’, however, the signs are black with a dark pink edge; in the black panels the signs are red, which isolate these panels from each other to a larger extent than in the Ones.28 Initially, what is most striking about the work is the very long alternation of black and white. After a while, however, the viewer will become aware of the interplay of the signs, which form ‘words’ in each panel and which, when viewed in their entirety, constitute a ‘sentence’. At the seventh panel this reading stops, as if a semicolon has been placed in the sentence, since, as in all other works by Ton Mars, the possibility to reach the center is problematized.29 It is the place where the viewer nearly always begins to look, only to find out that this center is not a given. Then his gaze can move on to the black final panel which bears the same signs as the white beginning, only to be directed back to the break in the middle, after which the focus shifts to the beginning. This shifting movement of the eyes emphasizes the individuality of each of the panels and makes the horizontal lines in several of the panels, which constitute a horizon, more conspicuous.30 But what is this restless shifting of one’s gaze really about?
It is at this point that the title comes to the aid of the viewer. He is made aware of a ‘view to the East’, as if he were standing on a rise and observing a panorama in geometrical signs. It is not the type of landscape he remembers from his travels, but it refers to such landscapes in the artist’s language. To prevent the viewer from simply seeing a panorama and then quickly walking on, the viewing is made more difficult. The viewer must spend more time with the work to come to grips with its entirety and is thus made aware of the irregular shifting of the signs, instead of the regularity he expected on the basis of the rhythmic alternation of black and white. In search for a center, the viewer finds there is none, and he also notices that the mirroring of the signs he expected is only partial.31
A similar teasing of the viewer also occurs in Device and Expansion, African view to the South (2006), a work in five parts, consisting of horizontal panels in white, red and black that only contain oblique lines and rectangular shapes. Although this composition is derived from the African Ones, the artist has rearranged the panels in such a way that the work is initially seen as a tight unit, with a beginning, a middle and an end, like a classic story. This first impression is misleading, however. Although even if the first and last white panels are mirror images, the two red ones only appear to be so. And although the work has a black middle, the triangular shape it contains is open on the left side, which directs the gaze back to the beginning. This work contains a horizon too, but it does not allow the viewer to linger at his convenience, since the triangular signs pointing downward on the first and last two panels form the hypothetical apex of a triangle below the work that points to a fictitious center. From this dark, hot center of Africa, the artist imagines that he can perceive the icy whiteness of Antarctica while working.32 And when the viewer links the image with the title, it will not be hard for him to catch on to this association of Ton Mars’s.
Africa is the only continent for which all wind directions have been given a painting. Each elicits the shifting of the gaze described above and contains colors that evoke associations with the landscape and the directions of the wind. But this continent proved even more seminal to the artist’s oeuvre. When he saw black and white photographs of his paintings, he decided to make comparable pencil drawings with a lengthwise orientation on watercolor pads.33 Thus Device and Expansion, African view to the North (2006) was made in white, purple and black after the example of the eponymous painting. Although the drawing contains the same signs as the painting, it is not a literal translation. Only the center panel has remained black; the white panels of the painting have become black in the drawing and the purple of the painting has been converted to gray.34 Here, too, the gaze is immediately directed to the middle, where a sign in the form of a bowl opening to the left directs points the viewer back to the beginning of the composition. Once there, another bowl-like shape, this time more open, points to the middle and to the end, after which the viewing begins anew. The alternation of black and soft-gray panels promises tranquility and regularity, a promise, however, that is not wholly supported by the signs. Although the signs at the beginning and end are each other’s mirror image, the entire composition seems to roll back and forth, as it were, on the bottom sides of the bowl-like shapes, which does prelude a tranquility in motion.
Although Africa has produced the most prolific spin-off so far, the Ones of the American continent have by now also been given expansions. One of the two finished works, Device and Expansion, American view to the West (2007), is a monochrome red work in eight parts with white signs in straight and curved lines on square panels. The viewer is immediately inclined to home in on the oval in the center, only to realize that this is not a closed shape and even originates between two panels, as it were. Then he will notice that the signs form a ‘sentence’ in quotation marks with two start and two end panels that are mirror images and against which his gaze abuts. If he was under the impression that he would gain an overall view, this illusion is shattered at these extremes. However, the composition now includes an upward direction, formed by two open triangles and two oblique lines but this is contradicted by the slightly less powerful downward lines. The stable beginning and end and the ostensible center thus dissolve in a choreography of uncertainties, which is strengthened by the sunset glow of the color.
Through its combinations and permutations, this oeuvre opens up various panoramas and worlds but offers simultaneous opportunities for reflecting on aspects of the human condition. The images create the strong impression of ‘Gestalts’, entities that we believe we can perceive in an instant and which are important for our survival.35 But the simplicity, closure and regularity that we expect to meet in Gestalts is not present in the work of Ton Mars: shapes are never closed, mirror images are rarely undisturbed and there is always something askew in the symmetry. Thus we believe to see something that is actually not there, hope to know something that we really know nothing about and we think we experience certainties where there is only doubt.
To anyone who keeps his eyes open and uses his mind to learn about reality, these are everyday experiences. Nothing is as it seems at first sight; nothing can be truly known. In its efforts to encompass reality, the human mind appears to fail in every respect. If we are aware of this inherent doubt, it will spur us on to experience more, to get to know more and thus to mentally shape a world in which we can keep our footing. And this is the existential basis of Ton Mars’s work. That is why he travels, both in the flesh and in his head, all over the world; it is the reason he climbs to vantage points to survey everything that is going on below, to discover both the mundane and the lofty.36
Based on these experiences, he makes his own worlds with the help of the rules that clearly stamp the work. This uniqueness is always present, but that does not mean Ton Mars’s oeuvre must remain closed to others. Viewers can initially enjoy the colors and shapes, then read the titles and the texts and thus be put on the right track to come close to the artist in his associations. This will also open up the geographical, mythical and psychological opportunities that will lead to an understanding of their own world view.
1. A short version of this essay appeared in De Nieuwe, Maatschappij Arti et Amicitiae, Volume 9, March 2005. Both the short version and this extended version contain material obtained during an interview with Ton Mars conducted by the author in March 2003. Additional information was acquired during telephone conversations held on 24 June and 1 July 2007.
2. This occurred at Minerva Academy, Groningen, in 1975. In that year, Ton Mars graduated as an art teacher. His folder also contained the herbarium he had assembled during his secondary school years, a predecessor of his collections from the (biological) world.
3. Travel has always been very important to the artist, to acquire new visual impressions and to obtain the cultural material which he transforms and incorporates into his work.
4. Ton Mars has practiced many artistic genres and used a wide range of media. At present, however, he does not feel the need to change his painting style. In combination with language, the compositions, colors and shapes of his current work allow him to express everything he wants to convey.
5. The first catalog to show these small paintings was T. Mars, The Corresponding Difference, Düsseldorf 1988. It also contains the first poetic text by Giovanni.
6. The panels are made of wood covered with linen. They are shaped like saddle roofs but they have no top. This cut-off apex is the side that rests against the wall. The signs are placed on the rectangular or square attics that face forward.
7. The work not only looks architectural because it has multiple parts and has an austere look but also because it follows the coordinates of architecture, something which the artists emphasizes explicitly in his shows.
8. The first work in the Synonymous Works for Continents of the Mind series has six parts, black with white signs. This was followed by four similar works in red, white, yellow and blue.
9. The metaphorical relationships constructed by the artist through image and language are described in K. Herzog, ‘Wege ins Zentrum’, (‘Paths Towards the Center’), in: T. Mars, Echoes & Boundaries, Düsseldorf, Amsterdam 1994, pp. 11-21.
10. Counting is a simple way of ordering things. Because the works are in multiple parts, the viewer will also start to count and thus come to realize that they have a specific order.
11. The visual ingredients of this work are not true narrative elements, since they fall within the category of abstract painting. However, the combination of all elements together may invoke narratives during interpretation.
12. The characters used by Ton Mars in his texts were influenced by the poetic personalities of Portuguese poet F. Pessoa, who began to develop his heteronyms in 1914; each of these characters is a different kind of poet with his own voice.
13. The mental attitudes and social roles present in the work often have an antithetical companion (or companions), which creates various uncommon combinations. This puts these attitudes/roles in perspective and shows that they always have side effects when they come into play (see note 15).
14. The concept of worldmaking is derived from N. Goodman’s book, Ways of Worldmaking, Indianapolis 1988. Among other ideas, Goodman suggests that new cultural expressions emerge from the deconstruction and reconstruction of existing worlds (cultural domains).
15. Examples of other attitudes/roles used by the artist in his titles are Artist & Charlatan, Judge & Idiot, Rebel & Purist, Critic & Fool, Protector & Provoker and Idol & Rival.
16. In ‘The Origin and Evolution of Culture and Creativity’, Journal of Memetics and Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission 1, 1997, L. Gabora shows that associations with quite dissimilar memories lead to creative and innovative solutions.
17. The Ones in black and white, their links with the oeuvre and their mythological and cosmological connotations are described in K. Herzog, ‘De twee die een genoemd is’, (‘The Two Called One’), in: T. Mars and K. Herzog, Ab Uno/Ad Unum, Groningen 1998, pp. 19-29.
18. Comparing the artist to the Creator has been done many times in the past. See K. Badt, ‘Der Gott und der Künstler’, in: Philosophisches Jahrbuch der Görres Gesellschaft, Volume 64, Munich 1956, pp. 372-392.
19. The fact that all building blocks of this work have to be produced first to enable the artist’s worldmaking is illustrated clearly by the ‘Ab Uno project’. In it, Ton Mars reused the signs and the panel layout of his work which he had developed earlier. However, the changes in the formats, from vertical via horizontal to square, and the changes in coloration, from black-and-white via polychrome to monochrome, show that he used the possibilities offered by painting techniques to transform the geography of the Earth into his own geometrical world.
20. Initially, the search for numerals in, for example, dictionaries took much time. This was before the internet included sites listing all numerals in all languages.
21. The Eurasian Ones each bear the title One, Preface in various languages. The titles of the African and American Ones only contain the name of the numeral one, since the languages concerned were originally oral languages of cultures without books in which the concept of a preface had no meaning. To the artist, a preface is synonymous with a sketch or preparation for a larger work. For an interpretation, see K. Herzog, ‘De twee die een genoemd is’ (‘The Two Called One’), ‘De twee die een genoemd is’, in: T. Mars and K. Herzog, Ab Uno/Ad Unum, Groningen 1998, pp. 19-29.
22. Ton Mars created five diptychs in 1993 and 1994, entitled Directions for the Center. They relate to various mental attitudes and are painted in black, blue, yellow, red and white respectively. For an interpretation of Directions for the Center, Nr I (Faith & Perseverance), see K. Herzog, ‘Wegen naar het Centrum’, (‘Paths Towards the Center’), in: Krisis, Tijdschrift voor filosofie, Woorden & Beelden, no. 55, 1994, pp. 44-57.
23. The colors of the book covers may be symbolically linked with the continents in the geographical or cultural sense.
24. The idea to relate the horizontal panels to the eyes of African masks arose in the library of Leiden University, when Ton Mars and the present author were looking for numerals in the African languages. See K. Herzog, ‘The Journey to Everywhere’ in: T. Mars and K. Herzog, Ab Uno/Ad Unum (Africa), Dortmund 2001, pp. 55-62.
25. These include five monochrome four-part polyptychs with the overall title Arrivals & Departures. Each has a subtitle in which a compass wind direction and the center are exchanged for human characteristics, for example The Exchange of the East for Memory & Structure. There are also five multicolored triptychs in the Peripherical Works series, each of which has a subtitle: The Call, The Quest, The Loss, The Doubt and The Wish.
26. The Ab Uno/Ad Unum exhibition was staged at the Groninger Museum, Groningen, the Netherlands in 1998. Ton Mars WeltenSammler was the title of an exhibition at the Museum Am Ostwall, Dortmund, Germany in 2001. Die Qual der Zahl was staged at the Kunsthalle in Lingen, also in Germany, in 2002.
27. At the moment of writing (September 2007), two paintings for the Eurasian View have been realized. For the African View, all four compass points have been converted into both paintings and drawings, while two paintings of the American View have been completed.
28. Although Ton Mars’s oeuvre may look consistent and seems to be developing steadily, the artist states that small explosions, which make him deviate from his earlier pictorial logic through momentary inspiration, take place all the time. These mutations lead to incongruous jumps, which keep the work lively. The variations are not simply limited to the compositions but can also be seen in the lines, which may or may not have an additional edge. These edges are sometimes pink (the base color of the panels), sometimes orange or red. Such small color details intensify the effects of the colors.
29. For the problematization of the center in the work of Ton Mars, see K. Herzog, ‘Wegen naar het Centrum’ (‘Paths Towards the Center’), ‘Wegen naar het Centrum’, in: Krisis, Tijdschrift voor filosofie, Woorden & Beelden, no. 55, 1994, pp. 44-57.
30. Many of the works in multiple parts have a double horizon. Not only do these works often extend far into the horizontal dimension, which compels the viewer to look around, but they also contain an internal horizon formed by the signs.
31. The expectation of a mirroring or symmetry of the signs is sometimes fulfilled in this oeuvre but more often it contains a quasi-mirroring or quasi-symmetry that only becomes conspicuous when the work is viewed for a longer period. Once noticed, however, this turns out to be a substantial deviation.
32. Associations arising from the languages, the landscapes and the art objects of various cultures are important to the artist while working on the continents. Ultimately, these may or may not be included in the compositions but they will always keep the maker mentally on his toes during the long working process.
33. Ton Mars began to draw in pencil on watercolor pads in 1992, in reaction to the physicality of the paintings. Because he uses the pads in their entirety and only draws on the top sheet, the drawings also acquire an unusual three-dimensionality.
34. When drawing the black surfaces, Ton Mars uses a very soft pencil (6B) to give the area a dark, silvery sheen. The gray surfaces, a new development in the work, are made with a hard pencil (4H) with which he lays down hatchings in very thin layers.
35. Gestalt psychology was developed in the 1920s and 1930s by K. Koffka, W. Köhler and others. Gestalts are coherent structures of an orderly nature that help us to make sense of our perceptions. Gestalts have features such as regularity, symmetry, closure, unity, continuity and simplicity. If these features are not entirely present in the shapes in reality, our perception completes these shapes to form Gestalts. For an explanation, see D. Katz, Gestaltpsychologie, Basel 1969. Ton Mars often makes use of this principle in his signs and their ordering within the compositions.
36. Although the artist always works toward the realization of a spiritual plan, he needs the earthly and the banal, both as a counterpoint to the spiritual world and as material to transform and process. For the relationship between the banal and the spiritual in this oeuvre, see the interpretation of the Winner, Saviour, Loser triptych (1995), K. Herzog, ‘Voor dansers’, (‘For Dancers’), in: Feit & Fictie, Tijdschrift voor de geschiedenis van de representatie, Volume III, no. 3, 1997, pp. 67-82.
Translation: Paul Hulsman