Joseph Beuys ‘In the House of the Shaman’

‘I don’t call this work with colours watercolous or whatever. First of all I call everything drawings, whether oil paint or mordant

IN the house of the shaman


I’ve chosen a drawing that both fascinates and haunts and me. For Joseph Beuys drawing was not only a tool but a necessity in life. It provided a method of visualisation and a proclamation of beliefs and explorations into the workings of the environment, cultural interaction and political ideologies. The act and process of drawing became for him a vital way also to trawl through and visualise the raw and visceral quality of creativity that he believed was not an attribute the elite ‘artist’ possessed, but instead everybody. Hence it is apparent his relationship with ‘Counter Art’ and ‘Fluxus’ ideologies were strong and are apparent through his loose and rough depiction of vague flowing and morphing shapes. There is an illusive and mystical nature to ‘In the House of the Shaman’ with faint pencil lines interconnecting subtle forms and expanses of colour, depicting perhaps a figure with a mask joined to bold triangular shape – a heart or. All mark making appears vague however, hinting at literal depiction, but for me it never completely consolidates, and the viewer is left to decipher at their own judgement.


With a subtle mix of watercolour, Gouache, and pencil the drawing also communicates an infinite quality of spatial dimension – as if lying within a void, that could be interconnected with Beuys’ personal mythology of understanding through drawing the self, its creativity and its position in the universe. The fluid watercolour and the relationship between dilute marks/traces gives the sense of a permeable space – the metaphysical void of the shaman – where Beuys envisioned himself. The drawing extends also to all edges of the page, and leaves little escape (black space) for the eye. For me however this not needed because of the drawings depth. Instead I am intrigued to make sense of form and lucid marks as you trawl through the interior of the work. Perhaps for Beuys as the shaman, this is in fact an interior of his metaphysical house.


Sorry for really bad image.


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