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The Artist Who Paints Gods

Interview with Argentine artist Helmut Ditsch

By Natalia Rodriguez
Epoch Times Argentina Staff
Jun 15, 2006

Helmut Ditsch's oil and acrylic painting "Cosmigonon" amazes viewers with its photographic realism. Klaus Albrecht Schröder, director at Graphische Sammlung Albertina in Vienna, has said of Ditsch's work: "Seemingly three-dimensional mountains and glaciers soar in front of the spectator and wide open spaces extend into endless valleys or beyond the horizon of karst-like mountains stretching into infinity." (helmut-ditsch.com )

Forty four-year-old Argentine artist Helmut Ditsch has found success with his large canvasses of natural landscapes. His work is found in galleries throughout Europe and North America. Although he presently resides in Vienna, he often travels to his Argentine homeland. The Epoch Times recently had an opportunity to interview the artist in Buenos Aires.

ET: How do you prepare yourself when beginning a painting?

H: I'm inspired when I'm in natural settings. Even though I work with photographs, the matrix is nature, not the photo. That is, the matrix is quite complex, containing more detail, dimensions and range that what is seen in a photograph. What I experience is so strong and huge that I need time to process everything. I have to isolate myself to express the experience.

A seminal event for the artist was reaching the peak of Aconcagua, the highest point of South America's Andes mountains. He accomplished this almost by accident when everyone in the expedition got ill except for him and his brothers. He had only expected to be his brothers' "mule", carrying expedition backpacks to base camp. When everyone else fell ill, he and his brothers decided to continue on. Ditsch describes the experience:

H: Reaching the peak of the Aconcagua changed many things for me. Until my twenties, I was an atheist. Although I felt the spiritual world, I used atheism as a reaction to a very difficult childhood. My mother died when I was 8 years old. Although my father was concerned with giving us a comfortable childhood, it was… sad. Standing on the peak of the Aconcagua, I realized there was a door to another dimension, a spiritual dimension. From then on, I felt rich. I didn't need to possess material things and I learned many things about myself—my limits and opportunities. The experience was such an emotive moment up there that I cried… I think that was the first time that I cried with emotion, with full emotion. That moment was so touching and intense that I needed ten years to be able to paint that mountain.

ET: We are now looking at your painting "Cosmigonon." You say you felt warm when you faced these huge mountains of ice. Can you elaborate?

H: I think it's because of the concept of "emotionality", that is, the intensity of the emotions that I put into my work. There are emotions, but with different densities. I am a very emotional person, and I've lived in extreme situations that encouraged that emotional dimension. People seem to perceive the energy that I put in my work. I know that there is a dimension beyond the visual one, and in a piece of art there is obviously a spiritual dimension that reaches people's hearts. I never go to nature paint a landscape. I go to live it, I go to search, and then to transform that experience into a painting. I didn't go to the mountains as a painter but to have my own experience.

The artist stated that the human being is central to his work but, paradoxically, he never paints people, only landscapes. According to Ditsch, his goal is to have viewers see themselves in the work, to experience a landscape as their own and to involve the viewer both perceptively and emotionally.

H: At one of my exhibitions, a mother arrived with her blind son. He didn't touch the paintings, just stood in front of them. I then realized that, of course, there is another dimension, and that's what people feel. People are surprised and moved at the same time. It's not a game of mine, it's not that I want to play with that phenomena, but I can't do it any other way.

ET: You are known for excellent technique and a hyper-realist style. You've also said that you have a Renaissance attitude in the 21st century by which you mean noninvolvement in today's artistic environment and not trying to be in the vanguard which most contemporary artists aspire. What message would you have for contemporary artists?

H: I hope they can open their hearts and see life from a different perspective, with positive thinking and spiritual clarity. Because of the fast pace of life today and the materialism of modern life, it's very difficult to think about other dimensions. If you can see the light, you will dominate the arts.

ET: In ancient times, artists from the East and West believed that one must elevate spiritually in order create authentic art. A high artistic level required a higher level of consciousness. That's why in ancient times they painted images of gods...

H: I also paint gods! Everything that I paint is the work of gods. A Brazilian reporter once asked me about my experience of being more than 4 miles high and discovering a spiritual world. He said to me, 'So you've discovered that God exists'. I told him, 'No! While I was up there, I realized there must be many gods. One god alone cannot create all this. There must be many.' He agreed with me.

ET: Being an artist means having a particular view of the world that might transcend more worldly matters. Precisely because of that, many totalitarian regimes–such as the Communist regime–persecutes artists and censors traditional culture. What's your opinion about that?

H: One thing a social revolution does is destroy traditions and that's a crime. It doesn't have any future, either. Dictatorships that don't respect religions or different cultures now dominate world trade, don't they? Communism's biggest mistake is that it attacks religions and cultures that have existed for thousands of years. Some representatives of Communist countries also want to control me. They want me on their side because they are aware of the power of culture. But I'm not willing to be on their side. I'm on the side of The Epoch Times, the side of culture and defenders of human rights.

ET: Ditsch continued to discuss the relation between the arts and the spirit in which he revealed his passion for life and the search for the meaning of life.

H: Now, my attitude toward life is religious and full of gratitude. I believe that to access to the world of art one must know how to paint the light. To know how to paint the light means to have inborn wisdom. Having inborn wisdom means having a connection with the spiritual world and being elevated.

Helmut Ditsch recently exhibited his paintings at the 32nd Buenos Aires International Book Fair. He has been commissioned by several governmental agencies and companies in Austria and Argentina and has exhibited his work in Argentina, Austria, Germany, and Chile. The artist's paintings can be seen at helmut-ditsch.com.