psychedelic symbolism    




In his late teens, Von Kleist turned to philosophy in his attempts to get a better grip on chaos and confusion, inside and out. He tried to formulate his own beliefs and way of thinking. After a while he discovered that images were a better way to express ideas.

At the time he wrote in a notebook, "Art is the science of the unknown. It should be brand-new, not a form of imitation." By then he was working on sketches for his first big canvas, Thought evolution. "It was based on the Hindu concept that if we could travel through outer space we would find less and less room between the stars until there is only white light, in which we recognize ourselves. This is where the voyage ends." He tried to construct a symbol for eternal thought, shaped by the collective human subconscious that is illuminated by an infinite source of energy, like the sun. "The great unthinkable."

Likewise, he tried to come to terms with the factor time (still a major issue in his work). "Quintessence portrays one woman at two very different stages of her life. She is young and beautiful like a rose ... but she is also an older, tougher and wiser woman. There is a lot of nostalgia in this work. Time is relentless, it can separate you from everything you hold dear. I find that painful."

He felt an affinity with the Surrealists of a previous era, but was influenced more deeply by what happened in his own time. Music, posters, even record-sleeves. Fired up by the ideas and enthusiasm of the late 1960s and early 1970s in those days he could be considered a psychedelic symbolist.

He aimed "to observe a higher reality from a subconscious standpoint, like a fish that is vaguely aware of gulls crossing the sky above its head, viewed through a layer of swirling water". He tried to catch and represent what happens in the virtually invisible world of thoughts, energies, and ideas. "We cannot see clearly. Most things are distorted ... as if you are looking through a fish-eye lens. Every person has their own philosophy and tries to sell this point of view to the others (like a winged sales manager) unaware of how much is hidden and muddled. But stability and clarity exist, too. The woman carrying the torch is a symbol of this. An icon." Yesod, which he started in 1968, represents the foundations of life and death according to the cabala. Von Kleist: "It took years to complete. The work helped me to attach labels to certain experiences that I could not cope with under my own steam at the time."
















            Photos by Mirjam de Zwart