Saturday, 11 October 2014

A man full of rhythm

A man full of music, rhythm and wisdom. 

It's a fascinating challenge to portray a multi-talented Dutch musician like Michael de Roo, who has brought so many people together for music or dance performances, or to share spiritual ideas in his search for alternative philosophies.  Since we met in 1978, he has become one of my best friends, full of warmth, wisdom and humour. Michael opened my eyes to much contemporary music, especially works in which he excelled as a percussionist. He was the founder of the Dutch Circle Percussion ensemble in 1973, that by the eighties had become world-famous. It was named after Luciano's Circles, the highlight of their very first programme.
"Circles", for vocalist, harp and percussion, by Luciano Berio (texts by e.e.cummings), 
watercolour & ink, 70 x 50cm, 1978. Collection of Michael de Roo.

It was inevitable that Michael would develop a relationship with the Japanese KODO ensemble. When working with the Netherlands Dance Theater, Michael was the one who drew the attention of choreographer Jirí Kylián to Maki Ishii's suite for percussion (1984) inspired by the story of Kaguyahime (the Japanese fairytale of the moon princess who came down to bring peace to the earthlings, only to provoke conflict). This led to Kylián's creation of the internationally acclaimed 65 min. masterpiece of modern dance and percussion, a production in which Michael still plays a major role, as the conductor. 

So, although I had listened to some of Michael's favourites in preparation for this portrait (Berg, Berio, Prokofiev, Bartok), the brushwork in my portrait of Michael was driven by the rhythms and colours of Kaguyahime. From the very first sweeping stroke - an echo of the huge Odaiko drum. Ever since the première of that masterpiece in The Hague in 1988, where I made sketches for five paintings of this work (see below), it still fascinates me. Those multiple percussive rhythms made my brushes dance playfully across Michael's shirt as well. Yet, this man saturated with rhythm stands calmly, listening, friendly, wise, his thoughtful blue eyes reflecting insights from his amazing multi-cultural life. 
Michael de Roo, watercolour, 67 x 48cm, 2014.

Below, three of the Kaguyahime series, watercolour and oil pastel, 75 x 50cm, 1989


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