Willem van Hasselt


Reflections on Liz Strick’s “Lebanon Series”

Liz Strick is the only one out of 7 children of very artistic parents, who has chosen to make art, painting, her profession in life. She chose this path in Istanbul. As for myself, on and off, I have been dealing with the EU -Turkey relationship in different jobs at the ministry of Foreign Affairs. And so our different (professional) paths met and I started to look at Turkey with her painter’s eyes.

With expectation and admiration I follow her brush strokes in the direction of the neighbouring region, to Lebanon. It is an exciting region where things, events, past, present, future and people relate in a complex way. Yet this reality is of course more than just ‘food for diplomats’! It is human reality to begin with and artists sense the essence sooner than others.

That is why I want to focus on words of Edgar Degas that Liz’s daughter-in-law Rania put in English on Liz’s website:

“Painting is not what one sees, but what one can make others see.”

That is the heart of the matter. Since Monet painted water lilies, we see HIS very own water lilies when we see these flowers floating, even in Dutch canals and ponds. Since Monet we see water lilies in a new way. We see NEW water lilies that did not exist before. Poets do so too: when Rilke writes a rose poem, he adds a new rose to the ones that the rose cultivators/growers supposedly already knew.

Now, look at what Liz does, what she makes us see:

Liz shows us a sunflower at the Litani river. Does that have anything to do with so-called physical reality? That is not a relevant question. During the war of 2006 the front was situated at that river. Today, and right here, we can see that there grows an enormous sunflower.

The title of the view from Rania and John Strick’s flat in Beirut is: “Dutch tulips in Beirut”. Can they be seen ? No – you think – but of course we do see them there!

On the 1st of December 2006 a big demonstration took place on the Martyrs’ Square in Beirut. Whomever was reading the papers at the time, also in the Netherlands, knew and knows why. Liz has painted it, but we see now what the demonstrators present and us newspaper-readers at the time did not see: that a vast blue horizon lies behind that reality of 1st December 2006. What is the meaning of that blue ? Well, that’s up to you! And what you say may be an expression of hope or belief, you see a new dimension.

Artists give our perception a new destination. They lie the truth, so to say. And that is quite necessary, because we remain attached to ways of looking at the world, at reality that we were taught in schools since the 17th century: We start from the static central perspective. Moreover, we think that space ‘has’ 3 dimensions and that ‘next to that’ the separate dimension of time ‘exists’ etc. The West has conquered the world with that mentality, with that tool. But, let us be honest too: in our daily life’s experience as in our nocturnal consciousness, all of this is brilliant nonsense. It is a very abstract dimension of our perception of our surroundings, a functional way to express part of the truth. Artists help us become aware of this.

Liz exhibits her Lebanon Series in Gouda, an old city in typical wet Dutch low land. Is that a strange surrounding, context? Not at all. Centuries ago, biblical psalms were read and sung in Dutch churches, in Gouda too. These psalms and other chapters from the Bible brought Lebanon right to the heart of Holland. During the lovely May days of 1940, war came to this country. Many a fearful heart may have read from these psalms whilst Juncker- and Heinkel-planes were grumbling on their way to their fatal destinations, loaded with paratroopers and bombs…

Today is a Sunday between the 10th and 15th May. Let me therefore quote from the final verse of psalm 92:

The upright will flourish like the palm tree,
Will grow like a cedar of Lebanon.
Planted in the house of the Lord,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
In old age they will still bear fruit,
Will remain fresh and green,
To proclaim the Lord’s integrity;
My rock, in whom no fault can be found.

I think that the God who, is referred to here, needs helping hands, hearts and eyes. He needs the help of those, of whom Scripture says, “are shaped in the image of Himself”

He needs the help of artists, for certain , I think.

They will teach us to see, to hear, to understand what we do not see, hear nor understand, because we for once – whether ‘we’ can always help it or not – do not all the time know what we see, what we do.

Thanks to God , we have artists living and working amongst us , like our Liz!

Willem van Hasselt 13 May 2007