by Didier Hamel
Among the foreign artists finding solace and inspiration in the tranquility and spirituality of Bali, Theo Meier takes a special place. He spent 20 years of his life in Bali, and 25 years in Thailand. The book is, therefore, an asset that many of his fans and art collectors would welcome. Both entertaining and enlightening, it takes the reader through 172 pages of text and plates, recounting the artist's struggle to disengage from the conventions of his Western environment, his adventurous journey to the East and his fascination with the cultures that were untouched by Western civilization. Interchanging political, cultural and social events with the artist's extremely well-written descriptions, the book reads like a log of the artist's life journey, enlivened with colorful paintings and snapshots of his social interactions.
Keeping the tone of a storyteller, and often quoting the artist whose vivid description of what he sees is fascinating, the author Didier Hamel also pays attention to the little anecdotes found in Meier's notes. The book begins with an overall view of the situation in Europe.
"The 1900s were a momentous time in human civilization marked by major historical events.". It notes the impact of social evolution as reflected in the arts. It was a time of change, both technological and social, and new streams of art emerged. It was in this period that Modern Art emerged, die Bruecke was formed in Germany and Cubism and Futurism were flowering. Amidst such a situation, Theodor Wilhelm Meier, or Theo Meier for short, was born in the Bubendorf/Basel-Campagne in 1908. Theo Meier appeared to have a strong desire to be an artist, and he managed to enroll at the Basel School for Arts and Craft. He became an artist and worked his way through a scholarship and short studies in Berlin and Dresden.
Lured by the romantic and exotic East as many others before him, he dreamed of going East, to the tropics. In fact, he had been spurred by the works of Gauguin which depicted a primitive simplicity in Tahiti that was beyond imagination in the West. Tahiti became his promised land. But his family was opposed to the idea of going there, and support was not to be had from that side. But he was determined, and he managed to gain passage on a French cargo steamer, heading for the South Seas. He was 23 years old.
But when he arrived in Papeete, the principal town and harbor of the island of Tahiti, it was a big disappointment: nothing was left of the Polynesian culture. Theo came to understand that Gauguin's representations of Tahiti had been more fantasy and imagination than reality. However, he still appreciated Gauguin, while he continued searching for "paradise". He thought he had found it when he arrived in Bora-Bora, 260 km northwest of Papeete. It was once the home of Paul Gauguin, and had been an inspiration to many artists.
But before long, he was on his way back to the tropics, This time he landed in Bali. He had found paradise, he stayed for 20 years. He loved painting the Balinese women, who in contrast to the Polynesian women, "were only too happy to undress". Nudes were his most favorite subjects, although landscapes and flowers also deeply inspired him.
His landscapes sometimes are overwhelmed by the heat of the sun and appear as in a blur, at other times however, the bold tree trunks stand out as wonderful highlights in the scene. He was to stay in Thailand for 25 years. But he never forgot Bali, and often went there when the rains came to Chiang Mai, a time that coincided with the dry season in Bali.
Theo Meier died in 1982 in the hospital in Basel, but his ashes were partly scattered in Thai waters and partly in the waters around his beloved Bali.
31 x 26 cm
Hexart x Afterhours Books
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