Robert Mertens: Angels and the "Ambience of the Universe"
California artist Robert Mertens is known for his bold, fluid, and evolving images of angels. Works that can touch the viewer like some sort of vibration or message that resonates deep inside just that person. When that happens, the person just "has to have" that particular angel. So what is that, we wondered. And what moved him to focus so on angels - other than the fact that the world might need a few more angels in these times. Here is his reply:
Why Angels? When my mother died a few years ago there was one picture of hers that she kept in the room where she was being cared for (she was a fine artist and produced a body of work throughout her life). It was “Choir of Angels” a picture she made in the 50s and a long time family favorite.
Shortly after I returned to California from Virginia where she passed on, I was working with some imagery when the idea came to me to honor her memory with 12 angels. I was also thinking that some day the whole group might be exhibited in LA since it is the “City of Angels”.
One aspect of angels is that they are qualities that reside within the structure of life and can act to ennoble and secure life. They are encountered in what Bapak called the “Ambiance of the Universe” or the “Ambience of Life after Death”, implying that their natures are universal properties that exist both within and outside of us. In the Subud symbol, they are represented as the spaces between the circles, indicating that they support and embrace all the levels of life.
I have never “seen” angels (as in a vision) but have spoken with someone who has had very vivid and precise experiences with them. Her description of them to me seems to emerge in what I feel and “see” as my evolving images present themselves.
Since people often apprehend angels as winged beings, I started the series by importing some images of bird wings.
I added other elements such as whirling patterns of energy, starscapes, the human torso, and reflections in glass eggs.
I worked with right/left symmetry as in the construction of the human body because we most often visualize angels in our own image.
The right/left symmetry also promotes the appearance of many other sorts of beings as if embraced within the angelic form.
I stayed away from literal interpretations of specific angels as recorded in religious history and let the images evolve as they would, while working on them.
Somewhere during the process certain names associated themselves with the angels that I was making.
In the “Angel of Abundance” there is a shower of gold.
The “Angel of Conception” (bottom) unites a female human torso in conception with the masculine.
In “Earth Angel” (middel image) the planet earth is floating in the upsweeping energy at the heart of the angel in worship of the source.
Technically, the images are discovered by working with the tools in Photoshop. I can employ effects of light, space and energy in a wide variety of combinations. I am happy to share much more of what I have discovered in working with the Photoshop tools with other artists who may be interested in exploring the medium.