Persona November, 14th 2019 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 239 - Sis Josip


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World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 239 – Sis Josip
Sis Josip’s studio is located in the attic in an Art Nouveau building in Hoogstraat in The Hague. He lives on the second and on the first floor he has a gallery, the Sis Josip Gallery. When I enter the gallery I see paintings and drawings on the left and right of the wall and on the floor in a row different texts. It is all part of Sis Josip’s ten-year project ‘Der Himmel on Earth’.
He started it two years ago and four works have already been completed. A sculpture, two paintings and a dance. Now he is working on a book, ‘Walking with Enoch’. His wife, Conti Hermenet, had started it, and Sis Josip, after her death two years ago, is trying to fit it into the project. The blades on the floor relate to it.

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Hildegard von Bingen
Behind me hangs the work, ‘The Woman at the Center of Creation’, with a number of women in the form of a cross. Below the woman in the middle who is looking at us from the front, you see two hands with stigmata, pierced hands. The extended tongue of the woman underneath has also been pierced. “The point is that the creation is also feminine”, explains Sis Josip. A little further on is the work ‘Paradiso’ and on the right wall are drawings that served as preparation for the paintings.

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Sis Josip: “I want to portray what heaven looks like. I was inspired by Hildegard von Bingen, a nun who lived in the 12th century. She had the ability to look into heaven through visions. She wrote that down. Other nuns have made images of it. Those images and descriptions make heaven transparent and interesting to me. ”
The project was initially only about Hildegard von Bingen, but the death of his wife delayed the project, and when he started it again, he made it wider: it would not only be about Hildegard, but especially about heaven. Not only Sis Josip was going to work on the project, but also other artists and also theologians and philosophers. “Many people are now thinking about their contribution. Joint exhibitions may result. It has to be up to date, representative for this time. “

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Long-term projects
Sis Josip (Amsterdam, 1959) has been living and working in The Hague since 1981. He makes realistic oil paintings and realizes long-term cultural projects. The above-mentioned project fits in with this, and also his previous project, ‘The Search for Unconditional Beauty’ (2003-2010) that culminated in a large theater spectacle in the atrium of the Hague City Hall. And before that he made ‘Monument for Europe’ (1999) with monuments for all capitals of Europe on the occasion of the Maastricht Treaty (1993).
Josip: “Those projects have provided special insights, special collaborations and wonderful works.”

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Sis Josip was raised as a Catholic, but did nothing about it for a long time. “I re-entered twenty years ago. The Roman Catholic faith gives me answers to questions that I cannot find anywhere else. Just before our marriage, Conti also became Catholic. The broadening of the project is partly due to this. “
The first year was Hildegard was central, the second year Dante. “Dante Alighieri lived around 1300. He wrote the brilliant book ‘The Divine Comedy’. He gives other insights than Hildegard about heaven, purgatory and hell. No matter how beautifully told, I don’t think heaven and hell look like Dante describes. And purgatory did not come into view until fairly recently, after the first millennium change, it is a Catholic concept that works great for believers. ”
Sis Josip no longer has an image of heaven, he says. “It is very changeable. I’m at the start of the project. Every subsequent book I read turns heaven upside down. I will know exactly how it is in eight years. “

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The Dance of Virtues
One of the works that has already been performed is a dance, ‘The Dance of the Virtues’ that was performed in the gallery last year by Cypriot dancer Styliana Apostolou, while Sis Josip played his electric cello. “The Dance of Virtues is based on Von Bingen’s Theory of Virtue and consists of four interdependent parts: Love and envy, Heavenly joy and sorrow, Chastity and lust and Victory and cowardice. Every dance started from a harmonious silence, the virtue, after which the dance developed, through the harmony of the middle to the chaos of vice. ”

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At the moment he is mainly concerned with Enoch, a somewhat unknown figure from the Old Testament. “In Genesis 5:24, Statenbijbel (The Dutch Bible) says, ‘Enoch then walked with God; and he was no more; because God took him away.’ Elsewhere his age is mentioned, 365 years, and there are a few persons named after him in genealogies. That’s it. But ‘The Book of Heavenly Palaces’, translated by Pieter van der Horst (1999) , sketches a heaven with Enoch ultimately as the little God. And Dante’s Divine Comedy indirectly builds on Enoch’s heavenly journeys, including Enoch’s ascension to heaven and Abel’s sacrifice. ”


Sis Josip, just turned 60, has been an artist since he was 16 years old. From the beginning he knew he wanted to become an artist. He is consciously self-taught. “Art is necessary for me. If I didn’t make art, I would get out of balance, I had to create to stay in balance. Artistry is a total package of on the one hand mysticism and insight, then intellect and then craftsmanship and marketing. ”
Does it give him satisfaction if such a large project is completed? Josip: “When something is finished, you are already busy with other things in your head. It is hard work if you find it important to convey ideas through art. It is exciting and requires great concentration. It also depends on how high you set the bar, which I set very high. It also requires a great deal of self-discipline. Every day I get up at 6:15 for my prayers and then I start working. “


Art Nouveau building
We make a small tour through the building. The monumental Art Nouveau building from 1904, designed by the architect Louis de Wolf, was renovated ten years ago. “He has built a lot here in the neighborhood, including some buildings that you can see at ‘Haagse Bluf’, the ‘Pipoos’ building on the Dagelijkse Groenmarkt and the ‘Oger’ building on Noordeinde. De Wolf came from Vienna and met in Maison Krul, the famous Tearoom in The Hague on the Noordeinde, one of Krul’s daughters, whom he married. ”
In the bathroom I see orcas, tigers and masks on the wall. A beautiful Art Nouveau kitchen in the shades of brown and green, on the second floor the bedroom with a work by Conti above the bed and at the foot end a colorful painting by Sis Josip from the Unconditional Beauty series. In the large living room a self-knotted rug in which Picasso’s bull and Keith Haring’s dogs are incorporated.


We’re going down again. I ask Sis Josip if he has a philosophy. Sis Josip: “The realization that you are only a channel of ideas that have been known for a long time. That you do not have to do a lot of things so that the noise is reduced. Keep the line clearly in mind: first God, then the arts and then all my dear friends. In addition, put everything into daily proportions and smile at everything. ”
1)The woman as the center of creation, 2 – 7) From the series ‘Unconditional Beauty’, 8) The Divine Comedy, detail, 2019, 9) The Divine Comedy, preliminary study, 2019, 10) portrait Sis Josip

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