The time of a liquid kiss
(Hymn to fervor and eros)

When everything is lost, God and wine will remain (Bela Hamvas)

The first encounter with the work of Axel Becker reminded me immediately of the teaching of Bela Hamvas, one of the greatest 20th-century Central European thinkers who in his capital work "The Philosophy of Wine" identifies this divine nectar with the very incarnation of God. The thoughts about wine, to think of wine and to study wine means to study yourself or to introspectively seek God in you. Not the satanic drop of damnation, but precisely the opposite - the divine spark. Moreover, I dare say that to study wine means to be deeply religious since wine, as Hamvas teaches us, is the only cure for stupidity, redemption for all sins, simply a gift from God. Wine is what releases us. Dionysus, the god of wine is de facto the only real liberator. To drink wine means to reject false life, hypocrisy, to reject false morality and suppressing of your true nature. To drink wine means to liberate yourself, to live here and now, sensuously, soulfully and ingeniously. A hymn to wine is a hymn to freedom, a hymn to soul, to eros and fervor. To paint, to illustrate, to portray, to make wine tangible and visible is only a sublime act and an insatiable craving for making that divine product, through an act of art, even more materialized and accessible to the eye. Similar to a sculptor's passion for a woman and portraying and modeling women's curves in one of his favorite materials. Analogously, the taste created by the encounter of palates and wines Becker portrays through associative role of color (the red color of Teran, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy or the yellow-gold Malvasia, white or gray Pinot, white Muscat etc.), through symbolism and, above all, tendency to eliminate visual elements. Just as when drinking wine, all the pain slowly disappears and everything that is unnecessary is being eliminated, we live for that moment, we enjoy the smells and tastes, we unite with our loved ones into a Dionysian whirl of passion, love and pleasures of senses. Wine, says Hamvas, is a "liquid kiss," and drinking wine is "the closest relative of love."

When it comes to the work of Axel Becker, I deliberately use the term creation, not painting, despite knowing that the painting outgrew the notion itself a long time ago, and therefore, in my opinion, the act of painting is at the same time an inadequate term that had seen its most brilliant days at the time of the peak of the technological superiority of Western civilization and in periods when modern art was at the same time strongly contested and called ugly. Becker belongs to the descendants of the celebrated generation of painters whose "animal", ludic act of painting broke all the ties with the past and literally "desecrated" everything that the term "fine arts" meant in the past. It was the final clash of attitudes and, at the same time, the greatest fatal era of liberation in the context of art history, known under the name of expressionism. Exactly that was a teaching that further influenced the followers and contemporaries of other movements such as DADA, futurism, surrealism, and ultimately minimalism. After all, isn’t the elimination of all the unnecessary a final form of expression and a clear attitude towards a particular situation? Becker's playing with psychic visual elements and psychological aspect of painting ultimately is the expression of his, at first glance, very rational nature, which will, in its spatial-illusionist game, in spite of the tendencies to purify the frame and through clear compositional conciseness, experience its liberation and apotheosis at the same time. Becker's decision to study and love wine makes it clear that behind seemingly canonized stereotype and prevailing prejudice about Germanic coldness and glorification of beer, hides a warm, alive, secular (because being secular is the highest form of religiousness and self-chosen defense and wrestling with the devil himself) person whose spectrum of interests gravitates towards the Mediterranean, Hellenic zone where wine drinking culture is known since the era of Greek orgiastic feasts where Dionysian voluptuousness was experiencing its epilogue. It is a man who, with German organization and ethics, questions the delights of wine joy, is there anything out of the box of the northern order which nota bene governs the author's painting, and whose suggestiveness and, above all, the orientation towards purity and colorism have a therapeutic note. Just like the wine, which, sprinkled on wounds of even Roman emperors, healed them faster.

The mission of Axel Becker and his wife Romana is to get to know and discern the quality, taste and smell of Istrian wines. Their voyage and quest for the "golden fleece" on the fertile peninsula called Istria is surely an excellent thing. First and foremost, their analytic approach and love for this peninsula has resulted in an excellent publication, Istria wine guide, offering offers systematization and localization of all the most important Istrian winemakers, and the second and most important fact is that after the premier exhibition at the Alvona Gallery in Labin, where he presented himself to the Croatian public, Becker's creativity and exhibition activity is expanding to the rest of Europe. And speaking of his works, it should be noted that it is primarily about painting-objects whose nature varies from suprematistically oriented expression to objects whose functionalist reflection gets into the spectrum of design. Namely, if Becker's objects had a kind of machine that would drive the needles of the corkscrew, his installations would indeed function as bold design solutions and clocks whose nature goes beyond the very act of painting. These are, in fact, ready-made products that in its core sublimate the experience of Man Ray and Duchamp, whose playing with ready made products have resulted in some of the boldest artistic achievements in the history of mankind. In the same way, Becker also uses corkscrews which he then inserts as an equal element in the constructions of his works. Thus, we come to the beginning of the story that proves that ready-made/recycled product in the service of the act of art is analogous to the scene of man as an image of God, mirror of himself. This is exactly what Hamvas is talking about when he writes about the sense of religiousness that has nothing to do with the religiousness of major world religions such as Christianity or Islam. The religiousness in its origin, which means in a form in which it is still unadvisable to mention any name, let alone a god. Only and exclusively the sense of divine nature, the divine reality with which a man met immediately at the beginning of his existence. For this reason, Nietzsche's philosophy is not strange to him, and his writing seems to follow the instructions of the German philosopher who he quotes and according to which it is allowed to speak only: "in a cynical and innocent, incorrigibe and refined, almost wickedly clever way; and at the same time, with pure heart, merrily and simply as a birdsong! Aren’t Axel's titles like "Wine time", "Beginning", "End", "Half past ten", "King Vincent" or "Sparkling enjoyment" exactly the quotes referring to biblical themes whose subversive cynicism invokes again by Nietzsche's, Cioran's or Shopenhauer's secular sarcasm? This somewhat pawky and enthusiastic approach to the question of the deity reveals some postmodern feelings of today's man. The original religiousness, just as Nietzsche claimed, we can live at all times, but only within ourselves, and Hamvas claimed the same.

For this reason, Becker's painting is a clever blend of modernism, post avant-garde art practice, painting that comes out from its two-dimensionality and gets into a spectrum of sculpture. It is a sort of assamblage with the experience of Arman, Lucia Fontane and Yves Klein, which in the foreseeable future will certainly result in even more reductive solutions and even more accentuated, but nothing less minimalistic chords within the given score. In any case, the author deals with a very intuitive creative act and is on the path of creating his own personal manuscript and style. If, according to Croce's definition of art, art is good to the extent that the primary expression can be felt, then it can be perceived that Becker's most brilliant moments, in spite of overcoming ratio, strict precision and almost god fearing respecting the rules of strict compositional parameters, are precisely in those wrinkled remains of wine packaging, indented parabolas and pronounced diagonal lines. The law of drinking is like the law of love: anytime, anywhere and anyway. But, as well as in love, in drinking are important all the circumstances, same as in the works of Axel Becker, the author whose painting, if he dedicates himself to it as analytically as to the wine research, will over time, I am sure, follow the destiny of every carefully treated "liquid kiss".

Vedran Silipetar, Professor of Art
Pula, Christmas, Anno Domini 2013