Introduction to Walk to the Moon
Albert Houthuesen has told his journey in his own words and images. Our conversations, many of them recorded, began in November 1967. They continued, often at weekly intervals, until the summer of 1970; and thereafter more infrequently, following Albert’s stroke.
We met mainly at weekends, and conversed over tea in the artist’s small sitting cum dining room - also in his studio and occasionally in the garden. The photographs of tea there convey something of the vitality, range and depth of feeling with which Albert would speak during our conversations.
In 1967, I had seen only a few of his pictures. But their beauty and power, and an inner torment I could only sense, moved me indescribably. I was convinced of his greatness and although I knew virtually nothing about him, resolved to make a concentrated study of his work and life.
Our conversations commenced three weeks after we met. I was twenty and my own youthful ‘search’ did have a natural bearing upon the nature and intimacy of our dialogue. Gradually, I began to see that his work, despite its apparent initial diversity, possessed certain unchanging elements which rendered each image part of a coherent, unified vision. This underlying consistency over sixty years and sense of completeness - of 'as well as I can' - in even the slightest of his sketches, is understandable given that the work is a direct expression of Albert's own character and experiences; and of his essentially unchanging response to those experiences.
Aside the two lithographic images of 1926, the lithographs reproduced were made during the last ten years of his life. For me, they vividly touch upon and heighten a particular moment described or idea expressed. And show, as do his words, how intensely he was able to relive and evoke the past, even from early childhood. No image is more tragically present than ‘Stone Cutter’ (Page 18). For Albert, the clown is a symbol, inseparable in spirit from the artist and the poet. Many portray the clown as philosopher and saint.
Albert introduced a still very young man eager to see the world, to the notion of ‘an inner journey’. That an enquiring, ‘seeing’ imaginative mind could, without travelling the globe, gain an understanding of the underlying, universal elements that link all living things and Nature, regardless of time or place.
‘Walk to the Moon’ describes an inner journey. A moving backward and forward in time. And indeed beyond time, with all three states fusing into a single, creative entity. Any true insight into Albert’s creative process precludes his images and the events of his life from being presented in a strictly chronological order – as evidenced by his realising certain themes and individual pictures over many years. Albert once said ‘We walk in mystery.’ And if this book gives some sense of a spiritual, creative state of being, it will have attained its objective.
It is also my hope, these many years later, that Albert’s compassion, wisdom and humour; and his wonderfully expressed veneration for the beauty and mystery that surround and greet us at every turn, will joyously inspire those of a younger generation discovering their own way.