Memorial blog entry for Christopher Van Schaak, the person who made me my first silverpoint pen
Last week close friends gathered in a garden of mansion near Temple, Midlothians to plant a memorial palm tree for Chris Van Schaak, who passed away after lung infection which he caught treating a rose in his garden in rainy weather, over half a year ago.
Christopher was a person who made for me by hand my first silverpoint appliance, and who accompanied me on a road trip to Borders looking for Merlins grave and baptism stone, which we both identified.
He probably identified himself with Merlin a little, maybe the astral meeting exploded the vortex of wisdom and carried him away into the realm of ancients.
Posting abstracts from memorial speech by his friend, photos from palm ceremony and some silverpoints i had done on a journey to Merlindale, Stobo.
“Christopher van Schaack would surely want to have been thought of for his labours and for his legacy. I thought I knew a bit about Artists materials. It was all readymade out of acrylics and pastels and chalks and inks and oils and pencils and wax and it came in pretty tubs and tubes and plastic pots that you could buy at Artists suppliers. You did not consider where it came from. In his choosing to create using the old methods of grinding down minerals at source to acquire pigmentation for painting – when just about everyone else had turned their back on this as a viable method and indeed forgot or held it in modern contempt – Christopher van Schaack was utterly unique in the Art world. At that level of unique in the sense that his was of a kind of weird esoteric genius and a labour of love. He truly believed in his Art.
Others I have talked to do so too.
I was fortunate to be able to help him one afternoon. All we were doing were making explanatory labels for some completed artworks that were due to be used for a forthcoming exhibition to be held in London. You will some of you recall that Christopher was dyslexic and needed assistance with reading and writing. So there he is dictating to me the names of the minerals that had produced these pigments used in his
pictures! The only one to my shame I can recall now was the lovely sounding mineral, “Chrysacolla.” Very difficult to spell. That is some of Christopher’s important legacy.”
“There was something old fashioned and Thomas Hardy-esque about Christopher and the way he would dress for special occasions with his bow tie. Perhaps he had been born in the wrong time period. It was during the time when our sun was in the constellation of Sagittarius that he was born in 1947. To a well to do Southern family from Birmingham Alabama in the US. They had owned plantations and also apparently slaves. His grandfather was a doctor. He had a stormy relationship with his father, though, who according to one source, kind of abandoned him. His mother, Margaret and he were very close though and they maintained a special connection up to her death in 2008. She was a noted researcher, writer and curator in the field of fine arts and a specialist in 19th Century furniture. Christopher also had a sister, Anne Hope but she died earlier. One senses that there is a family tragedy to be found there.
Christopher being a child of the sixties went in a more diverse direction than most. This is born out by his knowledge of many people who were movers and shakers of the American counter-culture and of the Art world and the acting world of the 80’s 60s and 70s. Warhol for example. Or Peter Fonda. Country Joe, Edie Sedgwick. Jack Nicolson. Then the earlier surrealist, De Chirico who he had met and studied under. Christopher through the Art world was in fact acquainted with quite a few names. And also some highly connected and powerful top flight US familes through his associations. The strength of his own convictions alone can tell you that Christopher was certainly one who might be considered not just of the counterculture but “radical.” He was often to be found venting to us on the subjects of the CIA, (did you ever hear the story of how they tried to recruit him?) Or of the Chemtrails in the Sky, or of Syria, False flags? What he considered was the, “Global warming hoax.” You name it. MK ULtra, “the evil Royal Family.”
“They’re all morons! Ruled by Satan!”
But people told me he would talk about these subjects and then mysteriously after they had discounted them as paranoid nonsense he’d be proven right in some manner. Not always though…
He moved from The South state of Alabama over to West Port in Connecticut where he developed a love of sailing and retained strong associations with that Eastern Seaboard of the United States all his life. I have said that I would speak for some of those who knew him intimately and cannot be here with us today. Anthony the son of Stevan Dohanos an acclaimed and noted social realist painter is now a fair-trade cocoa
farmer in his beloved Hawaii. Then he was a radical and fellow painter. He had been at the boarding school Avon Hills Connecticut with Christopher in 1966-1967 and had dated the same girl in Westport as Christopher. In Southport Connecticut they had sailed together as children: He had this to say:
“Christopher was a classy guy, he was a gentleman.. And generous.. I remember he gave my father a few gifts.. The one time I remember he gave my dad a bag full of Old Pocket watch Faces.. And he gave me a whole bag of Silver dollars once.. Lol.. I helped him get to Hawaii in ’69 . I have a photograph of him, 19 years old or so in Alabama and he looks like a young Marlon Brando!”
Anthony told me that within the American counterculture Christopher was in fact instrumental in setting up Health food stores in Hawaii and also bicycle racks. Anthony was in Glasgow at the time and got Christopher his ticket. They swapped in fact. Christopher to Europe, Anthony to Hawaii. Christopher lived in a famous “let it all hang out” type hippie commune called “Taylor camp” in Maui, Hawaii in 1969 at the time.
To sketch this biography out briefly now. I apologise for any errors. I will do better next time. He had then lived in a sort of villa upon the shores of Lake Maggiore in Italy and also in Switzerland (the details absent) with Christine, his wife. There they began to raise his two sons, Justin Ten Haaf and Manolis Ten Haaf. There it was too that he rode horses. Afterward he moved over to a house in Amsterdam. There he continued with his art work until he came finally to his beloved Scotland in 1980. This proved an inspiration to him. In Glasgow he started to make his etchings. Then later at Edinburgh in the Printmakers studio.”
from left: Gordon, neighbour, George, KT chevalier, me, Author of speech, John, Chris’s art agent