is art born of the necessity to address all the need in the world?
or is art love as it is lived? does it exist beyond volition and need?
or does the one have nothing to do with the other?
art: a devotion, a job, a mission?
what drives a person to make art in this day and age.
why does a brushstroke, a line, exert such power over artists today that they devote their whole lives to it and are willing to hurl themselves into the abyss? why are we haunted by the line, by colour. how do they manage, without ever asking, to make us take risks as fearlessly as if someone had drugged us?
does something happen in a person’s life that makes him or her an artist? or are artists simply born artists? if there is a trigger, what kind of trigger is it?
the father, stig, was born in 1930. he grew up an only child, lived deep in the swedish woods. his parents: father, a tunnel blaster, mother, a housewife. when he turned 14, his father told him: you’ve been in school long enough. now it’s time for you to work. and so stig left school and became a flower seller.
when he was 15, he won a prize for a short story he had written. the local press reported on his triumph and the event revealed a talent in him that would become of great importance to his career from there on in.
at 17, he was called up for national service and spent a year shivering in the swedish woods with other young men. no running water, no heating, no toilets.
this, he would later tell his children, was when it happened: one night, on the banks of a lake, he heard the voice of jesus. shortly after that, he left home for good and, now 19, joined an auxiliary squad bringing food and clothing to german refugees in schleswig-holstein. it was here that he began visiting religious seminars and became acquainted with god’s vocabulary.
he had found his life’s calling. he became a missionary and began spreading god’s word. his gift for storytelling made him an instant success and his parish sent him to do missionary work in france. yet the words were only his tools; the mission was his body and soul.
the mother, ase, had a very different upbringing. her father was a famous banjo player in the restaurants and bars of oslo. as for the grandmother, the information only begins in the final years of her life, when she was living in a home. but she was, by all accounts, filled with a great energy for life. ase was the first born, arriving in 1931.
ase had two brothers: a sailor and a dynamic, highly driven genius, from whom komisario x-bin appears to have inherited a great deal. much to his dismay, both brothers died very young, when they were around 30, and aside from what he learned from his mother’s stories, komisario never really knew them. ase’s sister, komisario’s aunt, was a pretty norwegian who married a wealthy lebanese man at 20 and disappeared to the far east. his mother, ase, was an enfant terrible at heart. how else was she to rebel against her liberal, unconventional family but to become a servant of god? she joined the salvation army and met stig, her future husband. when he left for his missionary posting in france, she went with him.
my art stories: part two
in the ethnological museum, berlin-dahlem.
the wise man chose to make his second jug the same shape as the first.
again, it is a symbol of sublimation as the way through life.
this time, he has used black. solid black.
black is the sum of all colours and all possibilities. while white is the beginning, black is the essence, space in concentrated form. it is the sum of all stories and all strokes of the pen and the brush, condensed into a single, solid black.
for the wise man, this jug was about harmony (between people, in society) that exists beyond individual life stories.
the left side of the jug is smooth.
it is a restrained, pliant existence. edgeless, it can enter into social interactions and nurture them.
on the right we can see unbridled urges, raw impulses, the jagged outcrops of individuality.
only the perfectly balanced interaction of one side with the other (they are both exactly the same size), interlocked and overlapping, ensures the stability of the jug, i.e. of life and its progress, which was also the theme of the first jug.
alone, neither side would constitute a jug. together, they complete and nurture one another.
the wise man’s one true love was again delighted by her gift. she found the jug’s aesthetic at once exciting and exquisitely beautiful.
the smooth side of the jug flattered the tips of her fingers, the jagged edges set her imagination alight. she made the jug a vessel for a rare lotus flower schnapps that she would use to moisten her lips during intimate engagements.
the wise man knew of his beloved’s secret and was enchanted by its effect.
my art stories: part one
in the ethnological museum, berlin-dahlem.
the jug was a gift from a wise man to his one true love.
it is meant to symbolise life. the water inside, a pulse.
the fat round belly of the jug depicts life, unfiltered. conflict and violence reign. the thistles are a reflection of spiritual drought. these scenes continue for generations. we can see this in the two levels. children are born in the house on the left and grow up in a world where conflict is the status quo.
the children all look exactly the same: lifeless eyes staring out from beneath war helmets worn too young.
and yet, there is progress. the conflict on the second level is less brutal and the thistles are beginning to develop a lush colour.
the two fighters at the top have paused, distracted by a snake or a vine which leads to a woman who wears no armour and holds no weapons. naked, she is the only figure to appear entirely at ease and open to the world.
she is the gate to the sublimated, the guided source of water that brings us our elixir of life.
the source is a circle, an aura that gives her space to fully evolve. she is inspired by (who else?) the wise man’s one true love.
she is surrounded by birds.
these birds symbolise the bond between heaven and earth, or between divinity and the mind. in this way, they symbolise the love he feels for the woman.
perhaps the wise man who designed and painted this jug wanted to show that humans can only ever really evolve at the gateway between impulses (the lower level) and the spiritual world, and that our potential will only truly unfold if we release ourselves from the history and the dramas of those who went before us. this also explains the nudity.
his one true love was so besotted with the gift that he immediately made her a second jug.
“c’est encore une nuit où les anges se promènent dans berlin”
art… how can we get closer to understanding it. or do artworks want to understand us? how do they make sense of things?
pots, plates, south america, more than a century old.
pictures, sculptures. recognising art. isn’t that the ability to bestow belief on your own imagination?
imagination connects objects to us and makes their aura visible. an artwork cannot live without a viewer. viewers give a picture its soul and allow the picture to breathe life into theirs.
and as the picture enlivens our soul, we create a connection, a connection that gives our life strength and spirit.
there are so many sides to a picture, as many as there are faces and facial expressions in the world. there is no one single story.
in addition to my musings on art, i also want to present works and find, perhaps invent, a story for them. one story from many. the essence probably lies in the oscillations between all the many possible stories, and perhaps, in that movement, lies life.
i do not want the writing of art stories to be an act of writing history, of grabbing hold of something, storing it, suffocating it and fixing it in the past. i want my texts to be personal stories, stories that reach back into the past and all the way into the future, stories that still to this day give a work a strength, its strength. art triggers something inside us and makes us live and love. art will not be constrained by the notion of time and instead only acts NOW.
this is an experiment:
i want my words to draw me closer to the meaning, no, to the soul, and only the soul, of art.
i write, i want to write: with the violence of colour, with the shadows of the present. the blackness and the contrasts, the same tenderness i feel when i sweep my charcoal across the page.
my pictures appear on white backgrounds. white means the possibility of all conceivable approaches. so what does it mean, what is created when i leave a drawing there, on the white?
i believe writing, the process of writing, is like painting. sluggish at first, forms waiting to be found. the censoring thoughts must be held in check. want?
what is this want? why this want?
purpose is left at the door.
where there is purpose, there is no creation.
do artists have a responsibility?
do they just float along on their own cloud, or do they have a mission. and if they have a mission, who gives it to them?
he was born there, at home, surrounded by his family. no sooner had he emerged from his mother than he beamed at this new world with bright eyes and an inquisitive mind.
the midwife: “celui la, il va rouler les autres.”
an urge. an action. losing oneself.
the question: why am i doing this?
to open up. to exist beyond the instant hit, to be free, to leave causalities behind. to find new pathways for art, for painting. places where art can do something. in hospitals it can accompany the lonely, give them something to lean on and carry them to worlds far away from pain and disability.
art, what is art?
intensity and truthfulness.
intensity, intensity means giving yourself over to colour or form, fully. the colours expand, the brushstroke drifts across the page.
red flows over the paper, forms puddles, a map of emotion, i need only be able to see it. the brushstroke gives shape to something recognisable, allows the colour its space and plays out its own story and elation. yet it also reacts to the colour, and the colour to it.
where does the difference between painting and the written word lie?
the word clings to my spirit. everyone thinks they can understand. i write to be understood. i censor all moments of simple blabla, of screaming with words, of clashes and big, inky black fanfare.
i am stuck in a word that has been used and used a gazillion times before. the text, moulded from witty references. uuuupsss summm techniko tratra rattattum. schwitters, jandel: the intellectual space is limited no matter what i write.
the colour, a new one every time, and every time a new shadow unfolding on the paper in a manner so surreal.
censorship happens in the mind, but the eye and curiosity are free.
painting is like dreaming. it makes sense, is logical in its place, as long as we don’t try to rationalise it.
bang, the dream is over and i am awake. one last attempt to put the scraps of last night into words. hurry, hurry. with every tenth of a second i wait, whole chapters of dream material disappear forever.
painting means sleeping, or dreaming.
or, wait, no, living with art, contemplating pictures, stepping into these worlds made real – that is comparable to dreaming.
in dreams there is no why.
“every society honours its live conformists and its dead troublemakers.” (mignon mclaughlin)
he sweats, he grasps, he moans, in his lifetime he reaches for the stars.
isn’t the kingdom of heaven reserved for the dead?
is art like life?
the page is completely white. it is complete.
and now i give it a story, mine, any, its own. even the materials are vital. what paper to use, smooth? rippled, thin, high-grade, thick? what size. will it fit on a normal sized page. and what should i write the story with, a pencil, 3b, hb, 2h, a coloured pencil, chalk, acrylics, watercolours?
what does this all mean for life? are those our circumstances? or are they the tools that we were given to carry on our way. do we have a mission to fulfil? does a picture pursue an explicit goal?
is it about constructing one’s life in beauty and harmony like the portrait taking shape on the page.
and what of the smears, the fears and doubts, the inadequacies, the weaknesses that make a picture so “human”.
so, he reached for the stars.
his father, a swedish missionary of baptist persuasion on a tour to win new followers in deepest france. albi, the seat of a catholic archbishop, as religiously conservative as it gets. the father’s target audience, mostly portuguese, economic migrants, cheated of language and respect.
mother, a norwegian woman at her husband’s side. more about her later.
the father, speaking from the pulpit: my congregation, give your hearts to the lord.
he, a boy just barely three years old, asks his mother what that means.
mother: your heart belongs to jesus. it is your gift to the lord.
he, seeking a solution in peace: he can have my heart, but my head belongs to me.