The Emotional Journey

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Is it the painter or the picture
Hanging in the gallery?
Admired by countless thousands
Who attempt to read the secrets
Of his vision of his very soul
Is it the painter or the picture
Hanging in the gallery?

Dave Cousins/The Strawbs “Hanging in the gallery”

Do you know a song or a performance that makes you cry? Among the briq-a-braq of my eclectic musical tastes there are quite some pieces that do that for me. (And don’t trust any man who can’t find his tears.) As an artist, I’d like to understand what’s going on there. Especially now that I mentally prepare for the opening of my exhibition when visitors will want to know about my thoughts on my pictures and their selection. But, hey, I am running ahead now. Let’s start with some context.

We have a fabulous a-capella group here in Finland called FORK. One of their repertoire staples is a cover of Coldplays “Viva la vida”. The lead singer on that song is everone’s favorite policeman, Kasper Ramström (he used to be a homicide detective with the Helsinki police). Now, the Coldplay song is quite nice in itself but I couldn’t say it touches me to tears. The melancholic timbre of Kaspar’s voice in the song, however, does it for me every time. And in a way it is kind of strange. You can see from the video: these guys are actually having fun on stage (and they often are also very funny). But somehow, Kasper here manages to put something of himself into the song, some unknown hurt and makes something beautiful out of it.

Things that touch us, we sometimes call “achingly beautiful”.  “Aching” and “beauty”, I think, indeed are sisters – in beauty we ache for the world that we sense could be. But this aching is not a story we can tell. We can shed tears together but it’s difficult to use words for it. On the other hand: if we both can feel it, there will be a golden bridge between us that no difference of opinion, no differing story we tell about the world, can really totally destroy.

Still, the common view today seems to be that every work of art has to be a story; or at least an exhibition has to have a (“oh come on, some kind of”) story that I am able to tell. Only, I don’t have a story. I just have an emotional journey to share. Maybe Kasper’s song leaves you cold and that is ok. People don’t always vibrate on the same frequency. Likewise, I can generally live with that my pictures don’t speak to everyone. That is why the moment, if we should meet on that golden bridge, is so precious.

Someone once called the creative process as a walk on the fringes. What that means, I think, is that there is not always a straight storyline (and if there is: write an article instead). When I think about my own creative process it seems to me that, in the end, all that I ever do is to reach into the darkness inside me and to wring something beautiful out of it. Oh yes, there is also joy and lots of it – that’s the point, isn’t it, to find the light in the dark?  But still, aching and beauty are intertwined in a strange dance. And mostly, the artist will connect to the viewer if both share a little of the same dark place.

Gosh, I am in trouble. How am I going to talk about this with a cocktail glas in hand? Is it the painter or the picture hanging in the gallery? Who can tell?

P.S.: If by now you’re not yet a FORK-fan, try Bohemian Rhapsody from their early days.

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