Category: art practice

Two voices of consciousness #20

I have been on about this before and I will continue to dwell upon this issue for some time to come, I’m sure. But again these thoughts just hits me like a million amperes, in the most unpredictable circumstances but most often in the shower, since that is the only place – except for my studio, which at the moment is providing me the opportunity to study for my exams rather than make art – where I am truly on my own. Even if the jolliness can’t last for longer than some ten minutes at a time before the hot water runs out, it works as a lucrative platform for me to gather my thoughts. My thoughts and reflections on my domestic life and existence vs. art making mostly. But my recent wonderings and theories has left me far more at ease with the situation, than the previous ones have. Instead of going on about – tediously – how my family quite brutally robs time from my art making, it actually does quite the contrary in providing for it as well. My life without my family would not be the exact same only minus partner, kids and a mortgage, but far less. Being so well informed about myself as I am at the age of 30, I suspect I would be living in a one bedroom flat somewhere in the affordable and comfortable suburbs (not the trendy and artistic city centre quarters that I can only fantasise of staying in). I would also be working nine to five to pay for the bills in a job that my spiritual growth would have absolutely nothing to gain from and I would most likely be trapped in a not really working but far too practical to brake kind of relationship. I would also not have much more of a social life than I have now (actually less since I would be living alone) and I would not make much more art than I am making today, simply because I wouldn’t have the time or the energy to do so. So in my case being a part of this, what I like to call a self-providing unit also known as the Family, makes it possible for me to make art in the first place. My family is providing for me and my practice. And that is a remarkable change in attitude for me to realise. My domestic life and my art practice are not two separate entities that needs somehow, by force mostly, entwine but in fact they are fully reliant on each other. One could not exist without the other.

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Two voices of consciousness #19

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While pondering on some new work at the studio, I got myself something else to marvel. I just collected a package full of thesis books from undergraduate photography students I happily agreed on grading. Just looking at the books made me pretty impressed, they sure look a hell of a lot better than our books did a few years ago… The degree show opens at Tobaksmagasinet in Jakobstad on the 7th of May and runs until the 28th.

What about the new work then. Reading an article in the paper some while ago made be realise the interesting paradox between the Finnish and Swedish words for conscience; omatunto (fin.) and samvete (swe.). They both tell of the same thing, i.e a person’s moral sense of right and wrong, even though literally they describe two completely different approaches. While as the Finnish word talks about a person’s intimate, very personal feeling about right and wrong the Swedish translation is all about a shared, collective understanding of right and wrong. Quite different attitudes in my opinion. It is about the polarity that exists in, well, everything apparently. The personal vs. the shared, subjectivity vs. objectivity, feeling vs. fact, your view on yourself vs. the image other people project on you. And everything in-between.

Two voices of consciousness #18

Establishing a continuous studio practice. Raising from the ashes like a hammered phoenix bird, shaking its wings from excess matter, grooming its feathers back into order and slightly blushing for the meek stumble. I have a new studio! Life the way I learned to know it during last year can continue. It feels almost like a not deserved liberty, that I can escape the brutal and tedious reality into my bat cave and just sleep on the couch, if that’s how I feel like. Like I did today. It’s cold, it’s hot, it smells like oil and paint because of the garage it’s situated on top off but it’s all mine.

Trying to figure out what to bring into the studio is not as easy of a task as you might expect. I only wish to share this space with certain items, only some very sough after artefacts can enter this space and become its fixture. Only the very valid objects becomes “something I have in the studio”, thus can they be photographed as a part of the studio. I am building my studio landscape piece by piece. What an extraordinary thing to do!

Art can be born where there is specific prerequisites for exactly that and nothing else. Or somewhere completely else perhaps?

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Two voices of consciousness #17

Finding freedom did not bring me peace, quite the opposite. Rather than surround me with productive comfort, it pushed me into a deep, creative crisis that mainly revolves around questioning my role as an artist and the general meaning and quality of my work. I’ve been thinking about the Artist in relation to the Family, what it means to be born into a family of artists, what the impact of these circumstances has on the art that is made by someone who did not learn the job in art school but by someone who never even considered any other carries alternatives. Or more accurately, art made by someone who does not see himself or herself even having a carrier, only a life. And this is what I should remember, art is not a carrier choice, it is only a life style. Taking in consideration that even if you are fully qualified (academically) and that you make work on a full time basis, it hardly ever pays you a salary. If you can’t feed you family with your art, can you call yourself a professional artist?  Art is not a profession, it is a choice of lifestyle. I always wonder how come we never have money for anything, but we can still afford everything.

Is it so that the children of artist’s, who also grows up to become artists, can skip a few steps on the run, jump over some phases of their artistic growth simply because they are already familiar with the lifestyle and all the sacrifices that is built into it. Or maybe they don’t see them as sacrifices, it is just life the way they know it. For someone who comes from “the outside”, no reason to use euphemism’s here, it has taken a long time for me to even be able to call myself an artist, because it’s simply just not anything you do. It’s not a profession. You either are an artist or you’re not. And it can take a lifetime to figure that equation out.

I am struggling with my artistic identity. I can’t place it anywhere. I’m constantly validating my choices and telling myself and others, who ever happens to ask me the appalling question “what do you do for a living?”, that art is a real job. I have an obsessed need and unrealistic idea of that I need to make living on this even though everybody knows that paying bills with art is a long shot. I can’t help myself thinking, that if you can’t pay your bills with it, it’s not a real job. I sometime wish, every second day currently, that I had a regular job that would at least give me an excuse to not think about who or what I am.

I’ve had such a clear picture in my head of what it means to be an artist, that firstly I haven’t been able to call myself an artist and secondly, doing just that, achieving something that would earn me that title, has been my silent goal for several years. It has made me come into this from a completely backward position. I have been applying and striving all around, grabbing opportunities from every angle and compensating the lack of actual work with administrative activity. Sometimes successfully all to judge, but still. Gain has been my endeavour. My work has not risen from me, rather the outside world, dictated by the appropriate trends and I made what I thought would be appreciated. And when it wasn’t, I fell. What I could not work out before, and what the past year mainly thought me, was that it wasn’t appreciated because it was “bad” it just wasn’t honest. When I found the freedom of making work that is honest and pure and released from everything that by force surrounds it if I don’t fight it, I found myself questioning my artistic identity and whether I am, or ever will be, able to pull it off as an artist.

When everything is stripped down to the core, honesty is what remains. And that is the most heart braking thing there is. 

Two voices of consciousness #16

Many aspects of my work has reshaped and evolved, not just the pictures. I have had a hard time adjusting to the fact, that the core reason why I make images in the first place has started to turn into something that is far more convoluted than just one simple thing. I have these grand ideas, partly because I feel I need to justify what I do in order to be allowed to do it at all. I still get inspired by Grand Narratives, but that is just that, I get inspired. Before, and not so long ago I must admit to my embarrassment, I got so fixed on my topic and that my images had to respond to that argument, that I could feel how my subject slowly strangled me and made me completely paralysed and unable to respond at all, specially not creatively. This happened during the song stage project by the formal methodology I used, and recently it almost happened again, but by the concept and the “grand idea”. Instead of thinking that my work is about something, I should think that my work has been inspired by something. The form the work takes after that, is to a certain point beyond my control and I need to start accepting that or otherwise I must eventually stop doing this. My need to control has just exceeded the limits of any common sense. I try to control my images, which are not in the need to be restrained at all. I have constantly tried to superimpose my ideas on my images and all they have been doing, is struggling to run away and have a life of their own. My images are strong enough to stand on their own, without a narrative holding their back. Why haven’t I been able to see that before!

I start out with something very clear and even formal, but then my work takes over and everything becomes much more complex, but ever still direct and honest. I don’t need to explain what my work is about, specially because it seems like I don’t even know myself until it has reached a point where I know again. I have had such a strong view on myself as an artist and what kind of artist I want to be and what the questions I want to ask are, that I have completely discarded the joy of making work and then stepping back to see how it turned out like. I have made the images in my head before even putting the film in the camera, and by doing so, I have become so bored at the image that I have moved on to the next one and the next one before actually making anything. Out of all the images I could have made during the past 5 years, I have made probably around 30%. This percentage needs to get higher.

I was told recently that I have three layers of consideration, three filters that my images go through. Usually people have one, and that is plenty. I have three. By the time I get to the third one, there’s not much spontaneity left. Contemplation and consideration yes, joy none. I am not an intuitive maker, I was also told, and I agree. My intuition take form as confidence and in the way I make decisions, I don’t walk around unsure of what to do or how to do it, I make up my mind quickly and I usually stick to my plans. Plans yes, I have a lot of them. I sometimes become way too self conscious with all my plans, that again, I loose the pleasure. The pleasure of not knowing the final results ahead. Now how can I turn my head around that?

Two voices of consciousness #15

I promised to come back to you on the notion of ugliness, when our previous subject what beauty. Yes, I remember. So you read the article now? Yes, it was Mark Cousins “The Ugly” from 1994. As a general note, it feels that ugliness can not be discussed without beauty, where as beauty can be a subject of contemplation solely on it’s own. That is something Cousins writes about, how ugliness is not the opposite of beauty, they rather exist in totally different registries. The article on beauty concentrated on issues outside aesthetics, where as this article revolves around the concern that ugliness can not be a part of the aesthetic agenda. I understand this point, because aesthetics is the theoretical knowledge of beauty, the scientific study on the subject’s relation to beauty. Only and solely beauty. There for beauty can exist without ugliness, but ugliness is always described as something that is not beautiful.

Two voices of consciousness #14

You had another epiphany. Call it what you want, I mean a revelation. This is as big as my realisation of the digital technique and all that it integrates, its superpowers. It just came to me. Even though this is something, I now understand, that I have been told the whole year. I enjoy working with Big questions, with issues that incorporates a lot of both political and sociological aspects. I feel that I am making a difference, only by contemplating around these questions and even to a bigger grade, when I am entwined in a photographical project that strives to address these and awoke new questions. I am a control freak when it comes to my work and I find so much pleasure in finalising pieces and putting together a whole that makes sense on every level of consciousness and even beyond common sense and knowledge. When I am engaging in an activity like this, it is unavoidable that images come up, which does not in the end completely, to a hundred precent, fit the purpose. I usually get sad to have to let that idea go. And I feel disappointed and frustrated about having lost valuable time to nonsense. I even feel stupid, because I have not been able to fully resolve an issue in the way that I wanted.

I get indecisive in front of these singulars. Because photography is all about series and bodies of work, right? No one makes singulars anymore! Why not, what is wrong with singulars, diptychs, triptychs, hiptychs, fucktyps, fuckuptycs, idowhatiwanttyks, peacemantyks. Idiotychs even, why is that not a word!

Spending the past few days painting these three different coloured rectangles on my studio wall, as part of a photographic piece, of course, it has come to my attention that I am fully allowed to do this as well. Do stuff like this, pictures that might turn out good but not really suit the Grand Narrative I am considering at that time. These are the actual work. The core. The stuff that borns out of my imagination as a form of by-product on my way to the ultimate goal. And that does not take away the value of either one, both can exist at the same time. Just doing two very different things. In the end, it is all about making pictures, no matter what the final form of the presentation will be. And to become a better picture maker one must make pictures.

In the end all these singulars and b-sides might become something. Or not. And that is just fine as well.

I feel like a I have been born again (again).

Paint(ing)s

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Two voices of consciousness #13

I have discovered a pleasure in writing. I used to possess it even previously, before I grew up and learned that my writings are not any good. So I have actually recovered the satisfaction I get from producing text, something I lost simultaneously with starting out with photography. It has taken me 10 years to find out, that my writing and my photography can coexist. And maybe not just coexist, but function together. I used to think of them as rivals, one better than the other, something I need to choose between. I felt that I had to choose, wether I wanted to make images or produce writing, but I could not focus on them both and develop them both at the same time. And maybe I could not have, before, but now my practice has opened up slightly and there might just be a vacant spot for some words. 

I used to write poetry and lyrics when I was a teenager. They were not that bad, naive and juvenile obviously, but not too awful. I had an interest specially for Russian poetry and a man called Jevgeni Jevtušenko, who is a 20th century poet, known for his criticism towards the Stalinist legacy. I found one of his books in the local library next to my high school, it was red and old, and I quoted parts of his poems in a word document I collected poem paragraphs in. I also enjoyed reading Alekandr Puškin.

My own poetry was very dark and sad. It spoke about loss, condemnation and through that some kind of weird, approved retribution I thought I was entitled to. I saw my life as a very battled journey and everything I faced had to result in a choice. Images or words. I chose images, on the cost of loosing my words.

I wrote my first short novel when I was at the age of ten. I loved Agatha Christies detective stories, so my first story was about a private eye called Pete Jockey. I do not have any memories of where that name came from, it probably originated in some of the girly horse mags I adored… The story about the character Pete Jockey was called “Seven Souls and Four Days”. It was a terrible tale of approximately ten pages, written on an old typewriter. Every single one of my characters ended up dead. Except Pete Jockey of course, the hero who solved the crime. I wouldn’t say I was an unhappy or sad child, I was just always very aware of my dark side and very sensitive to the darkness all together. I have later, in the rush of becoming an adult, put aside a lot of that darkness but I am not sure that you ever can. You can only choose to ignore it, but sooner or later it will track you down.

What has become clear through the writing I am engaging in today, is that my identity is strongly connected with the language I use. As a multilingual person, I am constantly choosing which language to use and that choice highly depends on the form of the writing. Using one language more than another, both disables and enables the other languages. When you are in a surrounding where one language is dominant, both your mind and your tongue starts to co operate to produce the most accurate vocabulary for that specific need. It is then quite difficult to all of a sudden, change tongue and expect the physical parts of your body that are entwined in the process of producing words, to just succumb. Writing in a language that is not “your own”, places you outside of your writing and gives you a very objective view on the chosen words. I do not possess a special emotion towards the english language, other than the notion of that english has always been the language of The Popular Culture every western born child get immersed in, and therefor I can use or miss use the language very freely. Writing outside of yourself about yourself is a very empowering experience. The writing can easily get very exclusive, if you do not know the vocabulary well enough and you are depending on the OED (= Oxford English Dictionary, the english language loves its abbreviations) and a thesaurus, but who cares! It is the freedom of just simply writing, that has helped me to complete my practice.

I sometimes use unnecessary difficult words and I occasionally use them wrongly, but there is a very deliberate reason for doing that. My writing is a constant exercise I engage with, to introduce my mind and my tongue to new words, broadening my vocabulary. I’m curious about finding new ways of expressing myself and new expressions that flourishes my articulation.

When publishing my writing online, I am aware of the fact that anyone can read the texts I produce, but I am not really sure that many do. Nevertheless, I always get very happy hearing that someone actually has read them. I still consider that I am writing purely to myself and for myself, to the outer me. But by going public I give myself a reason to strive for clear articulation. I keep having these conversations with the outside me and I am happy to give the outside you a chance to take part of this ramble.

In my previous photographic work, I combined the images with the writings of an author I especially asked to contribute with a piece for the specific body of work. That worked out well and I was planning on continuing on that note now as well. But it has become clear to me during the past months, that I must provide the writing myself in order to get both the absolute freedom and the  total control that I need to posses.

I write because a lot of the thoughts and concepts that swirls around and through my conscious mind, is impossible to transcribe into pictures. I realise I contradict myself again here. It seems like I have all of a sudden revealed an interdisciplinary practice I did not expect was lying underneath all the frustration.

Two voices of consciousness #12

Most of my writing ideas and my ideas in general for that matter, comes on the bus. I love the two storey buses in Glasgow, and I usually scramble up the narrow stairs holding my bus ticket in my mouth so that both my hands can be used to grasp hold on to anything steady, because the bus rides around here are not particularly suave. I take a seat in the first row if it is vacant and I hold my bag on the other seat, very annoyingly so that no one can sit next to me. I enjoy my solitude a few meters above the traffic and the rush. Sometimes I write in my notebook, but too often I don’t, since the roads even in the city centre are so bad that I get sick if I don’t gaze out through the window towards the troposphere. And I forget about the material around me. 

What are you thinking about? That I need to settle a home. And I don’t mean a home with a  cupboard where I can place my beloved and adored designer coffee cups in (I have that!), but a home base for my practice. I realise my practice is not mature enough to be talked about in different tenses, since the core of my enterprise comprise of two bodies of work spanned throughout 5 years. During these 5 years, which can be considered the time that I have been doing what I do with a professional aim and a focused attitude, I have not done any work in Finland. Since I am very much needed on two fronts in my life, I need to find a way to combine these two elements of my existence in to one physical place. You mean your family and your studio? Yes. The battle between these two has to happen somewhere that makes sense, that is durable and continuous (since this battle is going to be relentless) and that makes me happy. If I can find a base for my studio practice and make that work, I am fine with pursuing the fight.

My work has grown because of the studio I have been lucky enough to grasp this year. I have made work inside the studio in an environment completely new to me. I think the key to my future work lies in the studio as well, if I want to make something steady something that even has a time to come, I must entwine in the studio domain. And I have actually found pleasure in producing work indoors for a change. Manipulating objects to attribute and make sense of my subject matter is new territory to me, but what an appealing territory it is!

Every new project or work I engage with, has to open up my practice slightly. Because I can’t expect to learn everything at once, to acquire some form of enlightenment all of a sudden, I must be patient and accept that there is a life long learning pattern forming here. By opening my practice one step at a time, broadens my comfort zone and maybe by the long run, makes me enjoy what I do more. Or if not that, at least makes me more comfortable in the uneasiness.

I have been away from Finland for almost a year now, and this time abroad has made me more aware of what is on stake, than I have ever been before. Gaining perspective is one thing, but realising that loosing everything you have been valuing and taking for granted, is closer than ever before, gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘gaining perspective’. I have realised that I must use my vocabulary to superimpose that new, gained perspective on my practice and make something out the result. What is the result? It remains to be seen, but there is something building up here that needs to be addressed.