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Artist & Curator Discussion Mika Hannula and Ville Löppönen

 


Mika Hannula: The exhibition is called Interventions. What’s it about, and what does the name refer to?

Ville Löppönen: The name refers to the way that painting intervenes in normal life. A painting comes along and expands everyday life, just it is naturally part of it too. It goes deep and enables a point of view that few people are able to make use of; stopping in the midst of one’s everyday life to look at something mundane called a painting, and what it has to show. It offers a view looking both inwards and outwards. The painter is thus privileged to slowly watch, to observe the intervention and then share it with others. Slow viewing is dialogue, contemplation, prayer, silence, and ultimately, if it all goes well, a trialogue. By trialogue I mean a three-way conversation filled with listening that takes place at the canvas between painting, the context and the painter. Lots of things are happening in a small space. I like to use the word trialogue because it describes the event of painting and an ideal that beautifully refers to a Holy Trinity: the dynamic, loving conversation between the three parties which is characterized by constant intervention and observance.

MH: The exhibition undoubtedly conveys a movement, a break from your previous work. How would you describe this movement and change, or break?

VL: Movement is central because that’s what painting is. Painting is dynamic movement in the form of release and intervention. I see the nature of a painting as expanding movement. This means that the painter and the painting grow together towards a deeper level of compassion and understanding. The form of the painting changes and deepens.

The change that has occurred in my painting is probably due to a widening of my perspective and an increased understanding of the language of painting. By that I mean opening up to a more comprehensive verbal expression, the presence of the whole human being in the painting. Concretely, there are more colours and more actual painting. It’s ultimately about having faith in what one does. My painting methods and techniques aren’t new to me, but they’ve found a new use, and meanings, and need. There’s a need or pressure within me that requires new means of expression. I’ve found painting methods over and over again as a way of moving forwards. If you want to simplify things, it’s about moving in from the edges. From representation to the abstract, seeking deeper meaning and growth. Not that there would be any inherent difference in depth between representative and abstract painting, but there’s a shift from verbal to non-verbal, and back again.

MH: There’s a big difference between the paintings from your previous exhibition Contemplation, which was held in Helsinki Contemporary in 2016, and the present exhibition. You still refer to religious experience and use religious concepts at least to some extent to provide the background for the paintings, but religious references are no longer part of the paintings themselves. Why is that?

VL: I think that painting, for me, is an experiential matter – it’s not about naming things. Communication occurs at the level of experience, and the visual expression of the religious field is not enough. It has stayed behind the reality of theological speech and words. In painting, one certainly encounters the same events as those I describe with the language of religious experience, or better, through theological language. Different language games name things in slightly different ways and I’m familiar with using a theological vocabulary to talk about them. My works are still going in the same direction, and I still see and experience things theologically, even though religious or direct Christian symbolism has disappeared from them. It’s again about watching and seeing how one interprets what one sees what that interpretation relies on. I would hope it leans on the experience of love, which is, of course, a lifelong, gracious challenge. The thing I aimed for in the previous exhibition — the everyday miracle of presence and encounter – is now getting a more general expression in terms of the language and nature of the painting itself.

MH: Everyday motion moving in from the edges. How can this presence bring about proximity and distance, and movement? In other words: isn’t it also hard going if and when a painting is so strongly attached to everyday life and everyone close?

VL: Inward motion means that the movement is going deeper, moving determinedly towards the centre, which is in motion and moving forwards. This makes the movement an endless journey in the process of understanding and re-understanding. Very simply, this is currently happening through the figure moving towards the abstract. The painting runs from the background towards the figurative, blending the figurative and abstract as it seeks a natural relationship and continuum. The painting’s bond with everyday life is heavy, if the painting as an instrument has become heavier or strained, lost its movement and become a chore. And admittedly it’s like that sometimes. However, the beauty and grace of painting, like everything creative, I suspect, resides within the fact that one doesn’t always know what one’s doing. However, if this happens, the work usually stops and there’s a need to move away from it. Painting itself can be very enjoyable and comfortable. It makes it easier to handle challenging issues and offers a meaningful route to humbleness, that is, the opportunity to encounter and be present. The painter can be theirself here and now, without moralism or the pressure of rules and constraints. The painter can move away, if necessary, or step into the shadows, then return to look slowly from a distance. This manifests the beauty of the painting and shows how beauty is an important part of the painter’s work. It encourages and produces pleasure at the same time as one looks critically at oneself, and from oneself too. Or one can just look and let the gaze do its work, a conversation that leads to the aforementioned trialogue. This allows the painting and painter to develop and grow. It’s a pleasure that supports and hopefully creates virtues: empathy, compassion, encountering, presence. That is, love. This is the intervention again. It doesn’t happen through forcing, shouting or punishing, but through slowly watching.

MH: You’ve recently worked on portraits of artist colleagues, both well-known and more unfamiliar. How did this series begin?

VL: The portraits began in my previous Contemplation exhibition, for which I painted pictures of my teachers and the people who had laid the ground and directed what I was doing. Now afterwards I’ve come to think that’s it’s about seeking and intervention again, in the sense that the people I painted have appeared and brought something along to look for and ponder. I’ve wanted to watch these interventions so that I can find out what has been given to me, something that I can watch and experience as I paint. It’s about the continuum and seeing its beauty; feeling the painting behind and moving it onwards.

MH: At the end of 2018, the Hyvinkää Art Museum held a Manifesto of Silence group exhibition which included your series of portraits of Francis Bacon, and works that followed from those pieces are shown in the present exhibition. But what is it that you find interesting about Bacon?

VL: I’m interested in the beauty in Bacon. I’ve painted him maybe five times and made a few drawings of his face. It took some time before I realized why I only painted his face. Bacon shows tragedy, contradiction and beauty. The contradiction and tragedy didn’t take over the beauty that appears in his paintings. The way Bacon painted is even funnily light and extremely delicate in relation to the horror or pain that his paintings depict. I think that, through Bacon, I learned something about painting that I didn’t get from Lucian Freud, who I’ve also painted a lot. Painting Bacon’s face has allowed me to see, experience, learn from and understand this. It’s a discussion of how painting works. Bacon teaches us the difference between illustrating and painting. It is learned by looking at his works. Freud came from a slightly different angle and has shown me what looking can be. What does it really mean to watch?

MH: So, Bacon and Freud are distinguished by what they painted: the former painted from photographs, often taken for this purpose while the latter painted a living model with great concentration and devoted himself to that topic. Does this come close to the idea of really looking, with great focus?

VL: For me, personally, looking is not so much about how I look at something and using that as a route into my own painting – be it a photograph or living model. By looking, I mean how things are viewed, the direction. In my view, Freud looked at his models, thought his paintings, with great humanity. He saw through the materiality and colours of his painting into the heart of the person in a different way than Bacon. I understand Freud was a slow painter who spent a long time on one work. This way of looking, both inwards and outwards, is slow, and it shows in Freud’s colours and materiality. How he applies shades and paint. It’s not a spectacular imitation of nature, but rather slow expression, if you will. Bacon’s beauty lies in sensitivity and impulsiveness, while the beauty of Freud is how his character is present and stripped of power and status. I’m not talking about external symbols, but pure presence. The slowness of Freud’s gaze, in my opinion, has deconstructed things to allow encounter and presence. It moves in from the edges. Gaze and action together are contemplation, silence, slow viewing, seeing.

MH: What about self-portraits, where the starting point is everyday life with children. What is the role or significance of self-portraits in the process?

VL: I don’t know exactly whether the self-portrait is somehow fundamentally different when it is connected to painting a family as opposed to painting Bacon and Freud. Maybe everyday life with children produces more positive stimuli for painting than the presence of Bacon and Freud. Self-portraits are a return and an attempt to identify and locate oneself. To take and measure the distance from the community to the individual. An individual is always an individual within the community. The community, in this case the family, interprets and defines me as an individual. Similarly, the tradition of painting, such as the continuum left behind by Bacon and Freud, defines the painter in its own way. Even though the lone individual breaks down and fragments, because there is nothing to look at or through, private time is also needed. So with my self-portrait, I look back at myself differently, because the way that I paint myself, for example, can reveal fantasies and inner feelings that might not otherwise be seen. Another key point is to understand how I look at myself. What do I find when I look at my face through painting? What happens to the painting when I paint myself, or does anything happen at all? The process is however intuitive, and self-portraits are largely born of intuition. That is, the role of a self-portrait can change with the process, and move in a direction so that we’re no longer talking about a concrete self-portrait. Self-portraits, like paintings of my wife, have traveled with me along the way. It’s about a dialogue, and how that grows and progresses as changes occur. A photograph of a person or persons is the starting point for a journey and viewing that only becomes present through the instrument. I return to that slow look again. Painting, as an action, can accelerate, but the gaze should slow down. With children and family, the gaze has slowed down, and this is probably the case with the self-portrait too.

MH: Not quite seriously, but still: isn’t it hard to look at your own face so much? And then a little more seriously: what is the possible relationship between the self-portrait and self-love, and how can that impasse be transcended?

VL: Staring at your own face. We live in a time of different kinds of magic mirrors, or selfies. People seem to enjoy staring at themselves and sharing it with others. The difference is that the painting process alienates the painter from just painting their own face and carries them away from familiar facial features, elements of identification and recognition. This is because painting is not easy. It’s challenging. It requires concentration and silence. The painting requires a gaze that bypasses fantasies and ideals. Of course, this aspect can be ignored if the starting point for the painting is already somewhere else. The problem of self-love doesn’t spring from painting a self-portrait, but from somewhere else, that everyone has to think about that in themselves. Self-portraits can, of course, be used to promote self-satisfaction and vanity. But is that a self-portrait any more, or more of an image of your own fantasy? Buy fantasies and become alienated from yourself – this is the content of our fast consumer culture. That’s why the aim of the painting is to move in from the edges, create space and opportunities for watching slowly, so that we may become visionaries in the dark.

 

Manifesto of Stillness

Hiljaisuuden manifesti
Iso sali 14.12.2018–24.2.2019

Ulla Karttunen, Jukka Korkeila, Anni Löppönen, Ville Löppönen ja Henry Wuorila-Stenberg

 

Ulla Karttusen installaatio Donna Criminale

Ulla Karttunen: Donna Criminale

Hiljaisuuden manifesti kokoaa yhteen viisi kuvataiteilijaa, joille hiljaisuus on keskeinen asia taiteen tekemisessä. Hiljaisuus yhdistetään hyvin usein puhumattomuuteen ja äänettömyyteen. Näyttelyn taiteilijoille hiljaisuus ei tarkoita pelkästään hiljentymistä, vaan se on osa työskentelytapaa, joka tarjoaa mahdollisuuden päästä sisäisten kuvien ja kokemusten äärelle, yhteyden näkemiseen, kuuntelemiseen ja läsnäoloon.

Pinxinmäen kesänäyttely 2017

KASVOTUSTEN

18.6.–13.8.2017

Kuutti Lavonen

Ville Löppönen

Heikki Marila

Sirpa Särkijärvi

Ari Pelkonen

Kutsutut kuvataiteilijat käsittelevät teoksissaan ihmisen kuvaa. Muodoista, viivasta ja väreistä syntyvää ihmishahmoa, joka kasvojen, kehon ja tilan kautta synnyttää ajatuksen kohtaamisesta. Näyttelyyn kutsuttujen kuvataiteilijoiden teoksissa on läsnä ihmisyys monimuotoisena ja mielenkiintoisena tulkintana.

LISÄTIETOJA:

Näyttelyn kuraattori Anu Halmesmaa

ahalmesmaa@gmail.com / +358 50 359 1911

My painting in Portrait Now! 2017

Portrait of Pentti Otto Koskinen, 2016, oil on canvas, 180 x 180 cm

My artwork has been selected for the Portrait Now! exhibition 2017. Out of 1058  nordic artworks, 77 have been selected  for the exhibition.

 

In 2017, The Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Castle hosts the portrait competition The Carlsberg Foundation’s Portrait Award. It is the sixth time, that the award will be presented to an artist who has given portraiture an artistic treatment of issues surrounding the identity and personas of real people, irrespective of whether that interpretation takes the form of a painting, a sculpture, a video, an installation or a work of sonic art.

The exhibition PORTRAIT NOW! 2017 will display a selection of the best portraits from the competition.

 

The exhibition is open from May 11 – July 30.
The Museum of National History
Frederiksborg Castle 10
DK-3400 Hillerød

 

Starting 2.9 – 29.10 2017 the exhibit will be displayed at the Ljungbergmuseum in Sweden.

 

Stark Realism – Francien Krieg | Effie Pryer | Ville Löppönen

 Stark Realism is an exhibition of new paintings by Francien Krieg, Effie Pryer and Ville Löppönen. Each of these artists uses realism to explore the substance and mystery of being human. Krieg’s elderly nudes offer an unflinching but compassionate look at the effects of aging on women’s bodies and ask the viewer to consider the spirit within. Pryer’s portraits are inspired by her interest in mythologies of the world and the themes that resonate throughout human experience. And Löppönen uses religious iconography to depict our internal struggles. PRESS RELEASE

OPENING NIGHT: Saturday, April 8 from 6-9pm. Free Entry.

Exhibition runs from April 9 to April 30.

Red, 2017, oil on hard board, 30 x 15,5 cm

beinArt Gallery is located at 1 Sparta Place, Brunswick, VIC 3056,  Australia.

Artist-curator conversation: Ville Löppönen and Mika Hannula – Contemplation 28.10 – 20.11.2016

in Finnish / Suomeksi

 

From tormenting ghosts to gentle prayers

 

Mika Hannula: In what way is the work in this exhibition different or linked to the works that we saw in your previous exhibitions at Helsinki Contemporary in 2014 and Mikkeli Art Museum in 2015.

 

Ville Löppönen: The works in the exhibitions from 2013 and 2014 were ghosts. They occupied a liminal space, torn by ritual and prayer. They were ghosts on the border, where there was only a rough picture of the future; it wasn’t personal in the sense that it could be presented in a mundane form.

Understanding the differences and similarities between an Orthodox icon and my own work in the experience of painting was still in a process. This has now apparently gone off in an unexpected direction towards everyday life, which strives to assume concrete forms and move away from symbols. Perhaps we are talking about taking a close, deep look at our fellow human beings. Seeing icons in everyday life and seeing Christ in one’s fellow man.

After a long break I’ve started drawing and using aquarelle again. They have allowed me to distance myself from the locks that were part and parcel of painting. Adopting a faster method brings out a lot of things that have been left open and unfinished, and which haven’t matured. These are also subjects that can stunt the growth of painting. I don’t know, but approaching things through faster instruments helps dialogue flow. Many conversations get stuck when the other party – in this case me – cannot progress in their thoughts. In the same way, as a painter, the instrument can get stuck because its movement has been slowed down by the artist’s lack of ability to cut himself free and let go.

Now drawing and aquarelle have revealed why I have been getting stuck. The speed is so fast that there is no time to properly taste the chunk one has bitten off. Painting itself turns into a ritual if it is not slowed down and brought to a halt.

Icon painting left such a strong impression that I had to get rid of it with a faster instrument to allow my paintings space to grow. In that way, making drawings and aquarelles was a purifying experience. It’s like they helped the process move into a new cycle.

 

MH: And what relationship is there to icons in this exhibition?

 

VL: This is not about content so much as matters of form, which of course affect the content or the dialogue itself if it doesn’t move on and open up. In other words, dialogue is present in everything I do, but with drawing and watercolours I have found my own voice and distanced myself from the icon tradition, which has inevitably exerted a strong influence over me.

I have become familiar with the form and essence of icons during the last two years of my master’s degree in orthodox theology at the University of Eastern Finland. In my thesis, which studies the relationship between icons and paintings and humans assuming a divine form, I have gone deeper into the similarities and differences between the icons and paintings themselves. My study focussed on whether a painting can be seen as a prayer in the same way as an icon. In the Orthodox tradition the process of making an icon is understood as a prayer, and conversation flows through it. In other words, the icon is a place of dialogue.

The Contemplation exhibition is a continuation of my previous exhibitions. They cannot be completely separated and removed from each other. They are a continuation of the same discussion. My prayer goes on.

 

MH: The exhibition features large paintings that are contrasted with rather small ones. In these small ones in particular the theme is sometimes a person, a colleague in fact. This time Jukka Korkeila and Elina Merenmies are included – and we remember your portrait of Henry Wuorila-Stenberg, which won a prize at the Brewer J.C. Jacobson’s Portrait Now! portrait painting competition in Denmark in 2013. What is the significance of the subjects? What is so special about portraits or paintings of other painters that are born of a specific situation and moment?

 

VL: These paintings are very important. They open up the road to understanding everyday life through painting. I mean that the colleagues I paint work more-or-less with the same themes that I do. These portraits are a way of showing the beauty of everyday life. To see something good and encounter contradictory people with an understanding of these contradictions creates empathy. This is a good opening strike in the direction I might be heading, or which I might have been invited to take. Secondly, these colleagues are my former teachers and I owe them a great deal. I want to respect the legacy that they have passed on to me.

These portraits also help me to understand myself and open up my locks and fears. As teachers they have left a deep impression on me, and it is also important to recognize that the challenges they left in their wake form a part of my own painting. In a way I deconstruct the tradition that has been handed down to me and process it in a way that it becomes part of my own experience. Then I throw the ball back and challenge them to progress too. I bring my own experience to the painting, so the portrait becomes like other paintings, a place of dialogue. I am in dialogue when I am making these paintings but the conversation extends to the viewer through the finished work. Painting portraits is not therefore in any way different from other types of painting, apart from the fact that it challenges the subject to participate in direct dialogue. At the same time the dialogue is also possible for others.

These actually differ from normal portraits in the way that the inspiration to make them has come from me. I have wanted to make these paintings and asked if the would-be subjects would agree.

In the exhibition I get to grips with everyday life, although at the same time I am still in a spiritual context. Although it is not obvious, it can be helpful and take my work forwards onto a new level. Colleagues in a way support where I’m going and challenge me to fine tune my work and at the same time make it open and accurate.

A good companion for conversation – painting as a compass and a seedbed

 

MH: You speak about painting as an encounter and interaction, as a dialogue. What does it mean to you?

 

VL: One has to invest in a painting to make it possible. Not submissively but with humility, or the dialogue will turn into a monologue. In practice, this means being open to the painting, spending time in the studio, listening and waiting. The painting replies and listens too, because that is where one can encounter both the other and the self, and eventually see union. By union I mean the life that is shared by a human being and God: God lives within people and lights up people’s minds with grace and love.

Painting is a prayer and the prayer is respectful empathy. Listening and being heard. One has to be honest and reveal mistakes and wounds. Through this, painting comes into being as a relationship between the two as a gentle instrument, an old friend, but not an easy entertainer. It is a teacher, eliciting deeper feeling and growth. To me, a painting moves away from ritual because it’s a sanctuary of real-life dialogue.

 

MH: Away from ritual? Why do you underline that a painting is a prayer – instead of saying it is like a prayer?

 

VL: Away from ritual because the painting is a place of live conversation and genuine presence. It is not a performance, or it ceases to be a painting. A painting can conceal ritual features and traces but it has to be seen, recognised. Ritual means something that is performed in order that we could be something more – more true, or more sacred. However, the problem is that it faces the wrong direction. Ritual doesn’t arise out of empathy, it is about somehow making amends, or it’s an obligation to please. It’s about being true but it is born of the wrong motives.

In other words, a painting has to break free of ritual to become real, so that the two can come together instead of being a fantasy or presumption of one, which excludes true presence and humility. To me, ritual is an external superstition and it shows a lack of understanding about the deep essence of things. If one does not know painting and its potential it is nothing more than ritual. The painter has to be released in the process of the painting. The painter may be released without fear.

Here we also get to why a painting is a prayer. It is not necessarily a prayer, but it can be and in my own case that’s how I perceive it. Prayer is dialogue. Conversation and presence between two friends or two other people that respect each other. It is humility not servility. It is the stripping away of power and control. Prayer is growth which becomes concrete as action. In my case it happens while I’m painting.

Prayer does not have only one form, it is not individual formal repetition or the norm for submitting requests to God. It can be that, but it has to grow out of it. To my mind, prayer is not something apart from a person’s daily life, rather it should grow inside all mundane matters when one attains a clear understanding of the ongoing dialogue. Prayer is dialogue that is concerned with seeing and understanding what is good. It is not moralism, nor is it driven by it. The goal is different.

Now when I spend the bulk of the day painting in silence with an icon or Life and its Source of creativity, which is a godly virtue, I am in dialogue. In this conversation I am involved with creativity and its Provider, or God. That’s why it’s a prayer, because I understand that I am having a conversation with the Good Lord.

Why is this so? Because I am revealed in the dialogue and get a taste of love that does not judge but rather leads us away from judgement, fear and shame towards empathy and integrity. Through the painting, the dialogue brings out the good and the beautiful, even if on a pictorial level it would not be called beautiful. Painting enables me to see the good because I can open up in it and reveal myself. Prayer is the person’s entire soul and body growing towards good. The Orthodox tradition calls it theosis when a person grows to become like God.

Prayer is seeing the good and the growth of trust in different kinds of ways. For me, the method is painting.

 

Everyday contemplations give words to love

 

MH: I have a difficult question in mind, but I will open it up. Your actions and your practices are connected very clearly and organically to a certain, in this case Orthodox spirituality and its relationship with God. How are your works possible for those who do not belong to the same faith, or do you not consider their relationship with God to be important?

 

VL: My work grows from a religious context by using its linguistic expressions in order to get to the bottom of the question of life and growth. I receive words for things, events and experiences that I have had the concepts for. I am also rewarded with travelling companions from whom I learn and with whom I can share experiences.

Religion, if we are now speaking of religion as opposed to faith, is a system of symbols that we use to strive for the essence of life. My paintings have addressed this religious way of seeing things and naming them. It has opened up a perspective for me that I am able to put into words. There are of course central concepts that are very difficult to change, but if we look at things in the Orthodox context that I subscribe to, things that are related to God in particular have many names and means of expression. This is so that the matter can be approached from different angles and no doors would swing closed. We are talking about mysticism, the creator of the natural world, encountering something that transcends humanity and the personal growth that gradually occurs when someone gains clearer vision. It is a question of the union between God and man, but they do not merge with each other. Once again it is about humility, respect, and the dynamics of love.

This way a painting can be a prayer too and express a relationship with what lies behind everything. The religious side is not important, it is more important to have faith. We see things through faith. The target of faith can change and the depth of faith can vary. If faith is about what is good then everything that comes of it is available and open to everyone. It is not necessary to spread this or declare it to everyone. Faith must be humble so that it also respects those who have no interest in it. There is no reason to think that my work should open up to everyone or even many people in the same way.

I like to believe that despite any religious, philosophical or ideological interpretation of the world, it’s possible to understand love, which maintains life despite all the shit that is going on. Recognising it is a universal human trait, and that is why we are here. It is created inside us. A baby or child responds to love no matter how young they are, and they will also respond to hate. It shows us our human nature. We can deprive it of light or we can make it shine. The brighter it is, the more our lives are based on empathy. This brings Christ back into the picture again as his life was suffused with empathy and love. This sort of thing can probably not be foisted on anyone because it would be counter-productive to what love, empathy, humility and respect are all about.

The challenge is how to spread good. The point is not from where and from which form of tradition the good comes. Shared goodness expresses the place it has sprung from. I don’t say that I would succeed, but it’s the direction I would like to grow in. Perhaps that is why icon painting is not possible for me, although I respect it immensely when I come across it. Not all icons are genuine. An icon has to be therapeutic and care for people, but it can be too direct and difficult to approach for those who are unfamiliar with the language. The fault does not lie in the icon but in how the concept is muddied by superstition, power, status and the wrong motives in general.

 

MH: What about everyday life – the idea of everyday mercy and how it carries and supports acts and series of several acts?

 

VL: I should explain a little of what I mean by everyday, because not everyone experiences and lives it in the same way. In my own case, the mysticism that is latent in the everyday opens up for me through understanding empathy and love, in other words through internal vision. The everyday can manifest in a piece of work very strangely, and the picture is not always beautiful. And the challenge is in expressing this to others in a way that the everyday could open up in the same way that I have experienced as an artist, in a way that the image will also pose a challenge to the viewer.

Because of this it’s difficult to get the mundane into the painting without any religious symbols, because it should be understood as a part of the liturgy, the worship of God, so that it doesn’t become a ritual. That doesn’t mean that religious worship in a church is a ritual, but it can easily happen and continue into everyday life, in which case it becomes a performance. In a painting this difficulty becomes concrete in the sensitisation of the language to empathy and pathos. The challenge is thus extremely big. One can’t just walk into it because it asks for a clear vision and deep experience of love which everyday life, understood as the experience of a family-minded artist, tries to show me and teach me. The mystical dimension of the mundane grows, therefore, when one can ask if it is still mundane, or is it contemplation, theosis – in other words, a prayer.

 

MH: What do you mean, how the mundane becomes a prayer?

 

VL: Everyday life exists and changes in different directions, just as the artist either changes or is changed. This is not fun any more, and that’s part of everyday life too, when one works on the border of egocentricity and ambition, inside them and mercifully also outside them too. The mundane asks for trust, but speaking as a painter this is frightening, and that is why many people seek refuge in everyday life in ready-made rituals. Grace opens the door to daring. The grace to be a painter and paint in everyday life, fleeing and hiding with the mundane. As a moment of empathy the tears carry us to a place where we can see and the mundane opens up as a heavenly sight and the painter’s calling to love. In this case one moves away from ritual.

In other words, the mundane can be seen in the smallest nuances such as looks, gestures, bodily expressions and in life’s great questions such as birth and death. In all work and idleness. It can be clearly seen as God’s message and hope in life. But how does one relate to suffering with empathy rather than hate? How does one relate to everything in life through empathy? How can one be a painter without a religious language and worldview and trust only one’s heart and it filling up with empathy? We must have the courage to commit and believe in the mundane, and dare to find Christ in our hearts in the middle of our mundane lives.

Therein lies the painter’s lifelong challenge, and it doesn’t progress according to a schedule or art degrees.

 

MH: How does this everyday challenge progress and deepen? Doesn’t this place terrible expectations and demands on a piece of work – for both the maker and the viewer?

 

VL: It progresses through humility, in other words though silence, listening, being present in the moment and through painting. And it is always progressing because the companion in dialogue is love with no beginning or end.

In my case it progresses through painting. For someone else it progresses by any other means. If action doesn’t happen, neither will anything else. Thought still doesn’t create change. It has to happen through movement and events. It is the natural and original essence of action and thought. They are related to each other. Body and spirit, body and soul, man and God. Action is wordless thought which can to a certain extent be verbalised but it is not always necessary because action functions and affects things without words too. Even though a painting is a mute thought, it is very Verbal too. By this I mean that a painting enables dialogue about the living word, in other words Christ and Love, through which everything exists. The word is not therefore speech or writing, rather the way that we try to express God through language. It is action becoming physical.

In my opinion this is not a question of demands because unlike ritual, humility doesn’t contain demands. It is always about growth and increasing depth. For that reason, expectations are always in line with growth and are appropriate. However, there is an internal conflict that sometimes makes painting impossible and its demands insurmountable. And so we return to everyday life and tears. Tears promote the gift and mercy, meaning empathy. This is how something begins. A painting is an open space without demands or expectations because it is an encounter between two things as respect and presence. In that case there are no demands or expectations. There is only space to grow in a good direction at one’s own pace through laughter and tears. The space is lost when one enters a ritual and that is why one must fight one’s way out, not by force or violence, but by waiting and listening so that faith and trust return. Time flows eternally, and always for the duration of a painting.