THE SINGING UNIVERSE
Art is creating an identity Big enough for everyone to share
In the long view, the most fascinating thing about
Art, beyond the current discourse, might well be the uniqueness of a creative
Artist´s vision - and more specifically, the way in which she/he expresses
their most important insights along their path of artistic development to help
us, their fellow travellers, to find our way, wisely, as we navigate through
the brief moment that is now.
One possible measure of creativity is the number of
metamorphoses an artist can achieve in their lifetime. Recently, we have had
many unique opportunities - many of them at this very gallery - for witnessing large-scale
exhibitions by some of Finland´s most notable artist, remarkable for their truly
impressive depth and energy. Strong turns that have taken us by surprise. "Slå dem med häpnad", take them by
surprise, was the phrase used by Alvar Aalto and Maire Gullichsen´s set to
describe the task of all cultural activity: the idea being to show those, who
do not yet understand what fantastic things are happening in the modern art
field, in Finland alone…
And here we now have Alvar Gullichsen (b. 1961),
introducing a collection of visionary images, which, yet again, take us by surprise.
The first time he treated us to this experience also represented his own
artistic breakthrough, a riotous vision about Pärre Bonk and his Business World
- rest in peace. The business did well for a long time, offering ample
opportunities for metamorphosis, before the frontman´s interest waned. *)
From the enterprise´s demise emerged a new vision - an
entirely different one this time, the result of an encounter with African
culture during a long stay at Villa Karo in Benin. I can still recall the powerful
- POWERFUL for its unexpectedness and sheer might - and disorienting experience
that was Gullichsen´s 2003 exhibition, so highly charged were the small images
bursting with a dark jungle language, positively teeming with life. Captivating
- but by no means easy to follow. As is often the case with other similar
visions (such as the symbolism of C G Jung), the images contained shapes, symbols
and structures that seem utterly universal.
What had begun as a highly personal act of creative
playfulness had transformed into something serious, deeply meaningful visions
of another world. "What has gone on here", I wondered, as I often do when
something or someone seemingly "familiar" unexpectedly gives expression to a
new and unfamiliar facet of existence…
What had in fact gone on was that the artist had
expanded and deepened his understanding and experience of life, by exploring
cultures other than our own modern, western, Eurocentric civilisation, turning
his attention to alternative world views that first entered the mainstream
thanks to the hippie movement, including the psychedelic subculture, the school
of transpersonal psychology and the new popularity of world music. New
experiences generated by mind-altering chemicals and other techniques for
expanding one´s inner horizons became a matter of required knowledge for
followers of alternative cultures and lifestyles across Europe and the US. The
trend continued to gather momentum with the publication of Carlos Castaneda´s
cult books recording the teachings of a Mexican shaman and was legitimatised
through Aldous Huxley´s Doors of Perception. Finland came into direct contact
with this parallel world through an exhibition of Pablo Amaringo´s paintings
depicting his experiences while under the influence of ayahuasca.
The powerful visual idiom of the patterns and symbols
found on the dress and fabrics worn by indigenous peoples made them an object
of fascination for modern artists. Folklore builds on deep insights, after all.
Alvar G grew up in a cultural circle where modern art
was an integral part of communication and his very milieu itself. The forms and
rhythms of Léger and pop art were very much present in Bonk´s visions too,
intermingling with influences drawn from the world of Robert Crumbs and others.
The artist is now returning for a third outing with a
new collection of paintings and we are presented with a synthesis of modernism
and shamanism, a distillation of his creative efforts thus far complemented by a
number of current trends. Gullichsen´s new works also betray his two sources of
creative inspiration: music and architecture. "Architecture is frozen music",
as Steiner once said, or was it perhaps Kandinsky.
Gullichsen´s vision warrants careful study. The
collection he presents us with is unabashed in its lucidity and completeness.
Much of art and non-material symbolic representations in general contain
"obvious" statements, which reveal their actual meaning "when the time is
ripe", i.e. when the receiver is ready for it. The creative idiom acts almost
as an item of protective clothing - offering safety from ignorance and hostile
interpretation. The symbolic language is re-created to shield us from the frightening
forces and insights we might encounter on the path to personal development to
which the creative artist stands witness.
The artist´s current vision is perhaps given its
starkest expression in the immense "Världsalltets
sång" (The Song of the Universe). Here, the entirety of space itself
vibrates with the sound of a universal, intergalactic song, a continuation of
Vasarely´s mighty vision. It also calls to mind Birger Carlstedt´s visionary
design for the Chat Doré café, if you happen to recall…
Already, the painting appears to have established
itself as a classic of our time - it will be re-visited many times over when a
new chapter is written into the book that somewhat pompously might be called
the spiritual development of our country…
But what is development? Where do all these
metamorphoses, which Art so ceaselessly manifests, lead us? The answer perhaps is
simply: home to one´s own song in the universe…
It seems important to explore Alvar Gullichsen´s experiences
and the insights he has gathered along his own path. We look forward to more:
Keep the Issues Alive! As The Fugs so enthusiastically
chanted in the jungle that was the 1960s New York City.
*) Bonk will be making an appearance at the Art
Factory in Porvoo in summer 2012 (ed.).
In his first
private Galleria Heino exhibition, Alvar Gullichsen is showing a series of new
paintings featuring abstract geometric compositions and patterns.
Gullichsen graduated from the painting programme of the Finnish Academy of Fine
Art in 1988, spending an additional year studying sculpture. He emerged into
public consciousness in the 1980s and 1990s with his fictional Bonk Business
Inc and cartoon-like works. Gullichsen´s best known work is the Posankka
fibreglass sculpture in Turku. In the late 1990s, Gullichsen joined the ROR
collective, contributing to their UTOPIA exhibition. A sponsored stay at the
Finnish-African Cultural Centre Villa Karo in Benin, West Africa, proved a
turning point for Gullichsen´s creative process, resulting in an extensive
series of expressive landscape-like paintings, progressing towards a non-figurative
form of expression, drawing on indigenous cultures, modernism and architecture.
With financial support from the Sigurd Frosterus Foundation. Assistant curator Klaus Nyqvist.