A still from “2001 – A Space Odyssey” directed by Stanley Kubrick (1968)
The first thing I do when I start working on a new canvas is to paint it black. The blank, white surface makes me very uncomfortable. It’s almost a compulsive act, to fill the empty space with…something, anything. The black paint is the perfect domination. It forces out the nothingness, eliminates the emptiness, tames the blankness. I always do this. Most of the times I let the black background be part of the painting, sometimes I change it to some other color. But I never let it stay white or pristine. The sterile white creeps me out.
Ever since I watched Kubrick’s “2001 – A Space Odyssey” for the first time, I’ve been convinced that Death is this white sterile room of passivity and helplessness. Most likely I will die in a hospital, surrounded by nurses in white, in a room with white walls, sterility, bright lights or daylight. My last suffering will take place in a white environment, while I’ll find peace in my sleep, with closed eyes – away from all the white.
For me, Death is not a passive continuation of Life. Death is not the eternal silence that follows my last breath, it is in the hours, minutes, seconds before I take my last breath. Then I simply stop existing. There is no Death for me. There is only living or dying – both part of life, not Death. I don’t believe in an afterlife. I don’t belong to any religion and I don’t share the common idea of Death as something mysterious yet tangible or as a concept of rest and eternal non-existance on Earth but a resurrection in some other dimension. When I die, I don’t exist anymore, I’m not resting, I’m not transported to another dimension, I’m not a ghost – I only exist in other people’s memories, through my art and in photographs. To rest or sleep is part of being alive. We can visit other dimensions whenever we want while we are alive – by using our imagination, by asking questions through science, philosophy or art – and by listening to the heartbeats of life itself. It’s all here. It’s all here right now. If we dare to explore it – because life and love can be overwhelming. Our potentials and the power in our own hearts and minds can be frighting. As soon as we start asking questions about ourselves or to question our lives, we are forced to be responsible of it – to change and lead our own lives. I call this “the conflict of independence”. When we choose to change the course of our lives, when we start to lead it in a new direction, we are faced with loss. Perhaps even loneliness. It is a painful process. But we are rewarded in the end. Nothing feels as good as the inner freedom and to be true to who we are, who we truly are. But to do that, we have to sacrifice a lot. It’s easier to numb our hearts, to let our minds fade into a blank space while we go through the motions, fall into ruts and the endless routines of every day life. To depend on people, to take their company for granted – to allow them to take us for granted. To stay where we don’t belong. To sacrifice or compromise our inner wildness, our curiosity, sexuality, perversions, dreams, desire, magic. Our nature. To accept replacement pleasure. Replacement enjoyment. Replacement everything.
To me, that is the real Death.
I’ve died so many times in my life.
The last time I died was a few years ago. In a time where I denied myself pleasure and happiness. A time when I turned my back on my true nature and replaced it with dependency, a compromised intellect, spiritual castration, denied sexuality, artistic suicide, neglect and passivity. This is also visible in my art from the time. All my digital pieces where so foggy, almost faded out, covered in whiteness, like I was afraid to exist through my art. Like I thought I wasn’t allowed to be loud. To be alive. Like I wasn’t allowed to take up space and demand to be seen.
Two versions of my digital piece “My Neighborhood”, the lighter version is from 2012 and the darker version from 2014.
When I look at these works, I feel sad. I can see how lost I was. Almost erased in my sense of existence.. I was deeply depressed, lonely even though I was in a relationship, and so lost in myself. I had abandoned myself and my true nature in every way. I remember the mental paralysis that followed as meeting the true Death. Death came in daylight. Death was in the numbness. Death was in the comfort zones – and in the comfort itself. Death was in the suffering. Death was in the lack of choices. In the passing of time. In the waste of dreams. Death was in the isolation. And in the intimacy I had created in myself by accepting a life that didn’t feel like mine; spending my days alone in a house that wasn’t mine, in a relationship with a man who never felt like mine, making art that didn’t feel like it was part of me.
A selfie from the time I was making the decision to leave
I had turned into a blank canvas. An untold story. An empty space.
It took me about a year from the time I decided that I wanted to change my life and to leave the man, the house and the dead life I had been living for a long time, until I could do it. That’s what numbness does to your ability to change and to break free from destructive things. I know how it feels to die and it doesn’t have anything to do with endings or eternal sleep.
To expect Death to be some kind of extension of Life is a presumptuous idea. It creates this relaxed attitude that Life is not the only opportunity to exist or that life is a passage. Life is incredible and precious. I don’t take it for granted anymore. Life is whatever you make of it. It is also the element of unexpected pain and suffering – but also the treasure chest of magic, love and creativity. Death is simply nothing. Life is everything.
When I am filling the new, white canvas with black paint, I have created a space of shadows that allows the possibility of new life and creativity to be hidden within it. Just like the Universe, the blackness of the paint holds a whole world of dreams and accidental beauty, born out of chaos and creation.