Red has always been my favorite color – and red was a theme in many of Ingmar Bergman’s movies. Perhaps the color red is what connects me to his inner world. The color of the inside. The color of our hearts, the world underneath our skin and the color of our wildest desire – the desire to connect, to bleed into each other’s existence.
I am reading this great book about programming the mind for success and positive thinking – and there was a question that really made me think;
“Where do you find your motivation – in achieving goals or in avoiding something you don’t want in your life?”
What an amazing question, so many hidden truths and beliefs can be found in asking it. Am I motivated to DO something or am I trying to run away from something?
All I know is that I don’t want an ordinary life – is that a reason, to become an artist to avoid the same lifestyle as my parents and what I knew as real and ordinary as a child? Or the opposite – am I driven by a constant need to express myself and to affect people with these expressions? I am not sure.
I’ve always wanted to avoid playing by other people’s rules (which is ironic since I’ve both been drawn to and scared of authoritarians) and not wanting the ordinary to dominate my life. I’ve always looked for magic. In everything. Everywhere. I find it in intimacy, in my creativity, imagination, in my fantasies, dreams, during Christmas time and when it’s snowing, raining, in thunder and lightning. I find magic in other people’s hearts, in the core, in growth and awakening, in transformations and transcendence. I find magic in laughing, dancing, singing, smiling, in the twinkle of the eye, in body heat, heartbeats and tears. I find magic in nature and in animals – in music and artistic expression.
And of course I find magic in love.
My need for magic is insatiable. I guess that’s why I can relate to the fictional characters Ally McBeal, Pippi Longstocking and Anne of Green Gables so much. Or why I connect so deeply with the magic worlds of Ingmar Bergman.
The opening sequence of Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Fanny & Alexander’ (1982) and the magical world of Alexander’s imagination
Anne of Green Gables (1986) imagining herself as the Lady of Shalott
I don’t deny reality and I don’t dislike the real world, but I know there’s so much more to it than endless routines, problems and mechanical needs like eating, pooping, sleeping. I do believe in magic even though I don’t believe in any God or an afterlife. That’s why it’s so important for me to bring magic into the world, while I am still alive because I only have one chance of contributing – and it’s now.
We are all made of cosmic materials, stardust and moonlight – we are all part of a great mystery. We need to remind ourselves of that more. We are magic.
I would say that my motivation comes from a combination of being uncomfortable with the ordinary and therefore chasing magic both within and outside the ordinary.
Some of my favourite role models: Anne Shirley (the main character in L.M Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables), Ingmar Bergman, J.K Rowling, Pippi Longstocking, Frida Kahlo and Edvard Munch.
Last week I made a list of my role models, to see if they have anything in common – and what that would say about me. What I found was actually quite surprising. My role models are a mix of artists, fictitious characters and creative personalities (I also included some scientists like Stephen Hawking and the whole institution of NASA. The Weta Workshop in New Zealand is the perfect example of the meeting point –where creativity, imagination, absolute dedication and respect for make-believe worlds come together) but they did have a great deal in common.
Most of them are survivors of both internal and external struggles; depression, anxiety, overcoming illnesses or some kind physical purgatory but also the struggle of maintaining their core beliefs and integrity in a society which doesn’t allow much space for that kind of genuine spiritual freedom. They refuse to victimize themselves although they are emotionally or physically crippled in some way – instead they embrace vulnerability and use it as a source of raw material to put into their work. Almost like a testimony of human nature – somewhere between the horror and supernaturalism of life itself.
My role models are ambitious, curious and focused and all that is woven into their creativity. They use it boldly to express themselves and to be seen in a world with closed eyes for whatever is painted outside the lines of conformity and any approved ideology. They are brave and courageous in that sense. As a teenager, I was obsessed with Madonna and her song Express Yourself was like my own private anthem of who I wanted to become and what I wanted to achieve in life; “Express yourself, so you can respect yourself”. My role models are individualists who are celebrating their true nature instead of hiding it behind mainstream ideals and ideas of appropriate decorum, perfectionism and conformity. They follow their own path. Uncompromisingly. They do things in unconventional ways and add humor and depth to it. Like Pippi and the way she goes about scrubbing her wooden floor. The boring task of house cleaning turns into a fun adventure. It is liberating.
The most striking feature my role models have in common – is their need to create magic. Reality can be harsh, raw and unforgivably hard at times – and the antidote is and has always been the product of human imagination. Religion, occultism and the fantasy worlds of artists, writers, musicians, dancers and actors have served as escapism and vicarious truth and realities since the dawn of humanity. Nietzsche claimed that “no artist tolerates reality”.
Anne Shirley in L.M Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (1908) creates her own magical worlds which allows her to escape the painful reality of being an orphan – and the misfortune of being a misfit with a deeper intellect and more vivid imagination than society allowed for a young girl at the time (doomed with red hair and all).
The need for instant transcendence and transformation is translated in the artist’s imagination and creativity as a gateway to a higher level of living and existing. A ‘homemade’ space of total freedom and a place where magic is allowed to happen without any threatening consequences and the adamant qualities of real life.
The artist creates a Universe in which he/she is both God and the vulnerable mortal, but with a sense of control of his/her own destiny. Like Alexander in the opening scene of Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander (1982) where he is seeking magic beyond his own boredom of passing time (and ultimately the waste of life).
The results of my research about role models really surprised me – I suddenly realized how much of them I can see in myself. I share a lot of qualities and strength that I admire and respect in these people. It kind of shocked me to see how much of them was reflected within myself. I am ambitious, brave, creative, I too am overcoming traumas and hard times without accepting the role of a permanent victim. I am searching for that spiritual freedom by following my own path. And I never thought I would discover just how important magic is to me. It made me think of the years of creativity blockages and mental paralysis – where I created my own worlds of magic at home – with interior decorating almost like backdrops or settings – where my imagination could run wild and free, until I was able to create art again (any moment now).
My “winter room” (which was featured in a local interior decorating magazine) in 2009:
and this is in my next home, a house in Stockholm, it’s the same room that I just kept transforming over and over again (2009-2014):
It is important to examine our role models and what they stand for – because it will expose something very vital about ourselves. They are there to remind us who we really are, beyond all the crap we are going through in life. They are our spiritual family where everything makes sense in the most comforting way.
And once in a while I get messages like this on Facebook:
My painting “Stigmata” was born because of a strange experience I had at a hospital in 2008. I was exhausted, burned out and stressed, working on 3 different art shows simultaneously – two of them were solo shows, all of them would open in February-March the following year (Stigmata would be the last painting I finished for the shows).
While I was working, working, working with my art – day and night AND dealing with a depression and a very messy and painful private life, my body simply said ‘nope, you can’t do this anymore’ and I collapsed. My body was covered with rash because of the stress, and I had to go through some serious examinations and treatments at the hospital. One of the doctors almost pierced my hand with her knife to get some deeper skin samples, it was very painful and I still have a scar where she made the cut.
I was inspired by this experience when I made Stigmata.
Another inspiration source when I was working on it was Ingmar Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers” (1972) and the dying woman [played by Harriet Andersson] in her little white nightcap. I made many more paintings and drawings like this during 2009-2010. I thought that by putting on the nightcap on the demons’ heads and remove their hair, they would look asexual or at least sexually ambiguous and ageless. My nightcap demons were raw human emotions expressed, like anxiety, pain and vulnerability.
Work in progress [with a blue costume instead of the white dress with blood].
Stigmata premiered in my solo show at MOHS Exhibit in Copenhagen, Denmark in March 2009 and the day of the opening it was on the cover of a big Danish newspaper, and the painting was sold in the show.
It is one of my favorite paintings I’ve ever done and I am planning on making another version of it later this year.