My Edith Södergran project
At his death Gordon was working on “The Edith Södergran” project, a series of oilpaintings inspired by the life of the Swedish/Finish poet and her poems. In a letter to the Danish art historian, Dorte Kirkeby Andersen, he tells about the ideas and the challenges of the project.
…. I will end the letter by telling you about my Edith Södergran project. It is beginning to give meaning. I had to travel mentally to so many places with that project. I had no idea about, where I was going. Where did one begin?
The first problem was how not to smash the poems. I looked at so many illustrations of her books. “Bloody Christmas trees “über all”. After hesitation I began the most unlikely place: the burning of her whole correspondence and her house. There in the flames I would read the glows and let the pictures wander. The smoke is like the tree stretching up to touch the heaven.
There is a two-piece classification between poem and painting, and there must be established a relationship between the two, but it is not like one thinks it is. It is not two planets in conjunction, but rather like sailing between echoes. The oars become your alphabet. I hear the voices from two languages.
How shall I show the friction between these echoes. It is the riddle of a tatooed tongue. First I must change my palette. The colour schedule shall be as a bass clarinet, that has the whole schedule of the human voice. I went over to Senneliers colours, that has only the minus that they are a little to fine mixed.
There have come so many laws against colour mixing during the later years. The federalists have the knife out for alchemy and magic. If one looks at the paintings from the Academy, their training is based on the technique that is used in the film “Gone with the Wind”. It is the worst hocuspocus of the Academy.
One can of course say that I have made new pictures for old eyes, but that is a cliché. I have thought about and seen so many illuminated musical manuscripts. I realise I prefer change, that remains the same (everything change but stay the same). Maybe it is the illumination that attracts me, like for instance the Moldovian wall paintings from the 15. century, even when they are outside on the churches. The illuminations break through the patina and the vandalism of the 20. century.
In the poem “Landet som icke är” Edith Södergran begins:
Jag längtar till landet som icke är
ty allting som är, är jag trött at begäre
Månen berätter mig i silverna runor
Om landet som icke är.
(red.: In English that translates to:
I long for the land that is not,
for I am tired of desiring all that is.
In silver runes the moon tells me
about the land that is not.)
Our intervention is like putting an extra day to the calendar to avoid repetitions. I am building but don’t know what I am building. I turn to a poet, who is a master builder. Henry of Avranches from the 12. century. He wrote a poem to Sankt Huge. The poem is know as “Metrical Life”, that is famous, not because of the saint, but for the description of Lincoln Cathedral. He compares the roof of the choir with bird’s wings and the walls with honeycomb. He invites us to turn over in ones mind the importance of the materials. In “Metrical Life” he writes about the twin-windoes (oculi), that they are giving a secular light, from which the imaginary “eye” probably was created, at the same time it indicates that the mouth moves like the O in the prayer “O sapientia” or “O intemerata” – it is not what one sees with ones sight, but speculations or considerations.
I have been told a story about the people from Onslunda who stole stones from a church in Sankt Olaf to build their church. I did the same with “Metrical Life”. Turned the inside out of the church to steal its iconographi. The birds in flight becomes her look. The colours of the Rose-window becomes the landscape. The prism of the reflections from the Rose-windows indicate the virginity of the poet.
The moonlight puzzled me for some time. In London we saw a painting of Georges Braque of three packing-cases. I noticed that he painted white surfaces white so that one could not see the canvas, like many artists do. Like it was a visual word play. To paint against the oars of the tree. Later in the studio I mixed pearl white with unbleached white to find my moonlight.
It is just some of the things that goes on in this adventure. I do not know when all this will end. It is completely open. I think I am at number ten of the paintings. The mistakes will later be sort out. The sizes are all 100×170 cm – small in my world. The closest I can come to Lieder…
I have photographed the paintings like I have them in the studio. I prefer them like this as long as I am not ready to have them out of the studio.
Both “Ulysses” and “Faust” end with the eternal feminine, that gives an upward going production atmosphere. It is my hope that I with this work can imitate this atmosphere. But you are free to ask any question you wish around the paintings. They are like a container, where I have brought a miniature collection of precious objects.