Thursday, 30 August 2018

Uncensored Self-Portrait

33/52 Violette Leduc: La Bâtarde (1964) What would subscribe best Violette Leduc's novel La Bâtarde is uncensored self-portrait. She hits the spot in 2018 when myths and taboos about womanhood are broken with honest new works of art and social media discussions. Leduc writes down all things that hold a meaning in her life and does it with brutal honesty. She doesn't leave out even the ugliest parts, something that a writer is allowed to do when making an interpretation of their life. It seems she wants to reveal herself without caring too much about the opinion of the public. The novel is personal and goes to private moments that no one would see or hear about if she didn't choose to tell. As we know from the discussion we get to take a part today, it is liberating to see realistic images on what it is to be a human.  

Leduc's descriptions about her romantic relationships are very passionate and full of life. When she pictures her first love with Isabelle she lingers in their desire and sexual tension. She tells about a relationship that has very poor possibilities to survive. After she lets go of Isabelle she meets Hermine. In a relationship with her she is a bit cold and uncaring. At first it seems like she is just placing Isabelle with someone she doesn't care. Violette doesn't stop Hermine for overworking and giving all the money she gets for Violette's clothes and restaurant dinners.  Leduc writes thoroughly what is in her mind, the feelings she is having and what is happening in her body. Her straight forward style makes the novel interesting to read right from the beginning. In a modern way she shows the most deepest ponderings as they are. She concentrates on details and achieves authenticity leaving out common and referential notions. Instead of introducing broader concepts she tells directly what those mean to her and what kind of appearances they get in her life.

Through the book Violette struggles with her looks. She sees herself ugly and brings up comments she has gotten from others that would make her notion look accurate. Somehow when I read the novel it was out of context in her life that she brings up her looks and it made me think if she brings it up just because of vanity. She has interesting life, friends in cultural circles, lovers, possibilities and encouragement in her career. Yet she talks about her looks like it was a thing to stop her from achieving something. Maybe it is her own aesthetic that she is not pleased with herself and she would like to look different. There might even be a deeper contradiction what is in the mirror and what she feels she is.  It is also true that random ill meaning comments press us down for years. Yet it might also be that she has time to analyze her own looks and develop a problem, namely her nose that needs to be fixed. The struggle she has with her identity and how to express herself is easier to comprehend. She lets Hermine to spend money and dress her like a doll with pretty clothes. She enjoys her new clothes and the look Hermine has created for her. But same time she has a need to express her masculine side too, a thing that Hermine doesn't approve. 

When Leduc writes about wartime she describes her love for money. It is said that in the most difficult times our true nature reveals. Violette is living in the countryside where there are possibilities to buy food outside the food card limitations. Because she has rich acquaintances in Paris she sees an opportunity to earn money in black market. She creates a circle of professionals who deliver her food and she sells it to people who can afford to buy it at any price. As she puts it it is in her nature that she loves beautiful objects. She becomes more greedy in her business and there is no Robin Hood in her. She makes money and keeps it herself. When she analyses afterwards the decisions she has made she doesn't explain or try to make things look better. She admits her own greediness. She even states that she would have eaten her own shit to get more money. There were situations when she could have done something good for others with her money, for example a poor boy is starving in front of her eyes and she had a possibility to help. She also looks from her window how her neighbors are taken away without an expression of sadness. She is in the flow of doing great herself and becomes blind. The years to come are harsh and remind cruelly about the past moments and it becomes impossible to understand one's own behavior. Maybe she has a bad consciousness, who knows, and that is why she wants to write it all down as a confession. Still I felt Leduc is not making an atonement she just reveals how things were and what she went through those times. And we can't know what kind of person the main character of the novel has become afterwards, we just know the past ans a glimpse of the present moment. 

What inspired me to read this novel was Martin Provost's film Violette that tells about how she became a writer and her one sided love towards her mentor Simone de Beuvoir. The title of this post is uncensored self portrait because the relationship she describes between Isabelle and Violette has also been written in her previous book, Thérèse et Isabelle, a novel that was partly censored at the time of publication in 1954.  This novel was not censored and what comes to her direct style she herself doesn't censor the issues she brings up.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Quilt: Orange Is the Rule Breaker

This time the quilting process has been a bit different. Usually I have a bunch of colours that seem to make an interesting combination. Now my colour palette was minimalist and I began to add more colour after I had already cut some elements from the fabric. 

It was several months ago, in the Spring when I was on one of my walks in the neighborhood. I spotted stairs that I have passed many times before only this time I saw how the stairs made graphic shadow to the wall. The pattern that the stairs and the shadow made (1.) was ready to be used in some project. In June I finally had a moment to draw the first sketch (4.). It still looked too complicated and lacked the final touch that would communicate an eye pleasing movement. Then there was the long and hot summer I just tried to survive. I wanted to make quilts but it was just too warm and the energies were low. Then just two weeks ago in the beginning of August I took the dust out of my water colours and began to make new sketches. First ones continued the same idea as I had in June but with colour the overall look was messy. Then it came to my mind that I could take one detail from the drawing. I had made a nice colour combination of four fabrics that looked new to me. I decided to narrow too many elements from the drawing to make it work for four colours.

Then one sketch (2.) spoke to me and I new the pattern was ready to be tested with fabric. Quite soon I noticed that the turquoise I had planned to use didn't work at all. I changed it for deep purple. The quilt began to look beautiful (3.). I liked it as it was. It would have worked fine with four colours. For example it would make a wonderful block for a blanket of 18 similar blocks. But because this is a cushion to be I wanted to add more layer. Round shapes turn the look completely. Harmony would have worked too but I think the orange challenges the eye and makes the pattern last time. With stitches this will look a playful rule breaker that promises harmony yet jumps in front of the eyes loudly.

Because every quilt should have a challenge that makes you want to look it again and think what it is about.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Grandeur and Art

Grandeur or sparkle is what Tove Jansson wished to have in her life. She was afraid of having mediocre and boring life. She worked hard to achieve her goals. Tove also considered thoroughly what she is ready to sacrifice for her artistic career and out of ordinary life. At times she thought how easy it would be just to enjoy what others have created instead of making art of one's own. But for a person who has a need to express that was not an option. Her decisions and struggles make her life story easy to relate for all of us who are wondering what life is about and how to become closer to our dreams what comes to both career and love.

32/52 Tuula Karjalainen: Tove Jansson. Tee työtä ja rakasta (2013) (the book has been translated to English as Tove Jansson. Work and love). Tove Jansson's world of creativity was like no other. In her lifetime she worked as a painter, cartoonist, and writer. After the first Moomin books she was in theater productions working to get Moomins on stage. She also took big commissions to paint wall frescoes. When she felt she was done with the Moomin books she wrote novels and short stories for adults. Somehow I felt that what she was most ambitious about was painting. How I understood what was told in the biography is that she wished she had more time and freedom to paint and develop her expression. Lack of money was one factor that made her make decisions that were against her deepest ambitions. I think no one has complete control over their life. We can't know where our decisions take us and what kind of bigger picture we are making in our lives. Also there might come happenings that change the whole course of our lives so that we can't say a thing. In Tove's lifetime there was the second world war that took the joy away from everyone. It also influenced on Tove's life stealing the colors from her palette for a long time. In the need for somewhere to hide from the ugly world she created the Moomin valley. At first Moomin creatures were dark and haunting but became something totally different over time. During the wartime the place Moomins lived was a place where catastrophes got a better ending than in the real world.

Nowadays Moomins are a big industry. It is challenging to get to know the person behind it all because of so many layers after Moomin's became a success. It is too easy to picture the whole person according to their lifework and the small steps Tove took through her life become invisible. This biography has lots of Tove's ponderings through her life. It was encouraging to read about the same insecurities and dreams of greatness every young artist has in the beginning of their career. She got through it all and created art that inspires us and the generations to come. A person who took part in so many projects, who tried various forms of art and who was also acknowledged in her lifetime had began from somewhere. She too has been afraid what kind of  critic her work might get. She didn't born as a great and respected artist. She had talent and didn't count hours in her days to learn the skills to become an artist. It is good to remember that all the creative work she did is sprinkled to the years of her long life, she didn't achieve all she wanted in her twenties. Even though she began her career early her first solo exhibition was as late as at the age of 30. The Moomins took their form about the same time and she developed the ideas in several books through her life. Tove didn't wish anything else than to be an artist and seeing all the projects she took part she must have had a different way of seeing the world. Reading this biography makes one see how the world is full of stimulants that inspire to create and play. There are many art forms we can try and learn and we don't have to stick with one. Tove had friends in different fields of culture with whom she made projects combining knowledge and boosting each others creativity and career.

Even when older and more acknowledged Tove had insecurities that made her work harder and become better.  I don't know where the ideal of confident and all the time successful artist has become. Is it a picture that has something to do with productive business world? World that is build on the thought that one has either gifts or not and finding the truth on which category you belong defines your place for the lifetime. In reality it is an inner decision and motivation that makes someone artist, and being an artist is a process that takes the whole life. For some success comes early for some after they have moved to the heavenly residence. If the permission and acceptance for artistic career was given by the merits from contemporaries and financial victories we would lose quite many world famous artists.

It is relieving for us introverts to have an example of a person who was not the loudest and most visible yet stood strongly behind her believes no matter what and made a huge influence to the world around her. She was not afraid to show her opinions even when the situations got unstable. In the wartime she draw covers to some Finnish Swedish magazines and was one of those few who dared to criticize both Stalin and Hitler. Knowing the atmosphere in a small country like Finland in the middle of war it has taken great bravery to draw pictures that represent Hitler and Stalin in a non flattering light. That work really shows a strong mind and brave artist who knew her values in the midst of turmoil. Now that I saw those pictures the reality of wartime was shown in a most realistic way. I had never seen that kind of illustrations from that time.

At the moment there has been talk about women's wages and how having a family might slower the career development for women and be one reason for lower wages. It was interesting to read that Tove pondered whether to have family when she was in the beginning of her career. She did wish for love but was uncertain about marriage and having children. She had seen too many examples were husband's career took the effort of the whole family and even though both in the couple were artists woman's career was the one to be set aside. Raising the children and keeping a household took a major part from woman's day and that time was away from personal career development and artistic work. Of course the attitude towards women's role in society has had a major change and it is seen as ideal that both parts in a relationship have equal possibilities and responsibilities. When she pondered about having children Tove also though about her freedom that she appreciated so much she felt impossible to let go. Even these days you might get criticized if you say out loud that you choose not to have children because you want to be free from that responsibility and concentrate on things you keep more important in your life. It should not be like that because it is everyone's own decision yet there is a very strong unwritten norm that anyone should want to have children. Decisions that feel natural are difficult to make if the atmosphere in society makes you doubt what you want.

What makes it encouraging and empowering to read about Tove's career, art and personal life was to get to know the difficulties and hardships she had. She wasn't offered the best of circumstances for her work and not all her works were successes. Her inner motivation and dreams took her from day to day. She dreamed about foreign lands, even made plans to move to Tonga and Morocco. Failures to fulfill her dreams were not failures in life because dreaming had it's place in harder times. Even though Tove knew many inspiring and interesting people in her life she still felt lonely at times. She doubted if it is possible to find someone with whom to share her life with and mutually support each others artistic development. She considered if career can give it all and whether she actually needs a person at her side at all. Quite many singles might have had the same thought: Maybe I became on island who needs no one and is completely self-sufficient. After all in Tove's life there was love too and she knew to go for it without hesitation. Everyone has their own schedule and frustration comes from comparing to others. She had relationships that didn't seem to take a form for future but she remained friends with her previous partners. She met Vivica in her thirties and thought that she would be her greatest love. Their love relationship ended yet they kept supporting each other's artistic career.  About ten years later she finally met the love of her life, Tuulikki, with whom she had half a century together. At times it must have felt lonely to wait to meet someone but in the end quite few get 50 years together. As a young artist she was afraid that in a relationship she would loose herself and her career. Maybe with a right person she didn't have to lose what she kept the most important, art. Because her order of priorities was always first work then love.

The biography written by Tuula Karjalainen is an inspiring read. It has rich illustration that represents Tove's artistic career and people around her. The biography opens what kind of time in the world Tove lived and how her career was formed from early age to her last years.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Shall We Start A New Season?

Or is it still a way too early? Even if Summer still holds it's appeal for few weeks it is the best time to shift thoughts towards the Autumn season. Seasonal calendar cleaning is great to do these days. All those great ideas that have been hanging out in the calendar without getting a closure are now re-evaluated. Even the fun ideas demand time and concentration. As a school kid it was nice to able to start from an empty table after Summer and Winter breaks. Now in adult life same kind of divisions do not exist. I did have some days of Summer holiday and still a week to come but tasks are waiting to be done after holiday, no-one cleans the table for me. It is not possible to get everything ready by a certain date because project entities are too big. 

Also too many ideas are adding the length to the to do lists. It would be wonderful to be that person who gets all ideas completed but reality has other plans. What comes to blogging there are always more ideas than time to process and create. This Autumn I cleaned my calendar, or Bullet Journal, from ideas that I have processed a little but who still demand lots of time. I wanted to have an empty table to think the coming season and come up with new thoughts and projects. It is more inspiring to make a new season mind map without old to dos. 

This also goes in other sectors of life. There are some things that need concentration. Larger projects that lead to something bigger. Those bigger projects form the core of professional and/or private life. Then there are those minor projects that come in plenty. Little ideas what one could hustle. Some of those just circle in mind some see day light. Those minor tasks can be re-evaluated and after that cleaned away or listed for future. What matters is the bigger picture that takes to somewhere. Days pass when details occupy the everyday life and it might be challenging to see what is necessary and what is not. Especially when there are busier times it helps to see the necessary tasks and what can be put aside. Otherwise it is impossible to have breaks and rest. Work doesn't end by doing. By listing and constructing bigger entities of smaller tasks it becomes easier to manage it all. When distractions are labelled as such it is possible to forget those and start completing a bigger project slice after slice and have breaks in between. 

I have always been an over achiever. I like to do more than is required and develop the work I am doing. Mostly it is good character but it also brought me a great lesson about the essence of work and life. I always tried to complete all when I got the tasks and of course it lead me to new and new projects to do. I began to forget my personal needs and always let go off everything fun if there was work to be done. It took years to understand that work exists in the world no matter how much you do it. But a human being has limitations. It is fun, inspiring and productive to work when work - free time balance is correct and one is well rested. As important as it is to have work whether paid or not it is equally important to acknowledge the meaning of free time. 

That is why going through what is filling your calendar is necessary. Processing what you are doing at the moment is a great way to start a new season. Also what comes to voluntarily accepted tasks, also known as ambitions, it can lead to better achievements if unnecessary projects are simply forgotten or listed to far future. One can ask what is it that I want to achieve with this activity? If this doesn't seem to lead to anything but filling the calendar how could I replace it? For example: Instead of circling around the same blog post ideas that don't seem to actualize, could I brainstorm brand new ideas. Those would more likely inspire more and become completed bringing the sense of joy and fulfillment. That is what I did with my blog on the step of Autumn. I consciously put away many projects to have room for new and fresh ones. 

One point is also to understand when a project is finished. I think fellow over achievers will relate to how difficult it is to let go. Weeks and months, sometimes even years are spent with a work project. It has been inspiring to study and bring up new angles and make the dear child even better. But when new tasks await these old dears can become a burden that require too much time when it would be more clever to concentrate on the new. There comes a day when the work is done and you have to spell it out loud to yourself. This is it, its is complete for now and it is as good as it gets. I love petting my projects. I am not sure if it is about my branch, as a social scientist there are always new perspectives to look everything and the most simple things become massive projects that won't be finished in one lifetime. 

So little time so interesting world. But these larger than life project entities can occupy the whole calendar and begin to press on free time too. One can't handle all the perspectives. When I read the news I see large issues that need to be studied to be able to understand the phenomenons better. It feels tiring not to be able to know the background of it all. But in the world we don't have to do it all by ourselves. And that goes to professional life too. We have to trust that our colleagues are doing their bit. No one needs to take the cape of a superhuman. It is respecting other people to let them do what they are best at. So one way to look at your calendar is to evaluate whether you have already done enough. It might also be that the task you took is not yours at all and you can pass it to someone else who has more to give to the subject.

Pictures taken in front of Korundi - House of Culture.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Humble Objects

Everyday objects hold so much beauty when you look closely. Like these old chopping boards, every mark on them is a note about life lived. Two of these are from thrift store so I can't say what kind of food these have served. But I could imagine that the round one has had several cheese platters in evening get togethers. Sharp knife has made it's marks on surface when blue cheese, brie, bread cheese etc. have been piled on top of crackers with marmalade. The other one looks more like it has been used to cutting strong onions when soups and sauces have been stirred to fill stomach on Mondays and Wednesdays. What comes to the big chopping board it has been in my own use. I bought it when I moved to my first own place. Apartment was in Helsinki and I had one room in a big grey house of blocks that was cold on winters. I read books and wrote uni essays under a blanket because otherwise I would have freezed. In these past 9 years I have cut lots of bread on it, minced a lorry of onions and sliced veggies and fruits. I have also grated chocolate to deserts and hammered cookies to make great bases for cakes. Past years it has every now and then worked as a surface where I have drilled some minor projects. It has worked well and been worth the money it cost (was it a package of two boards at a tenner?). So much everyday history in a humble object you might not actually even see when you use it. 

What would be the next stop for well used chopping board? To be used in the fireplace of cast to waste bin. I have no idea what has made worn out chopping boards so trendy that you can see these in every house if you browse an interiors magazine. Maybe it is part of the huge trend of wooden surfaces and natural look. We want to see authentic and used objects instead of glossy and sterile table tops that look like no one has ever used them. Life is allowed to show and it has become a matter of status to show that there is life outside the screens. That someone has luxurious time to mess around in their home preparing food. Maybe some of these status chopping boards have actually been bought as second hand to add that something to a home that lacks the natural shabbiness. 

Past weeks in many continents people have suffered from exceptional heat and the discussion about climate change has run equally hot. I presume that humble used objects will have a new deeper meaning soon. An apartment that has all new from table tops to sofas, carpets and porridge cups might not be something one wishes to show off. Second hand and upcycled items are forms to express that one knows the time we are living and respects the limits of nature. Objects that have become shabby in use are something to show with pride. We might start to compare how well we have used the stuff we have bought, how long it has lasted, how many times we have fixed it and how many years we have still to use it. Some upcycled items tell their former use in an interesting way. I think in the future upcycling is the new norm and we won't be able to tell whether an object is made out of upcycled material or not. Through creative eyes and skilled hands objects take a second form and become new again.

Repaired textiles used to be something to be ashamed of. Was it two years ago when repaired clothes became a fashion trend and patches were allowed to show? I have two design chairs I have bought from thrift store. Both had minor holes in the fabric and I repaired those. With careful inspection one can see that the chairs are not brand new. But both work well in their use and look great. Last year I visited famous Finnish design store Artek. What I saw in the stylish and beautifully curated store was old design chairs that had been painted in Finnish homes in past periods of time. Those chairs were on sale in the store among all new design furniture. It shows how objects that have been practical and beautiful when bought have not lost their value during the years they have seen. Years are allowed to show when the functionality is still the same. 

I have heard that wooden chopping boards are not used in professional kitchens because of food hygiene issues. At private homes these are practical and stand against time and knife for years. When too worn out we can lift these to the wall of fame in our kitchens and honor their part in our everyday life. Used board might take us back to the moments we have forgotten and to details of life we haven't even thought about. During that first year in my own place this chopping board did't see much knife. I mainly cooked noodles and soups that required hot water and not much else. After that I became more interested in preparing food and this board has experienced many flavors as I have tested new recipes and invented my own.

What is the story of you chopping board has to tell? Or if you just purchased a new one who knows what exciting adventures it has ahead! Art of everyday.

Inspiring wooden materials that are from thrift store. Except the one on right that has seen bread and drill as well as the early noodle period.

Sculptures how to: In the sculptures I made from my chopping boards I used metal sticks that were bought as second hand too. I sawed the biggest board to work as a stand, then drilled a hole for the metal stick. I attached the chopping board to it by drilling two pairs of very small holes to the board and then twining the board to the stick with wire. 

Wishing You the best of weeks!