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.

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