Thursday, September 22, 2011


Giorgio De Chirico: The Great Tower, 1913
This is one of my absolute favourite paintings.
I love the foreboding green sky, though
it's all really bathing in a warm light, and it's not cold or frightening,

(in fact these are colours I love to see together)
 in spite of oozing solitude.
There is comfort in the silence, you can almost hear the figures whispering...
or just silently contemplating something on their own, yet in harmony with each other.
And the architecture provides a sense of security,
as it rightly ought to do -

it's towering over very small figures, protecting them.
Metaphysical painting was invented by Giorgio De Chirico in Florence 1907. It actually has nothing directly to do with the otherworldly, but rather a sense of mystery behind the objects of our day-to-day existence. I have been at a loss for a while, not feeling particularly spiritual in any way whatsoever. My days are full, thanks to my husband various things are going on a lot of the time, and apart from that I am struggling with the relentless insomnia and the fact that medicines have stopped working for me. It is really all consuming. Apart from this, I am thinking a lot about art. What is it to me?

I also fear that I will never leave that mark on the world that I always hoped to, that mark that was supposed to justify my sufferings in this life. It's an awkward conflict and I naturally hope to see it resolved at some point in the near future. No doubt am I better off not worrying about whether I am of any importance or not, but it's hard for me to change an ingrained attitude. I am now middle-aged and hence all too aware of the shortness of life... of the little that is left. It's a strange shift of attention.

Giorgio De Chirico: The Secret of Love 1914
Any old still life is not metaphysical. 
The sense of mystery seems to be mainly in the empty spaces,
the silence and the haphazard yet obviously well contemplated juxtaposition of objects.
Any old street scene is not metaphysical just because it's empty of people, however.
It's all in the atmosphere, the strange colours that evoke strange atmospheric conditions...
Renee Magritte: The Secret Life 1928
Max Ernst: The Sea 1924
There's something else on my mind on these days which is more positive. Let me start with the fact that I want to make art about life here on Earth, and so I feel that I will fall out of favour from anyone who feels that the purpose of art is to solely point at higher levels of consciousness. The integral community is really promoting art these days as well as debating what exactly comprises integral art. It's worth having a look at, though I do not claim to be 100 % in agreement with them. Because we are speaking of integral art rather than mystical art, I venture to say that it is an art that has a broader spectrum of interest. In all honesty I find a lot of the art presented in their gallery emotionally cold, analytical - and male. Whether talking about chronic illness and similar issues in order to raise awareness of the challenges of the physical reality could be seen as integral remains to be seen, but of course I think it can be the expression of a very profound vision with deeply spiritual implications, and it should encompass our human emotions. It's what I feel called to do, in spite of the fact that it is a form of risk taking for me. Not only is it very self-disclosing and this I have trouble with these days, but it may also simply not work out very well and it may gain no audience whatsoever. There's my ego all fear struck again...
Giorgio De Chirico: The Tower, 1913
I love the way the shadows are mysterious and comforting
rather than scary or in any way negative.
Anyway, the other issue is that of the metaphysical point of view, which has recently become much clearer to me than ever before. For one, I started to read the exhibition catalogue about Giorgio De Chirico and the artists he influenced (A Look Into The Invisible). I am still digging through some rather tedious scientific article in the beginning but believe there will be revelations to be had if I persevere. Can you not hear the silence and life of the objects above? And note that they are all about the sphere and the circle, perhaps meant to symbolize unity, harmony; in a sense the most perfect of forms? Perfection can be found in the most unlikely of places. Yet I prefer when it is imbued with human emotion; compassion, connection and warmth. The most abstract one is the one by Max Ernst, and while it remains intriguing to me, it also keeps me the coldest.

Magritte's spaces are often a little claustrophobic, as in the picture above. One must remember that the historical time we are talking about here was that of general angst as two wars were wreaking havoc with people's minds. That you would find references not only to Nietsche and Freud but also to a gloomy state of collective consciousness is only natural. I will return to all this some time later on.

Can symbolism exist without a reference to the physical world? We tend to interpret the world symbolically, language being a basic form of symbolism. Yet how someone understands symbolism as a language and puts deeply meaningful symbols together to create bigger wholes is an art all its own, something not everyone is capable of. I think abstract art can only go so far in referring to something  universal and deeply meaningful in a humanistic sense. I don't think symbolism will ever die out, but resurge as it has throughout history in different contexts and due to different agendas. I will also talk more about this later.

At the same time, I started photographing objects in my studio. Since that worked out quite well, I continued by taking photos of other parts of the house. In the end, I had a portfolio which was good enough to send off to a journalist who blogs about interior decoration, despite the fact that our house is very far from being completed. I've just always wanted to be able to do this and ended up doing it in spite of all the "buts". I guess this is how you proceed in life: you don't wait for things to be perfect before you act. You just do what you feel driven to do in spite of all the imperfections. This is largely how I lead my life as someone with a chronic illness. I try my best to make the most of what I have. Working around things is my speciality...

Martin had renovated the bedroom walls, and painted them a yellow ochre,
 some of them have a saffron coloured glaze.
It's reminiscent of a Buddhist temple.
This is the notion I worked with, introducing all my red
and turqoise fabrics,
as well as more black and gold.
The floorboards will eventually be painted black.
Here are some of the close ups that give me a deeper sense of the mystery of objects and how they relate to each other (there are more in previous posts).

Photographing objects (I am calling the series "The Secret Lives of Objects") gave me this very strong sense of the being-in-the world of all these physical things and their interrelationships. This probably occurred because the objects were highlighted and isolated from their expanded environment. Suddenly I was able to grasp what Giorgio De Chirico was going on about. There is a mystery to be experienced right here, even in your very own home. There is a spirituality to be sensed where you least think to look for it. Everywhere is mystery. Colours and forms interact in harmony or disharmony, depending on the creator. It all reflects your soul, even the arrangements of fruit (often round!) in a fruit bowl.

There will be more on these artists later...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


What we have feared came to pass in the end - Marius got into a car crash. He has not had the sense to be afraid of cars so that's probably what happened. He has a tendency to sit in the streets, totally unaware that all the nice people are queuing up in their cars behind him! In the early morning hours he dragged himself up of all three flights of stairs, screaming to high heaven. It was clear that he was in pain and that there was something wrong with his leg. He jumped up in bed after a while nonetheless and slept with me until the vet opened at nine o'clock. He had calmed down after the shock so it didn't seem as though he was seriously injured. X-rays showed that he still had a fractured pelvis, which should heal by itself, and an injury in the leg which preferably should be fixed through surgery. But we don't have 400 pounds. So we might have to try to keep him still and hope the leg heals anyway. So here's what happens when you constantly live on the brink of starvation. Our only hope is that they raise our credit limit which went down when we had to re-mortgageIf anyone wants to donate some help to us, there is a donation button on my website ... 

Thank God he's alive!! 
But I'm so infinitely tired of being poor ...

Marius had to have an operation in order to have a fully functioning leg, but luckily here in the UK there are many charities for animals and we did in the end get a sum of money towards the vet bills that helps enormously. Since we live in a small community, there's a mailing list, "free cycle" and the jungle telegraph... we thus managed to borrow a dog cage in which Marius needs to say for two months - he may not walk even one meter. Phew! It's hard to listen to his complaints ... but if one hesitates to let him get out to stretch your legs, it is best to stick the vet bill on his cage! Generally speaking he really enjoys his cuddles a few times a day, one just has to be attentive. The whole town knows about Marius's accident and because everyone loves Marius people are interested in how things are going.

"My God, what have you done to be put in a cage?"
Beatrice and Robin are significantly disturbed by the whole affair ...
Marius is usually calm and happy when he gets to lie in one's arms 2-3 times a day
After a bit of frenzy and rattling the cage,
 Marius now, a week later, seems calm and maybe he's getting used to solitary confinement..?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I was telling an acquaintance about Martin's adventure at the Royal Academy of Art and how fascinated I was to discover and grasp Tracey Emin's artistic message. She said, yes Tracey Emin certainly can do it, but she is so full of herself! When I asked what she meant she just referred to the interviews. I stared blankly for a while, as I tried to contemplate whether I agreed or not. I then thought, that kind of self-assertion surely is a package deal when you're an artist. It kind of goes with the territory. In other words, she wouldn't do what she is doing unless she was quite self-absorbed, and vice versa. This is what most people expect of artists so they shouldn't complain about it! Since it is bad, bad, bad to be self-centred, artists are intrinsically doomed! Yet this is also how art gets really intense.

Then of course I went onto wondering what people think of me. Well, my conclusion is that I'm a similar case, though obviously I don't know what others may be thinking. In a sense the pursuit of art is a form of self-asssertion, some would call it ego-tripping. Who is to tell where the line is? I used to have trouble saying I'm an artist. I have had to work hard on that. Unless I was quite self-absorbed and fascinated with what is going on inside, I wouldn't have the motivation or understanding of the self that helps me create what I create. I have to say though that one gets very sick and tired of oneself as well. I think that goes with the territory too. 

There is also the case of having to assert yourself in order to be noticed as an artist. It goes against the grain of many creatives. No doubt Tracey Emin has been so successful because she has been rather pushy and entrepreneurial, as well as being in the right place at the right time. In a sense I could say that I wish I was able to be a bit more like that. I do find it hard to market myself and manage the stress of self-disclosure. Perhaps it's a fallacy, an illusion I have fallen for because the art market seems so competitive here in the UK, at this time in history. After all, in the olden days I didn't do that much in order to attract buyers. They just appeared, wanting exactly what I had created, each one finding a piece that represented themselves in some way. I also recognize, however, that the situation has changed and my art is not for the same kind of people. How things will evolve only remains to be seen. 

Meanwhile, I try not to worry too much about what people in general think of me and Martin. Dunno... we are artists, after all. Our selves is what we have to give to the world. To me it seems that the only measure of someone's artistic merits is, apart from technical ability and gift, their desire to make a difference in the world. What sort of ego a person has is less relevant in this context.

I finally scanned a series of photographs that one of my oldest friends Jannika Nylander took for a photoproject in art college in Helsinki in 1987. I love the little book she made for me. Most of all I adore the surrealism that paradoxically, in all this theatricality and "outside of ordinary life" atmosphere, really feels like me (the clothes were also all mine). I think most of us (women) like to have reminders of what we used to look like. I find it strange that women have portraits of themselves around the house here in the UK but I guess it's really the same thing. Anyhow, when I see this series I think how wonderful to step out of the ordinary and boring self and play a little! After all, a true artist should be able to use themselves in all sorts of ways, and in fact what may look like self-absorption may just be an ability to step outside of oneself and use oneself as art material. Once a long time ago, Jannika commented,, that I was so theatrical. I really was just myself. Life is a stage and all the men and women merely players.

Photos: Jannika Nylander, copyright 1987


This feature in a Finnish-Swedish magazine was made when I was four years old, and guess who the photographer is... well that's my heritage, indeed! It reads "At Home With The Photographic Family The Carpelans".

A feature about Martin's and my home will soon come up on a Finnish blog about interiordesign. Sneak preview (text in Swedish, photos universal language) here.

Friday, September 9, 2011


This is the Llandrindod Wells Museum
 where part of the exhibition is on show
Both Martin and I had artwork accepted to the Arts Engine Open Art Exhibition for artists of the county of Powys at Llandrindod Wells, unfortunately we didn't realize you could enter three pieces for the entering fee of £ 12 (which was quite a lot for the two of us). Oh well, at least we were there and had an enjoyable evening. The general standard wasn't as high as it was at the national open exhibition at Machynlleth where we just picked up our works from. However, our work were well hung for once, in a really good place with good lighting. It's also an opportunity to sell cards, it's great! There is also a catalogue about the artists and their statements.

I talked a bit to one of the artists, John Wragg, who does translucent sculpture with lines that indicate a strange perspective or optical illusion. He was upset that the piece (Fourth Commandment) was not placed so that the translucency and the lines were more evident. I said to him that in passing his piece I was dead scared to spill wine on it! It was placed so low. It's a shame when these things occur because of lack of a bit more consideration from the curators.

My small mixed media collage "Where There is Hope - There is Life"
 is hanging to the left of Martin's large oil painting
"Give Me the Head of John the Baptist" in the middle. 

Our (Martin Herbert and Vivi-Mari Carpelan) studios will be open during the Powys Arts Month in October 2011, please see catalogue for details. A lot of art will also be on show on the walls of the house and older art at greatly reduced prices in a browser. You will probably be seeing us working on our current projects (drawing and collaging). Tea and applecake (from a recipe from the Finnish archipelago) will be available. The address is 14 Shortbridge Street, in the centre of Llanidloes down the road from the old  market hall. Our house is open roughly three prolonged weekends in the afternoon in October.

Read more on Martin's blog!

My studio - please see previous blog entry for more photos

Our walls are full of artwork for the visitors too see

We will be working on our art projects

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


"Don't mind me, I am just loving your artwork. Though there is, of course, no greater artwork than myself..."

Monday, September 5, 2011


This is a follow up of the photo project I did on my studio. Here are photos of objects in our home, their existence and relation to each other... Objects have a mysterious quality, in my mind, they have an almost metaphysical presence at times much as Giorgio De Chirico suggested back in 1907.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Vivi-Mari's Lentil & Coriander Soup

Like other creative people, cooking comes fairly easily to me. I have created many recipes and have contributed to cookbooks. This is part of our lifestyle. My attention span makes it difficult for me to follow recipes, but in all honesty I guess I also like the creative challenge of cooking something up spontaneously, not always knowing how successful it will be. While Martin is a slow food cook (though normally he does the dishes so I prepare dinner), I am a fast food cook - this means I take very little time to cook and I have been told by some people that the whole process looks quite mind-blowing because of my rapid moves. 

I am not going to inundate the blog with recipes but I thought to share this variation on a classic British theme, as it's cheap, tasty and nutritious. Lentil soup is something you buy in a can or a plastic container in every supermarket. Here is a tastier version:


250 g red lentils (you can use green ones but you have to experiment with the volume), cooked

5 small carrots, cut in  medium sized pieces
Small piece of celeriac, cut in medium sized pieces
3 potatoes, cut in medium sized pieces
1 can of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons Swiss Marigold vegetable stock (powder)
Salt and white pepper to taste
1 l boiling water

> Add all ingredients to the water and simmer for 5 mins. Then add the lentils as well as
1 dl double cream
Fresh or frozen coriander, a handful (frozen is handy because you can just squeeze the bag to a powder and throw it in)

Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 - 20 mins until soft. Blend gently with a handmixer or in a food processor.
If you leave it overnight it will be even tastier the next day!

Friday, September 2, 2011


This suggestion for a design using the olympic rings appears not quite to have been to Tracey Emin's liking....
There were others, for instance she seemed to have been more in favour of the simpler and more colourful one.
Quotes from athletes cover the plane as well.
These memorable words were uttered by Turner Award nominated Tracey Emin when she saw one of Martin's design ideas for the Great Briton's air plane design project. Well... she is known for her sardonic witticisms! I am finally allowed to say a few words about the outcome of the contest as the winner has now been officially announced. Sadly, it was not Martin but an industrial designer/artist, Pascal Anson, who is already well established and whose furniture is on display in prestigious places. I'm sure his designs are extraordinary.

This is a detail of one of Martin's abstract and digitally based images
 from a series called "Unlikely Realms".
His ideas for the British Airways air planes were related to this,
but he was going to add the human touch of the brushstroke
to the designs. The software is only a tool with which you create
new and fantastic 2D and 3D objects to be used in images.
My impression of the contest when we found out about it was that British Airways wanted to encourage people of all walks of life to contribute with something exciting, and that this would be an opportunity for them to get recognition and a career boost of sorts. There was an art, food and cinema section. Instead of choosing some young exciting talents they went for people who are already well established within their fields. To me that looks a bit like a safe bet. 
Martin received a package from BA with instructions and a model airplane to play with... (ok just joking!)
Don't get me wrong - Martin and I both got a lot out of this exercise, which helped us both think deeply about what we want to say with our art. He was chosen as one of the ten people who actually got an interview with the panel of judges (including Tracey Emin), and this seems to me to indicate that he really has a wealth of ideas to offer the world! As we talked through his concept and I tried and challenge him with tricky questions, he came up with wonderful ideas of how the Olympic ideal can be seen as a universal theme of man overcoming adversity, challenge and gravity - and we can see this in the human endeavour of flying aircrafts, too! The material as opposed to the immaterial, or how the two really go together... these are great thoughts and I know he would have been fantastically erudite if he had been chosen (as the process is made into a film of sorts that will be shown on the in flights). 

So one could say, why bother when you have to be famous in order to become more famous, and though we are sad about the outcome we still feel it was an interesting experience. We regret that it cost us a lot of money that we don't have, it would have been great to get a little pay on which to survive over the next year, and maybe some thrilling experiences, but on the other hand Martin now has time to dedicate to his true calling.

Martin has written about his experience here, it's a lot funnier than my account...

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Since I was about 17, I've been quite obsessed with the beauty of objects. It's only natural that I get an urge to photograph items in a way that enhance their beingness in the world. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever..." (Keats)...

During Powys Arts Month, Martin and I will be keeping our studios open for the general public. You can see us presented in this virtual catalogue, which will hopefully soon be in print. We will be working on some concrete art during that time and there will be lots and lots of art on the walls.

I have promised to talk about lifestyle in this blog, and this is something that is very important to me in relation to my workspace. In all honesty, my studio is also my private space, so I have opted to have quite a lot of my personal possessions here. It's very small, and there is very little storage space, as my big cupboard didn't go up the stairs! We are not sure what to do about that.



Books and  folders...


For the time being I have to live with open shelves, which is not really my favourite choice as I like to be fairly organized and have a clutter free space. However, I like to organize my stuff in ways that are pleasing to me and so the following is a peep into the way I perceive beauty in physical objects and how I combine them. In some of the pictures you will see my grandmother, who was a prima ballerina.

Decorative details, compelling images and favourite objects...

Lastly, a few images of the space... It's quite obvious which my favourite colour combinations are. The accessories are among other things cards and prints, a work table from Ikea, an old weathered oak desk, red velvet curtains, white printed cotton curtains from Ian Snow, Indian printblocks, an old metal top for a stove, a lot of small charity shop finds and as much natural material as possible.


“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”

“Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement; a sanded floor and whitewashed walls and the green trees, and flowery meads, and living waters outside.”

“If I were asked to say what is at once the most important production of Art and the thing most to be longed for; I should answer; A beautiful House; and if I were further asked to name the production next in importance and the thing next to be longed for; I should answer; A beautiful Book. To enjoy good houses and good books in self-respect and decent comfort, seems to me to be the pleasurable end towards which all societies of human beings ought now to struggle.”

(You guessed it, Morris is my hero).

However, in order to feel fulfilled you must be able to eat and drink...
(Sheets of music and a Russian poster of the revolution)