By Timo Valjakka
Winter. We spend the evening together, my friend and I. The sharp contrast of the soothing warmth of the red wine with the threatening cold outside leads our conversation to the comforts of life. Soon we are searching for what is most beautiful.
My mind goes over images and experiences like postcards: works of art, buildings, landscapes in the north and south. None of them raises its wings to soar over the others. Each of them has its own aesthetic value, but on their own they are not enough.
With the positive effects of the wine helping us along, we finally arrive at an answer that satisfies us: the greatest beauty is found in the moment of pure experience, of which Peter Handke has written, the ephemeral passing moment, in which the world or a part of the world suddenly seems as if illuminated. Such a moment is timeless, but it ends as soon as consciousness begins to analyse what is happening. Neither can it be repeated, or forced; it comes when it comes.
I return to art. Could it be possible that the very best paintings have captured those moments, that the moments have materialised in paint and canvas? Is one of the secrets of art precisely its ability to freeze the transitory second and present it again, as if for the first time? I am thinking of the angels in Wim Wenders film, who gave up their immortality and descended to earth, because they longed for colour, scents, and the touch of a human hand. Are paintings moments which have grown tired of floating aimlessly in the unsubstantial world of ideas, and decide to become attached to the canvas in their longing for a corporeal existence and a longer life?
Spring. I look out at the grey walls of Suomenlinna Fortress in the rain, the rough, severe granite surface, which the pale light sets delicately alive. The character of the wall, unresponsive and warm at one and the same time, makes me think of the works of the Icelander, Jón Óskar, which I have just seen in his exhibition.
I also think of the highly probable possibility that Jón Óskar has succeeded in his works in capturing an entire crowd of such moments. Because in his art, the essence of painting is clearly not in what it represents. Those monumental faces, the ornamentation that resembles the wallpaper of a ramshackle hotel, and the black holes that pierce the surface of the image, what they all have in common is their significance as a motive. They are an alibi for the creation of the painting itself. They are also the traps needed to catch the fleeting moment.
The sense of beauty and intense presence which radiates from beneath the rough surface of Jón Óskars paintings, and which immediately catches my attention, is undoubtedly linked to his vigilance when faced with the canvas. He has the ability, and the daring, to stop work and step aside at the precise moment when the painting is finished, that fleeting second when the unique moment reveals itself and is fastened to the canvas as if it were film.
This enchants me. Everything else in Jón Óskars paintings, such as the allusions to Icelands forbidding landscape, the topography of lava and ice, or the wallpaper decorations that awaken memories of Raymond Chandlers smoke-filled novels, simply enriches this first, and strongest, experience.
Text © Timo Valjakka
Images © Jón Óskar
|...the greatest beauty is found in the moment of pure experience,|
|Is one of the secrets of art precisely its ability to freeze the transitory second and present it again, as if for the first time?|
|Because in his art, the essence of painting is clearly not in what it represents.|