“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust
The summer 2018 is slowly coming to an end. As far as I am concerned, it’s been the hottest and the most exhausting summer ever. From many people that I am in touch with, I’ve often heard that they’ve been struggling with the boiling hot temperatures. There’ve been days when the truly exotic climate became a course not only to human beings, but to the helpless fauna and flora that had to function for many long weeks with no access to a live-giving water.
(c) Christian Vincent, ‘Tiny Boxes’, 2012
I prayed for the colder days to come which finally would give Europe and rest of the world some well-deserved relief. Deep down I knew it is just matter of time the heat is soon going to be over, trusting the expected lower temperatures which are typical for the geographical location I live in. The way I felt about the summer this year reminded me of what kind of thoughts occupied my mind just few years ago.
During those years when the summer time used to be rather rainy and cloudy, there were days when I would contemplate on how wonderful would it be if I could move to Greece or Spain and live and work there – having easy access to the warm sea waters, sunshine and warm, ‘holiday weather’.
I felt like I was unable to be completely happy where I lived,it was some kind of restlessness, ‘wanderlust’ that dictionaries describe as strong desire to travel.
(c) Christian Vincent
Luckily, back then, at some local bookstore I came across a mind-expanding book, that came up with the right answers, like a remedy to my strong feeling of displacement in the modern world. Something that I was certain I had in common with thousands and millions of other people.
The novel I have in mind is ‘Flights’ by one of the most talented, Polish contemporary writer Olga Tokarczuk.(*1962)
Tokarczuk, whose works are often compared to Milan Kundera wrote ‘Flights’ in 2008, but for some strange reason the Man Booker International Prize jury needed an entire decade to digest and appreciate the value of the content the writer shared with the world and finally, after10 years awarded the writer with 50k pounds prize.
‘Flights’ is an exquisitely precise prose, fascinating and odd hybrid of a novel, composed of miniature, headed stories and observations about travel and search for the identity of ‘world’s citizens’. Olga investigates peoples motivations by sharing the stories of wanderers who wish to understand violence, follow the Odyssey, move along the Meridian, escape from monotony.
This book can be a kind of bible for the people with restless legs, people whose biggest fear that they will have to spend all their life in one place; to whom travel is the religion, road is the home and their own house merely a comfortable hotel. The narrator is one such person:“Standing there on the embankment, staring into the current, I realized that – in spite of all the risks involved – a thing in motion will always be better than a thing at rest; that change will always be a nobler thing than permanence; that that which is static will degenerate and decay, turn to ash, while that which is in motion is able to last for all eternity. From then on, the river was like a needle inserted into my formerly safe and stable surroundings, the landscape comprised of the park, the greenhouses with their vegetables that grew in sad little rows, and the pavement with its concrete slabs where we would go to play hopscotch. This needle went all the way through, marking a vertical third dimension; so pierced, the landscape of my childhood world turned out to be nothing more than a toy made of rubber from which all the air was escaping, with a hiss.” (O.Tokarczuk, ‘Flights’, 2008)
(c) Olga Tokarczuk
Today, when I look back and think of the award-winning novel by Tokarczuk I simply have to make a link in my mind between the inspiring and apt observations made by the author and the artworks of 2 contemporary artists whose work I’ve discovered few months ago on social media Christian Vincent (US based and represented by c24gallery.com) and Peter Mcardle (UK based).
In my opinion – both visual artist create art that is both philosophical and disturbing in a good sense of the word. The first painter, Christian Vincentt, whose art is represented by the C24 Gallery just like the title of one of his series seems to have his ‘ear to the ground’ and listen carefully to what the subconscious mind of the earth was trying to tell him. His canvases are speaking of longing, isolation, search for own identity within a group. To me some of Vincent’s mysterious artworks seem to perfectly illustrate what Tokarczuk spoke of in her book:
(c) Christian Vincent, ‘Return’, 2015
“Whenever I set off on any sort of journey I fall off the radar. No one knows where I am. At the point I departed from? Or at the point I’m headed to? Can there be an in-between? Am I like that lost day when you fly east, and that regained night that comes from going west? Am I subject to that much-lauded law of quantum physics that states that a particle may exist in two places at once? (O.Tokarczuk, ‘Flights’, 2008)
Christian Vincent, ‘Styx’, 2017, C24 Gallery
Another painter whose artworks recently caught my attention and whose art has to do with the topic ‘travel’ is Peter Mcardle.
(c) Peter Mcardle
Mcardles paintings seem to ask the viewer a question on the current condition of our society, if the modern society could find happiness, if the nature still has got the power to offer us a shelter, and then last but not least – if our acts and decisions are any better than the ones made by the world of vulnerable animals .
Another question that his paintings bring to mid is following: Is ‘the modern wanderer’ really unable to keep things private? Is there anything that the modern social media user would decide to protect from the public eye? Mcardle exposes the modern worlds weaknesses in a very intelligent way. Somehow this is very much in line with reflections by Tokarczuk:
“An old friend of mine once told me how he hated travelling alone. His gripe was: when he sees something out of the ordinary, something new and beautiful, he so wants to share it with someone that he becomes deeply unhappy if there’s no one around.
I doubt he would make a good pilgrim.”
(c) Peter Mcardle
Mcardles artworks present, at times surreal and surprising compositions of people who seem to feel lost, abandoned, uncomfortable in their own skin, alienated from the society, ignored even by the nature, struggling to make a difference in indifferent world.
(c) Peter Mcardle
The conclusion that I made many years ago was that travelling does not happen only when the all doors are properly locked, when the tickets and travel insurance are bought and when the hotel is booked. In truth travelling could be a state of mind of people who look at the world with the curiosity of a tourist.
Fortunately both literature and visual art offers an opportunity to travel to the most exotic, exciting, faraway places, allowing us to explore the unknown worlds and the depths of human mind, and live not just one life – but hundreds of them.
“There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.”
— Robert W. Service
Frankly, similarly to many well-known and unknown poets, authors, painters, photographers living now or in the past – I am fine with belonging to the ‘race that does not fit in’.
It is something that true wanderers must accept for their own sake.
To me Art is the only ‘in-between’ that is there. And how about you?