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John Andersson

Niklas Nenzén


The Place of the Soul


The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet. Where they overlap, it is in every point of the overlap. - Novalis

Inner and outer world do not merge without complication. And it is hard to define what is objective, but sometimes, in moments of presumed clarity of vision, one seems to realize that "this is exactly how it is". For example, when deciding the character of something as novel or as probably never seen before. Two images/paintings can roughly resemble each other but one of them may in some subtle way appear as a notion of something novel. One catches a glimpse of a mentality so novel that it could not possibly be a part of the world around it. Or - is that just imagination?

To renaissance scholars in Italy the concept of imaginatio had a broader significance. Imaginatio translates with a spectrum of synonyms: imagination, fantasy, einbildung et c. There were at least three functioning modes of imaginatio. Taken together they communicate something that is still worth pointing out: that reality is partially imaginary and that the imaginary is partially real.

The first function is easily recognizable; imagination as a productive individual ability. This corresponds closely to what we call creativity; the ability to solve problems, invent and create - an ability which remains agile while we sleep.

The second function may sound equally familliar. This is the viewpoint of imagination as being an alien, invading force, hostile to order and orthodoxy. Ideas and distractions often known to the church as heretical tendencies or, to the establishment, as examples of bad taste. That is: something that disrupts order; perhaps nothing more than that a certain image neither represents nor symbolizes anything particular or valuable in that order.

But imaginatio was also known to be - the third function - that instance among the capacities of the human soul that animates man-made objects.

The created object could turn real! (Or: be given a soul.) For that to happen, the first thing the image needs is obviously a spectator, if only the image-maker himself. When Henri Rousseau in the beginning of the 20th century painted his jungle fantasies, his motives became so alive for him that he was compelled to look away and open a window for a cooling breath of air. The child watching a movie experiences it as reality. That is to say: through imaginative perception they reach "all the way".

Of course, the possibility of madness lurks within this nearly magical faith in the effectivity of the image. If not exactly a naivety, so a risk to be willfully seduced by any phantoms of the mind. This tendency acknowledges itself in every epoch, in every style of painting, as a certain care for making the improbable likely, or the factual dreamlike in quiet drapings of atmosphere.

The mood, the atmosphere. Atmosphere is a condition for life on planets as well as in art, or just where something of emotional interest is happening, as in moments of falling in love or in chance encounters.

An atmosphere is a psychic room, a secret of yourself, which, like a large unopened envelope lingers in the air, waiting to be revealed.

What makes the psychic room gravitate towards the factual room?

That the enigma remains unsolved.

John Andersson and Niklas Nenzén, text written for an exhibition catalogue of 4x in 2006




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