In trying to answer this question, I’ll start by mentioning the person who actually put …
In trying to answer this question, I’ll start by mentioning the person who actually put those two words together: magical + realism. It was a German Philosopher, Franz Roh, who worked mostly as a writer and critic.
The story goes like this: In the 1850s a strong wave of Realism took over the art scene, as a response to the Romantics. At that time, it was all thus very sort of what photo journalism is today. Only that it happened in paintings and literature. The focus was on every day life. Ordinary people working in the fields, as well as some landscapes and in-doors human affairs, capturing the many sides, and details, of the quotidian was the motivation.
After a while, the first art movement of the 20th century emerged, Expressionism. A little too much reality perhaps, or maybe a search for a more thorough account of reality? Expressionists were not concerned with the universally accepted views of what is real for all that we can see or hear. Rather, they brought the subjective, the intuitive and the deeply emotional sides of perception back to the forefront of what art speaks about. An art piece considered as being a huge influence to the birth of Expressionism is the very famous Scream by Edward Much, which has been recently in the news again.
I see it this way: Realism and Expressionism kind of got married and had two children. One is Magical Realism and the other is Surrealism. Together with auntie Romanticism and other art movements, it seems this family gets a good coverage for the various elements of existence. For existence to me goes way beyond the ‘correct’ perception of what is ‘real’.
But now back to Magical Realism.
It was not until the XX century had settled in, the world had seen a World War, and was entering another that Magical Realism really became an entity, and this happened in the literary genre.
Magical realism is set in the ordinary experience of being alive, but it brings magical elements into it. This happens in a way that does not invalidate the real, but augments it with a sense of ‘things that could be possible’. This is often achieved by not spelling the magical elements and their source entirely.
A classical example of this are the many spiral time warps in Gabriel García Márquez ‘A hundred years of solitude’. But there are many other examples of course. A personal favourite of mine comes from Gioconda Belli’s ‘The inhabited woman’ where the soul of a 16th century native central american woman — who was buried under an orange tree — enters the soul of another woman in the 1970s through the tree’s fruit. More recent films like the Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain, and the music by Bjork are examples of Magical Realism.
Magical Realism is not escapist. It does not try to replace reality with the world of dreams. It does not want to depart from reality and set the dynamics of living somewhere else. One key difference between Magical Realism and his sister Surrealism is precisely this. Surrealism is concerned with the dynamics of the world set in the realm of dreams, what can be imagined, that which could be possible in an entirely different world. The Artwork below ‘Imaginary Traveler’ by Christian Schloe is an example of what I would not class as Magical Realism, but instead as Surrealism.
I resonate with all these art movements, with all these mindsets. I love the realism in the work of Vivian Maier, and I am equally nourished by Surrealism in Frida Kalho and Rene Magritte. But in what I produce, and how I live, I feel more at home when I am closer to the works of Murakami and García Márquez.
But I need more.
Can living around Magical Realism, as a producer and/or consumer make a change in how I live? or how I perceive? or relate to others?
If this speaks to you, stay tuned for subsequent posts and other news by subscribing to my Newsletter
Featured Image: The Crew by Jared French, 1951.
“11 Questions you’re too embarrassed to ask about Magical Realism”
“What is Magical Realism, Really?”
For those of you who visit my fine art photography online shop regularly, you will have noticed that a number (eight to be exact) of photos originally included in the Debut collection is gone.
This decision was made for the sake of keeping the guiding soul, and concept of this first collection pure.
Debut is about Lonely houses — houses seen from a distance, as ethereal entities. Some of them are images forming in our eyes’ mind. Some are memories, of something that is now gone. Others are simply vague notions, of a place we may be moving towards.
All of them are about embracing aloneness as a strength, and no longer loneliness as a weakness.
I am deeply grateful to those who decided to buy artworks from the other set that — until today — supplemented the Debut collection. Notably the cataloguer, the red barrel, the red tree and balloons were among the top favourites in this set. Some of these prints will re-appear as Aleke prints later this year.
For those of you who have enquired, and are interested in works that are not currently available for purchase as physical prints, feel free to contact me to talk about it.
Finally, in this post I am super excited to announce that in my local neighbourhood in Lisbon, my local coffeeshop has partnered with me to exhibit some of my prints. The exhibition will focus on some Lorka works, but the focus is on expired Aleke works that will be available there. For those of you in Lisbon this will start on April 15th, at the Brick Cafe in Lisbon. More details soon.
I have been fascinated by the many elements of Loretta Lux‘s fine art photography over the last couple of years, since I was introduced to her work.
Loretta Lux was born in Dresden, Germany, in 1969. In 1989 she left East Germany for Munich, months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. in 1996 she graduated from the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich. She was trained as a painter, and I read somewhere that — after all — she was not very confortable with the mess caused by paints, solvents, brushes and so on. This seems to be one of the reasons she turned to photography around 1999.
Soon after she transitioned to the kind of work that would become her artistic signature: Photos of children, disturbingly gazing into nowhere, with empty eyes.
The children’s Lost Paradise
In her photos, Lux speaks about a very peculiar vision of childhood. And clearly she is not documenting anything about the children themselves. Instead, they become actors that embody something Lux is after, and which seems difficult to grasp precisely, yet it is not hard to understand on an intuitive level.
I never allow them to wear their own clothes. My work isn’t about these children. You can recongnise them, but they are alienates from their real appearance.
This clearly does not seem to be the kind of work that flows out of espontaneity. It feels very controlled, planned, and executed to a pre-conceived vision to exact detail. This is something I have personally been interested about for a long time, the interplay between art as an espotaneous expression of the soul, and art as a manifestation of controlled thought. The boundaries do not need to be sharp, but anyway. Let us continue speaking about Lux.
Because my style is so different from other work, people regard it as a kind of brand, while I’d rather focus on developing the psychological elements in each image
Lux alters the images, turning them almost into representations: nothing superflous remains; only the relevant. She distorts human proportions, and sets her children against backgrounds she photographed or painted before. I often find the background speak almost as much as the children.
Nobody really knows much about Lux’s technique. And many people over the years have tried to reverse engineer the path to her portraits. Nobody has been really able to do it so far. She has her brand secrets and I think it is wonderful that she does.
We know she does portraits and backgrounds separately, that she distorts proportions (esp. larger head). She removes all shadows, which I find fascinating and meaningful. And then she brings the work to this unique, and beautiful tonal range and texture.
She seems to then turn digitial to large negative, which is then printed on Ilfochrome.
I will speak about this latter process soon….
In this post I announce the third round of the limited time edition Aleke prints, available in the online shop until April 1st 2017. It has two images, and for the first time I am adding one that is not in the traditional square format, it is called Sunset Bridge (click to see specific details) and it is a very recent photo.
Here is a 100% crop of a portion of the print so that you can see how it looks when you get really really close to it
And as promised this Aleke round comes with a Lonely House. This one is very peculiar, and I love it for that. I called it Unlikely Chance (click to see more print details).
And now the 100% crop section.
Prints are currently available for sale on the European Union, United States, Norway, Australia, and Hong Kong. If you are interested in having prints sold and shipped to a different country, send me a message using the contact form.
In the next post, I will present and review the work of one of my favourite artists. She is German, elusive, rather mysterious, magical even if a bit distubing and has done some deeply moving portraits of children. Stay Tuned.
The debut collection originally contained sixteen artworks. The eight that remain are the core lonely houses. Debut embodies playfulness, intuition, respect, estoicism, authenticity, the awareness of nature and the cosmos, and honouring genetic memory.
Or to access to the debut catalogue >> click here
The new Aleke fine art print is the latest format in our family. This is the most affordable of all the formats currently available. Aleke comes with a little twist: the availability of each fine art print in this family is limited to two weeks. Once a new Aleke print is launched, it can be ordered for two weeks. Then it is gone.
The first round of Aleke contains two lonely houses.
It took me a while to decide which members of the lonely houses series would be the first to be born into the new Aleke family. I ended up going for two of my favourites. One of the famous stripy houses from the north of Portugal, and a couple of tiled-patterned twins from the same area.
Both of these photos were taken in a late morning, in the summer of 2016. I remember that day vividly. The light was very intense, but very soft at the same time. I also remember not being in my usual rush that day. I had time to explore, to set my camera in the angle I wanted; to see the details and emotionally connect with the houses before taking the shot. The posterior edition time was about fifteen hours for the stripy, and twenty four hours for the tiled twins. It was mostly tonal adjustments and bringing detail out. I really loved working on them both.
This first round of the new Aleke print ends on February 4th, 2017, and on the day I am writing this post, most of the existing prints will travel to spaced in Germany and the USA.
And I haven’t got the slightest idea of what photos will be the next new Aleke prints.
Stay tuned to find out.
Love — sejkko.
This first month of 2017 was packed with excitement. First the opening of my online shop. Then, the series of lonely houses has been featured again by international media as well as Portuguese news. I am deeply grateful. This time around I also enjoyed speaking to some of the journalists who were really interested in getting a deeper view of my motivations for the series, and asked really interesting questions about the future.
You can access some of the features below (or go to the press section for a more comprehensive view).
I can’t help but wonder if there will be more interviews in the future, and what they may be about. It sort of keeps my mind focused on the fact that a life that strives for creativity, must keep fluid, evolving, refining and ever changing.
Fubiz, for the second time.
The British Telegraph (national news)
Demotivateur (France) (France)
Hello Giggles (Zooey Deschanel’s sensational blog)
Diario de Noticias (Madeira, where the series was born)
Observador (Portuguese national news)
It has been a long journey. I never wanted to just print, pack and send. Now I have a collection of fine art prints for sale, printed, certified and packed with the standard I was seeking, while keeping them as affordable as possible. There is a range of options with larger limited editions, and various printing materials. However, I remain working with art collectors in exclusive, and very limited editions.
We have two printing techniques/media we print on. My absolute hands down favourite for the lonely houses is Chromaluxe Art: a technique that sublimates the print on an aluminium plate, and which delivers a richness of colour and depth that have to be seen live to be perceived. I was myself skeptic that it was so good as people described it to be until I saw it myself. These prints resist a lot of damage and last beyond a lifetime, and do not need any glass in front of them. Chromaluxe comes in two finishes: matt and glossy. Both are spectacular.
Chromaluxe Prints are ready to hang always. By default they come with back hooks, but you can add wooden frames that make the print look as if it is floating. The frames are available in black and white.
The other printing medium is top of the line Hahnemühle fine-art 100% cotton paper. This is the favourite medium for people that want to frame, and those who want to get the classical museum, velvety and colour-rich look. The available sizes for cotton paper prints are compatible with frames from the Ribba Ikea line which allows for an inexpensive and fast way to get them framed. However we believe these prints deserve specialist frames, with special non reflective glass and very sturdy base structure.
The debut collection is made of sixteen fine art prints for sale, which tell a story about finding identity, comfort, inner peace, family bonds as well a sense of adventure, allegory and discovery within ourselves, with our own resources. The sad connotation of loneliness is replaced by a hopeful aloneness that is aware, driven, and energetic, even when embracing nostalgia sometimes.
I have paid a lot of attention to the certificates. All fine art prints for sale in the new online shop are delivered with tamper proof certificates. They are made with acid-free stickers, and holographic seals. I am very excited to generate unique codes for each certificate, using an artificial intelligence program I coded myself that produces a geometric and numeric matching codes.
Early next week you will be able to purchase Gift Cards for those Christmas presents that need to make it on time, and give the recipient of the present the choice of artwork they would like to see on their walls. Stay tuned.
That is all for now: I hope that you enjoy the life of this debut collection.
One of the most complete accounts of the mechanisms of creativity I have studied was presented by Margaret Boden in her book, The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms (Boden, 1990). Her account starts by discarding ideas about possible romantic or divine origins of this aspect of human intelligence and focusing on ideas from history of science, Artificial Intelligence and Psychology.
First of all, Boden’s Maps of the Mind are based on the notion that internal representations, and their transformations, are at the core of the creative act. Boden refers to the mind as a conceptual space that resembles an unexplored geographical landscape – which is known by the mechanisms of intelligence, in a way that is analogous to the way it would be known by a cartographer. In the unexplored landscapes of the mind, however, the geography can change and be recreated over and over again. It will even come into existence as the “cartographer” moves. Beyond taking the representational corner as her starting point, Boden grounds her account using generative systems, which are at the core of the theory of computation, as the means for explaining the exploratory dynamics occurring in her Maps of the Mind.
Generative Systems consist of a set of ‘generative Elements’ or tokens, which can be conceived as abstract symbols in general, and another set of ‘generative principles’ that will determine how the former can be combined in order to construct meaningful units. Familiar examples of generative systems are Language (words and grammar rules), Logic (Boolean variables, and logical connectors) and Chess (pieces and valid moves) among many others. According to Boden, what is happening in our minds as we represent, is the exploration, creation, stretching and even abuse of generative systems. Furthermore, Boden adds that these mechanisms are goal-oriented or, similarly, activated by the individual’s pursuit of a particular objective or purpose, be it the resolution of a problem, the understanding of a phenomenon or simply the pure pleasure of play and exploration.
To illustrate Boden’s Maps of the Mind idea, she gives a phenomenological description of how August F. Kekule ́ discovered the chemical structure of Benzene (Koestler, 1964).
August Friedrich Kekule ́was one of the most prominent chemists of the late nineteenth century. Working in the orthodoxy that characterised this part of history of Chemistry and being one of its strong believers, Kekule ́ worked following strict rules. At that time, the organic chemist’s job was basically to “discover” by experimentation the components and proportions of these present in the different organic compounds whose existence was assumed. The final product was the detailed description of a carbon-based string with which the organic compound could be successfully produced in the laboratory. For a description to be accepted as valid it had to conform to two rules: First, it had to be coherent with the accepted laws of organic chemistry of the time. Second, it had to fit the behaviour of the given compound in laboratory conditions.
The procedure was successful for describing many aliphatic organic compounds such as ethyl alcohol, but not for other compounds like benzene. The search for the description of benzene was giving Kekule ́ — and other scientists of the time — a very hard time, as several attempts were suggesting more and more that finding a description for benzene was impossible.
The problem was related to the valence of the carbon atom. It was known at the time that atoms had limited and fixed capacities for linking with other atoms. Around 1858 Kekule ́ developed a theory which postulated that organic compounds were formed by open strings of carbon atoms. He also had taken carbon to have a valence of four and hydrogen a valence of one. This meant that in a open string of carbon atoms, the ones in both ends of the string would use one of their valences to link to the inside of the string and the ones in the middle would use two valences (one for each side). Following this, atoms in the ends of the string would have three free valences to connect to other atoms and those inside the string would have two. Back to the Benzene description problem we know that experimental evidence had already shown that that the Benzene molecule was made of six atoms of carbon and six atoms of hydrogen. Using the laws stated by Kekule ́ for the formation of organic compounds, the Benzene molecule, having six carbon atoms would need fourteen hydrogen atoms and not six. Double or triple bonding was out of the question because experimental evidence had shown them to be impossible to keep in a stable manner. The compound did not capture monovalent atoms either… Who or what was wrong? Kekule ́’s measurements used to obtain the experimental evidence? or the foundational theory of organic chemistry? For several months Kekule ́ worked looking for an intelligible molecular structure to describe Benzene without success. With all probability he explored many of the possibilities that the laws for chemistry of that time allowed.
Up to this point, the story does not go beyond Kekule ́ exploring the combinatoric space formed by the chemical-element representations together with the rules that could be used to combine them. This description could be called “The late XIX century organic chemistry Generative System”. What about Boden’s Maps of the mind?. Boden’s supports the relevance of her ideas by quoting the description of an experience Kekule ́ had which helped him to solve the Benzene problem. He described it the following way,
I turned my chair to the fire (after having worked on the problem for some time) and dozed. Again the atoms were gambolling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly to the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by repeated vision of this kind, could not distinguish larger structures, of manifold conformation; long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together; all twining and twisting in snakelike motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lighting I awoke…
Originally quoted in Findlay, A hundred years of Chemistry, p.39.
In terms of the initial formulation of the problem, what Kekule ́ realised was basically that the behaviour of the links between the carbon and hydrogen atoms could be transformed from the open curve with fourteen free valences into a closed one that left twelve open links. Apart from challenging the organic chemistry community of the time (with the proposal of a closed carbon ring) Kekule ́ also had to redefine some of the rules for the connections between atoms, perhaps, encouraged by the possibility of closed rings in existing Organic Chemistry. This was because he could not come up with a characterisation that would be in accord with the empirical evidence. The benzene molecule only attached six hydrogen atoms, so Kekule ́ proposed a dynamic structure which switches chemical links.
In terms of Boden’s Maps of the Mind, what Kekule ́ experienced was an active process of conceptual construction – which took him to where he wanted to go: the correct formulation of the benzene molecule. In this case, the topological concepts about open and closed curves mentioned above had to be present in Kekule ́’s mind, at a same level of description as the organic chemistry rules he knew. This allowed the transfer of the notion of closed topology into the system of rules for writing organic chemistry he knew.
In more everyday terms, we are actively exploring and constructing maps of the mind when we solve problems by analogy, or express emotions non-trivially using clever metaphors.
Dante Alighieri wrote la Divina Commedia in 1321. Through its many doors, this poem has been revisited over and over. The notion of duality in the universe always hits every culture at some point. My first contact with the poem happened in Edinburgh, Scotland, when I saw the Russian/German physical theatre group Derevo interpret it. I did not sleep that night, it took a long time to assimilate what I had seen. It was very powerful, and it touched something deep in me, within my inner space of questions and uncertainties. Perhaps the key associations I made concern the cyclic nature of universal dynamics. And a clearer meta-view of the perception that is given to us, to learn to see the truth. We make mistakes with our baby perception, as we learn to see. That leads to the cycles of hell and purgatory, all in the path to see the truth, and reach heaven.
Dante’s hell consists of nine circles: named behavioural patterns of abuse, greed, fear and all the things that disconnect us from the sources of our intuition, love, and trust.
How would a soul from the future, say, 3000 years after this was written, in the year 4321 interpret Dante? how would the lessons of the soul learnt reflect back on the darkness of that time?
I am building a time machine, because I need to go there and find out. Keep tuned.