One of my art academy teachers once said to us students: ‘If you cannot talk about your artworks, then you might as well not make them in the first place…’ Although I do not fully agree with him, what he said did stick with me for years. I am aware of how hard it is for me to put into words what I am trying to tell you visually. But….. I think I should try and I will, so here we go.
If you have seen a few of my dark artworks, you will probably have noticed that in most of them I have depicted a demon, a ghost, a ghoul, a phantom, shadow man, boogeyman, spectre, devil or whatever name you want to give it. It lingers in a corner of a room, rises up behind a line of trees or it lurks in the attic. But a demon has no right to exist, nor power, if it isn’t noticed by someone else. So, many times a small figure looks right up at what threatens him, and in some cases it is us, the audience that sees him.
Although the demons that I depict, are obviously very dangerous, they surprisingly do not attack and my main figures do not flee in panic. In my work there is no chaos. Instead there is a silent stand off, in which both parties look at each other with interest. I will tell you why that is.
The devilish entities in my work represent the challenges that we face in life. Whether this is pain, anger, danger, frustration, sadness, anxiety and whether this is an internal or external problem, the result remains the same for all of us. We are all faced with the same choice: Do we respond by running from what troubles us or do we take responsibility and face it?
Zen master Thich Nath Hanh taught us that negative emotions can grow and become stronger if we don’t envelop them with mindfulness. Like a mother holding her baby, we can take care of our emotions and let them grow back to their initial state: a mere seed in our store consciousness. But… that takes recognition, courage and skill.
In my experience ignoring a problem indeed makes it fester and eventually grow into something so big, that it can not be controlled anymore. In the end it will have a life of its own and it will control us instead. The small dragon has grown into a big one, angry because it didn’t receive any attention. Now it is lashing out. Good luck slaying that one!
But the hero in my work understands that he, even though the ghoul he is facing is very dangerous, shouldn’t ignore its existence. Because in doing so, like the problems in our life, it only allows the demon to grow even bigger. He understands that in order to fight the demon, he had better know what its character and its weak points are. To solve a problem, we need to take a good look at what it actually is. Knowing your enemy is half the fight. And again, that takes courage…
I grew up with a father, who refused to take responsibility for his own, sometimes violent, actions and behaviour. Instead of taking care of his own monsters, he handed them over to the people around him, who desperately tried to appease what he gave them. But these internal and external monsters he refused to face, grew so big, that many people were wounded by them, including me and of course himself.
I knew from a very early age, that I did want to take responsibility for my actions, even though at the time I didn’t know how yet. I did manage to befriend my own dark side though, which turned out to be a very friendly hiding place in times of trouble. Later in life I managed to turn my dark side into the artworks you now have before you and it pleases me to know that they have helped a few people, who recognised something significant in them.
Perhaps now you understand why my demons are not merely evil. They are our reminder of staying alert and being brave. Of taking responsibility and nipping challenges and problems in the bud, if the situation allows that. And let’s not forget that they are a part of us as we are of them.
Also, my main figures are not just helpless victims, even though they are small or young, they are up to the challenge. The danger they face is not bigger than them. Because they have learned to take responsibility and understand the monster, both inside and outside of themselves, which makes them pretty dangerous too. So never underestimate people who have seen the dark.
Eva Mout, Ursus Art