The Art of Rahju






The goal of Rahju’s works, in a certain sense, could be linked to one of Wittgenstein’s basic premises of the Tractus: “What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.”

For clarity and restraint in painting, Rahju has few equals. His painting readily create in us an immediate sense of the general. The work is about a particular subject, but the sensation is always a general one- about life, about one’s own experience. It is like reading, where we use the test to make new experiences and not only for literal interpretation. With his work, we achieve a kind of single understanding, and single meaning. We are aware as Sarte has said, that “man is universal singular.”


An artist is made, also makes himself; he can create his own individual work as well as animate others’ work with sometimes wonderful meanings, and the distinction then necessarily blurs- art depends on the vision of the artist rather than the nature of the subject.

“Oh to be silent! Oh to be a painter!” Virginia Woolf says in one of her essays, writing about Vanessa’s paintings. “No stories are told, no insinuations, no actions. The hillside is bare, the group of women is silent. The strange painter’s world where psychology is held at bay and there are no words.” In the “Voyage Out,” Terence Hewet plans a novel “About Silence”…

Rahju’s reflections in his “Silent Message” in the Exhibition Catalogue (the Catalogue itself is a work of art from the hands of the artist so imbued with the silence he talks about) more than echoes such self-conscious artists such as Virginia Woolf, about the travails of creation. And yet others about art as experience: “Art is much closer to the erotic than the ethical” says Proust. “It is a solitary communion (again mark Rahju’s words in the silent message) with the essence of a unique other, much deeper than any conversation however illuminating, with the best minds of the world.

Silence and solitude are therefore important in life as well as art for tapping the well-springs of creativity, as well as in mediation of works of art in enriching our lives- the world has too many things you cannot know alone! In the company of a ranging and restless mind things sometimes produce an emotion that has a way of reproducing itself. It is the same in front of a work of art; the work of art becomes a subject for meditation- the stillness of sculpture, painting, certain buildings, some kinds of poetry, landscapes- or, to listen to someone saying nothing at all, to look at someone doing nothing at all, without thinking anything, without saying a word.

This is the world Rahju would like us to invoke, to enter his art, understand his aesthetic. His “found subjects” are in a sense, much the same, I think, as Duchamp’s “found objects.” They are for him as well as for us, so pregnant with resonance and implication. True, in selecting these subjects, it is as if Rahju has invited a certain element of chance into his aesthetic.

In his art the subject/object is evoked through some aspect of its appearance freely chosen for its analogical character, the resemblance it bears to the essence the artist attributed to his subject/object. We, the viewers select what we like or dislike and make a fable of its reality that is shown to us on the canvas. In front of Rahju’s paintings we feel, we are separated from the work and the world by a void, like the void in Eastern art. Like the apophatic-negative-mystics who teach one to examine all that which is not, so as to perceive in the absence a faint light, flickering but also radiant, we tell a story to ourselves, we read the painting, we would ‘understand’ the narrative passages.

In other words, it means that we convert the iconic representation model into language and perhaps into a story, thanks to the mimetic power and fascinating likeness of the subject we see in the paintings. To be sure, we can only achieve this as Rahju has pointed out, in silence.

Then, the paintings will speak for themselves, enter into the silent communication with you. But you must, first of all, shed your preconceptions, recognize the gap, the valley, rift, cleft, space, opening… what the Japanese No word Mu stands for that separates you from the work, or what is signified in the Hindu Sanskrit word Tirtha- the crossing place, place of pilgrimage, river, Ganga, Sindu, Saraswathie, drinking place… yes, take advantage of it.

It is your “Topos,” where, as in Greek Tragedy, meaning can be gathered, recapitulated, renewed, in a “play of stillness.” It is in these moments of no action, that the lovers as well as the actors ‘secret’ interval, that the communion that Rahju demands can be established.

The tale told by Osho in the Catalogue perhaps provides us with a clue to Rahju’s working methods. I do not know if it is the King’s way or the Fool’s way- but then does it matter? In the Catalogue we are also told that Rahju is an artist who has also made his life into a work of art. Whether every artist can perfect the life as well as the work I do not know.

But Michael Foucault talking about the ancient Greeks says: “What strikes me is the fact that in our society, art has become something which is related only to objects and not to individuals or life. That art is something which is specialized or which is done by experts who are artists. But could not everyone’s life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the house be an art object, but not our life?”

There is also Sarte who says “we have to create ourselves as works of art.” And also Nietzsche, “one should create one’s life by giving style to it through long practice and daily work.” Famous examples of those who made their lives into works of art are: the Buddha, Socrates, Christ. But they never wrote a book or painted a picture.

Really we are perfecting something in our own way, if not our lives, some of us have made ourselves good cooks, good gardeners, lovers, husbands, wives- the arts of life are legion, but life itself as a work of art, well, will always remain as somewhat of an ideal!


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