Power of Walk

February 28, 2017  •  2 Comments

 

There are some quieter contemplative activities which I use as a foundation for everything else I do in my life, walking is the most important of them. I cannot talk at great lengths about long walks through deserts, cross Himalayas or pilgrimages of other sorts but I do have quite a solid idea  about the affects of an everyday walk which often takes place in the most ordinary of surrounding, my immediate neighbourhood.

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2017

 

I currently live in a fractured and restless city where much of the walkways are cut dead by highways and fast pace roads, noise of vehicles and fumes that follow. With will and much compromise I have however managed to carve myself a quieter path amongst my surroundings, even through some woods. This route, and especially the fact that I have an access to it when I need to, is an absolute necessity and a lifeline to me. In a city that was never planned for walking, I would otherwise languish. For me it is important to be able to explore my everyday immediate surroundings by walking. I need to know what is around me and how I might fit into it all. The walks I take are ordinary, solitary, repetitive and if possible, long. The small everyday encounters in my life do inspire me deeply, but that is not the reason I value my path so much. I value it for the simple reason, that on the most days, that is all I have, and I make do with what I have. 

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2017

 

Walking moves me on in the spiral of life and creativity. It is about evolving. I believe if you don’t keep moving on, exploring further and deeper, you start stagnating, or worse, you begin to slide to a whole different path that is not yours to begin with. You forget what you love and what is it that inspires you in the fist place. I believe walking that is solitary (does not necessary mean alone because solitude can be shared among those who understand one another), regular and repetitive, keeps you connected to your own path. Every time I walk I remember what I have forgotten, I remember the things that really matter.

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2017

 

My walking tends to follows a certain pattern. Thinking and self talk while walking comes and goes in an uninterrupted waves and finally withdraws all together to the background, leaving the space for simply being. What I find most interesting and relieving is that the small minded self indulged drama of the mind tends to shift into a curiosity and  interest outside oneself, into the world around. I notice how I begin to measure and taste my words more carefully until even they fade away. The language looses its importance. I believe intelligence runs through our bodies in many ways. The rhythmic motion of walking allows me to by-pass my busy mind and I begin to listen from my heart. I find it quite remarkable that just by putting one foot after another our perception of everything can change so dramatically. That walking transforms into wakefulness and stillness.

 

It is as if by walking I can move from the world of thoughts and words into the world of ideas and inspiration. Intuition and insight, and with that, a realisation arises so clear and obvious that I know it had had to be there all along, only I was not listening. There seem to be something non-dualistic and truthful in this kind of awareness that sets in. It is here where I go through a beautiful stream of consciousness as I unravel and stitch together, I touch, hold and release. I look for the rhythm in irregularities and patterns within them. There is thread that flows through what is around me and what is inside of me and makes connections where there use to be none. While I walk I listen, I listen a lot. I listen to the nature and I listen to the answers. And from all this, a whole new deeper, more interesting questions arise.

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2017

 

Like walking, photography is a meeting ground between the person’s inner world and the outer physical world. It is an act of intuition, focus and of being present. After a good amount of walking I enter a neutral state of being, avoid of unnecessary emotion and chatter. Observation without judgement sets in and I think this is the best place for photography to take place too. It is as if I can start to see beyond the usual and to see the usual in a new light. I think it is only at this point camera can be of any good use and the photographer to be able to say something. It is in this state of mind that I am able to photograph not what I see but what I experience. 

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2017

 

My walking life reaches way longer back than my photography life and after starting photography I use to keep these two acts as separate. I refused to carry a camera on my walks and saw it as a distraction. I wanted to keep the two worlds separate for the simple reason that I wanted to fully focus on either one while I was on it. I have since become more flexible and now, as I walk, I carry a tiny pocket camera with me (thus much of the images exist for this post). Walking has a tremendous affect on my photography, yet in order to photograph well, I need to forget about it. This is why the camera still most often stays in the bag while I walk. 

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2017

 

Walking takes me through my good days and it takes me through all those other ones too. It gives me emotional resilience, clarity and a quiet certainty.  The beauty of walking is that it never makes me overly anything but takes me right back to the balance of things. It pulls me out from my own shadows and it draws me back when I start to drift off. Without exception I am always somehow transformed when I return home. Fulfilment that follows after a walk is not happiness, it certainly is not optimism, but a more solid, longer lasting state of mind that resembles perhaps gratefulness.

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2017

 

Like many walkers, I too sometimes  dream about setting my feet on to an all together different path. On this journey, a quest of some sort,  I would walk long, far and uninterrupted, far from cities, noise and distraction into the new and excitingly unknown territory. And maybe one day my dream will come true. Or maybe not. Either way I keep on walking wherever I am, because I know that if only I can create a quieter path of some sort around me, walking will always take me to the place where I want to be.

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2017

 

I like walking because it is slow, 

and suspect that the mind, like the feet, 

works at about three miles an hour.

 

Rebecca Solnit

***


s i l e n c e

September 05, 2016  •  2 Comments

 

 

After summer of immersing in the quiet of nature, in the space that I occupy most naturally, it feels as if I am now breaking a fast. By writing about it, I have broken the silence. But I try to approach my title gently and rather than bend it's meaning, I hope to embrace it. 

 

I see silence as the right topic to start this autumn. My mental calendar follows my children's school year, so for me, this time is always a start of something new. A beginning. There is a new energy after a summer of withdrawal.  The calendar of my emotions and my soul however follows the four seasons. Though here in Malaysia it is beautiful evergreen tropics, inside me it is time for crispier evenings, leaves to turn vivid colours, shorter days and as the birds prepare to leave, I prepare to look inwards, to check in; what has left? what new has come in?

 

 

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2016

 

 

For me silence is a place to gather my energies, to find the perimeters of my being. I am lucky I regularly get to do this in Finland, in the clean, pristine forests and on it’s breathtaking seaside. As I walk in the nature alone, in silence, I walk into myself. Silence in Finland is our native language. It comes to us naturally. The silence in Finland is so clear that you can hear it, as my Finnish friend says. And you can. We like to beat ourselves about it, not been able to talk when needed to.. what does the world think about us… such quiet mob.. But I think there is a real spiritual aspect to this ability to be quiet. We don’t need Asian philosophies or yoga to teach us that. We don't need words to describe it. We already know.

 

I see silence as a withdrawal and refraining. Not to act on the urges and impulses, not to go with the noise of the world. To give space and to take space. Silence is a beautiful state of stillness, a state of being where these two; the mind and the soul, connects. Neither demanding anything from the other but staying truly present. Like friends.

 

In silence I can find inner spaciousness. And yet, it is this inner space that is a prerequisite for truly quieten the mind. I have been a keen novice in yoga some years and I have come to learn that even in its physical form; the practise of postures and breathing, it has all along been about creating this space inside me, in order to reach the silence within.

 

I strongly believe that it is only through the silence that I can really see and sense the world around me. And it is only through silence that I can then begin to express how the world looks to me. To become creative about it. It is only through silence that I can then come out to the world and be ok about it. Be me. It is like a wave, to withdraw and to come out. Both equally needed, both equally valuable and if timed right, both equally joyful experiences. 

 

 

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2016

 

 

I have tried to understand much of the advice I read and receive about blogging and photography. “Say something daily, share your pictures daily or if you must, weekly. Be seen! Talk in every direction, all the time”. I know many who do this and many who are very good at it. They are flying on endless social online and offline platforms. And I understand, its the name of the game. Its the business.

 

 

 

But still I can’t. 

 

 

 

Because for years I use to do it in life. Run in all directions. I embraced the noise and the distraction. I thought thats the answer. But I wasn’t good at it. I couldn’t keep up. I felt lousy and rotten inside. Numb. I didn’t know myself and I doubt that I was the best I can be. 

 

I made a deliberate choice to approach life the other way round. Through slow, intentional steps and pauses. In yoga, there is a gap that one learns to embrace between every breath, a tiny moment when nothing happens. The writer Pico Iyer talks of the importance of comma as a pause and a gap in writing. There is the all important silence in music and there is a silence even in between the endless stream of thoughts we produce. The examples are plenty. These gaps, long and short, are everywhere. By slowing down I have started to recognise these pauses and that they are a gateway for a deeper inner silence and peace.

 

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2016

 

 

 

By allowing silence into my life I have learned to realign my life with what really matters to me. I no longer have an urge to run in all direction, but to focus on the path beneath my feet. To engage in fewer but possibly richer and more meaningful encounters. Maybe some of us are made to go a little slower and perhaps to delve a little deeper. I walk this life on my own pace now, in order to become as me as I can be, in order to have a self to express, in order to have something to say.

 

 

 

A great silence comes over me and I wonder why I ever thought to use language.  

Rumi

 

 

Self Portrait 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2016


in 停格 motion

May 07, 2016  •  1 Comment

Below are my words at the opening of the 'in 停格 motion' exhibition. The characters "停格/ ting ge", refer to "freezing" as I aim to pull focus and capture the essential around me.

 

This exhibition is very much about the motion in the world, but motion also in a way I use my camera. This exhibition is also about space, both the inner and the outer space. Photography for me is a conversation and a meeting ground for these two places; the inner space and the outer physical world. Having an exhibition is part of that meeting ground.

 

As a small town person who flourishes in the deepest of countryside, I first found the sheer volume of Kuala Lumpur overwhelming.  As soon as I arrived here I started to seek it’s quieter corners; it’s culture and it’s people on a closer level. Aku Cafe & Gallery is one of the first places where I finally found a break from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It feels therefore only natural that I could taylor my first exhibition here, to this very space. I am grateful for having this opportunity.

 

 

"It Will Rain Again - Kohta Sataa""It Will Rain Again - Kohta Sataa"It Will Rain Again- Kohta Sataa

"It Will Rain Again - Kohta Sataa", 2015

© Päivi Maria Wells

 

 

Photography is my creative outlet and way to document my inner experience. It is in the inner space that I find the spark for all my creativity. It is a space  inside me where silence, solitude and reflection can be found. It is a waiting room to the unknown and a hallway to endless possibilities. For me there are things in this world that cannot be reached without accessing this inner awareness. The photographs here tonight would not have become possible without the access to this inner space, without spending a fair amount of time by myself, away from the minds of others. 

 

 

"The Rushes-Kaislikko""The Rushes-Kaislikko"

"Rushes - Kaislikko", 2015, © Päivi Maria Wells

 

 

The photographs that are taken in nature are exceptional to me. It is because when I go into the nature, I can drop my guard and all becomes effortless. I feel I have been welcomed with open arms. Something bubbles from inside me and I become who I really am. And it is in this moment I have reached that space. I can only agree with the artist Christopher Marley who says that 'without a meaningful interaction with nature, we begin to deteriorate emotionally and spiritually'.

 

We are all blessed that there are poets in this world. They walk before us, show us the way and find the words to what might otherwise remain only as an intuition or a feeling. Poet Mary Oliver describes the joy of solitude beautifully in these words:

 

 

How I go to the Woods

 

Ordinarily I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend,

for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable.

 

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds,

 or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of praying,

as you no doubt have yours.

 

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit 

on top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, 

until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost 

unhearable sound of the roses singing.

*

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.

 

***

 

 

"Can You Hear the Silence?""Can You Hear the Silence?""Can You Hear the Silence?-Kuuletko Hiljaisuuden?" "Can You Hear the Silence? - Kuuletko Hiljaisuuden?", 2015, © Päivi Maria Wells 

 

 

Photographs here tonight are results from this silent observation. Photography pushes me out to the world and  into myself. Into these two spaces. It allows me to quietly observe the world around me, sometimes silent and clear, other times blurry,  chaotic, noisy and in constant motion. Despite my surroundings I, as a photographer,  stay still and focused. My aim is to catch the essential around me, to try and really see, to use my senses. To live the moment. To do this I stay still for long periods of time but let my camera move. My camera is in motion. I follow the light, the movement, the texture around me. Sometimes this motion can be very small and gentle, sometimes large. Sometimes the camera too, stays still. By also leaving the camera open for longer periods of time, adds to me, a sense of truthfulness as I attempt to capture the passing moment.

 

 

"Tibetan Woman - Tiibetiläinen Nainen", 2014                 "Pranidthi", 2014                     "Little Monks - Pienet Munkit", 2014

     

 

I bring this same process of photographing into busy city streets and markets too. It is not as instant or easy process compared to being in nature, but I have learned, with discipline and certain practises, to reach this inner silence, this space within, even when the world around me is anything but quiet. The people images here tonight are results of the same, almost stubborn stillness and continuity as I return to same streets and corners again and again. In these photographs, I did that for over two years. Not always photographing, but always returning to the same place.  Many times I only observe, without even lifting my camera  but when I start photographing it starts to follow the rhythm of the place wherever that may be.

 

 

"Feeding the Birds II", 2013, © Päivi Maria Wells 

 

 

I hope this opens little bit about the deeper meaning of what photography means to me.

 

Gratitude:

 

The beautiful music tonight has been performed by Sinliong Lai and Keng Choan Ong. Thank you so much. Capturing the mood, we have two young talented photographers here, Alex Yong and Heng Wee Wee, thank you. Thank you for all Aku Cafe & Gallery team. Thank you Leonard and Esther. Thank you Sohphee Ng and Photo Media for offering high quality services and know-how. I was originally trained as an artisan in a very traditional way and  though I highly value visual art, I also put a high emphasis on the final physical product; the quality of the craft and the materials. This often cannot be taken for granted. It seems we tend to linger more and more in a cheap, semi-disposable world. 

 

As an artisan I naturally have a deep need to work with my hands. The photographs here are ‘hands on’ products. I do the work on camera as much as possible. They are not manipulated in programs such as Photoshop. I keep a binded book, where the information of each printed image that leaves my hands is recorded longhand.  The photographs are printed as pigment ink on high quality Hahnemühle fine art photography paper. Each photograph is signed and numbered at the back and comes with a certificate of authenticity.

 

We are here to open this exhibition but at the same time, I find this a wonderful opportunity to bring together some wonderful people; friends and art lovers. I don't think we get to do that enough in life. I am really grateful that you are all here.

 

 

Thank You.

 

4th of May 2016,  Kuala Lumpur

 

[ an afterthought from the writer:  it turned out to be a beautiful, beautiful evening indeed ]

 

 

You can take a peek at the exhibition by clicking here