Story of Butterflies

February 10, 2018  •  1 Comment

One way or the other, every picture has a story. I have a particular series in my picture collection which reminds me of a challenging, yet important time in my life. The  pictures in the series are of butterflies, and this is the story of how they came to be. 

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2018 

 

I believe creativity, like art, is a spiritual process that lingers in the physical body before being released out into the world. It never advances straight out of the thinking mind, but always makes a d-tour through the soul. It tickles under the skin and finds itself into the hips, stomach and spine. Hoping to get out, it will flow where it can. Like those childhood puddles that could be guided with a stick to form little rivers. Art needs to move and it needs to flow. It needs to find its way out into the world.

 

And at times it does not get out. It happens. Life is like that. The little rivers are blocked and we are stuck. It happened to me some time back. All of a sudden, I saw nothing and I felt nothing. Instead I found a little dent in my being and made my nest in there. I lined my space with suitable material; self pity, doubt and what was left when the shit hits the fan, fear. Curiosity was out of the door and in came insecurity and worry. In a commanding, adult voice of my mind I heard myself say, Why bother? Whats the point? You are not good enough. Get real. Every word like a new lining in my unhappy cocoon.

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2018 

 

All the advice I had heard, read and written down a thousand times incase I ever get creatively stuck, sounded all of a sudden more like a joke. “Get to work and the muse will find you." "Keep at it." "Show up." "Have faith." "You are good enough and we are ALL creative." "Go out and make stuff!” This all sounded like empty self-help jargon. Nevertheless, I decided that even though I didn’t believe in the words, I would obey their advice. And so, with reluctance and force, I went out. My one encouragement was the knowledge that I had never yet returned home from a photography trip without being somewhat elevated and inspired. Photography had always given me a sense of purpose and been its own reward.

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2018 

 

I decided to go to a butterfly park, a small, quiet, tropical enclave of region’s butterflies and moths. My commitment to myself was to make regular visits to the place and just carry my camera along. And I did. I started to visit the park again and again and at some point I realised I was taking pictures. Little by little, a habit formed and I started to learn more about the butterflies, their behaviour and lifecycle, how to approach and photograph them, what to wear and when to go.

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2018 

 

With some reasonable amount of force and stamina, I had managed to developed a new creative project. My visits, which went on for two years,  were not originally about the butterflies themselves but about getting out and trying to sustain my craft in what was otherwise a shaky time in my life. I cannot however underline enough the deep effect the butterflies had on me. It was impossible to stay absorbed in the negative self talk while giving all my attention to their simple beauty. It turned out I became less self conscious around them. What was inside me and what was outside me started to align and I could sense my curiosity and strength return. As Caroline Myss says, “The soul always knows how to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.” The butterfly park, an oasis in what is otherwise a busy, restless city, gave me just that. A chance to quiten the mind and reconnect with myself. These repetitive visits turned out to be  a healthy and a deeply nurturing experience. 

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2018 

 

My life is not dark any more. I am engaged in number of different creative projects and I feel I am in a stable, neutral ground again. The little rivers are flowing and I happily let them. I also know that life is always changing and that things come together and then they fall apart again, repeatedly. Next time this happens I know that the advice I was given was right all along. I have my own experience to remind me that creativity is a bumpy and uncertain, yet deeply rewarding path in which the most important element is to persist and just keep on moving onward. 

 

© Päivi Maria Wells, 2018 

 

***

 


Art and Soul: Petri Mikael Kahra

September 10, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

 

Petri Mikael Kahra is a brilliantly multitalented Finnish photographer and a musician based in the Western Finland’s coastal town of Vaasa. I was fortunate to meet Petri during my exhibition ‘Pictures from Silence’ that took place in Vaasa on summer 2016.  Petri shared with me his beautiful footage which he had captured on Kvarken archipelago, a coastal area near Vaasa.  This is the very same seaside where I spend much of my time when in Finland. It is a place that resonates deeply in me and in my photography. 

 

My image taken on a late summer night on Replot, an island of Kvarken.

 

Kvarken is a narrow marine region between Finland and Sweden with an outstandingly beautiful rocky archipelago. It is also a unique geographical entity. The land was formed by the melting of the glacier some 10 000 - 24 000 years ago. The land in the area continues a steady rise of about 8,5 mm a year and is one of fastest elevating areas in the world. The rising land forms around one square kilometre of new land space every year. As a child I use to be mesmerised by the thought that one day (2500 years from now) people could walk, drive or cycle the 80 km distance to Sweden. Finland’s Kvarken archipelago forms a UNESCO World Heritage Site  together with Sweden’s High Coast (Höga Kusten). 

 

Whenever I am anxious and overwhelmed about the state of affairs in our world I try to bring at least one moment of beauty and silence to my day. This has become a daily practice and it allows me to go rationally forward with whatever it is that I am facing. Petri’s music video is a deeply honest tribute to this kind of approach. It is also a message to all of us about the importance of the natural environment and the gentle power it holds.  Art that is born from pure awareness and which bears witness to our deep human experience honours the fact that our imagination can never compete with the reality of nature. Petri’s art brings us right to the edge of this knowledge. For me his wordless language speaks volumes.

 

Please see his video below: 

      'Nature Time - Ajasta Irti'  © Petri Mikael Kahra 2017

 

Petri published his video ‘Nature Time’ on a day when Finland celebrated her first official Nature Day. As part of the 100 years of Independence celebrations in 2017, Finland is now a first country in the world to officially fly a flag in the honour of the natural environment.

 

Amongst the overwhelming noise of the world my aim is to listen more carefully to the quieter more delicate voices that are secluded all around us. Most often it is these voices that offer us the kind of insight which no amount of glamour and chatter could ever do. Introducing these creative people will be titled "Art and Soul".

 

Petri Mikael Kahra website: Sielunmaisemia 

'Nature Time':  in YouTube


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.

 

By the Water- #014By the Water- #014"It Will Rain Again- Kohta Sataa"

 

"It Will Rain Again - Kohta Sataa",  © 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. 

 

 

© 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.

 

***

 

 

By the Water- #013By the Water- #013"Can You Hear the Silence?-Kuuletko Hiljaisuuden?", Gulf of Bothnia "Can You Hear the Silence? - Kuuletko Hiljaisuuden?"  © 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.

Little MonksLittle Monks

 

            "Little Monks - Pienet Munkit", © Päivi Maria Wells 

     

 

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", © 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