Fragrance of Art

Fragrance of Art

A friend of mine, actually my very best friend since our early age when we went to school, a young lady who later became a literary critic, told me once: ”Poetry is like a fragrance in the written form”. Perfumes can indeed be as complex as anything you can imagine, something one can buy in elaborately sculptured flasks…or else as delicately euphoric in its simplicity as white lilies or hyacints…or else as unfakably refined as roses or some orchids in wild. But nature’s wonders are not merely scents of the pleasant kind but sometimes quite disturbing in spite of the fact that the very blossoms may look like the most beautiful flowery specimen you could encounter as certain species of rare camellias (Camellia sasanqua) which can unmistakably emit a faint but ubiquitous, pungent scent of mildew. In this particular kind of dualism you can certainly talk about a capricious beauty with two different faces: the visually entitling one and the insidious repelling opposite which give the entire experience a rather surrealistic dimension. But the art of composing perfumes is still the legacy of some specialists literally their noses in their work. These delightful liquids are a tediously balanced mixture of aromatic compounds, fixatives and of course solvents as in a painter’s work. But we usually use metaphoric musical terms to describe the different characteristic sets or layers of ”notes” which produces the whole assembly of the harmonious continuity of the scents…starting with the top notes which are perceived as the very first sensation and followed by middle notes (also called the ”heart”). The top ”notes” and middle ”notes” interact in order to raise the sensation of the fragrant very much like a musical introduction. Base ”notes” finally produce the main theme together with the middle ”notes”, the very foundation where this metaphoric musical composition gets its volatile climax in order to evaporate to nothing but a faint fragrant remembrance, nostalgic reminder of the scent as a residue.

The impression the very first time, when I saw Maya Rygaard’s paintings, gave me at strong feeling of recognition, something totally different but the impressive ”features” were nevertheless rather the same as a clear recall. It took about one year for me to understand finally and fully these common features and mainly because of the fact that I got an opportunity to study Maya’s paintings at her studio which was basically a turning point for my understanding the common features I had previously recalled. I had associated Maya Rygaard’s paintings with metaphoric fragrance in the same sense as making perfumes: there was a presence of crisp top ”notes” followed by more serene middle ”notes” and finally something that sometimes tends to sinister and sometimes to fascinating solemn elements, even sacral base ”notes” as if all these were deliberately layered there by the artist herself. However this was not intentionally meant as I learned later during our discussions but still vividly present in her work. There is a history behind my fascination about perfumes since two decades ago when I had a chance to visit a workshop where these highly skilled professionals were demonstrating and blending new compositions of fragrant ingredients of which some had more resemblance to a rather unpleasant odour than anything refined as a scent. But in diluted concentrations they could turn to a totally different matter, an enticingly pleasant and utterly refined experience instead. Mixing perfumes is not chemistry but the intelligible achievement of human creative powers. Actually I had never since reflected upon mixing scents until I met Maya Rygaard and got emotionally ”seized” with her work. The complexity is unmistakably present in the same sense as I described previously with different kind of moods and atmospheric effects. Maya’s bold sincerity made a deep impression on me while she was displaying her paintings in her atelier including the unfinished ones. She asked me if I could see which paintings had got their final touch and which had not! Honestly I could see the difference between the completed and the uncompleted ones. But I could absolutely not tell what was missing. She had this distinctly unfeigned approach to art and not at least when it concerns her own part without a hinge of shyness…not a trace of is even before those paintings which actually looked like a couple of nervous brush strokes over the canvas and nothing else. But this was still crucial for my understanding of how she created through a process of evolution rather than a deliberate planning of painting in order to depict something. Her creative sense (it is truly a sense) still remaining totally mysterious to me. I gladly make a wild guess that nobody will ever uncover the mystery of her artistry: the closer I came to her work the further I got in the mystery undoubtedly, e.g. learning more was equal to knowing less of her creative characteristics. That, if something, is the true mystery.

After the show in her studio I was listening to her and learned how she went trough a momentary meditative phase while walking to her atelier, as if it was a process of synchronizing the leading spirit of her nature with the tasks of an artist before she actually took place on the ”stage”. Maya is not only a gifted painter she is also a veracious actress of art amongst her piece of work, a different personality from the role of everyday life. What it really means is certainly something one has to experience rather than just to try to understand. I do not actually understand the final result of this process but I understand the phenomenon…because I have experienced it myself. One of the most puzzling aspects in many artists’ work is the fact that there are so many shifting and expressive shades in their artistic repertoire but while you try to figure out what they really want to mediate with their artistry, which seems obvious to me: the impression is fairly hard to express in words. This is certainly one of the main reasons why they mainly became painters and surprisingly not writers. Unfortunately for those who seek messages and especially subtle hidden clues in artists’ work cannot get those hints in Maya’s paintings: she does not want to and she does not act as an intermediate link between the unconscious part of our soul longing for inner revelations and tidings. She does not write a short story by painting! She simply paints of mere power of the creative skills of her own soul! This is something that Maya clearly emphasized during our discussions.

Naturally, this causes the mystery condense even further and I truly believe there was a deep understanding between us: we talk the same language of shapes and colours but it consists of verbal approximations to confirm the mutual understanding far beyond the necessity of the exact and precise communication. And I do agree with her: there is no need to send messages. The spectator’s experience with aesthetic values is actually the only virtue a true artist needs. I shall give all my respect to those who want to evoke a topic but at the same time the mystery is missing when the ”secret” is explained…more or less in the same way as it would be if the author attached a formula to the product of perfume to make it more comprehensible. And even if we could read the contents it is less likely that it made us understand the intentions better clearly because most of us still interpret the written word after our own heads.

The variety of moods in Maya Rygaard’s works ranges within her palettes from pure hilarious sensuality in pastels via lavish yellowish and ferocious orange, red tones to darkness of nightmares of black. Consequently she is not repetitive as if she went on working in one particular ”subclass” of paintings…even if we can justifiably call her art abstract, nonfigurative and spontaneous instead of meticulously designed in squares and geometrical fields. Her only statement concerning her artistry is still her own personal and honest opinion that her paintings might be a bit difficult for people to cope with and mainly because they are not flattering with themes of easy sweetness and they are devoid of obvious messages. It is certainly difficult if one thinks art as a message board as if it were the very meaning. Most of all Maya is for me a composer of different palettes with more resemblance of evolutionary forces behind her paintings than the mere serfdom of manmade, painted surfaces. Her aesthetic sense includes even the framing work (pieces of art on their own) which forms a splendid background for her artistry. As I mentioned the background I cannot help thinking of the historic values behind the mansion (which once belonged to Queen Kristina) where she lives, gets inspiration and does much of her work in the surroundings of this ancient scenery where her artistry thrives and mysteriously evolves to physical ”reincarnations”as her paintings. As I understood the themes come to life deep in her mind unconsciously and meditation is essential to free her inner self of all ordinariness. At the same time her engagement in restoring the historical English park and the main building which I can understand is such an enterprise that would make anybody’s sense of reality securely earthbound…in a way a counter meditation for freeing the mind from the very process of creation which can consume much of one’s strength even if it may be highly rewarding. This is an amazing and harmonious coexistence between the time passed and the era conserved long ago in the first place and as the opposite one can see the dynamic presence of creative, modern and refreshing spirit looking forward without hesitation, fully flourishing artistic skills with the mystery flawlessly intact.

Christofer Catilan