On Martin Ålund
Time is a strange thing. I first met Martin Ålund when he was four years old. That was back in 1971, and a little over forty years have now passed since I used to baby-sit him. His father, Lasse Ålund, had been a jazz musician and some sort of lucky charm mascot for a sheik in Beirut (Lasse was actually paid to accompany the sheik on his roulette rounds as his presence was seen as bringing good luck). I suppose one could say we saw Lasse as our very own hippie guru. He was the one who introduced us to Sartre and existentialism, and through his recollections conveying images of a Thousand and One Nights-like Beirut, he made the world, how should I put it, tangible. There it lay – in all its indescribable beauty – a mere stone's throw away. That was how I saw it: we simply had to get out there.
He was, however, very strict when it came to one thing. When baby-sitting Martin, I was given clear instructions that under no circumstances was I to praise his drawings. I was simply to nod and say OK – and this was difficult mind you, as his drawings weren't like children's drawings normally are, with their typical naïve charm and natural childish expressivity, with the witch's nose not only extra long, but unfathomably long etc. Instead, there was a meticulous quality to Martin's drawings, as though his hand was somehow totally synchronized with what he saw.
A photograph of a road, for example, inevitably becomes less of a "road" than the road we see in reality. The buzz of insects, the dust churned up by a passing country bus still lingering in the air, irritating the eyes. All of that is gone. And all that remains is "a road".
Reality doesn't look like that. Eyes and a soul are needed to transform that which has once been experienced if it is to capture our interest at all.
When I later became reacquainted with Martin in the late eighties, he had just recently been accepted as a nineteen-year-old to the Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm. He eventually showed me some of his paintings, and I tried as best I could to convince him not to go with the flow. A flow that with twenty years of hindsight led straight to a fall the size of Iceland's Gullfoss. Poor miserable artists. Although they might make good money now and although they own apartments on Södermalm, they know deep inside that they will never develop (or surprise themselves, which is the same thing). Artists who rely on the intellect, with all those lavish, virtually Heidegger-esque thoughts, rather than on the hand, their hands – on that which you can never entirely control but that exists in the soul and ensures that what you achieve acquires an inimitable quality without even having to strive for it.
And this might sound as though I am simplifying something that is in fact much more complicated: as though the difference lies between those who think up something that they imagine to be (or at least resemble) art, and those who simply make art because they don't know any better. Paintings by Martin Ålund change over time. And precisely this dot over this "i" is simply impossible to "think up" beforehand.
Translation by Richard G Carlsson