Rudolph has been wearing the same suit for nearly three years, always walks with his sketchbook in one arm and the theory of classical painting in the other. He has three wives and a child in three different countries. This is the story of a sailor now a painter. His transition from the loneliness of the sea to his internal embrace of art and his philosophy about time and why he practices the great classical techniques of painting.
I became a sailor by chance, really. I was a journalist for a small paper in Stockholm. I got a few articles here and there, but not nearly enough to keep my small apartment, and to eat regularly. I would have one meal a day of pasta or bread and a beer. All I had to my name was my first edition of “Dr. Glas” by Hjalmar Söderberg and my journal, almost down to my last worn pages.
It was the first snow fall in Stockholm in an unusually cold autumn. I was at the docks in Slussen cowering on the pier when a massive cargo boat swam to shore. When the ship anchored and the ladder hit the dock, one of the mates came wallowing down, tired and worn from a three month journey. I shouted to him, “Need another hand? I don´t need much, just a cot, and some food, and I work hard,” and without question he gestured toward the ship. I didn´t return to Stockholm for three years. Little did I know that solidarity plays a strong role in being out at sea.
People are lying when they say they love the ocean. It was just my job, and it scared the hell out of me. But that is also why we pursued the work. We would transport crates and supplies of anything you can think of: food, animals, tampons, chair legs, bed frames, tires, broken car parts, and the occasional escapee. So, most of the time you have nothing else to do besides think about time. What it brings, what it has done, and what it kills.
We went to America, Greenland, Iceland, Canada, Africa, the coasts of all of Europe, South America and Australia. I met my first wife in Venezuela while she was working as a prostitute in one of the sailor towns. She had the most beautiful black hair and brown silk neck. How she would laugh and dance…and she was mine, for a reason I can never explain. But despite the travels, experience, and the perpetual relations during the quick stops on land, the sea is nothing but a void with yourself and the unknown. I wish I would have been a farmer. The sailors are lost, only having a destination and no direction. And the farmers stay the same. Same seed. Same piece of grain. Just a different rotation. Here I was traveling the world, free as any man could be, free from money, politics, religion, biased mentalities, false relations, and landlords,yet, I was wondering what was happening at the coffee shop around the corner from my old apartment. The people on the streets of Gamla Stan. The drunken fights below golden road lamps. The click of new leather boots. The white cloths on dinner tables and the woman drinking alone in her room. I was alone in this freedom. I was not using my freedom accordingly, and I was more repressed from influence and humanity that I had ever been.
When you are in the situation where you have nothing but your own mentality to rely on, you can’t help but question this world we live in. I began having dreams of slowly walking into the ocean. Letting the the cold pressure and low pulsating hum of the sea take me over. I would wake up with such a bliss…but that would quickly fade as my eyes began clear. Either something was going to happen naturally, or I would have to take it into my own hands.
I was rounding the Horn of South America, coming from Angola to Chile when I became a painter. We were lightly misted on from above with a thick fog enveloping our ship for weeks. From one day to the next, your mind would be trapped in neither light nor darkness, but the grey in between, which is more fearful than the blackest dress at your own funeral. I was standing at the front of the boat staring into nothingness, which I often did when things were quiet, when all of a sudden, as if walking through the smoothest velvet curtain, the boat and I with it, pierced through the grey and the rain into the shining rays of the sun, the pearl water, the lightness of the sky and all the birds of the sea with it. It was as if my whole being turned inside out and my true inner self shined with the sun. I looked around and no one was around. I walked all around the boat, back and forth, back and forth, seeing if anyone had witnessed this phenomenon of the switched parallel world, but no one was to be found…it was alone at the front of the ship. My whole life meant nothing before that separation from the cloud. I looked back, and with a broken smile and shaken legs, watched a mile high wall of self doubt and loathing slowly float adrift behind the ship. I looked down at my hands, and saw them move with my heart beat. My palms were soon puddles of my tears. I realized, I am this living soul, lost afloat a ship carrying God knows what to God knows where, when I know that these hands are not made to get torn by rope or scarred from heavy loads, chapped in the rain or dried by the sun. I finally knew how to kill the desolation and solidarity of the sea. So I went to my cabin, picked up a torn coffee stained piece of paper and pencil from under my cot, and started to sketch my hands. When I finished, I knew I did not want to be a sailor. I did not want to be a writer, a director, a musician, a priest, a thief. It came almost too easy. I then returned to Stockholm and bought a studio with my savings from my voyages and applied to Stockholm Art School. It wasn’t too long before I realized that art school is a complete sham and all they do is keep you devoted to their own ideologies, but, nevertheless, ever since I returned home, I have devoted my days to this desire within, as if it runs me like a machine, and I am nothing but emptiness, gears, and wires.
I like the phrases, “time” or “one thousand years”. It reminds me that there was indeed a day before us, which we all tend to forget. We all share an ever changing mentality. We always say, “those were the days,” and why exactly? Because there is something that is not completely clear. There is an unknown aspect to our past. You never realize you have grown old, you only see the evidence of the past through photographs and tall tales. I think the past is beginning to fade from the people, and that is why I am a classical painter. It is true, it is unwrought, it is not diluted from years and years of French Contemporary Art, Colonialism, the Nazis, and Andy Warhol. There is no abstraction of beauty in the Romantic era, it is right there in front of you. There is no “double sided” meaning explaining the complications of life with a light bulb on a white desk for an exhibit. There is not an obtrusive painting of a pussy on a wall to show femininity, instead, it is hidden in the eyes and the movements in my art. There is no narrative or poem or monologue to art today…it has grown weary and shallow…I am trying to be a catalyst for the beautiful things dead and buried, for I have dug my fingers far below and have brought to the the surface bones, caskets, and treasures only read in books collecting dust on the back of a shelf.