Image courtesy of Gallery Aarlo u Viggo, Lausanne
There was time during childhood when I loved looking at clouds and tried to guess what shape they were. At times, I could easily tell that was a cat, a dog, a car, a dragon, or maybe a half-sized elephant… No need to find a fixed answer because the fun was about matching different shapes that would make sense. Sometimes, I was also accompanied by my friends who clearly didn’t see what I saw. So we had quite a bit of debate.
Similar to telling stories of clouds, my mother - Mom - is the only person who keeps me guessing. She amazes me every single time with the things she could do. She relates to people extremely easily and cultivating relationships is completely effortless for her. She is highly adaptable and super-friendly in whatever environment she is in. She is everything and everywhere. I find my Mom and watching clouds are equally fun and puzzling.
The idea of "Mom" implants in my brain long before I even came into this world; it is no longer about something specific. It is a concept. I don’t know how to explain what the word "Mom" means. I don’t know why I say Mom when I say it. Perhaps the word always lies between my lips. She is reminded by the shape of her hands, the scent of a flower, the herbs used in her food, the sound of her voice, or the way she walks.
I met JP Kalonji, a Swiss artist, a long while back at an exhibition in Lausanne. He revealed to me his idea of painting symbols of Mother. He brought out his vision of Motherhood from the country of Congo where he grew up before arriving in Switzerland. Not much different than me, all he wanted to do is to transpire his memories and experience into a newer version of how he perceives a Mother would be. His idea is to bring character to shapes, forms, colors, which -otherwise- are hard to detect the meaning, simply because the image of Motherhood has become vague for him after all the years passing by, I reckon. Many people at the exhibition came to him and said "I did not see the African woman head with a vase on top …" Others might admit to see a fraction of a comic book or some other shape that resembles the lamp of Aladdin. JP Kalonji is a famous comic book artist and taking another step of expressing Motherhood in painting format is further away from his mainstream work. Nevertheless, the free movement of shapes, the fluidity of colors and the ambiguity in meaning continue to validate his talent in showcasing various paths where visual effect communicates emotions. While speaking with him in the margin of the exhibition, he mentioned to me how fast and easy it was for him to produce the series of painting. He said, "It was almost like I had the whole vision in my head and BAM! Here come the paintings."
I suppose when someone is connected to the root, no matter how far the person is away from that branch of life, the idea of Motherhood is always within. The shapes and colors bear a sacred spirit that sing through the song of earthy land, move with the wind of the sand and harbor the tropical storms of desert. Every piece about Motherhood - however elusive it is now to JP Kalonji - continues to vibrate among each other a story as one being. The shapes live together. The colors dance together. JP Kalonji utilizes a manner to understand the hidden voice and direct more than he could see. The audience would need to open up the imagination outlet to feel the message instead of having someone else explicitly tell the story. The original idea of Motherhood with the beauty of images coming from all shapes and sizes, conveys unique emotions to each viewer, as opposed to merely presents what it is on the surface. Through JP’s artwork, I understand that Motherhood is what I find deep down throughout life and beneath all the layers of colors and shapes that were given to me at birth.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!