Et in arcadia ego

Et in arcadia ego1
On the painting of  Anu Eskelin

Anu Eskelin is an artist, who like many artists before her, has made Italy her second home. Like her predecessors, for Eskelin, too, Italy stands for the highest in art and for an Arcadia, which could not be more attractive. On 2 December 1786 J. W. Goethe wrote in his travel journal:

Indeed, the new life that is granted a reflecting man when considering a new country is without comparison. For all that I am the same person I feel I am altered down to the core of my bone marrow.”2 Is it not precisely this self-awareness and self-education that makes us travel to faraway countries?

The artist transforms the world into painting by lending the world his body.”3

Through the movement with which Eskelin applies paint to the canvas she consciously lets herself be led into the depth of oblivion, into the realm of the subconscious. Memories emerge, want to surface along with her. These are traces of landscapes, figures and architectural fragments, which are revealed to us in the interaction of shapes forming and dissolving. It is a to and fro, a hesitant revealing and concealing of the emerging images.

Through the application of individual coats of paint the themes that seeks visualization gradually reveals itself,” explains the artist. The images come to her. During the painting process she effectively moves between the two worlds. She ventures on the experience of the abyss.

Even in Arcadia I exist4 – Death.

Our eyes glide as if in dance across Anu Eskelin’s paintings, repeatedly pausing, finding rest. At a place that seems to be both paradisiacal and past, lost. We might sense what is portrayed but we cannot grasp it. As if we were in a dream-like Arcadia, the place associated with man’s longings. But there are breaks. It is a reflected longing we are dealing with. Titles such as “Le Rovine” and “Un Vecchio Sogno” point to the fact. Elegiac subjects contrast with the often vibrant colors on the canvas. The contemplative encounters the dynamic, the unconscious meets the conscious. When we look at the paintings we move between what are seemingly opposites.

Everything is destroyed, everything disintegrates, everything passes. Only the world remains. Only time continues. How old our world is! I move between two eternities. Wherever I look, everywhere the things that surround me remind me of the end of all things, and so I come to terms with the end that awaits me.”5 These lines that Diderot wrote in the face of ruins paintings that were exhibited 1767 in the Louvre, also apply to Anu Eskelin’s paintings.

With these paintings she draws our attention to our fleeting existence, to our transitory nature. But she also shows us the happiness with which we can move between two eternities. After all, life is movement.

Sabine Kuehnle, 11.9.2012


1 ET IN ARCADIA EGO, 1621-23, painting by Giovanni Francesco Barieri, known as Guercino, Rome, Galleria Nazionale.
2 Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Italienische Reise, edited by Herbert von Einem, (Munich 122011), p. 146.
3 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Das Auge und der Geist, edited by Christian Bremes, (Hamburg, 1984), p.278.
4 Erwin Panofsky, Et in Arcadia ego, edited by Volker Breidecker, (Berlin, 2002), p.16.
5 Diderot, Ästhetische Schriften, (Berlin and Weimar, 1967), vol. 2, p.150.

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