Jóhann, braving one of the worst rain downpours this city has ever experienced, came by to see me in Austin from Fredericksburg (1.5 hours away) to urgently talk to me about something. As we sat down over a warm cup of tea, he asked whether I was prepared to hear what he holds staunchly as his own conclusions about life, for which he felt he was repeatedly criticized and reproached throughout his life as an artist by many of his contemporaries. He showed me a “Critique” of Nietzsche that he left for me to decipher.
Before I continue, I want to clarify some things that some of us may presume of this man. I know Jóhann to be a true intellect “par excellence”, in that his conclusions and understandings of life are not from the perspective of an impetuous egotist or self centered and thoughtless artist, but from his keen observations of life’s processes, that began very early in his own life. The innocence and constant curiosity he had as a child, is still to this day very much evident. For instance, as a seven year old boy he would keenly observe the spiral-like motions of swirling eddies on the edge of a fast moving Icelandic river, which would eventually lead him decades later to creating his giant monumental spirals.
Jóhann explores the mind to its deepest depths, the same way mankind today explores the vast expanse and mystery of the universe. I challenge anyone to explain to me the experiential difference.
After reading and deciphering two pages from this Nietzsche “Critique”, the following seems to be what drives Jóhann’s life and art:
“Life goes beyond the limits that knowledge fixes for it, but thought goes beyond the limits that life fixes for it. Thought ceases to be a ratio, while life ceases to be a reaction. This is the essence of ART.”
I think visionary artists like Jóhann will doubt themselves at times and wonder if they are the genuine thing, the true spokesperson of the beyond, the channel for brilliance and God-like revelations. Whist an artist is alive, his banal physicality stands before his extraordinary genius, but once departed from the physical world, the artist’s genius is then revealed for all to see and feel. Recognizing that brilliance, as observers, we often forget that such individuals were actually human.