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Painting What You Hear – The Jazz Paintings of Arvo Wichmann

People say that „you'll get what you see“. But what do you get when you look at Arvo Wichmann's paintings? They feature Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Nils Landgren, and other icons of Jazz. You get images painted in bright colors, but you don't get the stars, and not their music. The special quality of a painting lies in the fact that it should not be mistaken for reality. After all, the painting of a pipe is not a pipe. And so the deception of the eye through painting cannot be the the principal function of painting – even though after a first glance at Wichmann's paintings you get the (wrong) impression that they are not showing more than a simple photograph. 
Yet art can do more than that, and it is this advantage Wichmann transforms with his handwriting when he goes to work with concentration and the will for color and form. The key to understanding his paintings should be sought in the detailed precision of color application and the concentrated work with form. For it is the concentrated gesture of his craft that rejects the cursoriness of an all too transient existence. The photographer may capture the moment, but painting gives meaning to the moment by lending permanence to it. You may see this especially by looking at one of the triptychs showing three views of trombonist Nils Landgren. Wichmann wrests away from transience  what in reality only lasted a few seconds, and in so doing he gives it an afterlife in art.

The gesture given by time is for musicians who have their own relationship with time. They will say „Take your time“, as their music lives through playing with time, that is, rhythm. Portraying these musicians and putting them in the picture also means giving features to people who normally stand back behind their music. Wichmann's work on the image of man counts on viewers who know about the music that goes with the faces. The paintings live with the Jazz of the ones portrayed, and with the help of the painter's patiently exercised craft they move qualities of Jazz into view that are often falling behind when describing this music. Jazz may be wild and expressive, it may be innovative, intellectual, and hard to grasp, but that's not all there is to it. Essentially it consists of the capability of concentration, the love of detail, patience, and mastery of the instrument. Whoever has the ears to hear these qualities in Jazz will have the eyes to see them in the art of Arvo Wichmann. And whoever sees them in his paintings will be able to listen to Jazz in a different way. You'll see what you get. ...back

Harald Justin