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  • Writer's pictureHaydn Dickenson


In 2021, I produced an oil painting entitled WITHOUT END. It represented, to a degree, a new departure from the approach I was currently taking to my work. The piece is deceptively geometric ('geometric' is a term that I do not approve when attached to my work) in that it might appear starkly linear but, in fact, many of its lines are anything but straight. It also contains areas of diffuse, scrubby colour, as if it is unfinished in some way. It is 'Without End'.

The above painting can be viewed at where the original can be purchased, as can high quality Fine Art Prints of the piece at, of course, a small fraction of the cost of the original.

It is not only for the purpose of promoting this picture that I have entitled today's article WITHOUT END.

Over the weekend, a friend in Germany told me of her visit to Munich to see the famous 'Endless Staircase'. Entitled UMSCHREIBUNG, meaning circumscription or periphrasis, the staircase is a towering, magnificent, ethereal installation within the courtyard of a Munich office complex. It was completed by the artist Olafur Eliasson in 2004.

Thank you to my friend, incidentally, for the stunning images that illustrate today's article.

Eliasson has described the installation as “Movement without destination – a space defined by motion rather than by walls”. Some have dubbed it 'the stairway to heaven' – an all too lazy moniker, in my opinion, and certainly one that does not accord with the artist's vision of a destination-free journey.

Notwithstanding the concept of something that has no end, the staircase does actually possess both a beginning and an end, for it is possible to step onto it via a small platform at the base, and to alight by the same means after one has traversed the structure. Apparently the public is allowed to make a traversal on occasions, though this is rare and my friend was not able to do so last week.

Maybe this is a statement in itself...

The philosophical point of view, however, of embarking on a journey and returning to the point of departure is deeply stimulated by a contemplation of Eliasson's work.

Not least, UMSCHREIBUNG leads us to a Jungian contemplation of 'Circumambulation' – walking around the self. Regular readers will know of my interest in Jungian psychology, about which I wrote in its relationship to art here . Carl Jung believed, via his fascination with the Mandala (Sanskrit:Magic Circle) that all paths in life lead to a mid-point which is the core of the Self.

There is surely something Mandala-like about Olafur Eliasson's lofty, never-ending staircase.

I have been speaking in recent days with another friend, an artist, about the journey that we all take in our creative lives. I am fortunate to have such friends as both of those mentioned today, who stimulate in me thought and reflection on life as well as art.

In the latter case, my friend was explaining to me some encouragement that she had received, from a collector of her work, to diversify somewhat in her painting style, and I sensed that this was both exciting and daunting to her. We spoke about the matter at some length. I mentioned that my approach to my own work vacillates according to mood, circumstances, time of year and so on while retaining, I believe and hope, a solid stylistic core.

I advised my friend, whatever path she explores in her style and the media she employs, to stay true to herself in the way she makes marks; once again, reflecting on UMSCHREIBUNG, there seems to be a message in this installation, so full of calm truth and stillness, that we will always return to the point at which our essence truly speaks and sings.

As in art, so in Life. The cycle is not an aimless one, but one of continual renewal and rebirth, refreshing but familiar. Perhaps we can hop off from the little platform on Eliasson's stairs for a pit-stop, a grazing moment if you will, before rejoining that glorious cycle of birth, life, learning and reincarnation.

Copyright Haydn Dickenson 2024

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