(Knight of Cups)
Once there was a prince whose father, the King, sent him to a foreign land to find a pearl and bring it back. When he arrived, he found the lake where the pearl would be and which was guarded by a giant snake. He decided to wait until the snake would fall asleep. Meanwhile, people came up to him and offered him a drink from a cup, which caused him to fall into a deep sleep. When he woke up he had forgotten what he was doing there, about the pearl, and that he was a prince.
Benjamin Andersson uses colors in a restrained but effective way. In halls of darkness, shades vibrate through hair-thin cracks that shift and shift back. Larger streaks of color can be sensed in darkened skies veiled by soot and sulfur smoke. In the paintings, which appear as much like artifacts as paintings, it is as if I see things not only because of the right kind of light, but because of the right kind of darkness.
The images appear as whispers from the hidden and secret. Archaic nights are illuminated by flashes of lightning, or in calmer images where something takes shape in the light of a gentle glow. Sometimes I wonder if what looks like a vessel, a creature, or a well, really is one of those things. I see the paintings as scenes from the place where symbols come from, not as symbols themselves. This leads to the idea that what I see is not just a vessel but the vessel, the primordial vessel.
The Scent of Rain
The phenomenon is called petrichor and is actually about the smell of soil to which the human sense of smell has an extreme sensitivity. A single drop of the substance in a swimming pool is enough to smell it. When it rains, molecules are released from the soil, plants and bacteria that form an extremely fine mist. It is so light that you can smell rain even before it has started to rain right where you are.
One theory why people like the scent so much is that our ancestors depended on rain to survive. The smell is largely the same as in a root cellar, in a sandbox, or when you push a shovel into the ground and turn it, but then in a much more concentrated form.
Our sense of smell has many functions: it is a warning system, a taste enhancer and a pheromone alarm. It is also an instrument for registering that which we take for granted and things we do not have a name for.
When I smell soil, it is not primarily its agricultural benefits that I think of, that belongs to the rational. Strongest is an emotional reaction to nature's intrusive and chaotic indifference. Chaotic in the sense that nature is in opposition to order and indifferent in the sense that it does not differentiate between life and death, as culture does. The conflict in the scent of soil reminds us of the struggle between sky cults’ vertical pursuit of crystalline order and earth cults’ worship of the chtonic and dionysian reality of existence.
The Root Cellar
When I was a child, there was a root cellar in the woods where I used to play. I was so little that I could not find my way there if I wanted to but used to run in to it by accident. At first I did not dare to walk inside of it, but once I did, I saw that there were shelves that had collapsed and some old tools. In the innermost wall I discovered a hole, barely larger than a fist, where there was a crystal. When I held it up to the light from the entrance, it was transparent, a little milky and with green specks in it. I did not dare to take it with me because I was a worried child but used to look at it when I was there and played. One day, out of nowhere, I put it in my pocket and ran out. The crystal was sharp through the fabric against my thigh and when I got home I put it in a box. The days after, I could not stop thinking that someone might be missing the crystal and would come looking for me. I decided to put the crystal in the hole again, but I never found my way back to the root cellar. The crystal is still with me to this day in a Romeo y Julieta cigar box.
August 2021, Malmö