41 | The Quest for an Artwork Title

A title for a new painting often comes easy. But sometimes it’s not that easy at all. Today I will share with you a difficult title search that lasted several weeks after the painting was finished.

The Artwork

I finished this painting in mid September already. It’s not part of my three current focus topics but I would say it’s part of a crucial secondary topic of mine: Children of the World. The reference photo was taken by Laia López Barnadas in Pakistan this year. The intense look of the girl and the bright blue caught my eye right away in her portfolio.

oil on canvas | 50 x 70 cm
(reference photo: Laia López Barnadas)

Exploring the World Through Art

I looked into the girl’s eyes and somehow the whole world opened up for me in them.

Do you know that feeling when you look someone in the eye and then you are overwhelmed with a great compassion towards that person? For most people this might be the case when they look into the eyes of a loved one, maybe a spouse or their own child.

To me this can happen to me every time I have the opportunity to look someone in the eye for an extended period of time. You may be wondering on what occasion this could even be the case. You’re right, of course, these occasions are rare in real life. Normally, you don’t look into someone’s eyes for a long time without a reason. Especially not into the eyes of a stranger.

Art can create these occasions. In art we can look more closely and experience something that is hard to find in real life. Art can serve as an emotional brigde between yourself and something or someone else. Art can reinforce a sensation or a feeling. Art can help you discover and explore a new or an emotionally hidden subject.

For me it was as if I could look through the eyes of the girl into the eyes of all children everywhere in the world and I felt a deep human compassion.

An Email to Riopy

While working on this painting I was listening to the French piano player Riopy a lot, well, as a matter of fact exclusively. One of my favorite pieces by him is called “Human Compassion”. I didn’t actually intend to make a connection between my painting and this piece, but I really felt a connection there.

Human Compassion” would have been the perfect title, I thought, and I wrote to Riopy in order to ask for permission. The title is not an entirely unusual phrase and I could have named the painting without asking for permission I guess. But I really wanted to make the connection official.

Of course, it isn’t easy to get through to someone like Riopy himself. I looked at his website and decided to pick the PR manager from the list of possible contact options.

To make a long story short, I never talked to Riopy personally, the PR manager offered to forward my request to him, but in the end he said he couldn’t help me. Alright then. Mission not accomplished.

From “Hope” to “Expectation”

The next title that I came up with was “Hope”. However, I had already given this title to another painting from last year and I decided that last year was too close to this year to repeat it.

And then it hit me. This girl’s look is not about hope, it’s about expectation. My series Children of the World is about the next generation, which is facing huge challenges because the global climate change adds to already existing crises such as war, hunger, and big social injustices. Expectation surpasses hope and is the only feasible state of mind in  today’s world.

Our generation is not the first one to experience existential crises. But the modern world has never faced the threats of global warming like we do right now. Where will people be able to go if our livable habitat continues to diminish at an alarming rate, I wonder.

And then this: Shortly after I finished this portrait of a girl in Pakistan, the country was devastated by enormous Monsoon floods. Laia had met her this year in the Hamza Valley where she proudly presented her blue dress to the photographer. Hamza Valley was luckily spared from the floods, but generally the desaster was among the worst in the country’s history.

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