An ode to the unknown

She crossed my path and I was instantly struck. Her vigilance and intelligence, her razor sharp view of my world, this all evoked contradictory emotions. Sad- and happiness, wonder,
bewilderment and anger, the wish to be solitary.

The encounter left me disorientated, questioning my position in this relationship and in this world, as an artist, as a European, as a woman, as a friend.

Why did I want to understand her so badly? Because it felt like this would let me understand
something about myself. Because I believe that I am not as autonomous as I think and that
the people who you meet along the way become part of your being. And because something
about her kept slipping my grasp, something I wanted to cherish and hold. The unraveling of a great mystery.

I wanted to chart her like the first explorers filled out the empty plains of the world with the things they encountered. Trees, mountains, rivers, villages; life drawn in scale. I captured moments, glances, details that eventually would form the complete image. I made
circumferential movements.

A hand, a smile, the shadow of a leg. How much is needed to really see someone?
And to show them?

What you see is an exploration, the desire to find the path that would lead me to the essence, of her, of me, of us. A collection of scraps, a map without a legend. Fragments of something that is still moving, sometimes unfinished, but like life is unfinished, a relationship is unfinished.
No path leads to the core, the middle of the map is not the middle of the land.

After every portrait a nervous tension: will she recognize herself? Have I not taken too much liberty? What can you appropriate?

And what did she see? Our meeting is ‘meant to be’ she said. And I was looking for the meaning of those words. It was an ambivalent way of searching. I wanted to know her, not expose her, rather cover her, make her stronger. I wanted her to see herself like I see her. The magnificence.

-Marjolijn van Heemstra-