Ramsey Nasr about Akseli Gallen-Kallela's 'Lake Keitele'

Lake Keitele is powerful. It is not symbolism for symbolism's sake. It is a record of reality, but we sense something else behind what we see.

The landscape is unending. Above the horizon, there is a whole world we can only surmise from the reflections in the water. And the same applies to the water itself. It is matchless. We can only guess at what is going on below the surface. The water amplifies the immensity, the vastness and the openness of the Finnish landscape.

I can feel the silence in the work. In a book I'm reading about the history of the Netherlands, the author describes the time after the ice age: ‘Life must have been incredibly silent'. Absolute silence. That is what this painting suggests. There are no birds, no weather, no wind, no currents and no people. Everything has come to a stop. An unending silence in which you can hear your own blood in your veins. Abandonment.

Nature takes second place these days. Our government tells us that nature 'belongs to us'. But in an area like Spitsbergen - which I have visited and which Lake Keitele recalls to me - I realised that it was just the opposite: we belong to nature. When a bird flies over and I hear its call, I know this is its domain and I am a mere guest.

That silence is not the quiet before the storm. It is the silence that precedes the proclamation. The origin of everything. It is the moment I become aware that everything has still to happen. That, somewhere beyond belief, I can imagine what Genesis means.

Ramsey Nasr is Poet Laureate

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