In Matti Sirvio’s paintings there is time and space, the movement of the soul. His paintings simultaneously celebrate the felt senses, the beauty in life, and the nature of a spiritual existence. “I think that colors and their composition are the key to all visual communication. I love connecting them, experimenting the way that they relate to each other. I sometimes do just long color meditations (sounds much more weird than it is.)” With his eyes closed, Sirvio spends time envisioning colors and diverse patterns. “It helps me to move objects and see how certain colors serve certain messages.”
On Sirvio’s Instagram account, it is sometimes hard to tell what is a painting and what is a photo. The play of shadow and light on a building, cast-off objects in the sand, appear at first to be Sirvio’s painted works. Upon closer inspection, you see that they are all pieces of the quiet town of Muscat, Oman. In compositions that most people can witness every day without reverence, the artist sees more.
“Song in the Night”
For over thirty-five years, Sirvio has been a humanitarian worker through Greater Grace World Outreach (GGWO) in Eurasia and Central Asia. While he treasures the many places that he has lived in, Oman is now home. “I fell in love with the Omani people. They are very gentle, silent and friendly. For some foreigners, this country is eventless and even boring. For me it’s a privilege.” Fourteen years ago, he attended a conference on Mumbai, India. Through contacts there, the opportunity to work in Oman presented itself. It would take some years for Sirvio’s schedule to allow for him to work in Oman with GGWO. When he was able to visit for a conference, he also found a place for his artwork. “I was invited by the Protestant Church of Oman to do a weekend conference in Muscat. I often travel with my art and also work in hotel rooms during my travels. I took some of my paintings to a local gallery and connected with them. That resulted in a solo exhibition here.”
“My artistic journey has its intensive creative times and long times of silence as well.” Sirvio was born and raised in Finland where he studied art. He originally wanted to purse becoming an art therapist. But, as a young man he felt called to humanitarian work and as an artist, he felt disconnected from the art world. “As a young person, I found the art world to be extremely selfish and self-oriented. Besides that, I had a really hard time connecting with all the perverted art that started spreading in the seventies. I didn’t want to be a part of it.” Deep into his journey as a humanitarian worker art would re-emerge for him in a way that was healing. “Twenty-seven years later I was full of art again. I just had to start painting. I didn’t have a choice. It didn’t just make me happy, but it helped me to manage my soul. Art is not the most important thing in my life, the presence of God is. Art is a helper.”
The painting “Encounter” communicates a spiritual way of experiencing what comes and goes. The spiritual is a constant, a thread woven through every part of life. The soul need not suffer when something meaningful ends, but have joy for the impression that was left and for the meaningful encounters that will also come and go in the future.
Two figures are in the shape of doorways, each one emitting some of kind of movement. The one on the left appears to contain light, while the shape on the right is red. The light feels like a spiritual force, while the red is earthy, human. The two are open to each other to mingle, to merge, but the temporal of nature of the “Encounter” implies that they will each return to their spaces and close their doors.
These colors and symbols illustrate the nature of an encounter from a spiritual perspective. A person can form a lasting attachment to an experience after it has passed, returning to themselves, yet remaining somehow changed. Also, the joy of the peak of the moment does not have to turn into despair because it ends. If there is more to life than moments, then there is no need to mourn what is lost but celebrate what remains and what will be part of the never-ending life of the soul.
In Sirvio’s paintings, there are dreams, prayers, scents, and sensations. The artist is a deeply spiritual person who clearly has a reverence for life. “I love all the places where I have lived. God gives you a special love for it. Without that I could not see myself connecting with other cultures and people.” He is writing a book about the GGWO ministry Central Asia and paints in his spare time. “I continue dragging my paintings all over the world, exhibiting them wherever I can and praying that I could reach one more person with the love of Jesus.”