"Nothing is a routine for me; every day when I make myself porridge it tastes as never before. My profession was a sea captain and I feel that this was a precondition for me to be able to express myself. The best time I had was when I was sailing on the North American line. It was my responsibility that the consignment was delivered safely through the rough seas of the Northern Atlantic. The dust and dirt in my soul, which I cannot reach I try to cleanse by painting. Everything that I paint is a self portrait", said John Wickström who lived on Kökar, a small island in the middle of the Baltic sea.
Johnny, as I called him, lived as a hermit on Kökar for almost 20 years, without electricity or running water. When Johnny moved to Kokar he did not have a house, he lived for a year in a caravan even in the winter. His neighbour told me that it was so cold that Johnny's hair froze and got stuck to his pillow because of the temperature and the humidity in the caravan.
Johnny found a small shed from the mainland of Finland and brought it to Kökar. He left the shed as it was built. In that small shed he lived without any conveniences.
Johnny cultured his own food, fished and sometimes hunted. He also baked his own rye bread. He had a sauna building and a bath tub outside it where he could wash himself. Johnny lived his life as he pleased, outside the rules of a modern society. What ever he decided to do he also did. He built a wooden sailing boat and its sails by hand. He dreamt of sailing that boat around the world.
In 2008 I met Johnny for the first time, it was a very emotional meeting. He was my mother's cousin and I had heard so many stories about him, but didn't have the opportunity to go to Kökar before because of its remote location. Before we met we had corresponded for about a year and it was very exciting to finally meet him in person.
Johnnys life on Kökar was not easy, but it was his own choice, to live far away from the urban society. He lived alone but had some friends amongst the people who lived on the island. The only electric power he had came from two solar panels fixed to the wall outside his house. He warmed his house only by burning wood.
Those who got to know him soon found out that this man had the highest integrity. He never asked for any help of anyone but gladly helped others.
When Johnny painted he said to me that it was as physical as to carry tonnes of stones. He produced a huge amount of paintings, most of them with motifs from Kökar.
We decided to have an art exhibition where he would have his paintings and I would have photographs, the motifs were from Kökar.
This summer I met Johnny for the last time on Kökar. He passed away on the 19 of July. I will honour him and continue the story here as well as upload more images.