My commitment to chronicle the art making process requires I relate all, from the most difficult stretches, to my modest successes. The muse is fickle and I am negotiating a dry spell. Here is a belated post to let you know I’m still hanging in there
I had been working the raw umber, paynes gray and burnt sienna into a web of interwoven strokes. That night, in a dream, I saw an ancient ziggurat carved in natural sandstone and honey-combed with caves. As I looked at its golden, weathered form rising into the vivid, blue sky, I realized it was a dream. It was a fleeting glimpse of profound emptiness–the ultimate ground of reality. In that insubstantial image I apprehended the Heart Sutra’s most essential teaching: Form is Emptiness/Emptiness is no other than Form.
I don’t claim this as a great accomplishment, but I do like that the process of painting inspired dream imagery and the dream, in turn, redirected the painting.
The image was also inspired by a program about early Christianity I’d seen that night. The film showed the mountain, hermit caves where the Nag Hamadi collection of early Gnostic writings were found.
The Gnostics taught that soul is imprisoned in matter; that Gnostic experience is a return to the pure light of Divinity through overcoming demonic forces (Archons) whose job it is to hold humanity in bondage to the dense spheres of matter.
While I may not share this belief in the malign aspect of the natural world, I do believe these teachings form a part of our spiritual heritage. They have left psychic imprints upon the collective unconscious. It is not so much a matter of belief as that of experience–Gnossis.
Various reasons are put forward for the fall of Sophia from the upper spheres and her plunge into the world of matter…(in one version) the tragedy occurred when she mistook the false light she saw below for the ‘light of lights’ for which she aspired…
In some texts she represents…the stricken city of Jerusalem.
My next art show is coming up soon. My idea is inspired by the Memory Theatre. This is an ancient mnemonic device used by actors and rhetoricians to commit long speeches to memory. The memory places are niches, or altars that contain imagery (the more outlandish the better) that facilitate recollection of the text. In ancient times, these features were incorporated into the design of theatres.
My idea is to make this part of the process of creating the work for my show. I’ll start with the basics: clean up my studio and create a series of 10 altars which I will decorate with whatever imagery will facilitate recollection of a long poem. At the same time I’ll prepare 10 canvases which will correspond with each of the memory stations. These paintings will comprise the exhibit.
I haven’t decided on a poem yet but maybe one of William Blake’s medium-length works will serve. This memory process will be concurrent with the creation of 10 paintings inspired by each of the memory stations. The art show’s theme will be continuous with the theme of the poem.
The whole process from straightening out the studio to “completion” of the paintings will be documented in this blog with photos, text, video and recordings. Stay tuned.