Fish 1: Yo, why you looking at me?? You’re staring. It’s not polite
Fish 2: Yo, you’re looking at me. Plus, you know I can’t blink. Staring is all I do
Fish 1: It’s not like I choose to look at you, dude. My eyes are on the right when I’m sitting down on my comfortable side.
Fish 2: I have very similar reasons
Fish 1: I see. Fair enough.
The other day, I found myself talking to another writer who follows me here. We were talking about how I bring together my artwork and writing. Our conversation touched on how skill and craftsmanship can affect the ability to communicate in such a way. I shared some thoughts in the conversation that I thought was worth revisiting for my own nourishment as much as that of all the lovely people who follow me here on WordPress.
I ended an earlier post with a few lines that I believe will help me add a lot more depth to what I am about to do because the post is about something relevant to the discussion.
The only way to ground myself is to dig in, into myself. This is why I try. This is why I make art. Because I am alone in the genius.
I wrote this about two months back (link to the post: https://thefourthdimensionoflife.wordpress.com/2021/08/04/why-i-even-try/ ). At the time, I felt that this was a sentiment that was mine alone. However, yesterday night I was reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (which was recommended to me by one of my professors) and I found myself sharing in the above sentiment with another writer, a brilliant one. Rilke talks about how personal and lonely the journey of an artist is. He writes:
You are looking outwards, and of all things that is what you must now not do. Nobody can advise and help you, nobody. There is only one single means. Go inside yourself.
In the final paragraphs of the earlier post of mine that I mentioned above, this is exactly what I was trying to say. Art, for me, is born out of necessity, and as such the function that it serves is essential and perhaps existential. I look inside for answers. It has not been long since I have found a space to create such art. At the moment, it is a barren land, the loneliest of places, where trees do not hide birds and water moves no rock. But I know that I belong here, whatever season awaits me.
Now that I have touched upon my understanding of the space in which artistic creation takes place, let us return to the main intention of this post which I mentioned in the beginning. In the conversation I had with this person on skill and craftsmanship, I shared my thoughts on why proficiency in a skill should not stand in the way of artistic creation.
One thing is obvious: a painting does not captivate the eye by virtue of its resemblance to what the world actually looks like. Some of the greatest painters of all time have earned their place by distorting reality. I believe it is the obvious consistency, decorum, and evidence of conscious decision that comes across that people think warrants admiration. What is interesting here is that a painting only has to come across as the result of these things, it doesn’t really have to be.
I have noticed that if I sit down and watch a toddler scribbling on a wall with a crayon for more than 15 minutes, I can find a certain consistency in the way they draw. This probably has nothing to do with calculated decisions informed by thousands of years of art history but probably more to do with their muscle memory and the way they hold a crayon. Whatever the reason be, consistency can be discovered by those who are willing/gifted to look for it in all kinds of places. To a certain degree, that’s why I think the artist finds art everywhere. It is also why when I enter that lonely space that I mentioned earlier, I plug my ears. No matter what people say, and a lot of it may even be worth listening to, the recognition of art is a mediocre by-product resulting from a system of measurement that is highly dependent on a person’s ability to see. The artist truly doesn’t matter in the exercise if you ask me. Of course, that’s just one way to look at things. I choose to look at it this way because the art that I create in the void is a reflection of parts of me that all the light in the world cannot bring forth.
I am not very proficient at putting words together or making colors speak. If there is some classical way of measuring how steady my brushstrokes are, I’m pretty sure I’ll be very below par when compared to a lot of people I know. However, it does not discourage me from making art because I do not make art by taking into consideration how others see the world but by being aware of how I see it. Because, for me, art is a way for me to paint myself. I believe that the true joy of artistic creation lies not in other people seeing you but in you seeing yourself, especially the parts of you that have always remained hidden.
To do this, I must let go. When I make art, I allow myself to be a toddler scribbling on a wall. And the more I do it, the more I am made aware of the consistencies, patterns, and rules that I follow without intending to. And as I stare at them, I am made aware of my muscle memory, which is a metaphor for so many things. I am made aware of how I hold my crayon and why I hold it so. I believe deeply that this is what Rilke was talking about. To dig into oneself is truly the only exercise that will make art necessary for the artist. And art that is not born out of necessity, I think, will destroy the artist.
Sometimes, by virtue of us being humans and living in the same world together, another person’s art can make sense to us. Over time, it is even possible that the brilliance of an artist who is able to beautifully traverse those fine lines between the important extremes will bring people together. If that happens, it is the most beautiful of by-products. But that is all it is- a by-product.
Dig deep into yourself, find ways to be deeply aware of why artistic creation is at its heart a journey into the void. Be excited about reaching out into nothing and retrieving something. Be okay with flailing around aimlessly in the dark. In such exercise is the birth of all the rules and consistency this world seems to be hooked on. No matter how bad or good you are at drawing or painting, you will find that these things exist regardless when you look inside yourself. But even more importantly, it is in such habit that you truly see yourself.
About the artwork:
I continue to draw on mountains and gyres, my fancy for which you’ve witnessed in the previous posts. What the colours mean can also be found in my previous posts. It is an illustration of where I am at the moment, discovering the depressing yellow underneath as I truly see how I wear my skin. I’m leaving a lot of skin behind on this journey. I am also running away from a lot of things, which I’ve made clear with the outstretched hands and the running towards something at the same time. I’ve represented the latter by bringing the legs together as a person would if they were to firmly place themselves somewhere.
The sun shines right through some people. If you’re at the right place at the right time, you’ll see how they carry the burden of the joy that fills your world. It’s a very private burden. To know it feels wrong.
But if you hold her hand in an imaginary land where to know is not a crime, you’ll feel the water slipping through her fingers; living water flowing from veins ripped open by the world. It falls on the grass and makes words grow like tress and bear music.
She is what people call a muse.
In this world that I’ve made up in my head, where lions escort us through the wilderness of harsh and bitter reality, I am constantly reminded of how undeserving I am of the beauty that she inspires. Is she a memory, a meeting of the earth and sky? Am I in love? Is this what it feels like?
She crushes the grass beneath her feet
like the grapes of Montenegro
The forest floor bleeds crimson and green
She has set the mountain free
And I follow the flowers that blush
like a rose in the morning sun
For if not for this taste of summer,
my heart would turn stone cold.
I was born in 2000, the year that marked a new beginning.
2000 was also the year at the wide end of the gyre; when things were supposed to fall apart.
Maybe they did.
I don’t particularly like my life. I have a roof over my head, good food, and people who (I think) care about me. But I hate my life. It’s going nowhere. I’m paralysed. This place is to me what Dublin was to Joyce. The difference is that I can’t leave. The fact that I’m the person standing in the way of me leaving doesn’t make it any better.
A few posts ago, I wrote about how it feels like there’s a storm trying to suck me into the narrow middle of an hourglass and how in that horrible place I can choose whether or not to stop the sand from falling(https://thefourthdimensionoflife.wordpress.com/2021/08/04/why-i-even-try/ ). I was talking about not wanting to live. I don’t think anybody got that. Well, nobody really understands anything I say most of the time. To stop the sand is to stop time. At a deeper level, it is to destroy unity.
The hourglass has a form that has great significance in history. Two triangles meeting at their vertices. It is a symbol that appears in so many cultures. Here’s a link to a page that lists a few: https://hillerdrygoods.com/blogs/news/the-leone-blanket-story
Wherever it appears and in whatever form, this symbol always has something to do with unity, balance, and the like. Being stuck in the middle of an hourglass is about the disruption of balance and unity for me; when things get so dark that you are able to see how time could potentially stop. It was about things falling apart.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
-The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats
If you go through Yeats’s notes, you’ll find all kinds of diagrams with gyres intersecting at all kinds of angles. One such illustration that is often referenced in the analysis of ‘The Second Coming’ is an illustration of two intersecting gyres. Read more about it here: https://yeatsvision.com/geometry.html
In the context of the poem, the gyre could be seen as representing a period of 2000 years. Yeats believed that at the end of every 2000 years, at the wide end of a gyre, there would be a drastic change. One system would fall and another would rise (the origin of the new being the narrow end of the gyre). In the poem mentioned above, Yeats anticipates things falling apart. Right after the First World War, with the end of the millennium fast approaching, Yeats asks the question of what lays ahead for man. He is not naively optimistic about the future. He asks the question and he does not expect the answer to be pleasant.
When I look at the hourglass, I’m reminded of the intersecting gyres. I was born in 2000. Whether or not what Yeats says/believes in/concocted has any validity, I don’t particularly like the new beast. Confusion and panic reign and I’m a part of it. In a way, it is through me that it has become part of reality. I hate that.
I feel grounded in time only when I’m the author; when I create. That’s the other thing about the hourglass symbol. Two triangles meeting at their vertices looks like two mountains meeting at their tips.
My last post was about how mountains signify clarity and authorship for me.
The mountaintop is where you experience the satisfaction of feeling like the author- the person who knows what’s on the next page. The author is the one who knows what the book is really about. In the experience of that entity is where God meets man. The Sermon on the Mount, The Fire Sermon, Mount Sinai, Mount Carmel, Pisgah, Mount Moria, Mount of Olives, Mount of Transfiguration, Golgotha…the list of mountains that have great religious and mystical significance is endless. Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, is where the 12 gods live according to myth. In fact, in The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway, which I talked about in one of my earlier posts ( https://thefourthdimensionoflife.wordpress.com/2021/07/10/obsessed-with-loss-of-potential-jpg/ ), the Kilimanjaro , which like the Olympus is the highest mountain in Africa has a western summit which in Masai is called “the House of God”. In the post I explain how the mountaintop has a lot to do with perspective, potential, and perfection of the artist. The Snows of Kilimanjaro is about a writer. That really makes it worth mentioning in this post. To look at the hourglass symbol and see two mountains joined at their tips is not that crazy. It makes sense to me.
What is interesting is that I am not denied authorship in the narrow middle of the hourglass. In fact, I think this is where it is the most potent. However, this is also where I can truly hurt myself. End things. As I mentioned in many previous posts, it is the void in which I burn. ‘Void’ because that is what experiencing uncharted territory feels like most of the time- reduction. Searching for meaning in the void is scary. Once in a while, you find/experience something that makes sense but the joy is fleeting. It changes you, moulds you, and motivates you but the journey breaks you. You’re flailing around in something incredibly vast and tangibly transparent. Yes, darkness is transparent. I say that because most people would associate darkness with opacity, not being able to move etc. The void is different. That’s what makes it scary.
And I am afraid; terribly so.
Authors live on the mountains. They see everything. I know this because I push the rock up the mountain every day and I see it; I see the view.
But it does not last and I cannot take it with me. As the rock rolls downhill I have no choice but to descend into the vanity and confusion of everyday life. Tomorrow, I will do this again. I have to because I saw.
At the top of the mountain, as I behold the setting Sun, it is unclear to me if I am the author or if I am experiencing the author- the finisher of my faith. This is hidden to me and it eats away at my soul. Nevertheless, what I see inks me.
I will forget the image even as I become the image.
In becoming do I repent? Do I become the view from above where I see myself through the eyes of the author? Is this the ultimate judge? The true ideal?
I think we have tried for centuries to climb up the highest mountains in the world because we know this. Or maybe we feel it. We experience the confirmation of the author in us/or the author when we experience the bigger picture. It elevates us and changes us. It is just in its judgement.
I think it’s powerful that after a day of hard work, Jesus went up the mountain to pray/talk to God all night; that he was crucified on a hill; and that he ascended from the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Transfiguration, where Jesus’s “face changed and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning” and where He was visited by Moses and Elijah who talked to him, is perhaps the most powerful image for me (Luke 9). If we go to the Old Testament, there are so many instances where mountains become places where God meets man. The Ten Commandments being given to Moses atop a mountain is just one of many examples. For me, the fact that mountains appear the way they do in the Bible is one more reason to believe that the view from the top stands for so many things that have the power to change us.
I chose to paint the pencil in the colour of skin because I think that’s what happens when you experience life from a higher vantage point, be it through art, prayer, or love- you are rewritten. You become the image you see. You experience authorship; what it feels like to know more, to see more. It is a powerful ideal and it judges you and motivates you to align yourself to something that is evidently powerful and timeless. I also like how the edges of hills and mountains create Vs. You could reduce ‘view’ to ‘VU’. That’s just me drawing an interesting connection. What is important is that you get the idea behind all of this.
This piece is part of a series of artwork I am creating where I take images of things that move me and I superimpose over them what I consider to be the meaning that is relevant to me personally and to all of us universally. Meaning before the object. That’s the idea.
Roses bleed just like we do
This piece is part of a series of artwork where I try to superimpose meaning on all kinds of objects that mean something to me.
You see the Stonehenge
But I see NYC, legacy, world history
Man in the robot; robot in the man.
Meaning before the object, imagination before contemplation.
The walls of my room are white; not the kind that blinds your eyes but the kind that escapes notice, fading into a very light beige over the years. That tends to happen when the air where you live isn’t great.
I love my walls. I love how they reflect the diffused yellow glow of the sun that leaks through the curtains in the morning and how they don’t dissolve into the darkness when I turn off my light at night. I like how they flaunt their bruises, parts of my life that are etched into them, reminding me of a time when I was shorter and obsessed with leaving a trail of glue or paint on the wall as I ran tracing the walls with my finger. Doodles in fading pencil remind me there was a time when I wasn’t living from the table to the bed and back, of an awareness of space that belongs to the least of these, to the ones that are small enough to live in corners and edges. The white walls in my room reflect people. They reflect me. In this, they have much in common with the canvas and the paper.
Tabula Rasa. ‘Form out of me what you will’
VIBGYOR spins endlessly and dissolves into white. It’s not a lack but the fullness of personality that defines it. Infinity is a mirror. So are my walls.
A white box is the perfect cage for me. I like preserving myself way too much. In the past year, I have gone outside only twice. I spent almost all my time inside this room and I never feel like leaving it. A bit odd for an extrovert. For some reason, the white walls don’t make me feel like I’m caged in. I’m starting to believe it has something to do with how reflective they are. Of me
“There’s no skin”, I tell myself whenever I’m lying in my bed staring at the walls.
Colours are like skin; like faces. There’s so much underneath that isn’t part of the obvious; things that make us human, things that make us love, laugh, and cry. Behind colour is the universal, unifying truths of life. When I see colour, I know there’s something behind it. Experiencing it feels like reaching beyond and entering a world that is so much more than what I can see and touch. It can be an incredibly intense experience; like a passionate kiss or making love. The inadequacy of the physical body to facilitate the expression of passion makes you exert yourself in a way that ends in something that feels supernatural and sublime because you just can’t believe your body alone could provide you with something so gratifying.
The yellows of Hemingway, the red of Raskolnikov, Faulkner’s bluish grey, they’re all I can see and feel of the universal truths that lay underneath. They’re like faces of women I’ve loved, the beauty of simplicity that veils the limitless.
But let’s not speak of love today. This is about one man and one man only. White does not remind me of my ability to love another but my acceptance and regard for myself. The white walls in my room don’t tell me there’s something beyond. It tells me there is something within. It reminds me that I have things to write and say. It does not remind me of purity or flawlessness but the possibility to preserve myself because it reminds me of a blank page
I look behind dark yellows and I see sadness, I look behind reds and I know what Raskolnikov felt. But when I look behind white, all I see is me. And oh, how I love to see myself. I have things to say, things to write about. The world should know that I felt something in this life.
That’s why I never want to leave my room. That’s why a white box is the perfect cage for the artist.
P.S. I hope you understand now why the illustration/painting has the colour of skin in it.