Today, around noon, I found myself spending a few moments alone with my imagination. Listening to Santana’s Samba Pa Ti, my mind filled with all kinds of colours and images. I was alone on a beach, my hand buried in the sand. A green beverage of some kind was pouring over me, covering me in translucent green. The green pouring over me almost felt like a hand, like I was caressing myself. It was passionate. For a moment, I tried to take control of the scene and bring a woman into the picture. It seemed fitting that a feminine presence be the reason for such passion. But when I did so, the picture almost burst into a million pieces. So I decided to let it go. I was to be alone in this.
While I’m not sure what this means, I thought it would be helpful to mention a few interesting thoughts that have occupied my mind for the past few days. I had a passing thought a few days ago of a chameleon in front of a mirror. It struck me that if the chameleon only identified itself by its colour and not its form, then the world would become its mirror. Imagine that- the conflation of perception of the outside world with that of self. For a moment, I wondered if that was what happened inside the void that I keep mentioning, that nothingness where I flail around and retrieve pieces of the broken mirror; the place where I create art out of necessity and learn more and more about myself. Was this exercise of existence a conflation of the kind mentioned above?
I believe I will be able to answer that better in time. For now, a record of thoughts will suffice.
About the artwork:
It is possible that the green in the painting and in my vision had to do with me reaching into the ground, into myself, and thus into nature itself. I had mentioned in a few other posts how I create art to “ground myself” and that no art except mine has the ability to make that happen. I have drawn from an earlier painting of mine that represents me burning in the void (from post ‘Why I Even Try’ which is linked below). This time, I chose to make the head red because recently I have found my thoughts taking a much darker turn, favoring the confusing and the self-destructive during introspection. However, my limbs continue to help me create art impulsively from the fascination I have for my pain and depression. So they remain yellow. The reason why the head is facing the sky and not the ground, which would have been more natural, can be found in my post ‘On Sublimity’ which I will link below.
Reading the following posts and looking at the artwork in them might be helpful if you are interested in dissecting this post further:
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?
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.
For our soul is raised out of nature through the truly sublime, sways with high spirits, and is filled with proud joy, as if itself had created what it hears.
Feel/processing the idea of who I am and what the ‘other’ is is something I try to do with a great deal of honesty. It makes for sublime moments of satisfaction and shameful moments of self-hate.
I don’t think I’m guilty of locking away parts of myself because I am too afraid see myself for who I am. I might not let everyone else see all parts of me but I see them all. I see myself and allow myself to hate who I am. It is painful but the alternative is not an option. The only solution is to learn to love myself. And I am learning…
In allowing myself to be vulnerable in the way I see myself and perceive art, I have had what I will claim to be sublime moments. What are sublime moments? Let’s just say it’s like glimpsing infinity for a moment and being utterly in awe by how much of it your mind was able to handle.
To feel the intensity of an epiphany or any form of sublimity is to be stretched and bent to the point where the irregularities which lay hidden in the shrunken folds of your everyday life become visible and obvious. In your attempt to behold everything in all its detail, you experience sublimity. When I’m listening/watching/or reading something that facilitates a sublime experience, I am made aware of an ability to feel/ attempt to feel that seems incongruous with how small and fragile my physical body is. If you take a rubber band and make a dot on it with a marker and then stretch it, the dot becomes an irregular line. That’s what is required of you to experience sublimity. As you stretch, test the limits of your ability to behold, you experience a vastness that surprises you and a resolution that matures you. You don’t need to understand what you see. The joy is in how much you stretch, how much you strain to enter uncharted territory
“Whereas the beautiful is limited, the sublime is limitless, so that the mind in the presence of the sublime, attempting to imagine what it cannot, has pain in the failure but pleasure in contemplating the immensity of the attempt”
Last year, I spent quite a lot of time watching Grey’s Anatomy. I was fascinated by all the medical terms and techniques. Around that time, and even now, whenever I’m listening to a song that moves me or a particularly powerful scene in a movie, for an instant I see a vision of my chest being ripped open and a hand reaching in and pumping my heart. When it happened for the first time, I was confused. It’s such a bizarre image. But I knew it meant something and in contemplation I found the reason to be obvious. In GA, there were many times when a patient’s heart would stop mid-surgery (or something else happens. I’m not sure because I’m not a doctor) and the surgeon would manually massage/pump the heart. It’s a very powerful image. The hand reaches into the chest and cradles the heart. It’s scary. Maybe that’s why I found it be akin to the experience of intensity that comes from being able surrender to the moment, a freedom to enjoy the epiphany brought about only by the exercise of vulnerability in thought. By some cosmic grace, I was able to behold with a brutal honesty the stretching of a self shrunken by the vanity of life. It is grace because it is given to me. Many things, be it the surroundings, the music I’m listening to or a work of art by somebody, they all come together to demand an attempt to try and touch what is beyond, an attempt that would test my limits and thus provide me with a sublime experience. The patient lies on the table, powerless. The hand has to reach into the chest and make life possible.
But like I mentioned before, a hand pumping a heart is a scary image. There’s blood everywhere and you are constantly reminded that anything could go wrong. Sometimes when I let myself go and feel/think, it ends up with me in a very dark place, a place where I hate myself and fear the future. It feels like imploding. Not too long ago, I had what I think was a panic attack. It felt like I was falling into myself forever and there was no way to escape, to make it all stop. Sometimes that’s where I end up when I allow my mind to be vulnerable
But even in all the darkness, there is an awe of newfound depth of experience. Monsters may not be beautiful but they can be sublime. To feel myself being stretched to the limit, bent to the point of breaking as I try to understand what the darkness is excites me even when it bringsme pain. As the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.
I do not quite understand what it all means yet. But I feel like I’m onto something big.
If you look at the painting I made for this post (at the beginning of the post), you’ll see how the person is on his knees with his back bent backwards. That’s a posture I identify with the experience of epiphany. It’s a picture of surrender that is not inspired by fear or reverence but by a lack of it. To bend down with your face to the ground can also lead to an intense experience. There is definitely an experience of freedom and sublimity in reverence and submission. But that’s a topic for another day.
In the above slideshow, you can see the entire painting and also the part of it I want to mention here. In the 1st slide, you’ll see how the character has the same posture as the person in the painting at the top of this post. Back bent backwards. This painting however, is less dark/depressing than the one at the top. The latter is what the imploding I mentioned earlier feels like. It’s painful, dark, and scary. But the fact that this dark tornado of depressing thoughts came from me is something that intrigues me. In this, such experiences are sometimes sublime. On a completely different note, how funny is it that I find yellow be a very depressing colour??
I don’t know if you’re still reading. To be honest, this is more for me than it is for you. I write because I need to make sense of all the thoughts that plague me. I’m sorry if I haven’t made things simpler. These posts are written in one sitting and usually when I’m sleep-deprived and tired. I rarely edit. I just want to get my thoughts out there. To do anything more is something I don’t have strength for at the moment.
I care about all of you as a blogger, in a way that is made possible by the sheer humanity that is on display on this platform.
A loooong time ago, God created trees. Then he asked all of them to pose for a photo. In heaven, God has a family photo album of everything from the beginning of time. The trees were extremely happy to be part of God’s photo album and so they posed. Then God took out his nifty little camera and clicked.
The trees were still getting used to the Sun and the flash was so powerful that they put their hands up to shield themselves from the light. And so, they were forever frozen in time with their hands held high.
And that, kids, is why tree branches grow up and not down.
Then, after so many years, when humans were made, they saw the trees and imitated their posture. Trees gave them fruits and shade and they were full of life. Thus, the pose came to be synonymous with life, abundance, and joy.
So, next time you see a tree, raise your hands up, look up to the sky, and smile for the camera.
It’s very hard to realise what loneliness is. It’s hard to understand the meaning of words in general. But let’s just say it’s never good when you use relationships to compensate for a lack of perspective.
This post is about explaining my previous post ‘Of Faith and Fear'( Of Faith and Fear (wordpress.com) ). It is from a series called ‘Mumbo is Jumbo’ in which I use absurd images to communicate well-formed ideas. Many of my friends wanted to know what ‘Of Faith and Fear’ was really about. I was hesitant to do this as the post is about something that I’m not comfortable talking about openly. However, the piece means a lot to me personally and I think if you guys knew what led me to writing it, it would make the piece a very interesting read for you. So, let me share.
I’ve never liked horror movies. The reasons why I don’t is not germane to the topic of this post. Let’s just say for the satisfaction of half the people in my life that I’m a wimp. Anyway, once in a while I find myself in a position where I have to sit down and watch a horror movie regardless of my general distaste for the genre. On these occasions, I try my best to get through unscathed. One of my favorite techniques is to imagine the movie set. I like to imagine the director giving instructions to the actors, people running around with lightboxes, and interns giggling in the background. It helps me to break through the illusion and remind myself that the moving pictures are man-made, the result of a series of very deliberate choices. When I do this, the horror movie, by virtue of it having a particular lighting or sequence of camera angles, becomes a “portkey”(HP reference) back to reality.
Let us now take a detour into something that happened a few weeks ago when I had the most random of thoughts. I asked myself why in all the churches I’ve visited, Mother Mary is always dressed in blue. So I Googled it. Apparently, the Bible is full of references to the colour. It stood for heaven, riches, royalty, purity, etc. However, from my very basic research, I found that Virgin Mary is always dressed in blue because the colour signifies purity. In fact, during Byzantine times, blue was widely used to signify this quality.
Alright, let’s get back to scary movies.
For all my life, I’ve been a devout Christian. Still am, I’d like to think. But in the past few years, I’ve found myself questioning my beliefs. I’ve gotten to a place where I believe that all of it is true one day and find it absolutely hard to believe the next. It’s a scary place to be when you’ve lived all your life believing in something completely. Considering the idea of eternal incineration is scary enough. But what about my life here? I want to live in the truth. It’s important to me. I’m caught between extremes and it’s the most depressing and horrifying thing I’ve ever faced in my life. Is it all man-made? Or is it the absolute truth? At the moment, it all depends on what day it is.
So, when I tell you that churches can be scary spaces for me, I hope it makes sense. They’re powerful, larger-than-life spaces that make me feel part of something beyond my insignificant existence. Being in that space on a day that I don’t believe is the scariest thing in the world. It’s like being ripped apart. So, in desperation, I try to look for the cameramen and the directors; I try to find ways of imagining it all as man-made. Anything from facetious expressions to illogical claims help me to breathe. This is how I treat three hours on a routine Sunday as a horror movie.
This is why when I read about why Mother Mary is always in blue, an image popped into my head. I’ve tried my best to paint it.
What I saw was a group of people carrying a giant statue into a church. Wet paint was dripping off it. It made no sense whatsoever why anybody would carry a statue still wet with paint into a church. But I let it play on. This was followed by an image of me in a church seeing a blotch of paint on the red carpet and holding on to it as a mark of how man-made the larger-than-life space of the church I was in was; a reminder that the tinted glass, the high ceilings, and big curtains were all the result of deliberate choices of artists.
The image also reminded me of how there is blue inside the church and outside the church. The sky is also blue. It proclaims the handiwork of God. But we meet God in closed spaces, disconnected from the infinite blue above us. I often find the blue inside the church to be an entirely different shade from the blue outside. There seems to be a disconnect between the world inside the church on a Sunday and the world outside on the other six days of the week. Most people I know have different ways of living inside and outside the church. I’m not a pantheist but I was reminded of Spinoza’s philosophy that exhorted people to return to the blueprint of nature. Why is it that the purity of nature and the scriptures always have to be adulterated by our selfish desires and agendas? It’s always been the story, even in the Garden of Eden.
I’m not a catholic. The imagery used is not a jab at anyone. I merely allowed ideas to possess certain images to communicate something. This is also in no way a statement that comes from a place of conviction or certainty. I’m confused. I don’t resent religion. I consider myself to be a Christian; but my beliefs are based not on sight but on faith. I have no evidence for what I believe in. I believe there is a God and that Jesus was divine. I do so because I want to and I have nowhere else to go. But I don’t believe in a lot of things that most Christians believe in. This is a piece that comes from a place of humility and acceptance of my own incertitude. As I write this, part of me is happy to present a part of my life that I found hard to communicate with others. At the same time, I write every word fearing divine retribution. I find peace in knowing from experience that honest expression has always brought me closer to the truth, be it in people or ideas.
P.S. This is not a very well-written post. I was not feeling up to it but I thought it was required. Hope you guys enjoyed reading it nonetheless. Cheers.