There’s a problem with me. I don’t know how to fix it. To draw is to survive. When it serves any other purpose, I turn into an ear at the door, scared, my calves tense, ready to flee in case they open the door. And I know very well that’s no way to live.
But the thing is…today’s problems go away tomorrow. It burns through the night like firewood that turns to ash by daybreak. This means I should finish drawing before daybreak – before my reason to draw turns to ash and I’m drawing not to get through the day but for other reasons that fail to stand up against questions that don’t even matter. Questions such as: What will they think? Won’t they think I’m weird? Isn’t it a bit too disturbing?
It really doesn’t matter! You know why? Because you’re still reading. Ha! And that’s all that matters at the end of the day. That you recognize enough human in me to say whatever you say: “different”, “weird”, “nutcase”.
I’d have loved to wait another day before putting out the artwork. But I’m still a fucked up coward who needs to hide behind the alarm that jolts me to action when I feel like I’m going to die. It is only in the shadow of my doom that I can speak what I mean. How…pathetic….interesting.
So all you get is something I’m not proud of. But that doesn’t matter either. Because you’re still reading. And once again…that is enough. For today.
Oh, also, the artwork is about a woodcutter (father figure in children’s stories, rescuer of people in the forest, an amphibian like Mowgli the Frog who lives both in the forest and in houses). It is what I aspire to be – like the children of Narnia whose cupboard opens into a forest. What I intend to do is conquer and return home of my own accord – to be the prince of the forest and yet give it all up for what we call “society”. How do I live in the forest during the day and come back home at night? How do I learn to dig deep into myself, find hidden treasures, and return with resolve to a place like the world we all share? ( for it is a very greedy world where gold kills people)
What I need is an axe. But I feel like I’ve taken up the hammer instead. And that is getting me nowhere. I am stuck.
When I was a child, I always wanted clothes twice my size. I wanted clothes that were big enough for my parents, my heroes, for that person I was going to become in ten years. I never felt at home with peers. Me tugging on the shoulder of my XL shirt trying to pull the sleeve back up my arm was an expression of how hard it was to fit in with people my size. It wasn’t about wearing a blanket but about wearing the future, being part of a group that I understood. Now that I’ve grown into those shirts and grown taller and stronger than my parents, I stop and ask myself if I still want clothes twice my size. Yes, I do. Time has taught me that parents are much bigger than their clothes make them out to be, that heroes live in the smallest spaces, and that the future is more accessible today than it ever will be.
You guys have seen those creepy mirrors in interrogation rooms, right? The ones in movies where on side of the glass there are people sitting in the dark looking at people on the other side who can’t see them? Well, yeah, did you know that one side of the mirror being dark and the other being well-lit is a requirement for the mirror to work in this way?
Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? You’ll be able to see yourself in your windows at night when the light is on in your room, but you won’t be able to during the day when the sun is shining through.
Why do I bring up this interesting-yet-too-specific-and-takes-a-long-time-to-explain-so-it-really-doesn’t-belong-in-a-blog-post piece of information?
Well, the other day I had this vision of me standing in a room without roofing. The sun was beating down on me and it was around mid-day. The sky was beautiful, with colours swirling and dissolving into each other like clouds. I wanted to reach out and touch them. So I did.
Well, I tried.
There was a ceiling made of glass in my way.
Since the sun was really bright, it didn’t look like there was a glass ceiling. I pushed first, tapped second, and then I just stood there. I looked out at all the beautiful stuff above me and felt like there was nothing I could do to truly experience them.
Then, as time passed, the sun slowly slipped out of view. It was evening. There was a light in my room, one brighter than the light outside. And now, when I looked up, I could see the glass. I could see myself in the glass. But I could also see the sky and the colours above because the sun hadn’t gone down yet. My reflection and the evening sky were two faint images superimposed on each other, still on the glass. I stared at it without blinking.
And then night came and I was alone. With myself. The glass was now a pure reflection of me and my room.
I know what the vision was about. It was about many things things that have present significance.
You see, I’m about to spend a year at home because I didn’t get into the postgraduate programmes I wanted to get into, which is partly something I didn’t want anyway but anxiety doesn’t care about what I want. I want so many things. During the day, when the rest of the world is alive, I’m constantly reminded of what I cannot have, be it because of my interests, where I come from, who I know etc. It’s just like the sun beating down on me through the glass. And I jump all day, hoping to catch one of those colourful clouds but I bang my head against the glass. This is all I can do during the day.
Then evening comes and I realise that there is a thick sheet of glass between me and the world, that the curse the 21st century casts on youth is the ability to see all that they cannot be or have. In the twilight hours, as I see myself and the world in the glass of fate and destiny, I am inspired by how it grounds me in reality by placing the good and the bad into context. This prepares me for the hours to come, when loneliness will take hold of me.
In the deep hours of the night, I am all I see. I look at my reflection on the glass and I write, speak, and draw. I reinvent, nay find myself in the void. This act does have the power to heal and restore but it does so only if I stare at the glass in the evening. To see myself and the world at the same time, to stop fighting and observe my existence in all its beauty, glory, and tragedy is the only thing that can bring healing in the night.
Well, now you know why I create everything in the night when everyone else is sound asleep.
About the artworks:
The first artwork contains a lot of ideas that I’ve already explored in previous posts with mountains, gyres, allusions to authorship, etc. The ice from the Hemingway post makes a reappearance as this post has a lot to do with fear of losing potential (https://thefourthdimensionoflife.wordpress.com/2021/07/10/obsessed-with-loss-of-potential-jpg/). Lions, as you know, mean a lot to me. They keep appearing in my dreams. I’ve been a lion in some and I’ve also been protected and attacked by them in some. There are other reasons but I won’t go into them now. If you have a good eye, you probably noticed how the speech bubble kinda looks like a human being, with the lion and its mane making up the mouth. Not exactly planned but I believe these things happen for a reason. Makes sense in context anyway.
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.
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.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house
The void is comforting; it takes away all points of reference. Imperfections are powerless in the edgeless, cornerless space that I call loneliness. Here, in the darkest period of my life, I remain a candle that rejects the gravitas of the candlestick for the blissful ignorance in the dusty nothingness under the bed where monsters sleep.
I burn here
I burn in red and yellow, like a fire.
Yellow is the tears; yellow is the sunrise; yellow is the reach and the contrast; yellow is the depression.
Red, my love, is Raskolnikov; Red is blood rushing into the brain with a vengeance; Red is the confidence that shrouds confusion; Red is the panic and the pain, the push that never pulls back.
I…I burn in these.
I try because I know this. I try because I seek the corners; reproach without the embrace. I have crushed the mustard seed and I have seen the faith. I try because in the void nothing can protect me from myself. By skinning myself and showing you that I bleed, I find a branch to hold on to as the storm tries to suck me back into that narrow middle of the hourglass where everything stops but hate prevails. I know I can stop them, I can stop the sand. But I don’t want to.
Your art makes the clock run faster and longer. Time goes faster in the museum; time goes faster on Instagram. It goes too fast for me. Yes, your art makes me feel happy, excited even. But it never grounds me. Your art has never worn my colours and I doubt it ever will. I am alone in this.
The only way to ground myself is to dig in, into myself.
The nib’s broken on paper It’s on record There’s no taper Printers cried and bookmarks fell off the shelf Libraries shut down.
And I Never let me speak to the crowds x 2
I drew on my face But they just couldn’t understand These things are too deep. So next time when I write Wake me up inside I’d love to listen.
And I ….. Will let you speak to my crowds x2
This is a song I wrote about creative blocks and how hard it is sometimes to feel responsible for your art. I’ll be writing a post soon about creative blocks and the depression that artists often go through. I’ve been depressed for more than a year now and I’m struggling very much with it. A few months ago, I read Hemingway’s Snows of Kilimanjaro and found myself exploring the mind of the artist. I’m planning on writing about my epiphanies on how the artist’s mind works in an effort to work through my own depression and find others who are also going through something similar. I thought posting this song I wrote about a year ago would be a great way to start things off. I have more songs that I’ve written on the topic and will be sharing them here soon. Looking forward to great discussions. As always, (try to) have a great blast existing.
Treat it for what it is. A minute real estate on your face with very little resale value for the next few weeks.
Why do we wear clothes?
Go ahead and google it. It’s amusing to see how the web manages to give relevant answers to questions like these.
We wear clothes for protection, for decoration and mostly to keep what’s private, private.
When Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit. they lost the glory of God that clothed them and they clothed themselves with leaves.
I sometimes wish I had clothes for other stuff. Like pimples and scars.
My skin has a thing for pimples. Despite my mother’s incessant instructions not to pop them, I still do it. And because of this habit I had trouble walking with my head held up high when I was in school. People sometimes don’t see how much pimples can affect someone. It was torture for me. My face used to shrink to the size of a small spot. Metaphorically, of course.
Here I was, a teenage kid with a lot of potential. I had everything going for me. I mean, I did struggle a bit during high school with academics (regardless of which I ended up at my dream university) but other than that, I was doing great. I loved meeting people and having a good conversation. The only thing that kept me from enjoying every single minute of my day most days was the number of pimples on my face. That’s sad.
You do get better at living with your pimples. It gets easier. But I didn’t want to live with them. If I was not responsible for them and they were going to be a part of my life regardless, I could not afford to let them be even the slightest of my worries.
I learnt, though at a very slow pace, that nobody actually cared about my pimples. At least not as much as I thought they did. I also learnt that sometimes not every part of who you are will serve your confidence and that you have to choose what to focus on.
Me being a born-again Christian, realised that it is in God that my value is found. It is his glory that now clothed me and made me who I was. That realisation helped me a lot.
You, dear reader, have to realise that I am talking about a problem that is nothing compared to the millions of problems that are out there. But it definitely is one. Which is why I thought I should talk about how hurtful it could be when you stare at somebody’s pimple or even point it out in public. Even when it seems like it’s no big deal.
Before I go, to all my friends with pimples: Really, it’s not a big deal. Don’t worry too much. Treat it for what it is. A minute real estate on your face with very little resale value for the next few weeks. If you really want to make a mountain out of it, call them volcanoes of purity or call yourself pompously pimplified. I hope that was not gross.
Anyway, if you’ve actually read till here, you deserve an award. Please claim my respect by saying a hi in the comments. Joking. You don’t have to do that. I love you all nevertheless.