Below the Line Project: Arrows Fields Grids and Forces

BTL Blue ArrowsA pattern and texture is the outcome of an encounter between a force and a resistance  (Ann Isik (me) 2014)

I’ve been  a little quiet on the blog recently. I’ve been preoccupied with dreadful draining domestic drudgery. My creative cauldron has been crooning constantly in the background, however, awaiting my stirring spoon.

Arrows. (I’m struggling to set alliteration aside, as you see) – Arrows became a form in my Below the Line project, representing force. Especially what I’m going to call the ‘forceless force’, meaning the force that is the source of the forces of nature. The idea for the name came when I was looking at an exhibition catalogue authored by Australian art historian Michael Brand. The exhibition was called The Vision of Kings – Art and Experience in India. I wrote in a recent blog about how I came across this catalogue and how by sheer synchronicity I got to see many of the real art works illustrating the catalogue on a trip to Boston and Harvard.

Forces & Prototypes is a study for Below the Line in which I’ve first used arrows. I’ve been de-cluttering generally and including my studio and in sifting through all my bits and pieces, I saw how drawn I am to pattern and texture.  In pondering this, it came to me that the principle that overarches all patterns and textures (and forms, of course) is that they are created by pressure brought to bear – i.e. forces.

This has opened up a new sub-project and I’ve been researching force. And ways of representing this visually. I’m quite excited in this about a new book I’ve just bought: Mark Making by Sheffield (UK) quilt and fibre artist Helen Parrott. There’s no doubt this book will be assisting my Below the Line project, so look out for some work using textile and stitch. I think it’s a fabulous book for all types of visual artist, not just quilters, which I am most definitely not.

I’ve thought that initially, a force might create a prototype kind of pattern/texture and other similar patterns and textures would branch from these, in a relationship akin to that of rivers and their tributaries.

It came to me that a grid might be a prototype, in that a grid can represent a field, like an electrical/electromagnetic field. There is also the ‘field’ of quantum theory (unified field theory). I’ve been researching grids and fields and experimenting with creating these. I have a rubber stamp of lines and it also came to me when trying this out, that a grid of five lines would stand for blank music notation. This would represent a sort of musical tabula rasa (blank slate) that invites us to use the grid to compose the tunes of our life.

Then I came across the fabulous work of (see how synchronicity works?!) abstract encaustic artist Joanne Mattera, who works with colour and grids. She describes her work as lush minimalism, an expression every bit as oxymoronic as poetic mapping! Her grids showed me a way of making my work more visual in two ways. First they reminded me of Op Art – and Brigitte Riley, of course. I’m no particular fan of abstract art in general and I have to limit my time looking at Op Art or I risk a massive migraine.

But Op Art (and its tributaries) is an example of how force brought to bear stimulates physical and emotional reactions and changes, using pattern. All artists want their work to change something, don’t we? Art could be said to be about seeking ways of bringing about spiritual/intellectual/emotional/physical change, couldn’t it?

I was also interested to read about Joanne Mattera’s colour choices.  Here’s what she writes:

The saturated color I use, influenced by Siennese paintings and Indian miniatures, is nevertheless of its own time. A 21st-century palette embodies different intensities, transparencies and chromatic relationships. The encaustic paint I use for much of my work brings a differently refractive quality to the color than other mediums, as well as optical depth and substantive texture.”

I, toPatinir St Jerome in Rocky Landscape Northern Renaissance 1515o, am interested in the colour schemes of the Italian Primitives (pre-Renaissance) painters – as a yardstick, these are the painters who depicted the Virgin in robes of black, rather than blue – her blue garb came later. I also like the colour schemes of the early Renaissance northern painters, especially Joachim Patinir. I love his fantastic landscapes – St Jerome in Rocky Landscape (1520) is a particular favourite.

The Infant Krishna Floating on the Cosmic Ocean Nathdara, Rajasthan c1840 Arthur M Sackler Gall Harvard Uni Art Mus Private CollAnd I have a strong predilection for the coloration in Indian paintings. That’s how I came to be looking into my exhibition catalogue The Vision of Kings – Art and Experience in India. 

My term Forceless Force came about when I came across a painting in the catalogue: The Infant Krishna Floating in the Cosmic Ocean. Dating to 1840, the painting’s from Mewar, Nathdvara, Rajasthan and is of opaque watercolour, silver and gold, on paper.

It describes an episode from the Bhagavata Purana (Ancient Stories of the Lord). The work is now in the collection of the Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M Sackler Museum.

The painting depicts an episode from Hindu creation myth.  From the exhibition catalogue:

Krishna’s Lila (divine play) …is seen as a manifestation of Vishnu’s eternal Lila. … The prime example of this ‘effortless’ effort’ is Vishnu spontaneously dreaming the world into existence. As he lay asleep on the coils of the snake, Ananta, floating on the waters of the cosmic ocean, a lotus bud carrying the god Brahma sprouted forth from his navel. Brahma then created the universe.

I couldn’t help thinking of the Moses story.  As most know, Moses was floated down the river Nile in a pitch-lined basket by his mother, to save him from death by an edict of the then Pharaoh that all male Hebrew children be drowned. This story shadows the later of story of King Herod commanding, after a visit by the three wise men seeking the new king, the deaths of all Hebrew male children. 

I looked up Moses in an intriguing book I came across in the late 90s: The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary. It’s the work of Charles Fillmore, founder of the Unity Church movement. It gives what are named as the metaphysical definitions of the names of personages who appear in The Bible.  Under the Moses entry:

“Moses means drawing out, extracting, i. e., from the water. The birth of Moses represents man’s development in consciousness of the law of his being, from the negative side. Water represents universal negation; but water also represents the great possibility. Out of seemingly negative conditions comes the new growth.

When we are in what seems Egyptian darkness, and weak as water, we are ripe for the higher understanding. The thoughts that rule in the darkness are bent upon putting out all the children of light, but if we are of the house of faith, as were Moses’ parents, then our desire to bring forth the higher consciousness will find a protector.”


Effortless Effort became Forceless Force for my purposes. I love the colours in the Krishna painting. I will be finding ways of using these colours to stimulate (hopefully, without triggering migraines).

This is already too long. In my next Below the Line blog I’ll be writing about arrows, the poetic walks I’ve been taking in my search for and research into them. This will include my treasure trove finds of Colombian gold, spirits and shamen (is it shamans or shamen?)

And why arrows are also keys.


About AnnIsikArts

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