I’m attracted to artworks damaged in the making process.
When trying to figure out why, I’ve focused on the word damage.
In looking at this on the left – a damaged eco collograph of some elm leaves – it came to me that I was attracted to the negative spaces created by the damage.
Negative space was a whole new focus. Here’s a few things I discovered when I took a walk into negative space.
The image on the right is of a white vase; it’s competing for dominance with the negative spaces either side of it, which look like silhouetted human profiles.
They confront one another in silence. The negative spaces in my artwork seem to be having an animated discussion. I wonder what they’re quarreling about? I think it might be about politics, women’s rights or climate change!
“Space is substance. Cézanne painted and modelled space. Giacometti sculpted by “taking the fat off space”. Mallarmé conceived poems with absences as well as words. Ralph Richardson asserted that acting lay in pauses… Isaac Stern described music as “that little bit between each note – silences which give the form”… The Japanese have a word (ma) for this interval which gives shape to the whole. In the West we have neither word nor term. A serious omission.” Alan Fletcher: The Art of Looking Sideways
I was drawn to Isaac Stern’s definition of space in terms of music, “that little bit between each note – silences which give the form.” In music, space becomes silence. I was reminded of John Cage’s composition 4’33”. Watch the above You Tube vid. And then the equally fascinating video of the responses of the public at that performance.
And then on my walk I encountered Noble Silence, attributed to Buddha in reference to the 14 unanswerable questions (or 10 or 16). Noble Silence is a technique used by Buddhists, monks and nuns. Simplistically put, not speaking every word that comes to mind is a way of avoiding causing harm. (I certainly need to take heed of that piece of advice).
Silence also quiets the mind, allowing a space to open for contemplation, prayer, nothingness. I was reminded of Hesychasm – contemplative prayer.
I’ve written about Hesychasm in Chinese Poem and in The Light of Tabor. Hesychasm is based on what Jesus purportedly instructed about prayer in the Gospel of Matthew: ” … when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.”
Go to your room. It’s not just about going to a physical space; it’s about retiring inwardly; cutting out the world; cutting out one’s own noise to make a space for engagement with God. For me, it’s about getting into listening mode (as opposed to demanding mode). This is negative space created deliberately for a specific purpose. A positive negative?
I had quite a long walk in negative space. At one crossroads one sign read Ezekiel and the other Nag Hammadi. I’ve been reading the Nag Hammadi manuscripts for a while. These are codices discovered in December in a jar 11km from Nag Hammadi. The story of how they were found, what happened with them – some pages burnt, some otherwise destroyed, the whole lot split up and dispersed, a blood feud, a lost 13th codex (not, actually) – I’m surprised there hasn’t been a new Indian Jones movie made from all this drama. For me, this crossroads is about the bits that were lost from these codices, just as there are bits lost from my damaged eco collographs. Again, negative spaces.
If it is possible, Ezekiel is even more dramatic and anybody who’s read Von Daniken (Chariots of the Gods) will know he speculates that the visions of Ezekiel describe space ships and visitations from aliens. Check out Ezekiel 1 for descriptions of apparitions of four-faced winged creatures filled with burning coals that light up as the creatures move about; that the creatures have wheels under them, each being a wheel within a wheel, the rims of which are full of eyes; and that it is the spirit of the creatures which moves the wheels. This is outer space.
And if you think space is just an empty void in which things happen, what about the phenomena of bending, rippling and expanding space?
Of course, this is another one for my Herbiarum Vocabularum. I’m in the process of writing a blog about elm, which is not exactly a herb, but it does have healing properties and figures in folklore and mythology.