Emptiness is cause for anxiety in the human experience. Something about there being nothing there to give a sense of locus or substance may cause a person to panic. This anxiety motivates the human mind to create something where there is nothing and it is through this drive for “being” that causes each person to generate an internal cosmos that defines their reality. Our physical reality evolves in conjunction with our internal cosmology and becomes an extension of our internal reality, giving a sense of time and place that yields a concrete presence from which we function. Sanity is borne out of a degree of harmony between the accurateness of the internal cosmology and the “real world”. This is the natural order of life from within the human psyche. Thus, it becomes unnatural for a person to indulge in the discipline of seeking out a state of awareness where they become immersed in “The Silent Stillness”. The human ego is most comfortable when surrounded by a physical realm that reinforces the concept of completeness derived from the interaction of places, events, social relationships, and possessions as defined by their sense of being. Yet the human spirit is driven to seek out this “otherness” that provides a sense of maturity in the growth of the human psyche.
It is with this in mind that I reviewed a series of drawings created between January 9th and February 16th , 2010 and added the comments to each drawing as a way of providing verbal references to a “visual journal” from this time period. Certainly the journey to this point in my life could, has, and will generate many other writings from many different viewpoints, as would the journey of any “seeker” who has left a trail of artifacts along the “Path”. The name I've given the 3.5 x 5-inch sketchbook these drawings were created in is from a line in a poem written during this same time period. During the same time period I worked in the sketchbook a discourse about the role of the Muse in creativity was taking place, and this resulted in several drawings where were given titles and subjects related to this discussion. Another topic that was being discussed during this time period was of the spiritual journey and momentary marking of an “arrival” that would be more relevant in the context of Cherokee spirituality. I've tried to keep most of my comments in a universal context except when the drawings referenced Buddhism, Native American spirituality, or I felt like venting a bit in the moment. I'm human also, as there's only so much universality in any one person.
A sculptor has the benefit of working with materials that are already there as part of the creative process. As Michelangelo is quoted as having once said, to carve an elephant, all one has to do is remove everything that isn't elephant. A potter has a lump of clay to form into a container. The emptiness within the container is as important as the physical presence of the object, as this space provides containment for seeds, liquids, or a sonic chamber for a musical instrument. The modern artist has pieces of steel that can be welded together to form a sculpture. The painter, on the other hand, has an empty canvas with which to stand before and answer to. The draftsman has the blank sheet of paper that challenges the artist from the onset of creativity. Every mark is going to become an element of the final work, no matter how good the artist is. A wrong mark can be erased, but the erasure leaves a blemish on the previously untouched paper. Somewhere between the anxiety of emptiness and the anxiety of potential error, a work of art is created with pencil on paper.
The formal training of a sculptor includes concern for “negative space” which is the area around the physical or “positive space” that is being created. A bronze sculpture of a ballet dancer with arms held up above her head creates negative space between her arms and hands. The sculptor defines this space as part of the work. Rembrandt is quoted with having observed that the space around a subject is as important as the subject in a painting. He was concerned with capturing a sense of dynamic interaction between the “air” of the Holland landscape and the physical objects being depicted in his work. In each discipline of media the artist is aware of the emptiness that physical object generates. In order to define and show “emptiness” (or this “mystery/mystification” that remains unseen) the artist has to create the contrasting element of “something-ness”. This unseen Mystery becomes visible in the blank regions of a drawing where there are no pencil marks. It is easier to show nothing this way than it is to show the wind blowing across the Dutch landscape, yet one can look at paintings where some effort was made to do this and get a sense of “wind-ness”.
This Mystery comes to us through the human effort to confront the unseen aspects of reality in search of self/no-self beyond the physical realm. The schools of thought that support this discipline provide many Paths from different parts of the world. A universal spirituality, that awareness of the presence of spirit in reality and the ability to have an intentional dynamic relationship with the unseen spiritual forces around us, can be utilized in any activity. Those that offer instructions that seek to balance Karma and guide us in methods to reduce destructive elements from our lives get us there quicker. The discipline of meditation will guide a person to experience this Mystery, but along the way the need to filter out metabolic stimulation like the sound of blood flowing through the ear drums during meditation will generate a process of fragmentation like the space between the lines in a drawing becomes the negative space that defines “emptiness” in works intended to do this. The duality of a circle drawn on a sheet of paper to define emptiness, as in the art work of John Cage, illustrates how we have to fragment in order to arrive at a sense of wholeness in the effort to become at ease with an awareness of the “otherness” that results in this spirituality. It isn't the awareness of emptiness that is the goal in all of this. It is the discipline of shedding anxiety when experiencing emptiness that allows us to become free from bondage of fear within one's sense of self. The “Tunnel Vision Tapes” sketchbook is a visual account of this moment in time that occurred for me somewhere in the middle of the five weeks or so it took to do these drawings. The anecdotes about each drawing will add narrative to these marks along the trail in and out of this moment in time, as it were.
Oliver Loveday © May 12-23, 2011 10am EDT
- Cubist Mask , January 9, 2010
As a child I thought I had no imagination. When other kids would look up at clouds and point out elephants, pigs, and horses, I would look up and see cumulus clouds. In that rare moment when it was so obvious a blind man could see it, I might see something else beside just clouds. What I came to understand later was that my imaginings were directed elsewhere and there is nothing wrong with seeing the world for what it is. When I opted to study art in college this lack of transference in my imagination-stunted creativity reduced me to something of a human camera. I could do creative writing. I could whistle a symphonic movement never before heard. I couldn't “visualize” to save my life. When it came time to do an exercise in “Cubism” in drawing class, I had no idea what my professor was challenging me to do. Cubism would be something like making a lot of paper cubes and joining them together to create a sculpture of a model or physical object, then doing a drawing of this sculpture where there are no curved planes in the drawing. I got that part of the exercise now, but back then I was drawing a blank and doing really bad art in the kindest manner of speaking.
Cubism is well documented as an “art movement” within Western culture, but the deeper source of inspiration is lost to the (tribally-disenfranchised) civilized people who haven't been informed that the rest of humanity doesn't fragment reality into dysfunctional elements like the sacred and profane. The African tribal masks that inspired contemporary artists (to break down the subject matter into cubical elements) were depicting spiritual images of a very different nature than the Western Culture became concerned about with Cubism. I could intuit those tribal concerns much easier than I could visualize the abstraction from reality with Cubism. I'm aware of the spiritual elements associated with ceremonial objects, so I can say stuff like that. I finally did the math and got on with Cubism. It helped to do a sculpture first. That realist in me needed something physical to go by. So Cubist Mask isn't that steeped in Cubism. It is steeped in a long string of works named “masks” given my interest in theater, realism, and the hidden things behind the mask. It's a place to start. Maybe I named it Cubist Mask in honor of that effort to break away from realism and began to visualize images outside my physical reality. I remember it was almost painful to do this when I first got started doing art that required that I function as something other than a human camera.
Oliver Loveday © 051211:11am EDT
The Tunnel Vision Tapes can be downloaded in their entirety via PDF at these links.
TV Tapes #1, TV Tapes #2, TV Tapes #3, & TV Tapes #4.