Being in Life

In the middle of the game suddenly the urgent need to contemplate the game itself instead of one’s role in it.

This is the drawing number 116. It was created in May 2002, shortly after Mr. Fivehair had entered my life, and only a few days before I – stepping out of the world hitherto familiar to me – began a discovery journey into unknown territories without a guiding map. I was 43 years old. At that time, I considered the number 116 colossal. Today, twelve thousand drawings later, I reckon in this draft the nucleus of a question that, due to its inspiring nature, I uphold unanswered still. Isn’t it curious how eagerly we seek to define our role in the game and how far we are, at the same time, from comprehending that game?

 

¡Por qué todo tiene que cambiar!
(Why must everything change!
Illustrated novel)

This is one of the 45 images that illustrated the children novel written by Carmen Olaechea, published in Spain in 2005. It was the very first time that someone had invited me to deploy my own creative energies in service for another person’s creativity. This invitation made me meet – once again - the unknown and face new questions: how to connect with the inner images of the author, which kindled her work and guided her writing? Clearly my job was not to represent her intimate inner imagery, nor to depict what the text itself already transmitted, nor to merely illustrate my personal resonance as a reader. So, what then would the contribution of my images to the joint creation have to consist of? It consisted in capturing the dialogue between the text, the inner images of the author and my own imagery.

 

Reality and observation – a creating twosome?

This is the image number 8,871 created in 2006. I fancied capturing how a dense and unyielding reality - dominating the entire foreground – turns fluid and transparent upon our observation and reflection.

I had embarked in studying texts of Buddhist and Western philosophers and modern scientists, particularly in the fields of physics, astronomy and human cognition. As I kept following step by step the trail of their great quests, questions of my own began to emerge. I could not help reading without drawing, nor drafting without continuing to read. With each new insight that I won access to, one of the incarnated images inside me faded away – with every drawing, a new insight emerged.

I began intuiting the subtle fabric between science, philosophy, religion and art – a web deeper reaching than the decipherable results that each area generates. Moreover, I also started to sense that all these areas, each pursuing its specific quest in its particular territory, might point towards a common, still largely unknown center.

 

Holding what behold me
Letting go what does not le me go

This is a detail taking from one of the images I created for the Vienna symposium in 2006 upon being invited to partake, as an artist, in an interchange of experts from neurology, psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy on the topic of trauma and human consciousness. What would I know of such themes? As an artist, attorney-at-law, ex-partner of a global audit firm, ex-director of an international foundation and as a man in the age of 45 year: nothing! Hence new unforeseen questions: How to touch on that sphere in which we all – beginners and ignorants – do possess wisdom? Where and how to find a gate to, and perhaps even a road into that, which awaits us beyond reason and emotions?

I am a fair thinker, yet how can I reach beyond the limit that thinking itself imposes? I am an intelligent person, yet how can I avoid remaining restrained by my own tacit intelligence and suppositions? I am a sensible man, yet how can I make contact with what the senses fail to perceive? I enjoy access to a rich emotional life, and yet: how can I grow beyond the confinement of my own emotions, feelings and sentiments? And then also this question: when I read the invitation to the symposium published in the Internet, I asked myself: I, an artist?

 

Each answer liberates a new question

This is the drawing number 11,039 of 2008. I created it several years after, for the first time, I had introduced myself to a third person as “artist”. The word had not crossed my lips easily; in fact, it even had sounded somewhat unreal. For, what exactly authorizes someone to characterize herself or himself as an artist? Is it a discretionary definition or one that should only be conceded by others? Does “being an artist” describe a position conquered by production and approbation, or is it rather an inner decision? Asking this question back then - and continuing to keep it unanswered until today - is probably due to the fact that my artistic work has begun to emerge in the middle of my life.

Whenever my creative energies team up with the creative work of others – be writing a book, composing a congress, constructing a building, designing an intercultural initiative – new questions regarding the meaning of art and the role of the artist arise. In the beginning, I had made such questions in order to build a bridge towards the endeavors of others. Over time however these very same questions have evolved and turned into a quest in itself. Today, they are an essential part of my own doing.

The impulse from which my images emerge is at times emotional, sometimes rational, but always at once a part of the answer itself. Creating images as mirrors of questions, of ambiguous interpretations, of robust doubts and of doubtful certainties – that is how I maintain my quest alive and my answers open.

 

Correlating

With time, reflections and artistic creations began to merge. Today I can no longer tell which one of these energies comes first. But I do know that both are interwoven in a continuous dialogue. Hence I accompany my studies and reflections with a great number of images, which undergo a transformation as they evolve: literal illustrations turn into analogies; analogies turn into metaphors, and metaphors turn into symbols leading to the search for archetypical images. This process runs in both directions. When facing latent contents not yet thought (and much less articulated), I begin to recognize in the growing world of my images what before I had been oblivious of.

Creating images is a discovery journey. Images guide me from outer to inner realities. They allow me oscillating between ideas and emotions, between empirical experiences and visions. At times they even lead me to the gates to the spheres beyond the universe of our thoughts, concepts, emotions and representations – towards that, which we are incapable of thinking, feeling and depicting.

 

Images of the outer reality

This image of the year 2008 is, in a way, a map. It represents the existing order and thus allows us defining our place and plotting the change of our positions in this order. While we are on the inside, this order is absolute: there is no other than the once containing us. However, might not the hand seem to indicate that this order, too, is but a component of yet an encompassing superior, greater one? And which might that be?

Inevitably, with every step we cross the threshold between different realities, cultures, historical and social, economical and political contexts. Whether we so desire or not, with every turn we step over visible and invisible lines – at once dividing and connecting – between misery and joy, beauty and ugliness, perfection and ruin, old and new, solidity and fluidity. Opening our eyes, we see scarcity and abundance, shortage and opulence, waste lands and congestion. With every breath we inhale the perfumes of bliss and desperation, verve and impotency.

Often in my life, I found myself entrenched in one particular place, occupying it as if it was the entire world all together– which hence it was, for me. I would know of course that there existed other worlds, but they meant nothing to me, and therefore I paid no attention to them. Today, however, their existence is indeed of significance in my life, and I feel deeply moved and enthralled by the growing proximity of fundamentally different realities and their vibrant entanglement.

There was a time in my life when I traveled all over the world without ever seeing any other than the one in my head. Today, this is different. I do not know how the birds in our garden make out the world, but I am certain that their image of the world differs substantially from mine. I could not tell if birds are capable of critically examining their own views and representations of the world. But we – and of that I have no doubt – are indeed equipped with this marvelous gift.

 

Does inner life respond to external realities or partake in their creation?

Our inner life is as unfathomable as the emotional and mental abysses, which this image of the year 2008 tries to represent. Inner life is as immeasurably diverse, contradictory and mysterious as its external circumstances and conditions. Looking into the inside of life is like succumbing to the night sky and its infinite galaxies, or to the water and its multilayered, elegant turbulences: what comes before the eye awakens our consciousness of the unapproachable depths and concealed dimensions of what we are able to perceive and reason.

With each of our movements, new mental and emotional responses to the external world arise. We oscillate between nostalgia and faith in progress, tradition and vanguard, inertia and innovation, repetition and rupture, consolation and despair, confidence and apathy. Each step leads us from one feeling to the next, from one idea to the following, from one possible inner answer to another.

I am marveled by this incalculable richness of inner life and by the dialogue – at times peaceful, at times antagonistic – between the countless beliefs, mentalities and convictions, each one of them finding its confirmation in the facts of life.

Time and again, I keep catching myself governed by one sole thought, one dominating emotion or one particular understanding because they seem and feel so doubtlessly genuine, authentic and true. But then, upon examining the images that I create capturing them, I become aware of their partial and passing nature.

 

Observing our own looking

When I try to capture the inner responses, which the different worlds elicit from their inhabitants – like in this image number 11,039 – I begin to discover that emotions and thoughts are not solely responses to an external reality but collaborators in its creation. This creating dialogue between inner and outer life touches and marvels me. Might it be then that we, the cartographers of the world, are ourselves an integral part of what we portray, and even interwoven in these portraits themselves?

 

Transforming entanglement

Like in this image of the year 2008, life provides us with a place of belonging in simultaneous and parallel worlds: known and unknown, expanding and contracting, real and symbolic. Life carries us over threshold, which – even though we might not be conscious of it – at once unite and divide the individual and the collective, the specific and the principal, the parts and the entirety.

Sometimes, my narrow and constrained view suddenly makes me discover the entire panorama; at other times, my panoramic view reveals but a myriad of dissociated fragments. When I observe my own way of looking, I realize that whatever I perceive – no matter how encompassing - is but an ingredient of a yet grander and superior entity. Thus I discover the impossibility to grasp totality with one single, direct view. My work as an artist is intrinsically interwoven with this quest: the approximation to the heart of the whole that includes and inspires all parts.

Something perplexing occurs during this discovery journey. It seems that my probing steps alter the territories I explore. My images modify the ideas they aim to capture, change the thoughts they try to articulate, and transform the emotions they aspire to grasp. When I sketch an insurmountable wall, it becomes fluid. When I draw a line between this and that, duality vanishes. And this door swings both ways: my images are membranes where before there had been no distinctions, and they create differentiations where before all had been one.

However, this does by no means lead me to think that all is relative, or that our ideas represent nothing but their own underlying paradigms, or that our questions and inquiries are vain and our comprehensions illusionary. On the contrary, it makes me intuit and sense this beautiful and transforming web, which unites all phenomena of life: this awe-striking creating dialogue between all and the vital impulse that propels us.

 

Without the missing part: an incomplete entirety? And with it: a different entirety?

Yes, today I am an artist. I have neither a definition of the term nor the desire to possess one. But I do keep the question alive, because our world is a triple stage: a stage of our realizations, of our interpretations, and of our growing comprehension of both.

We put up the stage on which we act: stage-building forms part of the performance. We write the scripts that we enact:  playwriting forms part of the presentation. We observe the evolvement of the production as we realize it: examining our own way of looking forms part of the creation. And hence our own visions transform under the influence of the changes they promote. Life is foaming!

 

Shaping what shapes us

My vocation as an artist is to put my creative energies at service to individual and communal metamorphosis. In the era I happen to live, the best of human faculties only bloom when united in common pursuits. This calls for seeking to connect and work with others, no matter if they are at home in one sole world or traveling between many. As an artist I feel invited and challenged to contribute to this grand human endeavor. I do not believe that the so-called artistic freedom demand that I keep in the off behind the sidelines, or that artistic authenticity be attainable only for the price of abstinence and autism. On the contrary, creating together with others is not a limitation but nourishment for my creativity.

I am being in life like a wave in water. The long road from the drawing number 116 until today is but a small step, though one that already has changed a lot: seeking a deeper understanding of the nature and essence of the game has become dearer to me than defining my role in it.