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From the Figure

I’ve been to the Arts Students’ League four Tuesdays in a row. Here’s a couple of drawings from the model from the 5-6:30 live model sessions.

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A Few More

Drawings on Paper

Here are some pencil drawings on paper. I’m often drawing in my journal, but these are some drawings on paper that I cut out and took with me so that I’d be able to scribble something while waiting on the train, plane, or in a cafe. These, in contrast to the Japanese print studies, are either imagined or perceived explorations of light and shadow, and organic line.


Inspired by Japanese Aesthetics while in Israel.

So I’ve been here for a month, and I’ve started a series of small paintings in the little room in Roi’s apartment, which is now my designated studio. I brought one art book with me on this trip: Japanese Prints of the 20th Century. I decided to use this time to explore an aesthetic I’ve admired for a long while now. The modern Japanese print possesses a simple, austere, yet playful beauty that intrigues me. How does one create something that is colorful, organized, imperfect,yet elegant all at once? I thought I’d look at these prints and offer my own interpretation of them. And so began this series.

Above are a few of the eight (still in process in the studio), so far: (click to enlarge)

The beauty, the secret, the forte of the Japanese print lies in the color, the design, and the outline. I’m learning a ton about those, but I’m struggling with my medium, which is so different from the originals- mine are oil paintings, while these are prints. The oil paints are best used to create a sense of depth and nuance, yet these prints demand complete flatness on the surface?! I’m loving the colors, but losing many brush strokes in failed attempts at flat space. I didn’t realize how much I am used to painting Light and Shadow in small thick strokes, rather than smearing large areas with globs of paint full of thinner. Now, I must admit that trying to accomplish this feat with a less than cooperative medium conjures a very familiar feeling: a feeling of working against myself, like sticking with something for a very long while even when it doesn’t feel right, because something compelling emerges despite the hardship. Shall I give up and return to the more familiar routine of painting shadow for form, and light for mystery? I am in Israel after all, where the light is intense… and, yet I seem to be following some other kind of light…..

Now, I was hoping to integrate aspects of my Israeli experience into the series as a counterpoint to the Japanese theme. As a result, one painting includes the landscape outside my window, another has the graphic image of an Israeli coin, the ten shekel, and yet another has me sitting under an israeli sun. I also started to think of an old calendar I had with neat typically Israeli illustrations from the 50’s or 60’s. The colors and sense of design are a cross between modern Japanese prints and Communist era posters, and they exude an air of optimism and naivete that characterized the politics of the period. I searched for a book with these images, so that I can refer to more than just my memory while painting. Unfortunately, I found nothing, despite a google search in Hebrew and visits to a few bookshops. The search continues.

Besides the practical aspects of the execution of these paintings, the series also inspired me to recall the little I know about the philosophy of aesthetics, and to read more specifically about Japanese aesthetic. I discovered a few mighty interesting concepts. I’d like to highlight two in particular: Wabi-Sabi and Yugen.

Wabi-Sabi refers to the type of beauty that celebrates the ephemeral, ever-changing, asymmetrical, and withered. It is modest, and subtle- it is not garish or obvious. It conjures an air of melancholy and longing. It contains within it an appreciation for the impermanence and poetry of life. I imagine that a Zen Buddhist monk, through years of meditation, has cultivated a deep sense of the Wabi- sabi aesthetic.

Yugen, on the other hand, is the potent beauty that combines grace and mystery. It obscures, and intimates, and teases and draws one’s imagination into it’s shrouded beauty. It presents you with an image covered in mist, and forces you to guess what is behind the veils. The power of its beauty cannot be expressed in words, or experienced through logic.

Here’s more on Japanese asthetics:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/japanese-aesthetics/

These concepts remind me of the Western discussion on the Beautiful versus the Sublime, Apollo representing the virtues of symmetrical design and beauty, and Dionysus harnessing the power of the darker more dangerous sublime beauty. I have always preferred the Dionysian traits, but love to explore universal principles of design and symmetry as well.

Where do my Japanese prints fit in, aesthetically speaking? Well, actually I feel none of the above categories speak to their aesthetic. I don’t know that I’d like to find them their correct category/designation. For now, I’ll keep reading, and looking, and playing around with them, and I’ll see where they take me.

To view some paintings of mine from way back click on these links:
http://citypaper.net/articles/110200/pics/big/fff.anatben.jpg.shtml
http://squareinchgallery.com/id88.html

D R e a M s

Dreaming is an act of pure imagination, attesting in all men a creative power, which, if it were available in waking, would make every man a Dante or Shakespeare .” H.F. Hedge

Imagination is more important than knowledge .” Albert Einstein

Through Dreamwork we use the dream as the arena for first experiencing potentials before we go to the outer life to manifest them .”   Strephon Kaplan Williams

 

from Jung's Red Book

 

Using William’s approach to decipher dreams  (see reference below), we will subscribe to the overall notion that with the proper guidance and the right questions, the dreamer possesses the key to unlock the mysteries of her own dreams.   And so, our task as dream interviewer is to ask ample questions that will gently prod the dreamer deeper into her psyche, rather than offer an interpretation.  If you are interpreting your own dreams, you need to be honest with yourself in probing your dream material to maximize the experience.  It goes without saying: a therapist can help encourage you past your blind spots, and gently reveal aspects of yourself that you’d rather not see and that you spend considerable energy avoiding.  But beware anyone who offers too quick an interpretation of the dream, and reduces it from the realm of imaginal experience to a one-line analysis.  Now, even if you don’t have a therapist, in general, it is preferable to have an interpersonal experience around deciphering your dreams, since that way they more easily become part of conscious existence.   So, share your dreams, or, when someone tells you a dream, get curious and ask them many questions about it.

The following method of dream interpretation encompasses four phases.   The first phase of interpretation involves looking at the “you” in the dream, and seeing if there are parallels to the “you” in real life.  We’ll call “you” in the dream the “dream ego”, and “you” in real life the “waking ego”.    In the second phase of interpretation, we move away from the dream ego and study all other figures/images in the dream.  We see every event, character or symbol as an aspect of the dreamer, a mirror reflecting the dreamer’s manifold faces.   These are often the parts of ourselves we prefer not to see or parts we have not yet integrated into our personalities.  In the third phase, we simply allow the dream to exist on many levels, and marvel at how easily the dream may be interpreted from many theoretical standpoints.  In the fourth phase, there is the opportunity to concretize the dream, to bring its wisdom into the third dimension as an action that we take or an actual painting of a dream image.  It is probably best to focus on the first two phases of the method in the beginning.

PHasE I

The following questions will help the dreamer re-experience the dream as it actually occurred and go deeper into her psyche.  Write down the answers to these questions, and then review the content to see if there are any parallels with waking life.  Is the dream ego taking actions that are similar to the waking ego’s actions, or is the dream ego taking an opposite stance?  How are the dream ego and waking ego’s feelings similar or different etc.?

1.   Describe the actions of the dream ego?   What is she doing or not doing in the dream?

2.  What are the major contrasts and/or similarities in the dream?

3.  What are the major symbols in the dream?   What are the relations among the different symbols?

4.  What are the issues, conflicts and unresolved issues in the dream?

5.  What are possible resolutions for the yet unrealized parts of the dream?

6.  What are the various feelings in this dream?

7.  What is being wounded in the dream?

8.  What is being healed?

9.  What are you trying to avoid in the dream?

10. What actions is the dream suggesting you consider?

11.  Who or what is the adversary in the dream?

12.  Who are my guides, helpers, friend or allies in this dream?

13.  How does this relate to what is happening in your life right now?

Consider how your dream ego reflects your waking ego….Would you like your waking /dream ego to be different in any way?

PhASe II

Now focus on the other characters in the dream.   Imagine that they represent a certain aspect of the dreamer’s persona (even if they seem nothing like the dreamer)

1.  What are the other figures in the dream doing?

2.  What do they think, feel or believe?

3.  How do their beliefs compare and contrast to yours?

4.  Put yourself in (one of the figure’s ) shoes: what are you doing, thinking, feeling?

PhAsE III

Entertaining Other Possibilities.

Dreams, like any other text, maybe be interpreted on multiple levels: literally, metaphorically, spiritually, symbolically…from a Jungian, Freudian, Lacanian, Zen, Senoi, Kabbalistic perspective.  Some dreams are symbolic, others more concrete.  Some are prophetic, others might be healing.  let’s not forget that many dreams are mere anxiety dreams.  In some dreams, one rehearses an activity that is to take place in the future, such as an exam or a birth.  Still other dreams give us information we’d been seeking in waking life.  Some dreams will forever remain indecipherable, and leave an imprint on the brain as a non-sensical fantastical experience.

PhAse IV

Tasks to complete after your dream conversation to further “actualize” your dreams

In a sense, the objective is not necessarily to understand dreams.   Rather, the goal is to cultivate a rapport with dreams, one that adds dynamism and meaning to life.   Most of these tasks serve to further bring dreams into daily life. I do not know the advantages and effects of painting a dream image or discoursing with a dream character, for example.   I do know that humans have painted, reflected, ruminated on, wondered, and hypothesized about dreams from time immemorial.   Some see forgotten dreams as unopened letters from a higher source.   From a higher source within or without?   Who knows?   Remember that people have taken advice and direction from dreams to make changes in their lives, to make critical decisions or to embark on spiritual journeys…   I am not making any propositions or proclamations on anybody’s behalf.    Familiarize yourself with the opposite contention too- that the senseless chatter in your brain (White Noise) gets dumped into the repository of your dreams.   But now for the sake of coming to your own conclusions, why not take a leap of faith and let your imagination take the reigns….

1.   Draw, paint, or sculpt a dream symbol.

2.   Meditate on a symbol, image, archetype, or entire dream.

3.   Dialogue with a figure from your dream.   (You will know the exercise is working if you feel yourself easily responding as the figure, not hesitating too much, and coming up with ideas that did not seem obvious before the dialogue.)   This can be quite enlightening. (It can be done quite effectively with a dream partner if you are not too shy.)

4.   Dream Re-entry- revisualize the dream with the intent of changing or creating a new resolution

5.   Rewrite the dream making creative changes: i.e. resolve conflicts, make the dream ego more assertive, complete or change actions etc.

6.   Dream incubation-in your dream journal, write down a certain question you would like answered in a dream.   Reflect on it as you fall asleep.   See what happens.

7.   Dream research-look up the meaning of a symbol, image or archetype in mythology, religion or history

to further your understanding or familiarity with a dream symbol .

8. Decide on an action to take based on what you have learned from your dream.  (taken from Hill’s work on the action stage, see reference below).

In writing on the effects of working with images, painting and reshaping experiences, Jung asserts:

” It is almost impossible to define this effect in rational terms; it is a sort of magical effect, that is, a suggestive influence which goes out from the images to the individual, and in this way his unconscious is extended and is changed.”

Recommended Reading

Hill, Clara.  Dream Work in Therapy: Facilitating Exploration, Insight, and Action.

Jung, Carl, ed. Man and His Symbols .   New York: Bantam Doubleday, 1968.

Williams, Strephon Kaplan.   Jungian- Senoi Dream Work Manual .   Berkely: Journey Press, 1980

If you tend not to remember your dreams, here are some tips on how to catch them:

1)   Cultivating a desire to remember your dreams enhances your capacity to do so.   Read about dreams.   Feel that they are important.

2)   Keep a dream journal by your bed.

3)   Upon waking, write down your dream immediately.   If you are too tired to do so at the moment, review your dream mentally a few times.   Then write it down upon getting out of bed.

4)   If when you awake you have already forgotten your dream, return to the position of dreaming.   Your body has its own memory.   If you still fail to remember your dream, relax.   It might come back to you in the shower or while meditating.   If it still fails you, try again next time.

Welcome to Anatmosphere, where I share  images, music, thoughts, and dreams.

Me- by Andrew Wrigley

by Andrew Wrigley

My username is Flashing Eyes, Floating Hair because it conjures a strong image for me of the intoxication that comes with creating art.  It is an excerpt from  “Kublah Khan, or A Vision in a Dream, a Fragment”, which the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge  purportedly wrote after awakening from an opium-induced dream.

Kubla Khan represents the person who longs for immortality, for the ethereal, and tries to transcend the mundane, yet ultimately cannot evade his mortality and the ephemeral nature of life.  Xanadu is the paradise like place that he tries to build as an eternal sanctuary and playground,  though it too eventually disappears.  Yet, Kubla Khan and Xanadu exist in their eternal state in the artist’s creations.   The artist’s visage, with his flashing eyes and floating hair, elicits both awe and fear as he attempts to invoke the sublime internal Xanadu.  This blog, like the poem,  through images and words, will attempt to create an atmosphere that  melds external and internal events, and speaks  to the desire for the eternal, the pains and pleasures of mortality, as well as the drive to create art.

The 1980 film  Xanadu, also inspired by Coleridge’s poem, deals with the topic of art, God-like states, mortality etc., as Kira (played by Olivia Newton-John),  a two dimensional figure in a mural comes to life one day and roller skates her way into Sonny’s  (played by Michael Beck) life to inspire him as his muse.   This was one of the first movies I ever saw- I was about 6 years old when I saw it over and over again on HBO, and it blew my mind.  Note that in the poster, Olivia Newton John has “flashing eyes, and floating hair”!

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.