EPIPHANY

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(“Epiphany” originates from Greek and means the Divine manifestation or presence. In addition to the connection to Christian religious celebrations, the term generally also implies “illumination”.)

In my personal experience, the first moments of sublime communication with Beauty were made possible by the circumstances of my suffering (This refers to the period when I was interned and compelled to work in one of the mines in the north of the country.) at the age of 22. According to ancient preachers, suffering would be eliminated if we were to give up envy and greed. This appeared to be impossible for the majority of humanity, whereas my case was hopeless. In the course of the first two decades, while living a privileged life for the ordinary reason that I was born to privileged parents, I could not envy, I had nothing to envy and I did not know what envy was. According to the wise preachers of Buddhism, suffering is a consequence of existence and part of the enlightenment to achieve the ideal level of existence. Judging on bases of those premises, the blessing of my happy birth would have been only darkness, if the Forces Majeure that made my birth possible had not suddenly generated my suffering as well. From this viewpoint, the dictatorship, the provincial violence and all the direct circumstantial sources that caused my suffering, except for being a commonplace foodstuff for the historians, were exhausted, immoral and unimportant forces.

Contrary to what I expected based on my naïve intuition about morals and the law, I would be violently removed from my privileged life and deported in the middle of rocky mountains, where I would struggle for existence in its form high and low during a completely different decade. I had heard of the Platonic reasoning, according to which Justice is the “effective harmony of the whole” and not “the right of the stronger,” but it seemed I was undergoing an apparition of both together.

***

The mine galleries bore an identical resemblance to the natural caves I had visited during my childhood, when the imagination was still not influenced by refined memories and beliefs. Inside the cave, the intimate echoes, the shadows, the crevices and rocky protuberances that moved like living objects both terrestrial and heavenly under the glittering illumination of the lanterns offered the image of a model of the Universe, at the center of which You became one with the Judge of every act of violence, with the Creator and the World Beyond. There is no miner, and no child either, who has visited a cave without experiencing, at least a little that altered consciousness.

The face of the mine workers was in every detail a mirror of the harsh environment. Their wrinkles rivaled the cracks of the rocks, while their energy was manifested in the galleries they opened every day to keep themselves and their universe alive. Why had I not known about them before I was 22? Well, because the “Harmony of the Whole” had not yet linked up with Judas to put “the right of the stronger” to work. I have used this as a metaphor, but truly, without being part of that harsh environment, as a visitor from another world – even one most devoted to human missions and investigations – I would have never known that reality. My emotions, faith and memories were already shaken to a degree that only a “harsh man” could endure. I would suffer from what I had hated, I had lost what I had loved and I would feel desire without having what I desired: Those were the three forms of suffering, those were the “dukkha” (Sanskrit: dukkha – in general it is translated as “suffering”; it is identified as the first out of the Four Noble Truths preached by Buddha.) or the first truth of the Buddhists, outside of which I would have enjoyed only darkness, vanity and the illusions of a dictatorial capital city. I did not care very much whether the other miners experienced the Buddhist truth differently. I had to survive, to know them, to express myself in their circumstances, and Art was the most perfect way to achieve this. The galleries were a place of work and exploitation, but the beautiful moment was never lacking when the miners voiced their internal world without any reservations, helping the weakest, making jokes, singing or telling the unusual stories of their ancestors. Memories were the most precious and dearest asset they had… I would return home very tired, but the important images and impressions of that reality never escaped my daily memory. I painted portraits of the miners in oil, simple pencil or carbon, I hung them on the walls of the room to look at them leisurely, and I was surprised at their wrinkles, cavities and vivid protuberances, which moved and changed every day. I would return again the next day to that harsh environment, I would look at the broken rocks next to their moving facial expressions under the glittering lanterns and I would even feel good that I inherited this animistic imagination from my distant forefathers, from the famous Paleolithic creators who perceived a form of their existence in every small piece of their environment. The origin of modern man was communication with the Universe.

***

You can learn the history of art through books, but you cannot know the world of art unless you feel the Form of Beauty. I began to come to this conclusion, which is ignored by scholarly texts, during my days of “suffering” when my beliefs and memories experienced a major shock. I had known for a long time that Beauty functioned exclusively through works of art, but their effect had not absorbed me as seriously as in those moments. I had never felt myself so close to the drama of Sophocles, to the marble of Praxiteles and Michelangelo, to the dark forces of Goya or to Munch’s scream. I looked for the right name for this condition, but “esthetic education,” “pleasure,” “encouragement of creative thinking to solve life’s problems,” “conveying of ideas, beliefs or memories” now resembled a cluster of pompous words, irrelevant and rather suspicious. I would have felt comfortable if intelligence had abandoned me, but checking myself I intuitively knew that I was healthy. I simply had to survive and learn as much as possible, in order to ensure my continuity.

On many occasions, learning is the verification of intuition through a series of images, concepts and logical constants under specific circumstances. At all times, without exception, learning is a dynamic modification of our memory, the basis of our intelligence. A learning system makes sense if at time t1 it is different from what it was at time t0. From this point of view, forgetting also plays its part in the learning process which depends on material recorded constantly. Every word we read and every new image we see changes our memory to some extent, as the role of the latter is the uninterrupted interpretation of data. Memory should decide what is worthy of being retained and what is not, by assessing in which way, where and how much the new material conforms to previous knowledge and data. Thus, since memory is not a warehouse of immovable alphabetic deposits but a living expression of what we learn in the course of our individual life, then the imperfect interpretation of distant realities is consequently also an inevitable risk… Of course, the treasure of the collective unconscious comes to our aid in this case, the “archetypes” or “primordial images” – assessed by Jung as an inherited treasure in which humanity symbolically expresses itself through millenary beliefs and myths – even though the issue raises its head again, because even myths, beliefs and the collective imagination change to some extent with the important changes of living conditions, distancing the individual, many times artificially, from “primordial images” and universal innate psychic dispositions.

In order to know a reality, it is essential to be or become a part of it. The same thing happens with the distanced space-time realities: to be or to become a part of them is a difficult process, but not at all impossible. We can find a typical expression of this difficulty in the ordinary judgment about Paleolithic rituals. This judgment refers to shamanic rudiments of the period of civilization; it projects decomposed expressions of the imitative magic into prehistoric caves and portrays the Paleolithic creators as “inferior subjects” who strove only to reproduce, eat bison and triumph over the enemy clan. It is impossible for the ordinary judgment to incorporate the performance of real Art in the Paleolithic cave, first because in the ordinary judgment Art does not make sense outside “artistic movements,” and second because this judgment has no link to the essential impulses of the Self and the Form of Beauty. This and all the possible examples taken together show the important fact that the possibility to be part of and to know the distant historical realities is not simply a possibility, but an inherent human attribute which is developed in individuals depending on their personality. The self-creation of personality as a coherent whole or “individuation” (Latin: “principum individuationis”.) – assessed in the entire Jung-Simondon spectrum where individual and collective subjects converge as an unstoppable process – constitutes the most important condition for getting to know the world of Art. Individuation is a process, and that is why it never ends and does not occur the same way in different individuals. It does not matter to me whether the individual is the cause or the consequence of individuation. What matters is that this process embodies in the individual, eternally, here and now, the whole space-time of a content which may change and lose everything during progressive movement, except for its own essence… Contact with a work of Art does not necessarily lead to contact with the Form of Beauty, given that the latter depends also on one’s personality. Contact with Beauty is the satisfying of essential impulses of the Self or in a way contact with the Tao (Tao or Dao in Chinese means “path” and sometimes in a broader sense “doctrine” or “principle”.), with the “path” that can neither be expressed in words nor conceived in thought. To be in accord with Tao, the extra-dimensional, eternal and unchangeable reality, one should rid oneself of the “persona,” the mask and unnaturalness which constitute the illusive world. With full conviction, I call this process the “Process of Beauty.”

The relation between “persona” and “privacy” represents the most important element in expressing the individual personality. Adapting ourselves to the requirements of society, we develop the mask, the so-called “persona,” behind which “privacy” hides. If we were to neglect the mask, we would be considered dismissive of the norms of society, which would make our life difficult; if we were to overvalue the mask, we would risk excessive identification with the “role,” thus endangering the real and natural identity of the Self. The harmony of persona-privacy relation depends as always on the personality. The idea that this harmony is greater in primitive societies, although not so incorrect, is an idea created during quantitative developments that more and more camouflage, at advanced stages of consumerism, the developments of the personality and the development of the true world of Art… Contact with primitive art does not necessarily lead to contact with the Form of Beauty, but it does provide the most original conditions for achieving it in specific circumstances. Everything included in the world of Beauty is outlined at the genesis.

***

During the official history of my suffering, prior to being confronted with the galleries of the mine, I had to perform the initial daily ritual of climbing a mountain path, which lasted at least 25 minutes on a goat trail surrounded by rocks and conifers. The preferred moments were those of the morning, with squirrels quickly climbing the trunks of the tall pine trees, and especially the middle of the night, when the brightness of the Milky Way made me breathe deeply and feel a part of it. At the entrance of the gallery I always found stones that had fallen off the overloaded wagons and remains of tree trunks cut by carpenters. From that moment on, the ritual continued side by side with to the miners. We sat on the cut trunks, checked the lamps, lit up a cigarette and looked at one another like seasoned fighters before a battle that had flowed in their blood for thousands of years along with their genetic code… I don’t know why, but something that occurred on the first day has never left me. I kept lighting cigarettes one after the other in the clearing before the main entrance of the gallery and looked at the miners like a beginner who does not like to look like a beginner. A beetle was flying around my head, but I was waving it away with my hand while looking at Mark, a 50-year-old miner, who gave me the strangest advice in the world with a friendly smile: “Don’t wave it away! It is a mountain spirit, it is good!” For a mountaineer who carried on his shoulders all the human comedy and drama, the beetle-spirit certainly should have been good!

 

I would enter the depths of the underground and look at the bright spot of the outside world as it increasingly was transformed into a dot that was smaller and more silent. I carried that seemingly small and silent spot to the heart of the gallery like every other miner, with all its drama and comedy. For 8 hours a day, that closed environment was the model of a universe in which I had to focus all my physical and intellectual capacity. I received instructions, broke rocks to get out the minerals, shared my experience, listened to happy or sad songs as well as unusual stories about conflict, lost love, revenge or forgiveness… On the way back, the company of squirrels and stars was the first magic that tried to relieve the fatigue of that Trojan work. Within the walls of the house, my mother offered the most perfect comfort and benevolence through a portrait that secretly formed prayers to the sky, to the underground and to herself. I listened to the voices across the sea on the radio, leafed through books of drama, poetry or painting selected from the world encyclopedias of visual art, and I ended up every time in front of my creations, in front of mythical figures, miners and broken rocks. They were my creations, as by now I was referring to my original reality and I did not have any possibility to copy or imitate something else beyond my own self. The border between me and the sky was an illusory border. I had already discovered cracks everywhere in the world of illusions, I made out Beauty through them and I felt happiness deep within my soul. I penetrated inside myself at every coordinate where I projected my glance. The space-time dimension was wholly inside me and that’s why memory along with experience offered me everything I wanted. True Art was accomplished at the proper moment and was distinguished from the proper distance.

***

It is 2012. I am now within the walls of my atelier in the capital city. The squirrels, stars, mine galleries and caves of childhood are still there, in front of my gaze. I remain forever their creator and observer from the Earth, from the mobile antipodes of the galaxy, from inside, from outside and from anywhere. The idea of a world beyond the ocean, where monsters grow instead of humans, is too folkloric to me these days. The important notion of the “observer who becomes part of the observed system” (The notion of “the observer becoming a part of the observed system” is a new notion in quantum physics, where the observer is no longer external or neutral, but through the act of measurement himself becomes a part of observed reality.) has exceeded the limits of physics for a while now. The dichotomy of the Universe independent of the observer and the observer Universe created by the observer remains an issue of boundaries and of the quantitative world of human impatience. But Art is the unique model of Creation, and in the world of Creation impatience is in not a good argument in any respect.

I paint every day, I organize exhibitions, I study the artistic movements of civilization and I feel the initial temptation of the artistic ego as it flows faster than time within the artists of the millennium. Would they be able to complete the astounding lines of the megaloceros at Lascaux, of the elegant humans, the vivid horses and bison in the stony, gigantic and mysterious scenes of Altamira? It is a good fortune that they keep going!

continue..


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