Still Life: Epilogue : Photographs inspired by Morandi

Still Life  Epilogue  
Studies IV    April 16,  2014 / revised April 26
Photographs Inspired by Giorgio Morandi



The Space Between photograph,  April 12, 2014 

Still Life ~ Photographs Inspired by Giorgio Morandi  
After I completed the tenth chapter of my Still Life project I had the distinct feeling that I had come to the end of the Morandi inspired project.  I had been secretly informing myself of this fact in the introductory texts I had written for each of the chapter's three parts.  For example, when I wrote about "the enormous space outside my house" in part one;  the initiation rites of the Australian Aborigines in part two; and how remodeling one's house is a form of "psychic transformation" in part three . . . I was unconsciously preparing myself for a change, another journey, a venturing into new and more vast spaces.  The time had come for me to move on, to initiate a new project in which I would explore unknown territories.


Whenever I start looking for a new project I experience quite a lot of anxiety.  I become impatient, a bit disoriented and fearful.  I know that the space between projects is very fertile territory within my Creative Process; that not knowing is an important part of the processa "place" full of creative potentiality.   But, nonetheless, it is unknown territory and thus in many ways an uncomfortable space to be in.   What I typically do in these transitional periods is to consciously try to watch for hints, "news from the universe" regarding what I need to be doing next in my creative process.  In fact I came to the Morandi inspired Still Life project in this way, which I explained in Chapter I.   

I learned long ago that my Creative Process knows better than I do what needs to be explored next, and It probably knows well in advance of when I get the message.  However I get very restless in this state of creative limbo.  I start feeling the need to produce images, as if to fill a void, as if to satisfy a hunger that is growing inside me.  There is also some hope (grounded in past experience) that ideas for a new project might get announced in one of the photographs I make during this interim period.   

So I continued photographing shortly after deciding the still life project had come to an end.  I made a few additional very good Still Life photographs which I added to some of the already completed project chapters.  Then, on April, 12, 2014 I made the curious image above, which places me as a viewer in the space between the two large highlighted areas, surfaces which catch and reflect the light coming through a nearby window.  I had written quite a lot about windows in my introductory texts to Chapter 10, and for the Studio and Landscape chapters as well.  Indeed, windows played a significant role in Morandi's creative process; he often painted landscapes which he viewed from the windows of his two studios (in Bologna and Grizanna).  In the April 12 image above you can see the landscape outside the window reflected in the glass of the picture frame above the fire place mantel.  


The April 12 image looks past - and over the top - of some of the objects on our fire place mantel, objects which I had photographed and published in earlier chapters of the Still Life project.  In this photograph I'm not looking at any particular thing, or at the relationships between things as us typical of the Still Life photographs, but rather I'm looking beyond the objects I had already photographed.  The tones are muted, not fully color, not black and white, but somewhere in between.  I'm looking into the space between the two highlighted areas . . . into nowhere.


in the
that you
came from
even though 
you have
an address



The April 12 image falls into a category of pictures I often refer to as quirky, cryptic, obscure, odd, enigmatic, inexplicable, mysterious.  I love these kinds of images.  They seem to contain hints, secret knowledge, unsayable messages.   

I had the feeling as I first contemplated the April 12 photograph:  "Maybe this image is showing me the way to the next project."  But would it be possible to produce this kind of image with a more conscious intention?  They have typically come to me only as spontaneous gifts, products of an unconscious inner necessity rather than a conscious desire or need to fulfill an intended agenda. 


The April 12 image, and even my discussion of it, reminds me of an earlier series of miniature black and white photographs I made entitled "Monk's Quirky Music" - the second project in the Studies series.   Theolonious Monk (1917-1982) was an amazing jazz pianist and composer; his music is playful, full of quirky rhythms, spaces and structures -- and yet his tunes sustain catchy melodic lines upon which he would improvise with unbridled, amazing grace.  Monk's music had often served as a source of inspiration for me and my creative process, so the Quirky Music project finally paid an overdue tribute to the man and the powerful creative force that moved through his music.  click here to see the project


In the last chapter of Still Life click here  I wrote about the Aborigine Walkabout, a spiritual journey into the wilderness of the Australian landscape.  Through the process of the initiate's journey, important knowledge is accessed - often through visions that affirm the community's Mysteries, their Creation Stories of the Dreamtime.    

I see an equivalence between the Walkabout and Morandi's painting.  It's a bit of a stretch, but it's become important to me:

Morandi was often preoccupied with issues of perception, and philosophical questions centered around Reality and The Abstract.  Though he insisted that he only painted what he saw, we as viewers are challenged by many of his works for their near abstract qualities, their playful perceptual ambiguities, their ghostly presences and unknowable spaces.  His goal as a painter was very clear: he said he wanted to get at the very core, the very essence of things.  I believe he achieved his goal in many works, but how could one not ask: what was he seeing? simply because it's not always clear what is being represented in his paintings.  And this fascinates me in the same way that the April 12 image fascinates me.

For example, an object in his painting may appear to be transparent, or a shadow or a negative space (the space between two depicted objects in a painting) could appear--confusingly, mysteriously--as if it were an object in itself.  Then in the next moment that same space/object might then appear merely as a vague ghost-like presence.   

Morandi's willingness to journey into these unknown, ambiguous spaces, into the space between things (and in some cases into a space that never really was there to begin with), is a kind of modern day version of the Walkabout (or the Vision Quest associated in general with Shamanism).  The space between is a kind of wilderness, a ritual passageway into the Mysteries of existence, the timeless realm of the Dreamtime, the unknown territories of the creative unconscious psyche, the ineffable miracle of Creation and the Creative Process.  Dreamtime   Shamanism ) 


The Creative Process is the very core of life; the entire universe is a creative process; every form of life is a creative process; we each live a creative process in our own unique way every moment of the day, and every moment of the night when we sleep and dream.  Since our contemporary culture for the most part does not provide us with initiation rites, with a living, sacred power which we can deeply and completely participate in, it seems to me artists like Morandi (and Thelonious Monk) have taken on the challenge, and the role of the initiate for themselves.  They venture into the wilderness of the unknown spaces of the Creative Process, into the ineffable realms of their own Imaginal World.  They bring back to all of us visual evidence of their journey, symbols of the kind of knowledge that transcends the personal.  Their work should be thought of as gifts, offerings that provide us with pure knowledge, news of the universe.  Morandi's art, Monk's music came directly from the heart, the soul, the Self.   Pure knowledge is beyond what we can know with the mind, the intellect.


At the same time that I made the April 12 photograph I had also begun re-reading, for perhaps the sixth or seventh time, a book entitled The Splendor of Recognition, by Swami Shantananda, one of teaching swamis of Siddha Yoga Meditation.  http://www.siddhayoga.org/

The Splendor of Recognition is about, among many things, Creation, the Creative Process, and the pure divine knowledge of what yogis call the Self.  On my website's Welcome Page I state at the very beginning that the website is dedicated to exploring and sharing with others my creative process in photography.  If you have viewed practically any of my online photography projects you know that I refer to the creative process frequently in my introductory texts.  It has been a constant reference point throughout the many chapters of the Still Life project.  

The April 12 photograph certainly contained for me the gift, the "splendor of recognition" I had been hoping for.  The image seems to hold within itself the seeds of an entire new project which I am imagining would include some of the rich ideas contained in Swami Shantananda's book.

I am looking forward to seeing where this photograph and and The Splendor of Recognition will take me, and I extend a personal invitation to you join me in my process.   The arrival of my new photography projects will be listed in the Latest Additions section at the top of my photography website Welcome Page.   

Note:  On May 14, 2014 I announced on my Welcome Page the first two chapters of the new project entitled The Creative Process

Steven D. Foster
April 16 2014 revised April 22 / April 29 / May 14 / July 18

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Still Life ~ Photographs Inspired by Giorgio Morandi  

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