Giacometti 6: Vision, Re-vision & Recurrence of Creation

Homage to Giacometti  Part 6
Vision, Re-vision and "Recurrence of Creation"
Photographs Inspired by or Related to the Paintings,  
Drawings & Sculptures of Alberto Giacometti

1.  Introduction : "Portraits" Heads Faces
2.  Line-Drawing Photograph Portraits
3.  Figures & Triadic Visual Poems 
4.  Landscapes, Still Lifes, Place and Presence
5.  Regarding Giacometti's Fear of Death  
6.  Vision, Re-vision and "Recurrence of Creation"
7.  New Work, Commentaries, Epilogue

This sixth part of my Homage continues my exploration of how Giacometti saw and experienced the world, and the means by which he tried to manifest visually what he saw.  I will take a closer look at what he said about his creative process and, as in the previous parts of this project, I will share my own related experiences and ideas regarding our themes Vision and Re-vision, and two related ancient theories of manifestation one of which is termed "Recurrence of Creation."  I will be showing only my photographs this time, those which directly relate to the themes of this project.

Re-vision has taken many forms in my creative process, but for me the central ideas behind it has been visual transformation and the new meanings generated by the revisions. I have always enjoyed re-printing photographs.  When an image begins to look or feel visually inarticulate in some way, perhaps because of a discovered technical imperfection, or when the meaning of the image has shifted for me and thus needed to be printed differently, I enjoy being challenged to find a way to make the image more articulate.  I consider the photographic negative or digital image file as if it were a musical score; there are innumerable possible ways to interpret the image in order to reflect different intentions, feelings, ideas, understandings.  Each interpretation is like a re-birth or resurrection of an old image into a new world of meaning.

I also enjoyed using the same image in different projects to see how the meaning of the image might be affected when placed in other visual and conceptual contexts.  And recently I have used selected photographs as source images with which I have constructed my four-fold Symmetrical Photographs, and the image constructions I have called Chromatic Fields, both of which I will be writing about later, below.

In the late 1960's, while a senior photography student at the Institute of Design, Chicago, I became enchanted with Wagner's Ring Cycle and his use of leitmotif, and in a European literature course I was fascinated by how leitmotif was used in creative writing.  I decided to adapt the idea for my senior photography project, a book entitled Kraus.  Two of the 35 images in the book were repeated once, and one was repeated three times, and each repeated image was printed differently from its original version and interwoven into the book's sequence.  I placed the recurring images between photographs that affected the most meaning in their juxtapositions, and it was illuminating to discover how the sequence as a whole was impacted by the addition of the repeated-recurring images.

In 2003, when I transitioned to digital photography I enthusiastically and playfully embraced the idea of image re-vision, image repetition and image transformation.  I had just begun working on a project entitled Triadic Memories in which image repetition was a central theme of the project.  Photoshop software made it easy to re-vise and transform images using repeated imagery in a variety of formats.  I have grown to truly love the transforming powers of the digital medium; an image can be enhanced in very subtle ways as well as in highly dramatic ways.  For me the process of re-vision celebrates the truth that an image is a living thing; it is overflowing with potentiality.  As time passes, as I change, images often need to be changed in order to reflect my evolving and changing understandings, feelings and intuitive ideas.

At the very heart of my creative process is the desire to make images that function for me as symbols.  The essential, inherent nature of a living symbol is that it is alive with a creative-transforming energy; and this energy, this grace which radiates outward from within the image, has the potential to transform me--or any contemplator--when the symbol is taken deeply inside and silently absorbed into one's self.


Giacometti's vision of the world was extra-ordinary.  He was gifted with frequent epiphanic-visionary experiences which helped to push his creative process to Imaginal heights both strange and remarkable.  He "saw" (or sensed, or intuited) visual realities which were to most other people unimaginable, invisible, unknowable.  Giacometti tapped into Interior realities that for him was the experience of what he called "Truth."  In the the later part of his life his creative process became fixated on trying to give visual form to that which he alone could "see."  

But Giacometti was never satisfied with the results of his efforts to manifest into visual form his extraordinary epiphanic perceptions, the presence or auras he experienced emanating from those things upon which he concentrated his vision.  He was constantly painting and sculpting, and this would place his perceptual processes squarely before the unfolding mysteries of life, which for most others would remain hidden below the surfaces of appearance.  

And yet, as Giacometti painted, revised, destroyed and began once again his paintings and sculptures, his goal of capturing what he saw would grow more and more distant from him.  Remarkably, these "failures" somehow gave him the strength and the enthusiasm to work even harder the next day.  He was always ready to "begin again," to "hurry onward" as he said in this interview statement:

Art interests me very much, but truth interests me infinitely more.  The more I work, the more I see things differently, that is, everything gains in grandeur every day, becomes more and more unknown, more and more beautiful.  The closer I come, the grander it is, the more remote it is.   . . . but to succeed in portraying [my vision of the world] it is almost impossible . . .  Sometimes I think I can catch an appearance, then I lose it and so I have to start all over again.  That's what makes me hurry onward. (This interview, by Schneider, is published in English, in Albert Giacometti : Works / Writings / Interviews authored and edited by Angel Gonzales.
Probably the most life-transforming visual epiphany Giacometti experienced occurred in 1945, shortly following the end of the war when he returned to his studio in Paris after having lived several years in a cheap hotel in the safety of Switzerland, his homeland.

He was in a Parisian movie theater one night, and as he was watching the images on the screen his perception began to change.  He saw flat, abstract blobs on the screen rather than figures; on the other hand, the people in the theatre appeared to him extraordinarily fascinating.  And as he left the theatre and went outside on to the boulevard, he explained:  I had the feeling of being faced with something I had never seen before, with a complete change in reality--the unseen, the altogether unknown, the marvelous.  The experience changed his creative process.

Giacometti's late portrait paintings were the product of a continual process of seeing and re-vision.  He would have as many consecutive "sittings" as possible with the same model as he worked and re-worked the same one painting.  Always striving to "capture" what he saw, each day's work would undergo seemingly endless revisions.  The next morning he might destroy the previous day's painting (by scraping the paint down to the surface of the canvas) and begin all over again.  

His process was more important to him than a finished work. Every time he glanced up at his model he saw something different and would feel compelled to paint that new vision.  His paintings were essentially the visual "residue" or an accumulation of "recordings" of his seeing and re-vision process.  He could never truly complete a work satisfactorily for what he saw was a continuum of changes which "could go on for an eternity":

Every morning when I woke up in my room, there was the chair with the towel on it, and that affected me and made me almost feel a chill down my spine, because everything had an air of absolute stillness.  A sort of inertness, of loss of weight: the towel on the chair was weightless, had no relation to the chair, the chair on the floor didn't weigh on the floor . . .  This was a beginning.  Then the way everything looked became transformed, as if movement was no more than a series of points of stillness. . . moments of stillness which, after all, could go on for an eternity, broken and followed by another stillness.  
(My emphasis.  This interview, by Schneider, is published in Albert Giacometti : Works / Writings / Interviews authored and edited by Angel Gonzales.)

Giacometti understood that perception had something to do with "projection."  Each time he looked at something, what he saw had an "air of re-making itself."  Thus his perceptions were for him "doubtful, partial," appearing and then disappearing, and then reappearing . . . again and again.  He came to understood Reality as a place "between being and not being," and thus nothing but mere sensation, an appearance.  In another interview Giacometti said:

We may imagine that Realism consists of copying . . . a vase just as it appears on the table.  In fact, one only ever copies the vision that remains of it at each instant, the image that becomes conscious. .  . .  You never copy the glass on the table; you copy the residue of a vision. . . .  When I contemplate the glass, with its color, its shape, its light, what I attain with each glance is something very small . . .  Each time I look at the glass, it has an air of re-making itself, that is, its reality becomes doubtful because its projection in my brain is doubtful, or partial.  I see it as if it disappeared . . . reappeared . . .  disappeared  . . . reappeared. . .  In other words, it really always is between being and not being.  And this is what we want to copy . . .  All trajectory of modern artists lies in this will to capture, to possess something which is constantly fleeing.  They want to possess the sensation they have of reality, rather than reality itself.  In any even, we cannot possess everything . . . All we are able to possess is an appearance.  All that remains of reality is an appearance.  (My emphasis; from an interview by Parinaud, published in Giacometti : Works / Writings / Interviews, authored and edited by Angel Gonzales)

When I read the above statements by Giacometti I recognized some similarities in what he said to a theory of manifestation I had come across while working on a project entitled  "An Imaginary Book."   The project was inspired by several related experiences of Islamic Sacred Art I encountered during a two week trip to Turkey in 2011.  A twelfth century Sufi scholar named Ibn 'Arabi had written some substantial commentaries on what he termed "recurrence of creation."  The Sufi was considered by many to be not only a mystic-scholar, but a saint as well, that is to say, his writing was based not merely on theory but, like Giacometti, it was based in his own direct, personal visionary experiences.

After I returned from my trip to Turkey and began contemplating the many mysterious encounters I had experienced there I felt compelled to learn as much as possible about the Sacred Art Traditions of Islam.  My studies, which helped to provide me with important insights and new ideas regarding my experiences in Turkey, compelled me to create a photography project in which I could share my experiences.  I placed my various writings and research materials into a visual context of the photographs I had made in Turkey, many of which would be radical transformations of the original source images. "An Imaginary Book" took me two years to complete; it consists of multiple chapters on varying themes. The first chapter, entitled Prayer Stones, includes a full written account of the epiphanies I experienced in Turkey.


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Abstract Gridline Chromatic Field Photograph

The Recurrence of Creation A Sufi Theory of Manifestation
Ibn 'Arabi wrote compellingly (in the 12the century) about creation, not as an act that occurred once in the past, but as a continuous process which he named The Recurrence of Creation.  The concept relates directly to the Qur'anic phrase "Breath of Compassion." 

I discovered Ibn 'Arabi's ideas in several books by Tom Cheetham which were devoted to introducing and commenting on the work of philosopher, theologian, Iranologist and professor of Islamic Studies, Henry Corbin.

Corbin devoted an entire book to the ideas of Ibn 'Arabi entitled  Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi.   Ibn 'Arabi said that with the inhalation and exhalation of the Divine Breath, the "Breath of Compassion," all cosmic forms contained in the Breath are constantly being manifested and reabsorbed in a continuum of transformation--of creation and dissolution--which is ceaselessly renewing creation at every moment.  This relates quit literally to what Giacometti had experienced and talked about:

. . . the way everything looked became transformed, as if movement was no more than a series of points of stillness. . . moments of stillness which, after all, could go on for an eternity, broken and followed by another stillness.

Each time I look at the glass, it has an air of re-making itself, that is, its reality becomes doubtful because its projection in my brain is doubtful, or partial.  I see it as if it disappeared . . . reappeared . . .  disappeared  . . . reappeared . . .  

Many modern Islamic scholars have written about the Breath of the Compassionate and the Recurrence of Creation.  For example, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, in his book The Garden of Truth writes: “In the same way that each breath we take rejuvenates and makes possible the continuation of our life, the Divine Breath is renewed at every moment, making possible our and the cosmos’s continuous existence in what appears to us as duration.  This duration is, however, nothing but the repetition of the 'now' within which creation is renewed.  In a deeper sense, every tree that we observe in the garden comes freshly from God’s creative act.”

Another scholar, Samer Akkach, writes in his fascinating book Cosmology and Architecture: “In philosophical terms, the Divine Breath is the original medium through which potential beings were externalized, bursting out from the inwardness of formless potentiality into the outwardness of formal actuality.  It is the “substance of the world” wherein are latent all the possibilities of formal manifestation. . .  The Divine Breath is at once the creative medium and the necessary substantial support for all creations.”

Tom Cheetham explores these ideas in the first of his series of "Corbin" books entitled The World Turned Inside Out: Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism.  Cheetham writes:  "The Creation itself as the realization of the Divine Compassion, the Breath of the Merciful, is itself the link between the human soul and the Divine.  And because of its living connection, it must be active, continually alive, subject to perpetual ta'wil.  This Creation is a recurrent Creation, not accomplished once and for all, such that we can at some time hope to know the ends of it.  This ceasing to be is fana, annihilation . . .”

Cheetham continues: This manifestation and annihilation occurs eternally, perpetually, instantaneously, and in all the hierarchy of worlds from the terrestrial upwards.  The interpenetration of this world and the other means that 'this is the other world,' or rather, 'this already is the other world.'

Then Cheetham quotes Corbin from Alone With the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi:  "This is the secret of Resurrection, a continuous ascension of being  . . .  and their ascending never ceases because the divine descent into the various forms never ceases . . .  it exists in every moment.  It is the deepest purpose of human existence to journey from the outward to the inward and so 'return creation to its origin.'”
  [Visit The Divine Breath and Ibn 'Arabi's Cloud for further elaboration on this idea.]

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“Flashing Forth”  A Hindu Theory of Manifestation
After I became a student of the Siddha Yoga Path in 1987 it became an important and wonderful part of my yogic practice to read as much of the Siddha Yoga literature that I could get my hands on.  One of the great teaching swamis of Siddha Yoga, Swami Shantananda, published a fascinating book in 2003 entitled Splendor of Recognition in which he includes a written a commentary on a theory of Manifestation by the great Hindu sage named Utpaladeva (ca. AD 900-950).  As you will see, this theory relates in many ways to Ibn 'Arab's Recurrence of Creation.  Both of the theories reflect Giacometti's experience: that perception is the projection of a continuum of appearances and disappearances, an infinite series of moments or points of stillness.  

According to Swami Shantananda, Utpaladeva postulated that everything we experience and perceive in life is a projection, a flashing forth of Reality.  This flashing forth of the appearances of the world happens through something quite fascinating and mysterious which Utpaladeva terms abhasas, a Hindu word meaning "that which flashes, illumines, appears, or manifests."  Abhasa also means “splendor,” as in the title of Shantananda's book, The Splendor of Recognition.

“By choosing the term abhasa," writes Swami Shantananda, "Utpaladeva seems to emphasize two significant aspects of the creative act: on the one hand, that objective manifestations are forms of mahaprakasa, the great light of Consciousness which illumines; and on the other hand, that they are ephemeral flashes, mere projections onto the screen of Chiti [the creative power of universal Consciousness] with no permanent existence.  In spite of the flickering [on and off, appearing and disappearing, creation and dissolution] and in spite of the precarious nature of abhasas, without them, there would be no world to perceive.” 

“The quality of ‘hiddenness’ is a highly significant aspect of abhasa-vada.  One reason life seems so perplexing is that many abhasas are veiled or unobserved . . . we’re sending and receiving abhasas all the time, often without even knowing it.  . . .  we are forever creating realities, and these realities have their own existence and their own effect, regardless of our awareness of what we’re doing.  In other words, the multiple layers of manifestation happen simultaneously, whether or not we’re conscious of them.”  (Note: see my project The Atlanta City Series.  The images directly relate to this idea of "multiple layers of manifestation.")

“An abhasa can be a solar system, a country, a hat, or it can be a molecule or a particle of energy," writes Swami Shantananda.  "Anything that streams out of the great light of Consciousness is an abhasa.  At the subtlest level, our bodies are nothing but shining particles of light, pure energy--and, according to Utpaladeva, each of these particles is an abhasa.”  

Swami Shantananda continues:  “Abhasas flash forth . . . incessantly and at a fantastic speed . . .  When I speak to someone for just a few moments, that person is created and destroyed millions of times right before my eyes.  The abhasas that compose his body, his voice, his feelings, his gestures are appearing and disappearing, vibrating beyond the reach of my senses.  Each pulsation of spanda [divine energy, shakti, the light of Consciousness] creates, maintains, and destroys everything.  The reason I can identify the person who appears in one moment as the same person I was speaking with just a moment before is that these abhasas flash forth in a given patternre-creating the person’s form and once again animating it."  

"According to Utpaladeva, each moment of our perception is composed of a series of abhasas, pulsating with tiny consecutive modifications that give us the impression of movement. . . "  Swami Shantananda then cites the example of the Great Pyramid:  "Although on the physical plane we are aware of the stability of the Great Pyramid, on the cosmic level this very structure has vanished and re-emerged billions upon trillions of times.  In this sense, even the oldest human construction is only a fleeting appearance, a thing without stability in the infinitude of Consciousness.”

"Three Dots Pyramid" ~  Triangulated Chromatic Field Photograph

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Fields of Patterns . . . Infinite Beauty
Infinitely repeating and "re-creating patterns" are often seen in Islamic Sacred Art, for example in Qur'an illuminations, sacred prayer rugs and mosque decoration.  The decorative form is known as arabesqueThe repeating, interwoven connected visual patterns symbolize the transcendent Divine presence, the Creator, and the eternal unfolding of Creation.   

I am presenting below two image fields from "An Imaginary Book" inspired by my experiences of the Sacred Art I encountered in Turkey.  The first is from the chapter entitled Infinite Beautythe second image is from the chapter Ta'wil : Unveiling the Hidden Treasure.  For a textual survey of the Islamic ideas behind these photographs visit: Texts for Infinite Beauty.  

 Infinite Beauty photograph  ~  Garden View  ~  The Alhambra, Spain

 Infinite Beauty photograph from the Ta'wil project.
(Click on the images for a close up view) 

Chromatic Fields 
I immediately associated the pattered imagery I saw in Turkey with the Chromatic Field photographs I had been making for my multi-chaptered project, Triadic Memories, the second in a series of three projects made in homage to American composer Morton Feldman, his music and his theoretical writings about music and the visual arts.  One of the reasons I had gone to Turkey was to try to understand better how the Turkish Rugs Feldman had collected influenced his music.    

The three Feldman-inspired projects, The Garage Series 1999-2001,  Triadic Memories 2003-2007, and The Departing Landscape 2007-2012 contain images that are essentially visual responses to his music which was often inspired by the New York abstract  painters of the 1950's and 60's.  Around 1970 Feldman became fascinated by the repeating and transforming patterns in the Turkish carpets he had been collecting; he wrote Triadic Memories and several other long compositions based on his visual responses to the carpets.  click here

Feldman's music and his writings led me through a series of visual ideas regarding image repetition.  For me, the culmination of the Triadic Memories project was a series of photographs entitled Chromatic Fields, a term Feldman had coined to describe a certain aspect of his music.  Feldman's music, the photographs I had made inspired by his music, and my practice of Siddha Yoga had together prepared me for the series of epiphanic awakenings I experienced in Turkey in 2011 in which I encountered the visual and spiritual power of Islamic Sacred Art, including the seemingly ever-present and hauntingly beautiful Islamic Call to Prayer; the swirling Sufi dervishes; Rumi's shrine (which included a collection of his prayer rugs); mosque decorations; and the exhibition of illuminated Qur'ans I saw in Istanbul on the last day of my travels in Turkey. (for more details, visit Prayer Stones)  

After the completion of "An Imaginary Book" I went on to produce many more projects which explores the idea of Sacred Art.  The entire series of projects, which is ongoing, has been for me a contemplation on the idea and the possibility of creating sacred art within a contemporary culture and within a contemporary art practice such as my own.  I eventually came to understand that my creative process in photography had naturally become for me part of my yogic practice, a kind of "meditation in action" or "waking meditation."  I have collected a complete listing of my online Sacred Art projects at this link: The Sacred Art Photography Projects

Though I do not consider Triadic Memories a sacred art project, there are several images within the multi-chaptered project which function for me as symbols.  I have concluded that any image that functions for me as symbol is, in the truest sense of the word, a form of sacred art because a symbol is an image of Unitary Reality, an image that conjoins corresponding interior and outer images.  Symbols unveil the mystery of existence; they give visual form to and are radiant with the creative power of the universe, which in the yoga I practice is termed shakti.

Listed below are the nine different but related Triadic Memories project chapters, all of which explore image repetition in varying forms, oftentimes employing source images which recur across many of the different projects: 

               Triadic Memories ~ Introduction

               Repetition Triads, Continuums & Vertical Thoughts                                               
               Chromatic Fields                                                        
               Gridline Photographs                                                   
               Abstract Photographs  - Objects & Interiors
               Triangulated Photographs                              
               Circled Photographs                                       
               Visual Poems       
Following below are some examples of my Feldman inspired Chromatic Fields photographs, and other related Field images.  After the presentation of the images I will define (as best I know how) what Feldman meant by the term "Chromatic Field" and how I translated his idea (and my experience of his musical "fields") into photographic images.  The Triangulated and Circled photographs you will see below are transformations or re-visions of selected Chromatic Field photographs.

   Chromatic Field  (note: the source image is from the Garage Series)

Chromatic Field  (yellow brick wall with black spaces)

Chromatic Field  (Father, and son in a booth with florescent light)

  Abstract Gridline Chromatic Field Photograph

Triangulated Photograph  (Chromatic Field of Shadows and lines on a marble wall)

 Circled Photograph  (Chromatic Field of Birds on telephone lines against a cloudy sky)

What's a Chromatic Field?
First of all, in terms of Morton Feldman's music, a Chromatic Field is a "musical space" in which Feldman suspended repeating, subtly evolving and transforming sound patterns.  In his 1981 composition for solo piano Triadic Memories Feldman generated these sound patterns, and suspended them in "space" by having the pianist hold down the piano’s sustaining peddle throughout the duration of the 110 minute performance.  As the notes of the composition are performed, the emerging sounds become suspended in "space" for a time, and then they are allowed to slowly, naturally decay or de-compose back into silence.  "As all this is happening," explains scholar-writer Clark Lunberry, "the sounds become entropically interwoven and resonate together as an expansive tonal field, a tapestry of sound."  (See Lunberry's essay about my work and Feldman's music: Remembrance of Things Present)

In my Chromatic Field photographs I repeat the same one image multiple times, vertically and horizontally in a grid format.  As I constructed these Fields I would be amazed at how the single originating image would became transformed into an altogether new pictorial space, a unified visual field of rhythmically pulsating interwoven patterns, an Image Tapestry, an entirely new visual world which in its oftentimes visceral affect dynamically amplifies the essential characteristics of the single originating source image.

Field of Vision
The idea of an Image Tapestry of course relates directly to the Turkish rugs which Feldman collected and which inspired his music.  Indeed, my Chromatic Field images, which were inspired by Feldman's music, brings the creative processes full circle, that is to say, back to origin of Feldman's music: the ancient Turkish rugs. 

The spontaneous patterns manifested in the Chromatic Fields are directly related to the Islamic decorative art form, arabesque in which "rhythmic linear patters of scrolling and interlacing foliage, tendrils or plain lines are often combined with other elements."  click here 

The words "interlacing foliage" invokes for me the memory of a project I did several years after the completion of both the Triadic Memories project and the "An Imaginary Book."  Field of Vision consists of four-fold symmetrical photographs constructed with photographs I made in Vermont of fall-colored leaves.  The theoretical text I provided for the project elaborates on different aspects of the Field idea including the writings of architect and theorist Christopher Alexander.  When I was photographing in Vermont I was reading two of his books, one of which, A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art, was about the design principles belying ancient Sufi carpets.  I became especially interested in his Theories of Centers and how they related to visual fields.

Symmetrical Photograph, from the project Field of Vision, 2015

The Sacred Center
Chapter 2 of my "Imaginary Book" is entitled Celestial Garden.  As you many remember, the great Islamic scholar, Seyyed Hossein Nasr wrote a book entitled The Garden of Truth in which he writes:  “. . . the Divine Breath is renewed at every moment, making possible our and the cosmos’s continuous existence in what appears to us as duration.  This duration is, however, nothing but the repetition of the 'now' within which creation is renewed.  In a deeper sense, every tree that we observe in the garden comes freshly from God’s creative act.”  

The "garden" that Nasr refers to here should be taken as a metaphor for the transcendent divine Truth, that "place" or mode of being beyond time and space, the divine Self, the Celestial Garden, the Center Point of the World.  One would expect, or at least imagine (or hope) to see God in the very center of the Garden of Truth, and indeed, Christopher Alexander, who (like Feldman) collected and studied and wrote about extensively about Turkish Sufi carpets, with a special interest in their Centers, said that his work was an attempt to manifest God "in the middle of a field."  

The repeated interwoven visual patterns we see in illuminated Qur'ans, prayer rugs and mosque decorations were built upon Islamic mathematical-geometrical-philosophical models based on the circle and its center point.  The patterns are intended to help "center the mind" of the worshiper, to still and silence the mind in preparation for the concentrated performance of spiritual practices such as meditation, contemplation and prayer.    

Alexander believed his theories of Centers explained the visual power and sacred presence he experienced in the ancient Sufi rugs he collected and contemplated.  Many of the designs contain multiple centers within local symmetries.  I have tried to briefly summarize Alexander's theories in the second part of my Field of Vision project: click here.

I also recommend Keith Critchlow's book Islamic Patterns : An Analytical and Cosmological Approach.  It clearly illustrates the unfolding of complex arabesque designs all of which originate with the point.  The introductory text provides some important insights into the philosophical and religious symbolism of the designs and their mathematical-geometrical models.  For example, Critchlow writes:  

The circle is the archetypal governing basis for all the geometric shapes that unfold within it . . . reflecting the unity of its original source, the point, the simple, self-evident origin of geometry and a subject grounded in mystery.  The circle has always been regarded as a symbol of eternity, without beginning and without end, just being. 


Repetition and rhythm are two essential contributing factors in almost all forms of spiritual practice, including concentration on the repetition of the in-breath and the out-breath, mantra and prayer repetitions, chanting the names of God over and over again.  There are also various ritual acts which involve repetition.  The goal of these practices is to get in touch with the Center of one's own Being, which in the yoga I practice, is said to be the Heart, the abode or dwelling place of the divine Self.

There is for me a palpable sacred presence in many the four-fold Symmetrical Photographs I have made.  I often experience a meditative state when I contemplate those images, which for me are essentially "circular images" with a bold central orientation.  Sometime I have experienced a meditative kind of transformation during the ritual-like process of constructing the symmetrical images.  When I witness the visual transformation that occurs from the single source image into its four-fold Symmetrical Form I sometimes experience, correspondingly, a transformation within myself.  In fact it has often seemed to me as if the ritual of making has itself somehow consecrated the newly manifested pictorial space.  

In this regard, I want to share with you a passage I discovered in Titus Burkardt's important book Sacred Art in the East and West.  He quotes Black Elk, a priest or sage of the Native American Sioux Indians, who describes the Native ritual of consecrating space on the earth's surface as preparation for the construction of a traditional fire alter.  At the heart of Black Elk's description is the ritual determination of the center of the space.  The center is defined by a series of repeated acts, and once the center has been established, another ritual follows that involves touching the CenterHere are the words of Black Elk:

"Taking the axe, the officiant pointed it towards the six directions, and then struck the ground to the West.  Repeating the same movement he struck the ground to the North, then in the same way to the East and to the South; then he raised the axe skywards and struck the ground twice in the center for the earth, and then twice for the Great Spirit.  Having done this, he scratched the soil with a stick which he had purified in the smoke and offered to the six directions: he drew a line running from the West to the center, then from the East to the center, then from the North to the center, and finally from the South to the center; then he offered the stick to the heavens and touched the center, and to the earth and touched the center.  In this way the altar was made.  In the manner described, we fixed in this place the center of the world, and this center, which in reality is everywhere, is the dwelling-place of the Great Spirit."

The Center of my four-fold Symmetrical Photographs is the origin-point from which the image as a whole seems to flash forth.  It's radiant energy seems to expand outward from its Center.  When I contemplate the symmetrical images, I feel compelled to enter the image field at its center-point.  This act of "going inside" the image is itself a ritual act, an Imaginal act of touching the very Center or Heart of the image.  To touch the Heart of anything is to come in direct contact with most sacred nature of that thing, the center of the entire world, one's own divine Self

The Still Center Point of the World
I have repeatedly returned to Giacometti's statement in which he says he experienced perception as projection, as no more than a series of points of stillness . . . because I too have shared similar experiences.  In the year 2000, for example, while standing in the vast spaces of the Grand Canyon, spaces so vast I could see three separate rain storms, each with its own rainbow, I experienced the stillness at the Center Point of the World, the Origin Point from which the world was being projected out into manifestation.  I wrote an essay about my experience entitled  "Seeing the Grand Canyon."  Here is an excerpt from the essay:

My awareness gradually began to shift in some strange way. . . .  Slowly my whole being became pervaded with a sense of stillness.  I could hear children playing and laughing in the parking lot behind me, and yet I felt enveloped in a profoundly deep silence.  Time seemed to be slowing down to a halt.  My visual perception began to contract until it was reduced to what seemed to me a single concentrated point.  

A wedge of luminous imagery was being projected out from my point of conscious awareness onto something like a large screen in front of me.  I was the projector; and I was the screen receiving the projection; I was the point of origin of the image, and I was the expansion of space so vast I couldn't comprehend it.   I was the seer and the seen, the projector and the scene . . . all at once.  

I was seeing brilliant, astounding images of the Grand Canyon, and yet I was aware that the images were coming from me, from inside myself projected onto a "screen."  I felt as if I were in the center of all space.   

I began to feel the wind; I felt open and expanded; then gradually this extraordinary mode of perception, which was more like a mode of being began to dissolve away.  

(The entire essay, Seeing the Grand Canyon, is available, as Story #1, in my collection of personal stories at this link:  Personal Encounters with the Sacred.

Returning to Giacometti
Returning Creation to its Origin   
Giacometti's moments of extraordinary Imaginal vision were deep glimpses into what he called "the core of life."  They were moments of unveiling, revelations of the very Heart of Reality, the Supreme Truth, the Center of Being.  His paintings, drawings and sculptures give us merely an echoing glimmer of what he "saw" for the Imaginal world, according to Henry Corbin and his mystic Ibn 'Arabi, is a world . . .  between worlds, between the physical and the spiritual, between the outer and the inner, between the visible and the invisible.  

Giacometti understood this in some way for he spoke of his experiences of seeing an ordinary glass as existing "between being and not being," thus he knew that his art could never fully succeed at reporting what he actually "saw." In the later years of his life, he gradually came to accept that his art could at best function as visual equivalents or symbols of his visionary experiences.

The yogic scriptures say the Heart is the place of perfect stillness; the place of perfect silence.  It is the abode of the Self, the Origin of the Created World--both its inward and the outward forms.  Henry Corbin, in his commentaries on Ibn 'Arabi's Recurrence of Creation, said: "it is the deepest purpose of human existence to journey from the outward to the inward and so return creation to its origin."  

Giacometti's art was an outward manifestation of his inward Imaginal journeyings to the very "core of life."  His drawings, paintings and sculptures, radiant with symbolic power, graced with the creative energy of the divine Self, affords us the opportunity as well to journey inward, to "return creation to its origin."   

Symmetrical Photograph, from the project Field of Vision 


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"The Core of Life"

I do not work to create beautiful paintings or sculpture.  Art is only a means of seeing.  No matter what I look at, it all surprises and eludes me, and I'm not too sure of what I see.  It is too complex. . . . It's as if reality were continually behind curtains that one tears away. . . but there is always another . . . always one more.  But I have the feeling, or the hope, that I am making progress each day.  That is what makes me work, compelled to understand the core of life.   (from an interview by Parinaud in Alberto Giacometti : Works / Writings / Interviews  authored and edited by Angel Gonzales.) 

This project was posted on my Welcome Page
October 1, 2017

Homage to Giacometti, Projects List

1.  Introduction : "Portraits" Heads Faces
2.  Line-Drawing Photograph Portraits
3.  Figures & Triadic Visual Poems 
4.  Landscapes, Still Lifes, Place and Presence
5.  Regarding Giacometti's Fear of Death  
6.  Vision, Re-vision and "Recurrence of Creation"
7.  New Work, Commentaries, Epilogue

Welcome Page for this website TheDepartingLandscape.blogspot.com which includes the complete listing of my online photography projects, my resume, contact information, and much more.