The old wharves of Wapping had been abandoned places a decade before I arrived. At the dawn of the 80's they were buzzing with creative life.
My first day there, I was befriended by an older artist named Richard Taffs. He was an abstract expressionist of the old school, but his work was stuck and he didn't understand why, though he had theories. Richard had a penthouse studio in Metropolitan wharf. He sublet part of it to Anish Kapoor.
I would regularly visit his studio to talk on a wide range of topics. I was, even back then, into Carl Jung, exploring art as the journey of self discovery and curious about other artists motivations and insights. I considered Richard's pearls of wisdom, not least because they were always delivered with such earnest drama. Two concepts stuck in my mind, concerning the relationship to a supreme spiritual agency: God or the devil; the troubling dualistic dichotomy. Richard's view was rather than two forces, one good the other evil, two predominant experiences of one force can go either way; creative or destructive, or get stuck between in limbo. He also impressed on me his belief artists reach a point where they're challenged by the demon in control of their concerns, to test their metal. It was rather prophetic in both our lives. A heroin overdose saw him off before he was 50 and I had a couple of near death encounters that launched me towards discovering the Pyramid Art.
My area of concern back then was a pop art exploration of attraction and the role of aspirational thought modes; the life of the individual manipulated by the mass media, marketing and images focussed on women, beauty, fashion, the advertising industry as equivalent to the ancients' notion of Aphrodite working in the real world. I thought in terms of Jung's notion of the anima force in man. That's why I borrowed my imagery from fashion plates, applying a juxtaposition of photo-real and tactile paint treatment to highlight a superficial reality and a psychoactive undercurrent.
My initiation into the path leading to my pyramid discovery, via a working synergy with nature shows how development following the guiding metaphors of synchronicity works.
It started as a love story.
Pretty, blond and dumb as a fox, Rebecca had already set her sights on being something big in London's art world when she offered to "be my agent" in early '83. At the beginning, The night after the day we met and spoke for the first time, mostly about my art when she'd come to my studio. I had the most intense and debilitating experience of longing, shivering through the entire night, unable to sleep. It was something the French call "un coup de foudre," (love at first sight), but seeds of doubt were sown too. She shared her childhood experience at the hands of her father, there was a sense of her being damaged. It explained the occasional look in her eyes. Her old man was a doctor. One night, he'd locked her in the morgue. I thought I understood, because every summer till my sixteenth year, I spent at my grandparent's big old haunted house in south west France, and always returned feeling changed. Rebecca's interest certainly seemed to go beyond my art. There was an exchange of "love letters". In this context she often wrote in riddles. Perhaps to cool my ardour she told me she was six years older than me. There were fine wrinkles around her eyes, but I didn't really buy it. Then she asked me to guess her age on another occasion, and it turns out, we're the same.
Soon she made a major art sale then refused to take commission, which I found odd. On my insistence she relented, then made a show of the black and gold embroidered butterfly dress she bought with the money.
She was already working with another artist. It was because of Andrea and her exhibition at Peter's riverside gallery that Rebecca had came to Wapping in the first place. Peter was my landlord, from a wealthy French Jewish background. They all lived in Kensington, the west end of London. The riverside Victorian wharves of Wapping E1 were by then becoming fashionable. The gallery space at 3D Metropolitan Wharf was Peter's folly. All he did there was read The Times, occasionally peering over the big floppy pages, to watch boats chugging by. I had my live-in studio in the road side half of his loft.
With her sense of fun, Rebecca could sure turn on the charm when she chose. "I'm an actress" she said. "a butterfly, a parasite, a man. She made another thing clear as mud when she said: "I don't know what love is." I thought this was an invitation to show her mine.
My "art career" was in deep trouble so the impression she was sent to my rescue never left my mind, though her physical presence was rare. The muddle of emotional and vocational commitment, along with the fact, having expressed her approval in no uncertain terms, she encouraged me to change my art imprinted itself as the challenge I must crack to woo her.
"Change; you know how difficult that is?" I said.
Almost a year had passed; I still had hope, but I needed answers and reassurance. Rebecca accepted my invitation to a live performance of the soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi, by Phillip Glass. The movie, by Godfrey Reggio based on a Hopi Indian prophesy, pitched as a vision of our unbalanced world. The hypnotic music and imagery together create an altered state, revealing a sense of the "Great Spirit."
The concert was flat without the images so we left before the end and walked, holding hands, towards Green Park tube from the Dominion theatre on Tottenham Court Road. I was a love-struck boy, trying to be cool. She said she loved me too, a while back. I hoped it was true, but then things had happened.
She hooked me up with an Arab nightclub owner in Mayfair. That was a turning point. She'd come over to negotiate the sale of a group of canvasses but arrived late, then just sat at my desk listening to my pitch, scrawling in my address book in red ink.
I'd done very well without her negotiation skills at the meeting she said, after Sheriffi had gone, then asked if I'd like to have some fun. I suddenly felt drained and collapsed like a drunk. She left. I'd blown it. Yet, since my admiration was returned remotely in letters, knowing and strange in content, I continued to hope the future might still turn out.
She showed up occasionally in Wapping, but was "very busy" up west. I had to be patient. I knew she was an "uptown girl," out of my league, but the confidence she inspired was something I'd never known.
Tonight, I wanted to get talking about how great it would be if we could see each other more, if she would try working out of what had by then become my gallery space, try it for a year, as a showroom. It was close to "The City." I needed to offer her a professional stepping stone in my direction.
I was nervous and my guts were groaning with hunger. I got a slice of strawberry tart from a patisserie on Piccadilly, but other things turning my stomach too. I had complaints to air. She and Andrea, who was also her landlady, had acted like conspirators toward me.
I'd been in the preparation stages for painting Andrea as submission for a portraits of poets competition on Rebecca's suggestion, when together they'd engineered a charade that burst the bonnes-amies bubble.
I was over at their place in Hereford Square, to do a photo reference shoot. Rebecca came into the room and mentioned she was going to the shop; did I want her to get me something. After quite a long pause, as they both waited rather too expectantly for my answer and my mind went completely blank. I replied: "nothing thanks". At that they both hit the roof in what seemed like genuine astonishment, shrieking the word NOTHING! in unison. A week later, I phoned to say I couldn't get on with the portrait. "Stop painting it!" said Rebecca, without hesitation or further explanation. I'd already burned it. What was that all about?
Had I not been so emotionally entangled with Rebecca, I maybe could have signed up with a fully fledged gallery scouting the Wapping Metro show, the open studio event we Metropolitan Wharf artists' put-on in May. Of all the galleries in London, this was her former employer. She'd left under a cloud, accused of stealing his mailing list. I'd been with her in the street when the court summons was served. She'd trained as a lawyer, said it was a storm in a teacup. I had faith in her word, though she was by then doing nothing much for me. Representation for a struggling artist is the one thing you're craving. His opportunity was blown the moment I mentioned her name.
Summer trips had intervened and this "date" was the first real chance to talk since. I feared if I brought all that up she'd be insulted and dump me on the spot. I was out on a limb and didn't know how to initiate discussion. Rejection in my situation would have dire consequences. I wanted to ask her why she'd built me up, encouraged me emotionally, personally and professionally and was now letting me down through inaction. Was she unaware of my predicament? Was she planning to develop my art career soon? It turned out she'd already done something.
I forgot my wallet on the counter of the strawberry tart shop. The salesgirl called after me. Rebecca sniped back something about leaving my brains at home tonight. It wasn't the first thing I'd mislaid that evening. I carried an old army man-bag, left it in the taxi I arrived at the concert venue in. My declaration of love was in that bag.
London's Christmas lights were being set up along Piccadilly and Regent's Street. We walked past untidy heaps of gold plastic cherubs and cornucopia, strewn among dark green simulated spruce, dotted with low wattage bulbs. I finished my tart as we passed the Ritz Hotel, just before Green Park tube, Rebecca's bus stop. She would go up west, while I would go back east, but not without something more clearly defined between us.
We lingered in silence. What I wanted to say churned through my mind chaotically. I felt like screaming: DO'NT YOU KNOW THIS SITUATION IS KILLING ME? She knew I had gambled buying Peter's lease, in anticipation of the professional advancement she'd promised. The rent was a fortune, but taking-it-on was the only way to keep my studio/home.
The signs all pointed the wrong way, I had to give my pitch a try, but I just couldn't bring myself to speak. She broke the silence by asking if I'd read the books she'd given me for my birthday back in July. One was about Van Gogh's relationship with his brother Theo, told through Vincent's letters. I'd read it in my art school days. The other was an award-winning novel by an Australian writer. Rebecca was Australian. I said I'd read the novel. At that she looked into my eyes, and said: "That's you, isn't it?"
Was she now suggesting that I somehow resembled the hopeless artist in that book, that my life would be unappreciated, lost and loveless, haunted by rejection, revolving around some lonely obsession with a triangular rock across some godforsaken lake in the outback?
Heartbroken, I searched her eyes for a sign. She held me in her gaze. It was the confirmation of all I'd feared. In the tone of that moment, it became clear she was intent on wreaking havoc in my life. I left her there without a word and strode off toward the tube.
An uncontrollable rage then welled up inside. I went back to where she stood at the end of the bus queue. Called her name, she turned and I swung the back of my hand at her face, growling an angry good-bye. She ducked and I missed.
The sky had fallen in. With anger and regret fighting for dominance, bewilderment took hold. I got onto the Victoria line tube as if in a trance, found a seat, closed my eyes and drifted. There was no point to anything anymore. My love for Rebecca was a sickness; she'd never loved me back; I'd just been fooling myself.
I was a fool and always would be no matter how many times my heart was broken. This miasma of self recrimination lapsed into unconsciousness because the next thing I knew I was woken by the guard's hand on my shoulder: "Walthamstow terminus. End of the line," he said with official forcefulness.
Having missed my change on the last train of the night, I was miles from Wapping now. How was I going to get home? I was told there was a late bus down the street going in the general direction, but I should hurry.
I ran all the way and was just in time to catch the last bus for Hackney. From there, I walked by dead reckoning along unfamiliar streets with the events of that evening coursing through my mind; finally reaching the warehouse, physically and emotionally exhausted.
I'd moved my sleeping arrangements over to the riverside gallery. This featured four, white painted, cast iron columns, light maple floorboards and quite a low ceiling. I had my bathroom in the back corner and my folding sofa bed by the double doors onto the river. This empty cavern had been my ambition achieved. Finally, after years of suffering desolate spaces on the wharf, I now had this inspiring view; but I was doomed, on the brink of losing it. All I wanted was to sleep and forget. I dragged my bed to the middle of the gallery, away from the river. South London seemed brighter than usual tonight.
Staring at the wall, I couldn't relax for replaying the broken record of the evening's events. My irritation focused on light flooding in from the east. Why so bright, so late at night? Getting up to investigate, I discovered they were testing the floodlights at Millwall soccer stadium.
I returned to bed, trying to distract my thoughts by following the shadows on the wall cast by the crane gantry and iron window frames. It was a soothing cats-cradle effect. Then in an instant, the image of a very large fish resolved itself from the shapes. It gave me a jolt as a line from one of Rebecca's love letters simultaneously entered my head: "A fine spotted salmon." I remembered a salmon, caught in my youth, the biggest fish I'd ever hooked into, seemingly by chance. It was a symbol for "the one that got away." A surge of adrenaline transformed my mood to near panic as I remembered another of Rebecca's phrases: "Some things happen like magic." I'd lashed out at her. The knot inside tightened. Praying for forgiveness, darkness descended as a distant switch was thrown.
Questions pressed through my exhaustion. Why this fish on the wall? Rebecca's phrases and the memory of events since our first meeting flooded back to stir the confusion as I scrambled to grasp meaning in this magic lantern show, where she was present, but definitely gone.
I remembered a bunch of posh strangers; friends of hers evidently. They were at my open studio at the Metro show, in May. They'd been talking about me while I listened, hidden from view in the access corridor.
"He doesn't know who he is." Why had they said that?
Surrounded by my pictures, they'd all read my artist's statement about my use of fashion imagery as a modern reference to Aphrodite and the Jungian concept of anima. One of the group was trying to pick holes in it and they were now talking like this. It seemed very odd at the time; what did they mean? Who am I supposed to be then?
I thought back to a blurred memory of an over heard conversation between Rebecca and Andrea at the opening night of the show; something like: bla-bla-bla, "Why can't you do it?" "It has to be a man..." Rebecca said, her eyes following me as I walked past. A week after, I recall a weird local newspaper article about the Messiah being spotted walking around Wapping. Jehovah's Witnesses were blitzing the area. I thought it was a joke.
"Be strong," she said. "They're going to love you."
Ten minutes passed, another switch was thrown and now a new light shone into the gallery from the gravel dock on the opposite bank of the Thames, in Rotherhithe. It was at the precise level of 3D, forty-five feet above the river. An image projected sixty feet, straight to the back wall of the gallery onto a square, boarded-out section, contrasting the painted brickwork. The shadow of the riverfront doors hung plumb in the square, forming a framed cross image. It was some coincidence, I thought; first the fish symbol for Christ, now this crusader-like cross symbol. Then I remembered a Christian chromed fish outline, with the word 'Turbot' stuck on the back of a rusty white Fiat 500, always parked outside Rebecca's place. That was amusing, but now, as my emotional panic increased, I wasn't laughing.
The hair on the back of my neck stood up as the cross burned into my mind. It appeared to start spinning, turbo-like, as the world spins when you're a child as you turn and turn on the spot, then stop. The cross shaped shadow appeared like that, alternately spinning clockwise and back, creating the symbols for the tides of life, the ancient Indian motif, the swastika and its reverse (gyaku manji), often found on Buddha figurines, inscribed on his chest. The swastika reminds us of Hitler, that's for sure.
A message here involved opposites, good and evil, and I'd seen this framed cross somewhere, if I could only remember... Pacing around the gallery trying to grasp where, as if it could save my life, it came to me. It featured on the cover of the ancient Taoist oracular classic, the I Ching. It was that Chinese symbol meaning chance or change.
On this understanding, my mood altered from anxiety to fascination. These ideas fit too well. There was a calm instruction more sophisticated than a threat. What were the chances of Buddha, the Tao, Christ and Hitler dropping in to say hello? Why on this of all nights?
"Some things happen like magic" she'd said. It must be to do with Rebecca. Did this mean she was queen of the fairies?
A week later, I saw something on the cover of her birthday gift, that award winning Australian novel. Invisible frontally, at an angle to the light, impressed in the shiny card; two words could be discerned inscribed within an arrangement of curlicue lines. I transferred the design to a sheet of white paper then went over to Hereford Square to confront her with it.
She was sitting at the window of the front room as I approached the house. I saw from afar she was writing, and remember thinking, perhaps it was the book on magic she'd spoken of. She'd done-up her bottled blonde hair "all beautiful" to look like a Greek goddess in some Hollywood epic. It was the kind of thing one might produce for a formal evening out, but this was ten in the morning. It was as if she intended me to see her like that. I came up to the railings and caught her attention, pointing to the book and my rendering of her spell. In a voice to penetrate the window I said "What's this all about?" A smirk curled her lip briefly before she calmly got up and retreated upstairs.
The message, centered within the design, distinguishable on careful inspection: "HATE WOMEN." I understood it was a personal attack, because my art back then featured gleaned imagery of fashion plate women. I'd explained this in my artist statement as a projection of anima beauty; Jung's feminine, complimentary, unconscious reflection of the conscious masculine ego.
The phrase "Some things happen like magic," rang in my ears. Was I being called or judged by the now animate world? Was some timeless dimension projecting on my walls? I felt a victim, wanted to protest, but everything had changed. There was nothing to do but accept it.
It was morning of the day after. The sunlight was different. The way it reflected over ripples on the river didn't look right. Birds called to me now from the crane gantry outside the window, like in a Hitchcock movie. It resembled the feeling I'd had as a child at annual intervals on landing back in England from summers spent in France.
Puzzling over last night, I mused on how those images were connected to my destiny, without love to pursue. I felt dead inside and had to leave here now. A loud thump somewhere in the building seemed to respond, confirming the thought in a way that was surreal and scary. Panicked, I set off down to the street, thinking If I got some breakfast inside me, I'd be fine again. Rushing out of the building, distracted by the weirdness in my skull, I narrowly escaped being run over by a truck as it screeched to a halt 12 inches short. I scrambled back to the pavement, acknowledging the driver then noticed the sign above the cab: STEEL. Then I looked down at the number plate and felt a sickening shock. It contained the most ominous sequence of numbers imaginable: 666.
These signs were unbelievable at first, but my conversation with the spirit of the world through them grew from there. Eventually it became friendlier, but the perception was highly troubling back then. It felt as if the Great Spirit in the movie Koyaanisqatsi, rather than a distant image projected in 2D; here at 3D, it was in my home and in everything including my head... intent on retribution.
There was a curious incident on a fine autumn afternoon a few days after I confronted Rebecca through her window. I was sitting down at my desk at 3D on the roadside. The lobby interphone that buzzes up from the street rang. I went the length of the studio to pick up. There was a strangely ethereal voice, sounded like Rebecca calling my name. Filled with a rush of hope and excitement she'd actually come down to Wapping to speak to me, I ran to the road side. I'd left the loading double doors open to let in the warmth. There's a drop of 20 feet to the cobbled street. As I sped toward the doors I felt a force at my heels. I was running faster than I thought I could. Way too fast for safety. I was just able to skid to a stop in time, breaking my momentum the final yard by grabbing the hand rail to prevent myself plunging over the edge to the street. I surveyed the scene below. It was deserted. There was nobody there. I thought perhaps she'd been buzzed in by another tenant, as often happened. I allowed a minute to pass, listening for her at the stairwell. Then I went down to the street. There was no sign of anyone.
When I got back to my studio I was pondering the strange experience when the interphone rang again. This time it was the voice of a Kiwi friend of Rebecca's. She was something at the London School of Oriental Studies. Here name was Jane. It was definitely her voice, no doubt about it. She spoke eight or nine words and then hung up: "Go now or we'll throw water at you." I strode purposefully to the loading door to survey the street again... nobody there. I went down physically again, same result. After discovering Rebecca's spell on her "gift" book cover, all this served to deepen my impression of being the victim of occult forces unleashed by "these women"... who for some reason, didn't like me, maybe because my art was getting too close to a secret truth. The voices were somehow transmitted into the wiring of the interphone system, but I couldn't figure out how, unless it was an elaborate prank, in which case they'd gone to much trouble and hidden themselves skilfully, and it just didn't seem plausible they would do that. There is one alternative explanation I didn't consider at the time. The ringing of the phone and the voice might be a product of a synchronous quantum effect from a realm beyond the material world. The Phone rang for sure, but the voice might have been produced inside my brain in a way that fooled my senses into thinking it was a real person on the line, by an effect linking the mind in real time to the timeless dimension, an afterlife or eternal state of being... from where these women spoke. They were the devil/angels Richard had mentioned, testing my metal.
The weeks dragged by. I couldn't be in the gallery for long, so I wandered the streets, where synchronicity assailed me constantly, in the small things we normally ignore. Such signs spoke and through the conversation, I took to heart Rebecca's suggestion to change my art. There was a theme ready to develop; my reference to the mythological powers of the unconscious of my artists statement. I was already enthralled by Jungian ideas. She'd seen that and encouraged it. Now, trying take something positive away from this kink she'd put in my path, I vowed to take direction from the effects I was going through.
Having reinvented myself at Art College through transcendental meditation, I knew it was also possible to change by using that discipline, but I'd lapsed. I started meditating again and also tried to find out more about magic. I also began making trips to the British Museum.
The Egyptian sculpture gallery fascinated me. I got a buzz being with the artifacts from that civilization, apparently fixated on death, the afterlife and the spirit of nature, represented by animal character heads, grafted onto human bodies. The experience of being there was addictive to the point I'd return every day. It felt like an infusion of strength to my bones from the ancients, when I allowed myself to touch objects when the guards weren't looking.
I can clearly remember my last visit because of what followed. I'd returned to see the Rosetta stone and those life-size basalt statues and rough granite figures of the Egyptian room. On that particular day, I spent half an hour in there before wandering through to the area outside the Elgin Marbles gallery. I sat on the bench provided to view a reconstructed Greek temple, which in previous visits I'd ignored. That feeling of unease you get when someone stares at you from behind then surfaced. Turning, I noticed the temporary exhibit of three marble torsos of Aurora, Greek Goddess of the dawn.
I observed, though finely carved, they'd seen damage, and imagined them toppled by an earthquake, abandoned, buried in the long grass for centuries. They were not in the classical style, but slightly archaic with their heads, arms and legs all missing. A mix of natural shearing and the worked up surface rendering a fine veil over flesh echoed the pictorial effects I'd created since Art School. This fed off the perception that damage endows things with timeless beauty.
While I stood there, I found myself thinking how I could reference the damaged body of antiquity, rather than the processed, fashion bodies I'd focused on since art school.
That evening, sketching and pondering if I really wanted to embark on what amounted to a cultural clichè with its confusion of classical mythology; I filled a dozen sheets without finding the inspiration a new direction should generate. It was depressing.
Next morning, woken by the tune played through the cracks in the riverside doors by the wind I got up to look out at the river, its surface whipped-up by the breeze in the early light. The ripples reminded me of the drapery on those Goddess' torsos. The sun, in the east, rising over the Isle of Dog's in a pale yellow sky, was obscured at this point by slate grey cloud, scudding along the urban horizon.
Down over Greenwich park way, my gaze settled upon one such grey cloud, sculpted by the wind, which then picked itself up into the shape of a woman's head becoming more animated as she traveled north. As she passed before the sun over the isle of dogs she was laughing. And the sun disc pierced the cloud as her eye, winking sunbeams at me. Then she swiftly morphed back to formlessness. The whole sequence took maybe ten seconds to unroll; a very long moment. No other person would have seen her in the morning at that time. The vision relied on my viewpoint. I had to assume she came for my eyes only. I stood rooted to the spot, with my heart pounding in awe, fighting emotion, but it won.
It became clear whatever was happening to me was linked into time, nature and the history of mankind, the whole seamless complex in action as one event. The head in the clouds was a great analogy to spirit and meaningful pattern in the apparent chaos of nature, the mind of Aurora, Goddess of the dawn; Isis, Goddess of the sky had saluted me. The effigy of her damaged body displayed in the British Museum, having hung-on through time to greet me... but why. Who was I to deserve her attention?
Weeks passed, and all the little signs, by the hour, minute and second expanded and became instructive, but there was one form of code involving phonetic suggestion and the symbolism of numbers I noticed above all.
Some rush illustration work for Rocket Records had come my way a year or so since, Elton John's vinyl 12" Christmas single cover: "Cold as Christmas." This came through one of Rebecca's contacts right at the beginning of our liaison, and since the job I made of it was less than great, it led nowhere professionally, but served now at least to draw my attention, through another of EJ's catchy songs on the car radio, signposting this message form. The lyric: "Follow the Yellow Brick Road," pointed to car license plates. Rear plates are yellow in the UK and they're shaped like bricks. The messages emerging were dependent on where my attention settled naturally on the street. If I searched for a message, nothing coherent would appear, whereas if I was working out something through self questioning, being open to answers appearing through synchronicity in license plates, feedback was immediate. But this was all very personal in a way it confirmed to me signs could appear from anywhere including the actions of everyone, going about their business, even state structures contributing as part of the whole. There was a symbolist unity, a system of meaning in the juxtaposition of everything nobody recognized, though come to think of it, I Rebecca obliquely suggested it at one point. But only now did I know what she meant.
The financial strain imposed by the rent was never far from mind. It bore down on me now. I tried anything to earn income from the gallery. All my efforts went wrong.
Emotionally, I was a wreck and I felt never again would I fall in love. I did try again almost immediately, feeling I needed to try to overwrite my feelings for Rebecca. It seemed like the wrongest thing of all in the end. My longing for her smoldered on. My pursuit of synchronicity became a surrogate for human love; Rebecca's remembered words became the jangling keys, unlocking my entry into the hidden heart of the Goddess.
By the end of winter, early '84, these signs seemed to be confirming my failure in life, pushed me to sacrifice myself in homage to her, since she'd appeared to me and now seemed to beckon. I didn't want to give up living, but over a period, following the signs, I knew I must accept such a fate. Life like this was no good. I felt duty bound and decided the drop to the rocks in the river at low tide would be the way to go.
The evening I was to go through with it, I stood for an emotionally draining time on the loading platform out in space, holding the grab rail tightly, taking-in the drop. I'd summoned the courage to release and felt myself going, when my telephone rang. That was a rare event. Reflex made me reach back, just in time. It was my mother, expressing her concern. She knew a little of my chagrin and must have sensed something wrong.
My mother's call didn't deflect my resolve though. Before long I found myself back outside with the intention of going through with it. Again I let go and felt myself toppling, but the telephone rang a second time. It was Carlos Eduardo, a Brazilian friend calling from Sao Paulo. We'd met the previous summer in Milan, on the trip Rebecca helped plan. She'd spent time in Italy before moving to London. I'd gone there with the intention of hawking my art around galleries in that hub of fashion... only to find them closing for the summer a day or two after my arrival. I'd met Eduardo and his girlfriend Ednaya at the airport, while seeking hotel information. He knew a cheap place they themselves were going, right near the Duomo. We shared a taxi.
That evening I showed them my portfolio, both were highly impressed. Ednaya was in Italy to see relatives. Once I realized the object of my trip would be fruitless, Eduardo and I planned a jaunt around Italy together by train. After ten days we'd become firm friends. On parting, he extended an open invitation, should I ever think to visit Brazil. I'd written to him explaining my plight. Now he'd called, offering to organize a place for me to live and work, to get started again down in Brazil with minimum hassle.
It dawned on me these "interventions" were a sign from the spirit of the world, presenting my escape route. I pledged my life in thanks to this merciful weirdness in all people and places, just as a line from another of Rebecca's love poems entered my head.
"I'm an elephant, so full of spirits."
It was as if some unconscious spirit within the world, within every human thought had chimed in time. Could it have something to do with death? I didn't understand, but was grateful nonetheless.
For days and weeks after, signs confirmed the move, and the entire weight of depression was lifted from my shoulders. I became enthused and totally committed to my re-born destiny. Like a machine, I worked as never before to produce works on paper, things I could easily sell to eek-out my resources. Rebecca had suggested I stop painting women, but I needed time to change. Meanwhile, I would try to pay my way by producing artwork for the poster image licensing agent Michael Woodward, who'd made contact out of the blue.
A small inheritance from my grandparents' estate came through, and with the resale of my Wapping lease; it paid all my debts with enough left over for two years of freedom. Brazil was cheap back then. Inflation was a hyper 20% monthly or more, which meant my dollars went further.
Eduardo was a magistrate. On my arrival he arranged a show for me in São Paulo at the state judiciary social club. It went off without a hitch, but frankly, the location made it almost a waste of time, though at least it had meant I'd arrived with all my canvasses. This initial failure spurred me-on to find more appropriate venues.
Despite drawbacks, the city presented positives: perpetual summer temperatures and a clean canvas to lay-out something new, a fresh start in every aspect of life. But I had to move at the pace synchronicity set, because, I decided, this was the light I must follow to an end it showed. Meanwhile I continued making posterisable work. In about six weeks, without a single lesson, I'd mastered a decent level of Portuguese by going out every night, meeting people in bars, listening to the way they spoke and introducing myself where possible. My French was okay, so deciphering another Latin language wasn't so hard, and once people knew I was "Inglès" they jumped at the chance to practice their English. In some ways I felt freer and more popular than ever, but it was like being marooned in a parallel universe. Different conventions applied here, and I felt myself adapting to suit. I became more outgoing, in sympathy with the generally sunny Brazilian disposition, where good humour, and a mystical fatalism rules. This was perhaps borne of the knowledge that corruption was everywhere and was good in a way, bad in another, so why not focus on the good? They called it "o jeitinho Brasilieiro." This was the time directly after military rule. The whole state ran on lies... complicated by religion. But then aren't they all?
The passion for soccer made some kind of sense here where urban tribes in this place, so full of intensity, prized the ability to bend the rules, as if it was all a big game. There was no doubting soccer here was beautiful, more than anywhere, 'uma beleza' (oo-ma bell-ehhhhhza). The skies overhead exploded, like a war zone, with airburst mortar bombs unexpectedly from time to time. It was the viewing crowd's way of celebrating gooooooooools on TV. But since I didn't own one the whole time I was there, they appeared tied to my experience of synchronicity
São Paulo in the sunshine has that white-hot intensity which, being accustomed to the grey urban landscape of east London, represented in some respects a Shangri-La, with its tropical flowering tree lined avenues. But it was not Rio. There was no marvellous landscape of mountains and sea. There were no sandy beaches to escape to; and no "Ipanema girls" in "dental floss bikinis" strolling by. In the cool drizzle of a winter cold front passing through, the place could appear as miserable as London's east end; yet I never got depressed there. The down sides: general ignorance and poverty accentuated by gross inequality, appalling noise and the congested, potholed streets; melted asphalt, broken pavements, everywhere the dog shit and an occasional pile of abandoned humanity cuddling the curb stones, hidden by a grubby blanket.
There were shanty town enclaves dotted everywhere; the "slave" labourers from Bahia; the city daily transforming itself through their endless toil on high-rise projects, some left abandoned, blackened and skeletal. Their women fielded the tedium of respectable lives, filling their own with it, all to start over and over, while their children were left to play beggars on the street.
In the first months I made contacts among Brazilian artists and photographers at art shows in the posh parts of town. The very fact I was British conferred an instant respect that embarrassed me. It was just after the Falklands war. Brazil and Argentina are fierce rivals, certainly on the soccer field, but the rivalry extends to nationalistic pretensions. "We" had taken the "Argies" down a peg. Like cheering-on a soccer side trouncing their traditional foe, new acquaintances' once they knew, gleefully barked one name in recognition of my tribe: "Magret Tatcher." I was just glad to be far, far away from all that. The abandoned house in the Vila Mariana district Eduardo put at my disposal belonged to his cousin. It was going to be my studio/home for the next few years, and needed work to make it habitable. The place was nothing to rival my Wapping studio, but adequate, and well served by public transport. It had two unusable rooms on a lower level. When it rained too hard; every day in the summer, they flooded; so it wasn't exactly living space.
The house was an oddity that fit my odyssey. Last in a terrace of bungalows, it was on an odd-shaped plot. The fašade was merely the width of the door. Inside, it funneled-out, giving the impression of vastness, like Doctor Who's 'Tardis', his time machine. That synchronicity struck me immediately I saw it, since an option I'd studied to keep Wapping going, was a proposal to turn it into a museum for The Doctor. The footprint of house number seven, the creative number, was triangular, like the number seven itself. My bedroom was the only square room in the house.
I paid rent in cash only once. Eduardo worked it out for me where I gave a picture instead. I was having my paper works framed up anyway, to hang in the bars of the "Jardins" district.
On arrival in Brazil, after an initial lull, synchronicity in the small things started up again, and grew to intensity beyond what I'd known, but I kept this side of life hidden. I had few friends, and knew if I tried to explain it, my sanity would be questioned and I'd loose them.
I bought a guide to the city and took bus rides, often simply to see what the yellow brick road suggested for that day. These excursions could be relied on to build my ideas in relation to the goal I was groping towards: a new art... The intuitions the activity provided, were shaping ideas in an intriguing way. I was still uncertain where it was all going, but filling notebooks with my unreadable scrawl, at least the occupation told me I was in the right place, doing the right thing.
The character of synchronicity on the street, had, I felt, something in common with free-Jazz. There was immediacy in the events showing the presence of a spirit of the world through a kind of visual symbolist poetry that turned more and more fascinating by letting it under my skin, going with it in my head, like a string of notes or images, not a melody, but a harmony or hidden beauty one seeks to find. The whole of São Paulo turned into this visual jazz punctuating my experience all the time, where the people apparently giving this feedback were entirely oblivious. Everything and everyone was part of the pattern, in the way I understood its being this encompassing all, this Great Spirit running through the world regardless of our intentions, like the flow of Koyonisquatsi the movie.
Wherever I've travelled, the signs of it are present, to be engaged with. All movement seems contrived merely to transmit his presence, and our lives are all part of his music. The insight stiffened my resolve to create something substantial out of the experience, something compelling enough to wake the world, like a jazz saxophonist's solo. But I recognised that was going to be no easy task to come up with. How do you describe and draw attention to something normally invisible, about which people are sceptical, resistant to and fearful of?
I began to understand how this whole effect is possible, only if all movement, chance and thought included is connected by one unifying intelligence already within everything, an Anthropic Abstract, a timeless persona ready and waiting to awaken. Synchronicity was certainly the vector for awareness and in it there's a plan for each of us, I reckon.
The uncanny experience where the abstract and I interacted via the real world... where any question I would ask was answered in signs, often in the same moment without pause, might indeed be too much to credit. But if I could survive it and bring evidence back from my odyssey, then surely they would take notice...?
On occasions my questioning line would be answered over and over again in different ways, all to emphasise some aspect of my goal that would come into focus and confirm how to act. One of my questions concerned numerological alchemy, the significance of the number eight. It's the number the I Ching assigns to the Receptive principle. As I've already mentioned, the great spirit of creativity is represented by the number seven.Eight represents the physical, sensual, feminine complementary of the masculine, abstract, creative force of nature. If you like, we can think of our being as a receptive organ created by nature as the true master of our actions and our fate. Our thoughts must therefore be part of a timeless synthesis already, where desires result from his pattern expressed everywhere; evolving towards something that must be considered his goal, one evolving whole, comprising complimentary opposites, hence there's a balance and a purpose to be recognized through following the signs to find partnership through feedback.
Consciousness can fall into pace with the pattern in a positive way, only when you're conscientiously engaged and following it. Nothing surpasses the satisfaction of feeling the partnership solidify in the vision of a shared goal.
There's a local brand of Scotch whisky in Brazil called OLD EIGHT. It's not good, but better than the falsified Paraguayan stuff they passed off in places. One of the exhibition locations I investigated for my artwork was the down-town Hilton hotel. There was a huge sign above the building next door declaring OLD EIGHT in red neon
The manager took a shine to me. He offered an evening opening reception with canapés, whisky etc. Half way through the show, since I'd sold nothing, he asked if I would produce some designs for the restaurant menu: spring, summer, autumn and winter. He also wanted me to paint him a picture of the hotel, from an aerial photograph. This was to be presented to a member of staff as a retirement gift. I accepted, not so much for the pittance he offered in payment, but it represented a symbolic acceptance of a mission I'd grown to understand.
Eight is considered an auspicious number. In the I Ching (the Chinese classic, equivalent to the Bible for its cultural significance) eight represents receptivity, the feminine side of the mind. OLD EIGHT referred to the receptive principle, the feminine side, in need of reform. Old meant "the spirit of life," (the literal origin of whisky the word) needing an update.
Brazil is the world's largest Catholic nation state. In view of my experience and my agnostic roots and all, was I the man for this job? I didn't have any more pressing employment, and was willing to try. The mission, confirmed by continual synchronicity throughout that period decided it.
I was made aware the renovation of religious vision would be no easy task. There would be resistance. Old was going to be no pushover, and if I wanted to offer the NEW EIGHT, my act would have to be pretty good. I must admit I was a little discouraged.
Encouragement through signs indicated I would not go without help and the prospect of a synergistic partnership with the force at the source elated me, so I pledged myself. The possibility of failure would be the worst that could happen. By this time anyway, I'd recognised my liaison with the Great Spirit was my only real relationship. The pledge was a commitment to pursue that love.
The problem with trying to say something through painting is no language exists to build a bridge between the artist's insights and the mind of the onlooker. Impressions, feelings or assumptions occur anywhere, but they're cluttered with personal baggage. The viewer's understanding of a work of art is always going to be distorted vis-à-vis the artist's intention. There's much talk of visual language at art school and beyond, but as cultural concept, the conversation invoked skates very thin ice. A vocabulary of mark making and symbolism may exist, but its mishmash means shared meaning is often absent. In the modern context, for the transmission of complex ideas no language of art exists at all. Art, for centuries the peak of spiritual expression, has lost its way.
The art world perpetuates confusion, while claiming possession of something sublimely meaningful, that's a con, since no one is any the wiser through it, and so progressively art has become an expression with no substance, since it never delivers, much like religion. I could go ahead and use illustrative reference to crosses and fish, the Goddess in the clouds etc., but it would all resemble a muddle that had all been done before. I had to find a new way to engage the viewer with a precision none had achieved thus far.
In the mean time, while trying to promote myself to contemporary art galleries, I approached South America's premier public venue, ostensibly for advice. In a brief interview, after he'd seen my portfolio, Dr Bardi, who actually owned MASP (Museu de Arte, São Paulo) back then, offered a small show as soon as I wanted. I was thrilled. Through it I met another art dealer, just starting-up in the business.
Paulo was then just building his gallery near the Faria Lima area of town. He got some great publicity straight away in "Interview," the Brazilian version of Warhole's New York magazine. The story was an eye opener into the way things were done here. Paulo and the editor of Interview Brazil were buddies. I just happened to be his new British protégé with a recent show at MASP under my belt, and was going to be the inaugural feature of his new gallery, bla-bla-bla. A seven page feature article came out of that flim-flam.
Any commercial exhibition at Paulo's would have to wait till his building was finished. In the meantime I parked my canvasses with him and explained, though in no great hurry to show, I was looking to produce new work and I needed to find photographic models. Paulo arranged with an agency to send over girls who might work for free, in exchange for a small piece of art and some pictures to add to their image books. I would interview them and schedule my shoots.
It was a promising start, since my survival plan was to produce poster art of the "Goddess," for Michael Woodward to sell. But a misunderstanding about the day of the rendezvous occurred, and since I had no telephone and lived across town, I couldn't be reached. The models had arrived at Paulo's and sat there for hours waiting. I turned up the following day. Only one had the presence of mind to leave her details: Deborah, a beautiful mulatto girl. She spoke good English, having spent a year in New York, modelling with the best. Cool and professional, we were soon businesslike friends. She introduced other girls, so in the next few years I'd amassed dozens of new canvasses.
That "shoot" with Deborah was the first real occasion I had to use photographic reference of my own, apart from the one or two portraits I'd attempted. Previously I'd gleaned pictures from magazines, chopping and changing through a melange of pop and a "stylistic" abstraction.
Deborah and I planned a photo shoot, up the "litoral" (the coast road). I drove her in my newly acquired jalopy, towards the Rio State border where we stayed with an old boyfriend of hers who owned a traditional fisherman's house on the beach at Picinguaba (piss-in-goo-are-ba). That's a village with the Guarani Indian name whose mundane translation is: sandy beach of a calm bay... or something similar.
The place was a revelation that smelled of a past age of man. Picinguaba was undiscovered back then, hidden as it was from the asphalt along a winding dirt track, revealing a vista of islands and inlets going out into the blue, towards Ilhia Bela (ee-lee-ah bell-ah). Deborah must have read my mind when she chose the location.
I am of course talking of a time before digital photography, when the pictures are obtained from a negative. A high proportion shot that weekend turned out brilliant. Deborah was suitably impressed.
I was confident I had a "good eye", but my camera back then had a defect, which stressed me-out through that weekend. Sometimes it would over expose, while at other times it was fine. There was no way of knowing what would come out, and film was expensive, so I couldn't just blast away. The camera was an early, mass market Olympus model. There it was again, the Greek myth-chief, calculating my luck.
The most impressive images came from a hidden forest glade with waterfall, on a hillside, not far from the village turn-off. A crystalline stream spills down the mountain beside rounded, moss covered boulders along one side of a clearing. I shot Deborah in the crystal clear basin above the place, in her black one-piece. She looked waiflike and cold. I shot her sitting on the granite, as the water spilled out around her, and again where the sunlight glinted on the stream, gliding thinly, slippery with algae, a natural slide fifty feet down to a deep, black lagoon. I had Deborah recover reclining atop one of the boulders in the dappled shade. In the end it was the art work she chose.
Deborah "worked-on" a businessman friend from her home town of Belo Horizonte. He owned a clothing company called Divina Decadencia. They decided to use me for a year's advertising campaign. The deal included the promise of high profile shows in Belo, Rio and São Paulo, exposure in magazines, on TV etc. But as a concession to this stunning prospect, I was to agree to be paid a pittance for the image rights. As my agent, with inflation and the payment delays, Deborah ended up with almost half. Half a pittance seemed like a slap in the face for all my effort. I was struggling financially, fed-up, and said so. It all turned sour as DD reneged on the deal, and there was nothing in writing, nothing I could do. Paulo's promises were broken too. He never did mount a show, despite an attempt 20 years later, when all that 80's art went missing in transit.
These prospects all fell through in a way that disgusted me so much; I decided to try escape Brazil, setting my sights on North America. I was still praying for something to move on to artistically; but with no idea how I was going to drop the Goddess image. It was by now my trademark. How was I going to expose the true spirit of beauty in the world?
There was a problem. An artist's body of work is more important than any one piece. Such a body takes years to create. My body was diverting attention away from my core message. Rebecca was right. I had to stop painting women. Synchronicity was much more acutely appreciated by ancient civilizations in both east and west. At this time I was studying the I Ching. I had known about the book and consulted it since my late teens on occasion. It advises one must, from time to time, clear out the stagnant stuff of life. I took out my frustration at the way things were going symbolically, on a piece of furniture, while rearranging my bedroom... as you do. The improvised arm chair was a recycling effort, made from discarded Styrofoam typewriter packing boxes I'd found on the street. Taped together and painted dark blue, to match the doors and windows of my studio/home, the chair was useless for sitting in because it creaked and squeaked if you tried, but it served as my clothes horse, so I kept it for a year. Now I broke it up and set the debris on fire in the back yard. It was a ritual disposal. But I'd failed to calculate for the copious quantity of oily black smoke.
Unseen, from behind the high boundary walls, topped with broken glass, neighbours began shouting in alarm. They infected me with panic. I rushed for a bucket of water to douse the flames as quickly as I could, crouching low to get to the seat of the fire. The unnerving clamour of neighbours was augmented by a loud flock of screeching parrots circling above the houses, assaulting my ears as I put out the fire. Then, as I looked up through the steam and smoke, the commotion suddenly increased in volume. Five birds crossed the roof line. The moment they arrived above my head, they clicked into a regular pentagon and time seemed to stop for a moment. I was immediately reminded of the comet artwork with a five pointed star, on the neighbour's garage wall at the entrance to our Vila. This was a definite sign. It was the year of Haley's comet. The number five, a pentagon, birds, flight, fire, a portent of change, or doom; what else could it mean? The typewriter cases suggested an instruction to write-up my experience. In alchemical symbolism of numbers, five means synergy and fire, a rising emanation of things. It also means a dependent intelligence. Rebecca had liked the way I'd expressed my art concept in writing, but I knew how long that statement had taken to perfect and it was only half a page. This sign of the pentagonal star held a daunting prospect for which I felt ill prepared and not especially talented.
Rebecca's words chimed in my head: "You'll have to force me." It seemed when she said it, she was referring to sex, "really dirty sex" as she put it, which was both exciting and disconcerting. Her phrase was now making different sense. Of course, if she were conscious of her ability to channel the Abstract; he, informing through her enigmatic lines, in moments of vision she slotted into a conversation, was saying I would have to expose the potential for synergy in us all. I was being shown here there's no other way than in written form.
I had seen all these effects. Synchronicity unfolding more and more since I'd developed my pursuit, but what I still needed from all this strangeness was an image, something I could stand up for, something to punctuate the world and focus its attention on the evidence of the abstract and timeless source.
My friends, Simon and Lisa ran a bar on Rua Hadock-Lobo in the Jardins district where ex-pats hung out of an evening. It was a warren of small rooms. They decided to renovate and turn it into an open plan pizzeria, with a modernist white cube look. This was a perfect exhibition space for two large canvasses Michael Woodward had sold to Athena posters, back in the UK. I offered them on loan. On the inaugural night, I'd collected a pile of cards from admirers. Looking through them I remembered Dianne, a Canadian pharmaceuticals executive I'd spoken to at length. I called her for advice on how I should approach my intended move to the US. Sheilagh, her flatmate answered, inviting me over to discuss it. Dianne had already moved-on.
Six years older than me, Sheilagh looked twenty years older. I looked young for my age and she looked a decade older than hers. Here was a strange twist. Sheilagh was identical twin to the wife of Chris Haney, the inventor of the board game Trivial Pursuit. Sheilagh had spent time in Kenya and was now living in São Paulo as a base for her attempts to license TP in South America. I was predisposed at the outset since synchronicity on the street, all the way to her door, had shown uncanny signs. The fact she was older by six years chimed with the conundrum Rebecca set at the beginning, way back in Wapping. Something about her touch also reminded me. We seemed to have much in common. I thought perhaps it would be enough, and ended up staying the night.
Conversation turned to Carl Jung. Sheilagh had just finished reading Aniela Jaffé's biography and gave me her copy. A short while later, on her summer trip north, I asked would she get me the Wilhelm-Baynes I Ching. I couldn't find it here. I'd sacrificed my copy to the Thames, along with Rebecca's Australian award winning novel, a Bible and Richard Attenborough's BBC book "Life on Earth."
Michael Woodward wasn't selling enough to make producing art for him worthwhile. I felt anyway that he was dragging me down a path I'd less and less desire to pursue. The glamour label being attached was irksome to me. My image of the "Beauty Icon" was always a metaphoric reference to our subconscious manipulation through attraction. The existence of physical attraction in the evolutionary scheme of things is a strategy designed by nature. No matter how you slice it, this was something hard wired, underpinning our desires and collective reality.
There thrives in Brazil a variety of popular magic called Umbanda. It involves ritual requests of "the spirits," an eclectic pantheon of these effigies is used as voodoo devices. There was an Umbanda paraphernalia shop on my local high street. Umbanda and its dark side Macumba, have African roots, as their names suggest. Magic rituals might involve sacrificing a chicken, chanting or singing, lighting candles, a cigar, drinking and smoking, and spilling some "Pinga" (sugar cane brandy) in a special way, while burning a secret prayer. The remnants of these rituals could be found on some street corners in my district. I was not going to involve myself in this sort of thing, but the imagery fascinated me, so I embarked on a pictorial experiment, pursuing synchronicity for clues to its direction. This was soon abandoned, but in the process I constructed an altar based on Shinto imagery collected while roaming the streets of Liberdade (Japanese town), in the centre of São Paulo. I felt more comfortable with the quality of the eastern philosophical references.
Using incense and candles obtained from the Umbanda store, the altar became my focus for meditation. After some weeks, there was a memorable result. I felt myself going into my meditative trance, faster and deeper than usual, like the sensation of a falling dream. The depth of the experience was characterised by a feeling of infinite scale. An unfamiliar voice, as clear as someone standing behind me then spoke: "Level Two," nothing more. I shot out of my trance. I had knocked and someone answered! It was a young man's voice. Not prior nor since have I heard another inside like that. I puzzled over it until I discovered, years later, "level two" is the term used by cognitive scientists referring to the unconscious mind. What had been confirmed was the living power of the collective unconscious as a responsive presence; the timeless, immortal spirit of mankind, the dead, actively within this place...within us, biding their time, as a timeless unity would, to be revealed through moments of feedback.
In São Paulo I'd developed my synchronicity intuitions, but I was still puzzled to know where it could take my art. Rebecca's lines still provided pointers as my quest unfolded, but if all these influences were part of the bigger picture with a message for everyone, I was at a loss. I was also in doubt I could stand up in public to proclaim that vision without proof my relationship to it "worked." I'd be laughed out of town. I continued to believe it possible to construct a bridge for others to cross, but I knew ultimately I must abandon illustrative references to beauty and purge all suggestion of sexual magnetism from my art. I felt if I could only pursue the path in North America, I would have a chance of being understood.
I found common ground with Sheilagh on most issues. Soon I'd convinced myself a loving bond had grown between us. She was so very charming and kind. I had already read an amount of Jung's academic work. Memories, Dreams & Reflections, the biography she gave me, is more accessible. I'd certainly recommend it as an introduction to Jung and his ideas. I found synchronicity guiding me to pursue the spiritual alchemy suggested by his experiments with mandalas and moved to develop this through my meticulous re-reading of the Ta Chuan. That's the part of the I Ching, in the middle of the Wilhelm-Baynes translation; the puzzling pages most give-up on. There's a chapter in Jung's biography about the therapeutic use of the mandala as a way of establishing a relationship to the immensity and complexity of the universe; to "find one's place" so to speak, by visualizing the pattern in it all. This was something I thought would be worthwhile, so I took a stab at building my own mandala, since synchronicity confirmed the tack, along with the idea of restructuring the traditional I Ching mandala, called the Bagua.
Brazilians are not unnecessarily concerned about car theft. I had vehicles stolen three times in my sojourn. Weirdly, two were returned, but one, a cool, old Dodge Dart, was stolen a second time. Most had a car theft alarm installed. São Paulo was alive with them going off throughout this whole period. The urban driving style down there then also used the horn in preference to the brake. My creation of a mandala involved these countable "sonics" confirming and guiding my thoughts through their timing and the symbolism of numbers. Ideas came spontaneously to mind, to be confirmed and considered in this way. At other times, synchronicity answered or provoked questions by emphasising ideas that occurred while reading the monthly crop of New Scientist magazines my father sent over with a letter from home. What I was really after was a practical and universal system of spirituality for interacting with nature in daily life; something with evidence to back it up that fitted the gaps in vision science was leaving vacant. The biggest of them of course is the absence of a theory of mind... and how we might be linked to nature in real time through a conscious sensibility. Consciousness is even referred to as "The Hard Problem" by science. I thought I might just be qualified to contribute something, with my experience.
Cabalists use the "Tree of Life," which is a kind of mandala. In my attempt to learn about magic back in London, I'd gone through the motions of joining a Cabala group. Circumstances had warned me off, but something about a task they'd set me for the initiation brought me to the point of creating a mandala as the reconfiguration of the bagua, crossed with the tree of life; using the trigram archetypes of the I Ching, which itself says: over time, "The Source" gets muddied and confused. Renewing it was my mission.
An idea came to mind while I was contemplating basic geometry: a memory of overlapping lattice planes and the patterns formed where movement by an observer in relation, reveals an interference pattern between the lattice grids. The pattern is different for each observer at any time, because it relies on their viewpoint. To my mind, this was a graphic analogy to spiritual insight, generated by personal experience of synchronicity; our personal view of the pattern of guidance in all of nature. I remembered that interference pattern from frequently driving past a school in Bow (east London), where two chain link fences interfered visually. Also, back in Wapping, an artist friend had made effective use of these patterns in his sculptures, by modeling the human torso in fine wire mesh. He'd been signed-up by Rebecca's former employer, while showing in my studio at the Metro Show.
Interference patterns are analogous to the power of synergy... two things combine to create a dynamic partnership. Would they allow the Abstract to portray his ubiquitous presence, without pollution from spurious intentions, mine or anyone else's? Interference generating a pure beauty through "found structures," was repeatedly confirmed as the route to follow.
Beauty emerging from a mathematical pattern is the only abstract truth we can know... Emphatic sonics gave confirmation as I mused on the possibility of applying the binary data the I Ching contains.
On reading the 'Ta Chuan' I now settled on the name for my partner, whose image I was seeking. It was time to invoke him by the name he would choose. My new art was going to be a portrait of the Anthropic Abstract, the Tao, nature's Supercalculating Intellect, the Great Spirit, the God of Abraham, Allah etc. Those are all names or descriptions assigned for one perception. What name would he choose? On asking the question I received this:
There's a part of the 'Ta Chuan' dealing with the Taoist path to enlightenment, known as the path of Li; the alchemical path of fire, analogous to the transformative furnace of the Biblical tale of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the book of Daniel... the story is not about some miracle of invulnerability, as some literalists might assume. As with all religious myth, it's a metaphor. In the I Ching, it's said for disciples on the path of Li (fire) answers come from left and right (L+R). The concept certainly chimed with my synchronicity experience and as I was reading those words a sonic emphasized the point. (L+R) Elandar had named himself.
After spending some weeks with Sheilagh on her return from Canada, I took time-out to work on all these ideas at my studio across town. The Jewel Mandala came to light late that evening. What I'd achieved in that simple image was, I knew of significance, because synchronicity both guided its construction then gave emphasis to the event on the global stage. At the exact same time, a Hurricane force storm, what they called a once in five hundred year event, devastated the south of England (my homeland). Michael Fish, the top weatherman of the day mentioned on air: "A woman phoned in, saying a Hurricane was on the way." He told the nation not to worry, it wasn't going to happen. He's remembered to this day for the blunder. At the exact same time Rebecca also signed the lease on her first art gallery in Windmill Street, London.
Position 1: (Ken) The Mountain. There's ample justification for assigning trigram Ken, The Mountain, in the first position. Synchronicity of the most emphatic kind confirmed it. A Mountain is the highest point of the material world; symbolically the closest to heaven, considered the home of Gods in many cultures.
Symmetry required I then place 'The Arousing', Chên, diametrically opposite Ken, in position 9. The problem of selecting the trigram for the second position was then troubling. It had to be the one that was in some way complimentary and opposite to The Mountain. I decided upon (Tui) The Lake. Not only is it opposite in shape, in its symbolism, a lake is often found at the foot of a mountain. In the beauty of the landscape it reflects and compliments a mountain naturally. The choice was confirmed by a big "sonic".
The options for position 3 also had to reflect Tui in progression, reflection and complimentary opposition. The obvious candidate was Sun: Penetrating Wood, because of its inverse shape. The transition from Tui to Sun reminded me of spinning motion, forward progression via revolution. Tui means Joy, fullness and excess, but also containment within bounds, whereas Sun means a limitless wisdom, gently influencing things.
Because the forth position is diagonally below and across the mandala, it proposes the first three trigrams form a distinct unit. Joining them with lines creates a triangle pointing upward, like a great, broad based mountain. Lake and Wood are natural companions to the unity expressed by this mountain, just as we find in Nature. Essentially trigrams 1, 2 & 3 form a trinity representing the home of beauty in nature.
Position 4 suggests a new beginning, representing the opening out and the reflection or counterpoint to beauty. The image of the first triplet is of terrestrial landscape: Mountain, Lake and Wood. The obvious candidate for position 4 is water: The Abyss, Danger (K'an).
We associate the mountain (Ken) with sublime grandeur. The fertile land issues from the mountains as they erode, producing landmarks of home and belonging, whereas the sea represents a featureless wilderness, unremitting and unforgiving, unceasing and disconcerting. But the sea also symbolizes the uncharted journey of life, subject to danger on all sides, hidden riches and hidden sustenance also issue from this medium through which we must navigate. While there is risk involved with climbing the mountain, it's more about the difficulty of a specific challenge than it is about a mysterious ever present peril. We always know the route back home from the mountain whereas the sea is a metaphor of the unknown in our everyday experience, where the journey of life in our personal vessel of experience, plies a great ocean alone, so easy to become lost, even wrecked... without a compass.
The obvious candidate to oppose and compliment water is Fire (Li). Fire and water are elemental opposites in alchemy. Water moves downward, whereas fire strives upward. Water is cool, Fire hot etc.
I then came to the problem of how to fit the next trigram into place, considering there are only eight trigrams, but ten single digit numbers, if one includes zero and I had to reconcile the trigrams to the integers. The whole mandala is egg shaped, like a big zero.
The Ta Chuan states 'The Arousing' (Chên), shines twice. It was also the trigram I'd already decided would go diametrically opposite the first position (Ken). If 'The Arousing' shines twice, it should appear twice in the mandala, in which case it would naturally position itself for its second appearance at the focus of the ellipse assigned to the number six. This second triangular grouping 4, 5, 6 is linked into the last triangle via The Arousing trigram (Chên) it shares. This downward pointing triangle trinity feels instable, suggesting a dynamic balance we need to consider and reconsider constantly, descriptive of the triplet: Water, Fire, and Arousing Spirit; all archetypes of movement and change.
The seventh position is the start of the third triplet, naturally awarded 'The Creative' attribute (Chien). Seven is the number traditionally associated with the Universal Creative principle (who's symbol, in the East is a dragon). Its complimentary opposite is K'un: 'The Receptive' (symbolized by the cow), allocated the number 8. Position 9 is already established as 'The Arousing' (Chên), so this last triplet forms another triangle that can be point up or down. Its implication: a repeating pattern in time nudging the evolution of all things along by bringing the masculine and feminine together in our constant search, through active judgment, balanced along the tightrope of action towards insight.
Establishing and confirming this arrangement of the trigrams took about ten minutes. What I had come up with however, although satisfying in one way was I thought not a sufficiently striking image.
I spent the rest of the weekend copying out the hexagram series' from the I Ching, onto a large sheet of paper with the mandala in the middle. I was simultaneously finishing off a couple of the canvasses for Divina Decadencia to use in the last episode of their publicity campaign.
Painting is an occupation providing time to ruminate. I'd say rumination is vital. In one of the canvases (here below), titled: Powers of Instinct, where I thought I might even have captured that fleeting look of Rebecca's, I selected a number of characters to include from my Chinese dictionary, the book I used for bibliomancy (inducing synchronicity to order). These characters pointed elliptically, I felt, to the meaning becoming conscious through the mandala.
I spent time deciding on a name for the mandala while contemplating the potential it held for creating a pattern of interference. Recalling something scribbled in my address book in red ink by Rebecca. She'd changed my entry for Brian Hunt. Brian was the friend from my art school days who'd originally turned me on to transcendental meditation. Her clue read: go Hunt for JM + find E1. I decided my mandala looked a lot like a cut jewel. The `J' for Jewel chimed with her clue and sonic synchronicity confirmed the idea. The Jewel Mandala (JM) had been found.
Over the next hours I could now fully focus on how to generate the interference pattern I was seeking. My insistence on mathematical evidence and the realisation the hexagram system of the I Ching is a binary sequence; combined now to produce one of those "aha moments," where I pounced on the I Ching Sheilagh brought back from Canada. I'd noticed something I'd seen nowhere else. There was another series in there, yes; Wilhelm's index of hexagrams.
There are, in the tradition of the I Ching, only a handful of different ways to arrange the 64, six line characters, representing oracular wisdom, called hexagrams. One of the series', the Fu Xi (created circa 600 AD) goes precisely the way of the modern binary code, designed by Gottfried Leibniz. It parallels the first 64 binary numbers including zero (using its horizontal line symbolism instead of the Arabic 1 & 0). Hexagrams were never proposed as a counting or calculating system. The 17th century mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, inventor of our modern binary code, was interested in Chinese mathematics. He even acknowledged the equivalence. This image actually belonged to him:
Wilhelm, in his index had some intellectual fun by devising his own series. As an index it wasn't presented in the same way as the classic series' of course, but I could easily make it comply. Wilhelm created a series where the end mirrors the beginning, in negative. Compare them below.
With the idea of interference in mind, running through some options, while listening for synchronicity to confirm a path to pursue, I was led to a way of combining the tradition King Wen sequence and the Wilhelm index, the two series' furthest apart in time. The King Wen is about 3000 years old; Wilhelm's was published in 1950.
The method produces mathematical evidence of a timeless intelligence, not our own, integral to all situations, events, and individuals embedded within us all. Thus Elandar, as a creative force in nature and the mind of man, exposes his influence on the creative mind, generating his own image through the data presented unconsciously via these two authors, who were simply oblivious to the fact their work contains the data. Even if they had known, they could not have collaborated, since they lived so far apart in time and geography. This proves the symbolism belongs to a collective unconscious, a transcendental or alien force of mind.
As discoverer, I am creator of it through my synergy relationship with nature. The experiment I propose should reveal others who can perform the same feat.
I was, throughout this creative process, conscious of what I was doing, though not of the outcome in prospect. I was looking for an image. Sure I made all this happen by my willingness to work in synergy, continuing along an unlikely road, with devotion to Elandar, accepting his guidance in synchronicity. But that's something anyone could replicate.
The criteria I follow in the JM, where the eight trigrams are arranged so differently from the Bagua, enshrine the idea of complimentary opposites and the essential path, like a guiding progression. I thought the principle might yield a simple formula to generate an interference pattern. Sure enough, synchronicity confirmed the idea. I then noticed on my diagrammatic drawing of the JM, each line in the Jewel links a pair of trigrams. Hexagrams combine a pair of trigrams, so each line in the JM represents two hexagrams, one the inverse of the other. I'd written out the King Wen series beside my mandala, then numbered the hexagrams, using two digits at the beginning: 01, 02 etc, rather than simply 1, 2, 3. Because of this, I realised now I could mirror or reverse the digits. I could pair-up 05 with 50 to express reflection, analogous to synchronicity and feedback. Synchronicity chimed-in to confirm my intuition. By applying the idea to both series, I realised I could create sets of hexagrams combining King Wen and Wilhelm codes in equal measure, expressing a set of symbols, plotted as JM lines.
It was late evening; I'd compiled ten or twelve sets, but by now I was exhausted, making mistakes. The task needed concentration, so I left it for the Monday.
The Pyramid language is intimately linked to the I Ching both for its source philosophy and mathematics. It's important to know that, to understand how it differs from traditional oracles like Tarot or Astrology where a long tradition exists, but it cannot provide evidence of a universal source.
The I Ching tradition proposes a small number of hexagram sequences; Fu Xi, King Wen, Shao Yong. When these are presented as four lines of 16 hexagrams, they resemble IBM data cards from the 1960's.
Synchronicity can be understood as real time feedback with nature's timeless origin. If that's correct, guidance obtained, once followed to a goal in partnership, must be consciously synergistic.
The I Ching, which takes the form of an oracle composed of statements for devotees to draw inspiration from, nudges inspiration along, using chance as a decisive mechanism. It is quite limited, but it works like the freeform pursuit of synchronicity I'd been observing for years to get to this point. The main difference being an I Ching reading might reasonably be drawn once a day. Following freeform synchronicity (the path of Li) will bring up hundreds of guiding signs in a day.
The wisdom attached to the hexagrams and the Pyramid symbols is available to study in my Distilled Wisdom of the I Ching. Basically I've simplified Wilhelm's translation. As a Jesuit, he spent his missionary years in China through the 1920's. His translation was first published in 1950 with foreword by Carl Jung. The book fuelled a surge of interest, post WW2, in the pre-scientific lore, or alchemy of the east, a hitherto unconsidered spiritual vision.
The index series designed by Wilhelm simulates musical scales, and contains a palindrome kind of logic. The King Wen sequence was created about 1000 BC while the monarch was languishing in prison, held for ransom. He designed his arrangement resembling the simple melody, where the left and right hands are expressed together, mostly as inverted pairs of chords, like the piano tune "chopsticks". Some pairs mirror each other, like the first pair. A form of pairing repeated in: 27-28 and 29-30, then 61-62 and 63-64. You'll notice unlike Wilhelm's, there is no obvious logic of progression within the series. Note also the last pairing exhibits both mirror-like opposition and the alternate summersault kind.
Don't worry about the complexity. Appreciation the patterns, multifaceted significance underlying the symbolism and the systematic way everything combines to construct the symbolic language from hidden information.
The fact it falls so uncannily into place to reveal meaning, begs the question: What is the essential quality of the timeless force at work, by extension responsible for our collective and your personal predicament today. Elandar has apparently planned this conjunction of elements through unconsciously motivated interactions within all people throughout history; along with every other thing or change or movement in nature as one whole, bringing us all to this precarious state we find ourselves in? Are we locked on course for self destruction by him, or is there a choice we can make to head off disaster by recognizing the value of guidance available? Is this art (his revelation) the key, come to unlock a trajectory for advance in synergy with nature's timeless intelligence? If you hear knocking, answer the door.
These binary series were created by two authors, long dead; one of them lived thousands of years ago, the other in the 20th century. Both were devotees of the oriental philosophy whose roots lie in prehistoric traditions of ancestor worship, where the "afterlife spirit" was venerated, synonymous with the creative spirit of change in nature (the Anthropic Abstract). In other words, the philosophy out of which the Pyramid arises, maintains, when we die, we automatically become one with nature in the timeless dimension, as the physical body ceases to be viable as a vector for his "life force."
This must mean in life, the mind straddles the dimensions already: the three dimensions of space, time and the timeless = five. How else would our spirit, assuming we have one, know where to go on death, since we don't even know in life where or what it is? It implies, while alive, the mind is connected with nature on the timeless level operating as a vehicle for Elandar to generate effects such as intuition, dreams, déjà vu, synchronicity, impulses and who knows what else, even our reasoned choices, organized via the hidden, spirit of the ancestors, the collective unconscious. So while still in this life, we can benefit from listening to the spirit within, to our eternal self, so as to develop synergistic partnership with nature through feedback. Some things might then indeed happen like magic.
If our own immortal spirit is at one with nature in a timeless dimension beyond this life, Elandar must influence our thinking and our creative acts in every moment. A synergistic life on one level then is simply a process of considering and playing out our feedback connection with him. We could develop intuitively to be consciously conditioned through such feedback, but only if we are aware of his influence. If not we are poor puppets, ignominious automata to whom free will is an illusion. In theory, the greater our attention to feedback guidance, the greater the genius such synergy could induce.
Notice how the JM splits the component hexagrams in half and presents numbers, the alphabet and a range of meaning associated, as equivalent to the trigrams. Any line within the mandala, of which there are twenty-eight, can also be defined as a pair of hexagrams. There are fifty-six hexagrams represented by the lines. The remaining eight (64 in total) have identical upper and lower trigrams. These are represented by a circle at the numbered point in the JM. The Pyramid symbols are created as combinations of components. Review my "Wisdom of the I Ching" pages on the Papolona website for a survey of the hexagrams and my "Interpretation of the Symbols" to discover what all these "ready made" squiggles mean, as a language.
The following demonstrates how the symbols are constructed. I offer the fifth symbol as the first example. The number below each hexagram pair is its position in the source sequence. The number below the hexagram to the right refers to the position of the image set, as a line included as part of the symbol. Note where the digit zero appears in any JM coordinates, it corresponds to the trigram 6 or 9.