Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Tower is not a Mast

I spotted this communications tower outside a supermarket in Rome and I couldn't resist the shape and the colours. The shop was on a fast road out of Rome with many commercial establishments and not much else. The tower is quite a symbol. In this case, it's all about communication and reaches skywards - it might be said to join the heavens. All towers have some kind of deep earthworks underneath. But whereas in the past, foundations would have been packed with rubble, they are now stabilised by massive concrete blocks sunk into the earth. So the connection between heavens and underworld is complete. But this tower is topless. It is capped by no dome or any adornment other than antennae and some spotlights - communication and light are directed earthwards. In that sense the tower remains a positive symbol because communication enhances awareness and is part of the acquisition of consciousness. In the symbolism of towers, the ladder is most important. Workers must go up and down to build the tower - but also to carry out essential maintenance. They continually ascend and descend this axis between earth and heaven, complicit in some energetic broadcast. This is a modern tower and it has a close relation to traditional tower structures. It is not a mast. The mast is always tethered by guy wires and thus is a different symbol altogether. It's the free standing tower that connotes solidity and strength. If you dream you're on a tower, then think how you feel. Are you strong or vulnerable? Are you pleased with your view across the city or are you trembling and anxious you may fall?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Time to say Yes

There comes to a time no matter what, when we have to make a stand. I am always saying that whatever the circumstances, one always loves one's country. Scotland is my country. I have never been happy with its attachment to England. So today is a big day - and like everyone else I can't be certain of the outcome of the Referendum. Jenny is a favourite character in my stories at Follow the Wabbit and it's her face I'm privileging here. She is of course a pirate and a pirate is independent. Pirates were usually in the employ of the state, but they were privateers. They made alliances where they could and took part of the proceeds - the American War of Independence was alive with privateers. Most psychotherapists are freelance and by the same token they are independent. We all value our independence. We continually emphasise that our children should seek independence and break free from the parents. They must give up the parent archetype and the parents must give up the child archetype. The pirate - with all that piracy entails - is free from the parents. But freedom comes at a price. The domineering parent may try to keep control for their own narcissistic reasons. Their children are often mere projections of themselves. But Scotland is more than a projection of England - more than the costumes and the haggis continually trotted out for foreign guests. I did give Jenny the Pirate Chief a Scottish costume though. She is Glasgow post-punk. She's kitsch and a little terrifying, I wouldn't get in her way. She's for Scottish Independence and so am I.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Art and the Suitable Container

This is by way of a nice story. A fellow artist got in touch to tell me she had made a painting from one of my blog entries. It's this one here and I was delighted. Her name is Stefania Vignotto who lives in Thailand and her paintings are at Fine Art America. But the story isn't finished. Stefania wanted to send me a quality print, but there was difficulty that day in getting the right container. Stefania cycled all around and found a tiny post office where a helpful woman said she would make a bespoke package. So the woman made a double envelope then tied the package up with the string her mother uses for home made sweets that she sells in her shop. Duly mailed out, the painting reached me a week later, safe and sound. After I unwrapped it, Otis the cat descended on the string and adopted it as a toy. It was a joyful sequence. Since the painting will now hang in a place of importance, I will recall the story when I pass it. Stefania saw something in my photograph and added her interpretation to create something wonderful. But I liked the story of container and wrapping so much that they became, for me, part of the object. In Jungian psychology, the container provides a protective covering. The persona, for example, is a necessary container that protects the inner self - but problems arise when we confuse the two. Patina as container is something different. Over time, covering and the covered are organically fused. In my case, the container is patina and provenance. Even if I consider the painting alone, I doubt I'll be able to separate my thoughts of painting, container and journey.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Representation in the Lived Space of the City

There are so many things happening in this shot, but I hardly recall I took it. Maybe I composed it, but I don't think so. Street poles arranged themselves and no less than three arrows aligned. Some objects seem to echo each other. And of course we shouldn't neglect the football boy in the mural. What's he pointing at? I know this was before midday, but what is that crowd outside the church? It may have been a funeral, despite the informal dress. I am critical and I'm not content to see a space without looking for a representation of space. This is more than a collection of angles and buildings and street furniture and it's so much more than things in a frame. On one level it's a lived space, but it's more than one single space. We need to recognise the political space of the city otherwise we live an illusion. I mentioned time but is there time in this photograph? We can stare and stare but we won't see time. We see movement, we see shape and we even recognise change but we can never see time. Henri Lefebvre notes that the tree leaves rings as a mark of time and this time is physically inscribed in natural space. If we look we can easily see the time of the tree, but the city hides time. Moreover, time is concealed within the frame of the photograph, which is a fragment of space. I do know the actual time of day of the photo of course - it's 10:16 am. The shutter speed - the fragment of time - is 1/250th of  a second. That occupies a technological space completely hidden from the people within this photograph.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Skulls, Alchemy and Rebirth

This skull resides in the workshop in Nürnberg where a good friend practices her craft. The workshop is rather unusual because it houses a printing technique known as Xylography.A design is cut out in wood, then a limited run of imprints are made using a special machine. You may know of the artist and political thinker William Morris. He was a famous xylography artist but I know my friend is his equal for fine cutting! This is the web site of artist Anke Vogler  so that you can see the kind of detailed work that's possible. Nürnberg is famous for Albrecht Dürer, another xylography artist. You may even have seen his famous picture of a hare, which is a symbol of Nürnberg. But that doesn't tell us about skulls! The skull is a repository of life and is part of alchemy. The scene above looks quite alchemical doesn't it? The skull is the seat of control, centre of operations and ultimately the womb of knowledge. Most famous for its place above the St Andrew's crossed bones in which skull and crossbones represents the four quarters of nature and perfection. The reason for the symbol's adaptation as the pirate "Jolly Roger" is not known - but "giving no quarter" springs to mind. As an alchemical symbol the skull connotes putrefaction, but putrefaction involves rebirth and the cycle of life and death. In alchemy, the new man arises from the crucible in which the old was annihilated. There are only a few people left who can do this kind of skilled work. Perhaps the skull is there to remind us of that.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Things come around: Fairground Attraction

This big wheel isn't unusual except for its position. It's to the rear of the old Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nürnberg. I guess if you visit Nürnberg you have to go there - although I did find it uncomfortable. It's rather a massive place, although much was demolished after the war and more recently in the sixties. I hadn't realised it was used as a prisoner of war camp. Many Allied prisoners helped to build this daunting place until they were replaced by German prisoners - the wheel of time revolves. In the thirties, the Nazi Party even had a funfair housed in wooden building within the site. But I was feeling a little sad after I explored the interior where the museum is housed - and when I saw the Big Wheel I snatched a shot because I had to. It's the sky that makes the picture - it was that kind of day and I reflected. The ceaseless turn of the wheel leads to renewal but nothing can stop the direction of the wheel. We may not turn it back, yet it always moves. Unlike the circle however, spokes suggest the sun. In Hinduism, the wheel is not only solar. It is cosmic and hence intergalactic. A single horse pulls a single wheeled chariot like a voyaging star. But perhaps this particular wheel means something more - wheel symbolism also includes the wheel of fortune and of course the Tarot springs to mind. Where Jungian thought is concerned, the rise and fall of the cars connote alteration and compensation. Some say this means justice.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Feuerbach's Beard. The point is to change it


I find it interesting to come across the grave of someone I've read. This is the resting place of Ludwig Feuerbach, a teacher of Karl Marx and the subject of one of his most famous works. Long years ago, my old college chums would amuse me by criticising Feuerbach for not being a Marxist. Of course, it's hardly possible that he would be. Without Feuerbach, there would be no essay on Feuerbach and that was seminal to Marx's development and outlook. It is within "Theses on Feuerbach" that we meet the famous line, "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." Marx emphasised the practical activities of humans and to some extent psychoanalysts do also - although we can often sink into the marshes of ideology. Thought on its own doesn't go anywhere. It emerges in practice and only then is it a vehicle for change. People in analysis want to change. So the contemplation process that we encourage must eventually be practiced in the real material word by the real flesh and blood person. Feuerbach himself was a great thinker but I'm afraid I was more fascinated by his beard than his writing. A beard is a sign of bravery. Many cultures insist on them and the greatest of gods are depicted with beards. In Ancient Egypt, they were often imitation with a curled point at the end. I'm not a beard person - I'm a moustache person and I appear to be in luck, because the symbolism is much the same.