So here we have some freshly made new work that is based on the original 8 trigrams of the I Ching. For those unfamiliar with the I Ching, (and I would count myself among them as I have only recently been blessed with being exposed to this amazing work of wisdom), the 64 six line hexagrams that make up the I Ching are based on the original three line trigrams shown in the center area of these works. The I Ching itself is a divination and wisdom vehicle that has been in use for thousands of years in China and the East. It is really only in the last half of this century, that we here in the West, especially in America, have come to meet this unique work. While I had seen some of the hexagrams and trigrams over the years and had a very vague knowledge of the book (The I Ching is also known as The Book of Changes) as a divination tool, it is only through my truly blessed connection with my soul’s mate and companion, who I will lovingly refer to as Zen Girl for purposes of identification here, and who through, I was enlightened to discover more about this fascinating and ancient tool.
Much has been written about the I Ching and if you are interested there are certainly many, many webpages devoted to explaining the work in a literary and philosophical sense along with explanations on how to access the wisdom through various means of divination. Some of the more popular ways of accessing the oracle of the I Ching are through the use of coins, yarrow sticks and cards. The card method is much like a tarot type of method, except that you are drawing one card for either a particular question you may have of the oracle, or you are drawing a card based on a defined area of your life. The methods are all useful and however you choose to interact with the I Ching, and it is an interaction that is occurring, an alchemical interaction that will change you should you decide to heed the advice that your intention/intuition and the I Ching have given you. I don’t know why you wouldn’t, as frankly, you did consult an oracle and ask for guidance, right? But sometimes we question ourselves, don’t we? I know I have been known to do that, lol.
The eight base trigrams are the basis for all of the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching. The 64 hexagrams all deal with the various states of change and related courses of action that we, as human beings encounter in our interaction with the world. The history of this work is far more and much deeper than I can go into here, or for that matter, feel any kind of qualified to write about. I have included several links at the bottom of this post that will send you off on your quest for more I Ching information.
The idea of change, or Change, capital C, has always fascinated me. It is, after all, at the very core of our human existence as well as that of the vast universe. The universe and everything in it, is in a constant flow of Change. You never see the same river twice now do you? We age, and hence change, moment by moment. Seasons change, even at the equator, there are seasonal changes, cycles. Rocks change. The land masses of the earth change. Some things change so slowly, or so quickly, as to appear to not change to our physical human senses, but rest assured that when you wake up tomorrow there has been lots and lots of change taking place while you slept.
And that brings me to my fascination with change, or probably more accurately, how much we as human beings attempt to control change, as if we actually had that power. It’s an interesting paradox, or perhaps, juxtaposition. We know everything changes. We know we ourselves change over time. And I think we even understand on a cellular level, that change is good. Change is necessary. Change is a possibility. Change is a doorway. Change is a new path. Change offers us many possibilities and opportunities to redefine ourselves, to reinvent ourselves, and yet, change is very stressful for so many of us. The ancient Chinese minds that conceived the I Ching must have understood this. For the I Ching is also a method, developed by humans, to master change, to navigate the inevitable changes we encounter in our time on this plane. The I Ching attempts to be a guidebook through which we can learn how to best manage and master a particular change we may be encountering The I Ching is not, at least in my understanding, a yes/no kind of oracle. Stick to pendulums or other methods if you are searching your self for answers and guidance in that style. No, the I Ching is a more subtle, and more detailed look at the possibilities in a situation.
Discovering this work, or more precisely, discovering the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching courtesy of my beloved Zen Girl, was one of those “aha!” moments that we often get in life. A synchronicity that makes you go “Wow!” Enlightenment. That moment when things that have been rolling around in your over stuffed noggin suddenly find each other and the synapses fire in a new way and you see something very differently. Or perhaps you see something more clearly. Such was the case when I saw a graphic showing the 64 hexagrams. And in that, there is a bit of back story, of personal history that needs to be revealed.
So why squares? As in why is this site called Sacred Squares? This has all come together in me very recently and mostly through the influence and guidance of my beloved Zen Girl. When I decided to move from music to visual art in the mid to late nineties, one of the areas that really interested me was the digital art. Yes, I played with just about every type of “fine art” process (printmaking, sculpture,photography,pottery, design, painting, etc,…), but where I was really doing the most work was on the computer. By the late 1990’s I had invested in what then was a state-of-the -art pro-sumer digital camera. A 2.1 megapixel beauty from Canon that cost roughly $1,200. Armed with a way to take endless amounts of photographs and download them quickly, along with a shiny new Apple “Wall Street” laptop, and a copy of Photoshop, I began making art. Now, I like to work in large formats for the most part. 6’x3′ and larger is all good with me, The trouble was, the computing power of the day along with the programs wouldn’t allow for that. Not with all the layers that I would use to develop the work. It’s still not the most efficient way to work unless you got a shit ton of memory. Back then it was impossible. So I started breaking down these larger works into smaller, say 6 inch squares and reassembling them in pieces to form the final, flattened, larger piece. Since then I’ve always worked in squares, even doing large scale mosaic type pieces built on one inch by one inch squares. Literally thousands of squares can go into those pieces. So when I saw the I Ching hexagrams, it hit me… “They’re squares!” I was in, I was hooked, I had to play with them. I knew there was something there.
My only hesitation was for my beloved Zen Girl’s devotion and respect of the source oracle, the I Ching. Zen Girl is very spiritual. Deeply spiritual. She is committed to her spiritual practice and engages it on a daily basis. Along with her study of the I Ching, she is devoted to yoga. I didn’t want to offend her, or cause a schism of any kind in our relationship by “playing” with the hexagrams in a way that wasn’t reverent. She was also the person who had turned me onto this oracle, this book of wisdom. The thing, or one of the things about Zen Girl, is that she is most encouraging of my artistic endeavors while retaining the ability to be critical, or to critique the work in an intelligent way. I approached the subject by creating something and showing it to her. To my relief she loved it, added value and creative direction and insight through her comments and the world opened up. She encouraged me to explore this new fascination and Sacred Square was born
Sorry for that long winded and roundabout tale, but I felt it was necessary at this point. Now let’s talk about the actual art work. My art in this arena is coming from and is informed by my design based background. That is because of a couple of reasons. The first is that, I love design. Of all types. I’m one of those people who can appreciate and marvel at the design of industrial objects, or a candle holder in a resale shop. I just love the stuff. No, I’m not a cool, too hip “design junkie” who has painted the rooms of their house in Pantone colors, lol, but I appreciate and understand those who would. Give me some Mies or Eames furniture, some cool 60’s Italian housewares and I’m set. I can spend the day in modernism and love a great antique shop.
The second reason Sacred Square work is more design based than much of what you see in the arena of Spiritual/Metaphysical based art, is that there is already plenty of that stuff out there if that is what you want. There are lots of brilliant and talented artists that are creating more “fine art” based work along these lines. Alex Grey, Robert Venosa and many other talented and visionary artists are out there creating fantastic art in a more “realistic/drawing” style. That isn’t my strength. Design is. And there is not that much design based stuff out there. So for me, the path to explore is quite clear. My niche’, so to speak, is open.
So about these works. This series of exploration began with the basics of shape. Squares, triangles and circles. These shapes are evocative in and of themselves and have different meanings across different cultures. The circle stands for the infinite, or heaven. The square stand for the finite, or Earth. The triangle is man/woman. I began by restricting the exploration to these shapes and the eight base trigrams that make up the I Ching. I also wanted to restrict color in these works. So the palette for this series of explorations is a simple, yet classic one; red, black and white. Colors have associations. Lots of varied associations across and within cultural groups. Color is also very subjective. Many men are color blind. Or perhaps, color limited, in what they can see. So those were the basic tenants from which this series of work began. And here’s a tip… you can’t screw up when you stick to red, black and white, lol. It just works.
So the first work is the beginning, the base for the others. In this work, negative and positive spaces or background/foreground is played with a bit. There is a rather direct power in this piece. The trigrams are bold. They are charged. Simple lines. The only curved line is that of the red circle in the center. This center point could serve as a focus point for a meditative journey. The original work is 18×18 inches. I am considering creating some poster prints of it. If you’re interested, contact me. The outside of the design is broken between black and white borders. I like this as the white border opens the field up and the black border contains the energy. Inner and outer ways of being. Expansion and containment. The known and the unknown. As for cross cultural riffing and/or influences in these works, there are a few at play. It is impossible for me, or any of us, to not be the product of all that I or we encounter. Not only in the visual realm, but in all creative endeavors. In this work I can see the obvious of the I Ching and the East in the trigrams. However the color and the strong shapes elements speak of early 20th century design. The Bauhaus in Germany, and there is perhaps more than a hint of De Stijl from the Netherlands in the work. I’m a huge fan of both.
Then we move to the second work, which is in a larger format, 36×36 inches and takes the original piece as its center point. Around the original design we have a field of red. You may think of this as the color of the base chakra if you are so inclined. In this field we have some black and white squares extending from the center work out to the edge in diagonals that to me create a motion, a movement. They also introduce another cultural element to this in my mind. Navajo sand paintings. I have always found these to be quite fascinating and I first discovered them during a more spiritual/metaphysical point in my life some 15 years ago. They are decidedly spiritual and healing works and I in no way intend or infer that my work is the same. I do however recognize the influence of having seen some of these works and the appearance of that influence in mine. Thus the second work in this series begins to take on that feel to me.
The third work evolves from the first two. Now we are larger in format again, 40×40 inches. A black border surrounds the red field which has now been populated with the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching along with black and white circles. The hexagrams surround the diagonal lines that reach from the main center area. The extend also around the circles. In a way this is showing how the 64 flow from the original eight trigrams. Since the I Ching is The Book of Changes, I felt drawn to express some thoughts on change in the black border. Hence the title of the work is “Change Is”. The words can be read in any order, though some may feel there is a pairing between left and right and top and bottom. The words themselves are merely some thoughts and statements on my personal philosophy of change. I’ll take a look at the words next.
Top line: “Change is the nature of the world.”Well yes it is. Change, as previously discussed, is the nature of all things. We are all in a state of change, of flux. And that’s good, because the alternative is stagnation, or at least a good sized rut, lol. And there is no point in fighting the nature of the world, or your true nature for that matter. Accepting change is essential if one is going to be happy, or at the core, if one is wanting to choose happiness.
Bottom line: “Embrace the possibilities.”
Indeed, for that is the path of growth, of happiness. It is also hard to do sometimes. We like the way things are. We’re comfortable with the way things are. We’ve grown accustomed to things being a certain way. This is why we often get “upset” or experience upset when a significant other or spouse or child expresses a desire to try something new, to, in effect, change the status quo. If you’re not in a state of dissatisfaction with things, then why, oh why, do they want to change anything? It’s been a lot of hard work to get to this “contentment”. We don’t want to disrupt it. But the truth is we must. All disruption is not of the negative variety as we often tend to fear. Disruption is growth, or at least the opportunity or possibility for growth. And growth is good. Seeking expansion, seeking more is in our dna. When we embrace the new, when we step into possibility, we are creating. And we love to create. We all do. we’re makers and thinkers and doers. Whether it be in the fields of quantum physics or in the kitchen preparing a meal, human beings create. And the Universe (capital U, indicating my way of inferring god or the goddess) loves creative endeavors. The more you embrace change, and hence creativity, the more the Universe assists you. Now you may think that is a load of New Age Yogi crap, and there was a time when I would have agreed. But today, my experiences suggest otherwise. Move in the direction of your true self, your passion, your calling and the Universe tends to move with you, opening doors, creating connections, in essence assisting you in achieving these things. So yes, embrace the possibilities. In change and in all things.
Left side line: “A question is a doorway. An answer is a path.”
Deep water, huh? lol. Well yes and no. A question truly is a doorway, an opening to something more. A question is a quest for knowledge. A question is a prayer, in a way, to the Universe, asking for assistance. A question is a launching point towards exploration. There really are no dumb questions as my sixth grade teacher, Miss DuChatelli used to say. More on her at a later date. She was quite a dish. But I digress. Where was I? Ah… questions as doorways. They are. They can be doorways to an expanded outer world and an expanded inner world. They form the basis for divination, for consulting an oracle device such as the I Ching, or the tarot, or Cherokee Spirit Stones or anything else you may wish to use as the physical device for accessing the information that is floating around in the universal. When I say universal, I am not just speaking of the “outside” ether. There is also all this untapped knowing inside ourselves. But that’s another conversation all together. Yes, a question is a doorway that leads to something. Hopefully, it leads to an answer, which often can lead to another question and thus, a journey. Because an answer is a path. It is an invitation to a journey. Often an answer is loaded with possibilities. But it depends on the quality of the questions you are asking others, and just as importantly, the questions you are asking yourself. The better the question, the more likely the path will be more defined, straighter and truer. So ask good questions. It;s essential.
Right side line: “How you travel that path is a choice.”
Yes it is. Your choice. The answer to your question is a path, but how you move along that path, how far you take it, if you take it at all, is a choice. And in choice there are variables at play. Choices create the possibility of new choices, new questions and new paths. Do you travel with headstrong devotion to a singular goal? Do you travel quickly with great intent? Do you tend to wander? Do you stop along the path to re-formulate the questions? Are you willing to change direction? Are you willing to accept new information, process it and thus, create new possibilities? Are you willing to adapt? How we travel our paths are quite different and, like everything else, subject to change. There is no wrong or right way. Except that, in my opinion, if the path feels right, if it resonates with you, if you feel connected to it, then by all means get Gonzo on it. Do it. Travel quickly. Create. Don’t worry about what others may thing or say because first, you have no control over that and second, it doesn’t mean anything except what you make it mean. Yeah, you have total control over how you feel about anything. Total control. I know, that can be a bit hard to swallow as it seems that things are often out of our control, or that things happen to us and that’s why we feel a certain way. No, actually it’s a choice we make. But that’s a topic for at least 4 or 5 more essays and posts, lol. Suffice to say, in the context of this work, how you travel your chosen path is a matter of choice. Your choice. Should you use the oracle of the I Ching to assist you in navigating the changing nature of the world? That’s your choice. I can certainly recommend it and I have barely, and I mean barely scratched the surface. To put it visually, I feel that I am dragging my fingernail along a thousand foot thick sheet of steel. Yeah, barely.
I look forward to your comments and thoughts.
Create possibility, and don’t forget to play!
Here’s those links… and remember to sometimes surf, not just search, when it comes to interacting with the inter-web-net.
Interpreting the I Ching
There now, that should keep you busy for a while 🙂
As always, my love, my gratitude and respect to my soul’s sweet companion and my muse, Zen Girl, for all her support and encouragement and for the never ending and ever expanding love she gives this man. Thank you baby.