III. RUDHYAR'S INTEGRATION OF EXPERIENCE AND CONCEPTS
1. THE ARTS
Rudhyar began to paint in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1938 (age 43). At the time, his musical activity had been completely stopped (mostly because he "strenuously opposed" neoclassicism in music, and a group of influential neoclassical musicians controlled the "musical scene" in terms of performances, grants, and commissions — and because the Great Depression and the graduated income tax discouraged wealthy patrons from supporting independent creative artists as they previously had). He found himself among painters, participating in discussions concerning art, the attitude of the artist, the value of technique, the relation of esthetics to spirituality, and so on. He felt he should demonstrate in practice some of the points he had made in these discussions. The following is quoted from his unpublished autobiography (1980):
"One of them was my belief that a truly creative artist should be able to create significant and original — even if not technically masterful — works in any art . . . A period of familiarization with the materials used in the new art, and particularly of establishing reliable muscular connections through the nerves between the brain centers and the hand used in the creative process, would obviously be needed; yet any material can be 'in-spirited' by the same creative power acting through the creative person and his or her physical body . . .
"In cultural periods where a 'style' — a collective social factor — is a more or less inescapable reality, and any budding artist must become subservient to its dictates, which he dare alter somewhat only after he is established and even then at his risk and peril, the situation is different. But — and this is the essential theme of my life-work and destiny — we are not in such a period of collective style today, or rather we should not be . . . We are in a 'seed period' in which the supreme function of any really creative person is to be a 'prophet,' promethean spirit, not merely modifying the old Tradition a little, but starting from an almost totally different basis of consciousness. The artist should be reborn in a new world of feeling, thinking, seeing, and hearing. What is demanded of art (and of philosophy and religion as well) is a new perspective on existence. The creative person should become a lens through which new symbols can condense, focusing a new sense of reality in concrete form. A new 'language' of forms and values thus can, should, and must be built . . .
"Strictly representational painting . . . reduces to two-dimensional space the physical reality of objects and persons our senses and mind interpret as three-dimensional, using the principle of perspective and the direction of light and shadows to produce the appearance of concreteness. But as Kandinsky . . . well understood, this appearance is only an 'illusion.' Thus, he said, representative paintings are in fact 'abstractions. ' This is why he spoke of his non-representative painting as 'concrete art.' Such an art does not try to mirror on a flat surface what we experience normally in depth; concrete art simply produces concrete objects — paintings — which do not pretend to exist in anything other than two-dimensional space. They are truly creations, not merely interpretations.
"I soon became aware that the proper term to characterize my paintings was transcrete art, because they were not objects having meaning in themselves as much as forms translucent to the light of meaning. The word 'transcrete' is made of the Latin roots trans (through) and crescere (to grow). Meaning grows out of the transcrete form as a plant grows out of a seed. The term, diaphanous, could also be used, because the forms in my paintings are (or at least purport to be) revelations of a transcendent quality or archetype of being . . .
"The problem one faces in dealing with such an approach to creativity deals with the part which the mind and the personal ego of the artist plays in the creative process: Does the process begin with the artist's emotional reactions or desire for success, etc. , or has it its source at a deeper level transcending the personality? As creative activity deals with materials (brushes, paint, pencils, canvas, paper, etc.), the ego, having learned to deal with earth-materials and everyday circumstances — for this is its function — is needed to watch over and guide what is taking place between the hand and the materials it also should have acquired certain consciously accepted principles of balance and cyclic structure which can . . . be guiding elements which, for example, may suggest when the development can be best concluded or how a certain emphasis could be made stronger by a compensating factor. But the ego should not cause the creative act to happen. If it starts the process — for one reason or another (and the ego has so many 'reasons' and often rationalizations!) — it may find itself eventually pushed aside and 'the real thing' beginning, entirely changing what it thought it had started. If the ego is not pushed aside, then this 'real thing' does not happen. The art- work may still be 'interesting, ' but it lacks the power of evocation which is, to me, the essential requisite of true art."
For Rudhyar, "the power of evocation" means that art must "release in concrete and significant forms the power that creates a culture. It must project the 'prime symbols, 'new vistas in understanding, a new sense of reality . . . a new vision of man's essential purposes. By 'significant forms,' therefore, I do not mean form as the solution of merely esthetical problems of organization of lines, patterns, colors, spaces. Form as an end in itself, and art for art's sake, refers to the realm of decorative art. To me, great and vital art, instead, is always evocative art."
"It does not seem important to me that people seeing my paintings should know what I felt, why and how I produced them. The essential thing is the viewers' response — what the paintings do to them, what arises in them as a result of their seeing the paintings, of their relationship with the painting. It is, I believe, a matter of relationship: 'something' in the painting meets 'something' in the spectator; what is important is the character and quality of this meeting.
"At least thirty-five years after I painted my most significant paintings, a new generation has responded [warmly to my writings and music. But these same youths, while impressed, are often puzzled by my paintings.] I am repeatedly asked what the paintings mean, how the evident symbols in them are to be understood. The onlooker's mind today is often conversant with the precise, intellectually formulated and listed meanings given to specific symbols, either in Freudian or Jungian psychologies or in the clearly catalogued teachings of Asian, Kabbalistic or Sufi philosophies . . .
"When facing my paintings, a person's reaction is often that I must have used such geometrical or biologically suggestive symbols deliberately, knowing exactly why I used them. People frequently are shocked when I tell them that I did not have precise intentions and did not think of traditional meanings. Then they often want to speak of 'the unconscious' — my personal unconscious or the 'collective unconscious' with its jungian archetypes — guiding my hand in a psychological sense. If the onlookers are ... interested in occult symbolism or metaphysics, the interpretations they give in most instances seem strange to me. [They] seem not to see what in several of my paintings or drawings is rather clearly an archetypal structure based on the interplay of forces within the human body. This has been [especially] the case [with] "Creative Man," "Meditation on Power"...or "Avatar."
"In my large pencil- drawing, "The Alchemist," centers and currents of energy are clearly evoked by curving lines and geometrical forms. But persons familiar with the places and symbolical shapes of the chakras in the Tantric occultism of India and Tibet have been puzzled by what I have drawn, because the lines and forms are not in their traditional places in what is clearly a person in profile sitting with a raised knee and holding an alchemical lamp. They are even more puzzled if I tell them that they should forget the traditional system of knowledge and simply try to experience the drawing and allow it to speak to them and communicate a 'mystery' which perhaps transcends or has meaning besides the traditional knowledge."
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1983 by Leyla Raël
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