E. E. Cummings, enamored of the Imagists while at Harvard in the early 1910s, later said he should have "lived in China where a poet is also a painter."
At the fancy Atlanta gallery they didn’t know quite what to call my “paintings.”
The owner said, “No one is doing this.”
What I was doing was intuitive calligraphy painted directly onto photographs I had printed on watercolor paper. It was “intuitive” as it stemmed from my Taoist practice of “reading energy.” I focused upon photo images and then gave expression to their energy via spontaneous Qigong (or guided movements as it’s called in my meditation tradition).
I called it “calligraphy” because my other inspiration is the Buddhist tradition, spiritual calligraphy.
But, thanks to Tim Gaze in Australia, I have been introduced to “asemic calligraphy” and its roots in art. From Gaze I also learned of Irma Blank, an artist who has illustrated the work of Gertrude Stein. This was a complete circle for me, as Stein was my first discovery of a “sacred language” outside the Vedic and Hebrew traditions.
In the 70’s I had read Allegra Stewart’s book, “Gertrude Stein and the Present.” Here I discovered that by emphasizing sounds and rhythms rather than semantics, grammar and syntax Stein captured “moments of consciousness” independent of time and memory. She tapped the archetypal. For example, in Tender Buttons she created a series of still lifes designed to suggest not the object but its essence and aura. Stein was seeking a "way of naming things that would not invent names, but mean names without naming them."
Now, curiously, via Gaze and Irma Blank, I am brought to illustrations of Stein’s The World is Round, a story in which an insecure nine years old girl, Rose, becomes a hero. Here I find, “A rose, is a rose, is a rose.” But, Rose herself prefers blue: blue eyes, blue chair, blue mountain. And, suddenly it’s feeling fairly Zen to me.
Chapter 26: Rose Does Something
So Rose did not sing but she had to do something.
And what did she do well she began to smile she was climbing all the while climbing not like a stair but climbing a little higher everywhere and then she saw a lovely tree and she thought yes it is round but all around I am going to cut Rose is a Rose is a Rose and so it is there and not anywhere can I hear anything which will give me a scare.
And she thought she would cut it higher, she would stand on her blue chair and as high as she could reach she would cut it there.
Is this a children’s story or a Zen koan? I see a rustic blue chair with a ladder back reaching to the sky.
I hear the simple and straight forward almost babble as it wanders on and on and all around. Semantics are there but syntax is a bit askew and with that we are cut loose a bit to drift - either up or in I am not sure.
But, it does inspire doodle, the intuitive calligraphic.
And I am not the only person doing this.