Thursday, July 19, 2012
Ran Ortner in The Sun
In a sense mountains and oceans are similar. The mountains heave up with the collision of tectonic plates and then erode down, just as the waves rise up and then crumble. They just operate on different timelines. What I respond to in the ocean is that the waves break in synchronicity with the beating of my heart, the in and out of my breath.
In the ocean I see the collision of life and death: the rising of each wave is life insisting on itself, and in the trough I see death. These high points and low points are all part of the larger dance. You really feel the lament of the ocean, and at the same moment there's a generosity, because the waves keep coming. These forces are working back and forth endlessly.
The paradoxes of life are all there in the sea. The ocean is often referred to as feminine, but the waves arrive in a masculine surge. As soon as they reach the full extent of their masculine expression, they shape themselves into a tube, a womb.
There are tempests and dark depths. You do not mess with the ocean. It will pummel you and chew you up. It is devastatingly brutal. And yet it can be luminous and delicate and tender. We clean our wounds there. What a reflection of our own impossible nature. We're so brutal, so base, so horrific, and yet we have the capacity for such tenderness, such warmth, such empathy, such generosity.
There are moments in painting in which somehow you're processing far more information than your mind is capable of handling. There's so much layering going on in a painting, so many techniques. You have dark and light working against each other. Edges can be hard or soft. There are cooler or warmer colors, and more or less transparent ones. Then there's texture and proportion. After a while you don't see the techniques anymore--it's just all in there. The soup comes to a boil.
As painting gets more complex, it gains the same quietness that I've found in racing and surfing, where everything is happening so quickly that the demand for deep, internal calm is high. We can't be at our most responsive unless our nerves are quieted. If there's any noise on the lines, if there's static or some kind of discourse happening within you, then part of your wiring is not available to the activity.
I think it is key what Einstein said about the importance of only ever having one simple, childlike question--never two. His was: How does the cosmos work? The psyche responds to basic, direct questions because we have so much energy that can move us in many different directions. Until we determine our proper framework, the right endeavor for us, we just mill around.
We've all been weaned from our mothers. We've all come to know that we are mortal, that the body has dominion over the spirit. And we each live in a sealed container of the self and must deal with that enormous loneliness.
I think that making art is profoundly and fundamentally life affirming. To make art is to give, to pour yourself into life, so you don't die with the music still inside you. You give it to your culture.
There's a tremendous puzzle in it for me because of the violence in the world. It will never feel appropriate, the level of violence that I know to exist. You look at a black hole, which is this implosion where time itself is distorted and torn to bits. And the ocean can display such incredible violence. But somehow that doesn't begin to diminish the beauty that's all around us. If anything it makes the beauty more astonishing. As much horror as there is, there is still a place where flowers bloom and outside the front door it's spring. Out of this crack in the sidewalk, life comes again, God damn it. You can use all the weedkiller in the world, and it will still come.
More truth, beauty. Ran's site. Above-photo credit.