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CO NFLIC TING C O S MO LO G IE S

Paintings & Essays by Jason Blasso


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CO N FLIC TIN G COS MOLOGIES Paintings & Essays by Jason Blasso

C H A RY B D I S P R E S S new york


Published by Charybdis Press 405 E 82nd Street New York, NY 10028 www.charybdispress.com © 2012 Charybdis Press All rights reserved Printed and bound in the USA 15 14 13 12 4 3 2 1 First Edition No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the publisher, except in the context of reviews. Image Copyright © 2012 Jason Blasso Text Copyright © 2012 Jason Blasso Layout & Design: Jason Blasso Photographs: Susan Alzner ISBN 978-0-9860027-0-0 Cover: Detail of “In the Beginning” For more information regarding paintings: Please visit www.blackgesso.com or e-mail jay@blackgesso.com For more information regarding publication: Please visit www.charybdispress.com or e-mail jay@charybdispress.com Jason Blasso would like to thank his mother and father for their love and support, Kristen Youngman for her guidance, Jacky Yoon for the first purchase, the Twohig Brothers for their encouragement, Susan Alzner for the photographs and Professor William Campbell and Dr. William Provine for showing the way.


SERIES 1 : FOREWORD : GNOSTIC SCIENCE


T he first binary • Night and day • Dark and light • Evil and good • Ahriman and Ahura Mazda

Chaos & Order

9.25" x 14" x 2.75"

oil and gesso on stainless steel with wooden frame


gnostic science Science, from the Latin scienzia, means knowledge; through it, we are perpetually discovering, developing and rewriting our own cosmogony. With an elegant method that tests its hypotheses, Science remains under pressure to prove itself empirically. This creates a secular and dynamic environment of exchange and growth that unites man across borders to all things and deepens and enriches our understanding of ourselves, our environment and our origins. Gnosis also means knowledge in unanglified Greek and differs principally from its sister, Science, in that it is spiritual knowledge or insight. It is the intimate and personal experience of gleaning something unknowable, mysterious and other behind the fabric of reality. Gnosis, when directly perceived, is often unspeakable, and when and where it is spoken, it is always tied to the tradition of storytelling and the magic of our earliest creation myths. These two seemingly conflicting knowledges have set the stage of battle within the body between the mind and spirit. Science is coolly rational, logical, objective and centered in the head and Gnosis is heatedly irrational, faith-based, subjective and centered in the heart. However, what we perceive as an opposition between the great exterior discipline and the great interior discipline is, in fact, inseparable correlatives. They are two sides of the same coin, leading us to greater insights and awe. There is no doubt that Science has trumped Gnosis through its exponential growth in understanding, endless revisionism and technological inventiveness. It has developed our most plausible creation myth by parting the very fabric of matter and space to peer deep into our past to find our origin in an explosive singularity. It has shown our cosmic smallness while simultaneously connecting us to totality. Through it, we have overthrown our geo- and anthropocentrism and have learned of our spectacular and felicitous place in the far corner of our universe. The pursuit of knowledge, of Science, frees us from the trap of tradition and allows us to enter into the fluid realm of rebirth and change. Liberated from our past, we can concentrate on our future and continue to expand our fundamental understanding of ourselves. But while the mind is nurtured, so too must the spirit be. The loss of the heart ultimately means the loss of the head.

It is here where we must inevitably talk in metaphor, in poetry and abstractions because we have reached the borders of that indefinable otherness, that mysterious substance which defies our logic and playfully skirts our undertanding. This is the wellspring of inspiration and dreams, the fount of wisdom, the inexhaustible and intuitive well of our collective experience. It is here where the mystery of beauty and art can be found. The knowledge of beauty and art move the spirit to dance with its music. To be moved thus, is to be moved within, transported, lifted up through the soul of language, color, form and sound. It is our human voice telling our human story, connecting us back to the urvoice of our collected unconciousness when we were apes, reptiles, trees, rocks and stars. It is the myth and magic of an intelligent biped struggling to understand itself and its origins in the dawn of self-awareness. It was the goal of many of the early Abstract Expressionists to recreate this mythology with paint. They wanted to bring us back to the unspoken realms through color and form. Standing before many of their canvases one can feel that they are approaching the very threshold of that hidden world. It is in their spirit that I approached these paintings.


SERIES 1: PAINTINGS : CONFLICTING COSMOLOGIES


Bereshit • In the Beginning a lightless void • Everything is Blackness • Before the Big Bang • 13 Billion years ago

In the Beginning

48" x 60"

oil and mixed media on canvas


Particles condense • Cluster • Find each other • Attach and grow • Their density becomes our destiny

Matter

36" x 36"

oil on canvas


Nebulas birth suns and stars • Galaxies form • The Milky Way • Is the Cow Path • To our Solar System

Galactic Haze

36" x 48"

oil on canvas with aluminum frame


Early Earth impact • Drives iron from the mantle • To the core • Where magnetic fields become • Bipolar

Magnetic Fields

24" x 36"

oil on canvas


Volcanic crust • Rain of fire from the heavens • Melts ice • Leaving water • Leaving the seeds of life

Black Earth

36" x 36"

oil on canvas


Earth calms to a steady tripartte division • Finds balance in itself • Regulates • Ash settles • Smoke clears

Atmospheres

24" x 36"

oil on canvas


The storm gathers • Weather washes away at the world • Steady precipitation • Until the rain of water ends • In a prism of light

Clouds and Light

48" x 60"

oil on canvas


Cambrian explosion • Life grows • Pyramidal to the surface • In the dark depths • Beneath the moon

Night Sea

36" x 48"

oil on canvas


Surface tension breaks • Eyes open on air • The first breath is taken • When that which swims • Becomes that which walks

Amphibious Divide

60" x 48"

oil on canvas with aluminum frame


Primordial home • The Evolutionary Tree of Life • Axis Mundi • From the limbs descending • A new man

Forest

36" x 36"

oil on canvas


Blood and brain • Press into life • Until the pedunculation • Ruptures into • Autonomous identity

Self

16" x 20"

oil on canvas


Man awakens and rises • Through the binaries to become • The hand • The tool • The technician

Incarnation

24" x 36"

oil on canvas


The first technology • Abolishes the night inside • And with the flaming sword • The door to Eden and innocence • Closes

Fire

16" x 20"

oil on canvas


A new beginning • The labor of the field yields • The geometries of writing • The word made flesh • Made stone

Tabula Rasa

36" x 48"

oil and mixed media on canvas


SERIES 1 : AFTERWORD : ELEMENTAL VIEWS


Idle idyll • Dark cypresses and flight of birds • The snake comes • Creeping darkness • The seal of the covenant is broken

Memories of Eden

16" x 16"

oil on canvas


elemental views Conflicting Cosmologies is the narrative I found in my paintings as I completed the series. I knew as I painted that there was an underlying theme and common source for what I was creating. It was only in retrospect that I was able to work through the coded message and discover what it was I was saying to myself. One often starts a journey without knowing where one is headed. We have plans and goals, a vision of the future, desired outcomes, but many things wanted and unwanted intervene. It is often only through experience and the appropriate distance and perspective that one can see a more complete picture of what one was doing and attempting to do. This series grew nonlinearly, in fits and starts, with long stretches of inaction followed by great cathartic bursts of action. Persistence paid off and by sticking to the project and always returning to the canvases to add a fresh layer of paint or a thin wash, the paintings began to organize themselves and inform each other in a silent visual dialogue. After having the paintings photographed and showing them to friends, and spending time with them as a collection, a pattern began to emerge that created a higher ordering of the information on the canvases. When I understood what I had, I knew where to focus my energies to complete the project to the scope I wanted to achieve. Art, like any engrossing labor of life, is a process of self-education and direct experience. Through entropy, my knowledge today is deeper than my knowledge yesterday and the current narrative could have only been achieved as I worked through the problems of its creation. In other words, this series could not be planned, it had to be worked through. As my mind leapt across the canvases and space and time to tell the story of how we found ourselves in the world with the double-edged sword of consciousness, I realized that this has been the story that I have always been telling; the story that drives me to create. It is the story of man standing under the weight of his own self-awareness. With this narrative in mind, I organized the paintings in book format allowing for a linear reading of our progression through the formation of the universe, earth and life towards man. I further added short five line poems vertically on the page that can be read or ignored at the viewer’s discretion.

While working out the narrative for these paintings, a larger vision came and I saw the themes and content for my next two series: Elder Elements and Impossible Views which are now fully fleshed out ideas that will test the limits of canvas by mounting and stretching them in ways that have not been done before. In Elder Elements, I’ll expand upon the repertoire of Gnostic Science by exploring the protoscience of alchemy and elementary magic using the primary colors, green, brown, black and white. I will use the Paracelsian and Chinese elemental systems, as well as Tibetan prayer flags and sacred drums to create a vibrant space of ancient magic. This will then be followed by Impossible Views, a meditation on the ultimate extremes of space and time shone through unique manipulations of black canvases creating an atmosphere that physically and pictorially represents the abstract ideas of modern science which discusses phenomena beyond the range of human perception. Both projects can now be produced because of the groundwork laid with this series. I now know what my message is and how I want to deliver it. I confidently look forward to producing visceral works that will connect with the viewer on multiple levels by combining the complex cosmologies of our past and present through science, spirituality, mythology and magic.


SERIES 2 : WORK IN PROGRESS : ELDER ELEMENTS


Alchemy • The protoscience of searching for • The Philosopher’s Stone • In the dark waiting • Leaden gold

Paracelsian Elements

(4) 16" x 16"

oil on canvas


SERIES 3 : WORK IN PROGRESS : IMPOSSIBLE VIEWS


What cannot be seen • Is seen • The eye goes where the eye can’t go • Into the presence • Of an absence

Dark Matter

60" x 72"

black gesso on canvas


black gesso How often do we find ourselves in things? When we look around at the people, animals and objects in our lives we always see what is not us. We know of the self particularly, in relation to the not-self, which is everything other than us. This separation can create in us an incredible sense of isolation when the divide between our self and everything else seems unbridgeable. However, if we are fortunate to learn how to lose ourselves in the other, the bleakness of separation and isolation disappears. As the distance between the world and us diminishes, so does the self diminish. The very sense of I begins to shrink in the context of totality. We often forget this, and, in our mad rush to be something or somebody, we overlook the necessity to disbecome. We often talk about finding ourselves. The maxim runs: Know Thyself. But anyone who knows themselves knows how conflicting and contradictory the self is. After awhile, we don’t know what to do with this self, which seems only to do as it pleases without obeying reason or any other higher order. The self is messy and far from ideal. Since we already have ourselves, the importance then seems to be the ability to lose ourselves. This can only be done by engaging the mind with tasks and labor outside of self-awareness. We must do so through something other than us because it is through losing ourselves that we become more wholly ourselves. To be self-aware requires that we discover an occupation within which we can lose ourselves. It is a place where we can turn off our self-consciousness and play with pure consciousness. The key here is play. When we disengage with ourselves we know that eventually we will re-engage with ourselves and by doing so, we refresh ourselves., This is why it is always fun to find oneself again, and why, in the midst of painting, I laughed robustly the second I saw it there. It was the hearty laugh of recognition, of finding my name in print. Of course, there, on the can, inches from my feet, it wasn’t spelled out but hidden amongst those two words. I connected the letters like the stars of a constellation, knowing that without my last name this would possess no significance. But my name, embedded there, had power; the way words once had power to bind through sound, spelling and incantation. I set down my brush and lifted the can to inspect and make certain of what I saw.

Having confirmed the spelling, I set down the can and dipped my finger into the blackness. I then blotted out the C, K, G and E and wiped my finger on a rag. I stood there, hands on hips seeing myself in a place where I wasn’t before. My name was there, broken neatly, bookending the black smudges. My laughter was the laughter of self-discovery. It was like I had startled myself in a mirror and was seeing myself again for the first time with fresh, curious eyes. The laughter came because I discovered that, despite my vigilance, I could still be ambushed by the least remarkable thing in the world: myself. The world is full of surprises but I never imagined my name and image to be one of them, but when and wherever I find them, they always appears as a destiny. To rediscover ourselves is pure joy. The shock of recognition always takes us by surprise when we are allowed to see ourselves again for the first time, in the words of Wallace Stevens’ Hoon, more truly and more strange. But what is stranger yet, is when we look deeply into the other until something twinkles in the darkness and rises towards the surface to confront us and we find ourselves looking back upon ourselves.


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about the artist Jason Blasso is a painter, poet and publisher living in New York City. He is currently completing his first book of poems entitled Summa Neologica. He is the editor and designer at Charybdis Press which releases books on a variety of subjects including tea, poetry and art. He can be reached at jay@blackgesso.com.

www.charybdispress.com

Conflicting Cosmologies  

Paintings & Essays by Jason Blasso

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