Black ink (paint in my case) serves as the connecting element between my own Wheel within a Wheel 105 “hiccup” experience (described in my earlier post) and José Corti’s Ink Dreams’ artwork (images below). The unpredictable element in the art-making process (that which lies beyond the control of the artist’s hand) is a fascinating subject to consider and one that both my experience and Corti’s ink work can shed some light upon. It is often (as I see it) due to these unexpected twists and turns that discoveries unfold.
What follows is the “dream” work of Corti, which under Gaston Bachelard’s meditation is woven together, alongside the creative elements involved and through the unruly aspects of the process itself, to address the matter of the soul of an artwork.
Some of Bachelard’s thoughts in A Reverie of Matter focus on creativity and artistic expression and the process of space delineation (that unfolds through black and white contrasts) and the interplay of the artist’s hand with the medium. It is in this context, that Bachelard considers the salt crystal and ink artworks created by José Corti, presented in the album titled Rêves d’encre.
“Ink, with its powers of alchemistic dyeing, its colorative life, is capable, if it but find its dreamer, of creating a universe.” — José Corti
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Corti’s and Bachelard’s thoughts express so well this matter of creative freedom – how a work of art has a life of its own engendered through the process of an artist’s creative implementation of (as he termed) a “dream.”
“Here is the proof, in this album in black, in the thrilling contradiction of black and white. In these twenty-four pages, José Corti restores to dreaming ink all its lost crystals. The chemist wanted it to be something neutral, this ink, with all its salts and sulphates well dissolved, nicely bound in its thin paste, indifferent to all that one writes with it. But if, before writing anything, before deciding to draw anything, before conceiving any ambition to reveal signs, a great dreamer places himself in obedience to the innermost dreams of a magical substance; if he listens carefully to all the confidences imparted by each speck and blot; then the ink begins to write, in black and white, its own poems and begins to draw forms out of its distant, crystalline past. For what, basically, has Corti tried to do? Only the ink can tell us, for these Ink Dreams really are dreams of ink. Corti really has bowed to the black liquid’s will; and in the deepest part of that will he has experienced some mysterious nostalgia of iron and alum both yearning to expand, struggle, strike up a partnership, live again, proliferate, jostle one another, create.” (source: The Right to Dream – A Reverie of Matter by Gaston Bachelard)
And as follows, Bachelard continues his contemplation:
“Then even the white of the page begins to blossom. One wonders how the author, using such a black ink, could find material for so much whiteness. Once again we have to admit that the forces of dream are omnipotent. When a person dreams in all sincerity, the dream’s lines of force obey a discipline of their own; the wave is entirely natural, free and relaxed, it has not been set. The mineral act sees itself through to its true end. Rocks roll themselves up, sulphates flash. Every splendor is on show.”
These reflections by Bachelard, I could immediately identify with, and both his and Corti’s words resonated well with my own creative experience. It is a beautiful intuition they share with us – that we are the dreamers drawing forth the artwork’s creative life.
In my particular work, Wheel within a Wheel 105, the creative journey revealed some unexpected developments that shaped the outcome of the piece. I initially used black paint to create a delineation of positive/negative space with the thought of building a Damascene like piece – Damasquinado – with a set of “black and gold” design contrasts.
Unfortunately, the black clearly overtook the subtlety and delicate quality of the initial design. The white area alone, with this particular design, did not feel complete as a composition. Fortunately, what did arise was a residual grainy shadowy texture following the removal of the black paint. This “hiccup,” once I caught on to its value, created a new “read” – much like a veil of soft layers – adding depth to the painting. The “alchemy” in this instance transformed the painting and gave the artwork a new life.
Having touched on these currents of thought on the dream-like nature of the creative process, the artwork and the insights on the value of black and white contrasts (in relation to positive and negative space) were also unique and revealing.