BASIL ALKAZZI- NEW SEASONS...
BY MAX WYKES-JOYCE
For one who believes in signs and wonders, a belief I share with the artist, the beginnings of this essay could not have been more propitious. I live in the English countryside, a hundred miles or so from London, where Basil Alkazzi's studio is. I had passed a good part of the day in that studio, discussing the work which is under consideration here with the painter. A symbol which recurred in much of his work is the double triangle- the Seal of Solomon. one triangle with its base below and the apex pointing heavenwards, being a metaphor for the physical being bonded to the earth but aspiring to perfection, the other seemingly inverted, a metaphor for the Spirit, its base in the heavens, the point downward nurturing the physical being. Before the paintings in his studio I had said to Basil Alkazzi I had never physically seen such a conjunction.
On the train back to the country I scanned the sky as I always do, having acquired the habit when long ago I was an air navigator. Nearing Oxford, open country all about, I saw a phenomenon never before seen. On the horizon, amid the growing dusk and a build up of storm clouds, a great triangle of white light, its base seemingly on the ground pointing heavenwards; and just overlapping at the points, an inverted triangle of equally white light, opening into the heavens as though drawn there by a master geometer. In all my years of sky-looking I had never seen such a formation. Nor was I alone in my surprise. A fellow passenger, a young woman, drew the attention to it of her mother. When I got home, I wrote to tell Basil of the event. He was delighted, but by no means surprised.
The symbolic triangles frequently recur in the paintings considered here; but before we look at them in detail, it should be said that they occupy a peculiar place in Basil Alkazzi's oeuvre. In 1989, wearying of a long sequence of public, albeit successful exhibitions in the United States, he acquired a new studio in London, high in the air, good Northern light, nothing to be glimpsed outside but treetops, passing clouds and birds in flight. There, undisturbed and unhurried by consideration of exhibition deadlines, public approval or disapproval, or the advice of well-wishing friends, produced the eighty images which are the subject of this monograph.
The paintings, unmistakably the creation of a keen individual mind and eye, and a skilled hand, can best be considered, I believe, as dreams or visions, expressions for Spiritual perfection. These expressions the artist interprets increasingly by the conjunction of a wealth of forms and symbols.
Central to many of the images is what I may best describe as an architectural element- a hint of a classical doorway or a building beyond which may be descried moving planets, spiritual emanations, souls and lovers in bliss, the 'architectural' component suggesting less the solid classical building than resembling the flat of a theatrical decor. As I understand this device, the architectonics are no more than a veil to suggest the passage of time, from foreground to background of the individual painting.
In this front to back movement, Basil Alkazzi offers an artistic parallel to the famous courtyard in Delft series and the genre interiors of Pieter de Hooch (1629-c.1683) where the artist leads the viewer's eye in the interior through a doorway or corridor focussing on a wall-map or an early portrait; in the courtyard and garden paintings along a corridor or through a doorway to a detail of earlier architecture, in each case suggesting a passage of time in the single image- a device it may be said initiated by Rembrandt and continued by Vermeer. In the case of Basil Alkazzi this projection is sometimes from present (foreground) to future (background) in other instances the reverse may be true, depending on the context of the other components.
Among these other components three frequently recur- a moving arc of moons or planets; spirits or souls progressing towards or already in bliss; and a symbolic arc in conjunction with an earth moored block. Of course, the planets in their passage across the picture space originally were there to suggest a movement of time. But these have now altered in the symbolism of the painter's art. No longer are there seven, but sometimes a mere one or two, presiding, so to say, over the whole image.
The feeling of some of the paintings is that enunciated by the seventeenth century philosopher Thomas Vaughan "Look up then to Heaven, and where thou seest the celestial Fires move in their swift and glorious Circles, think also there are here below some Cold Natures which they oversee, and about which they move incessantly to heat them."
It is extremely difficult to describe in easily understandable words a metaphysical or spiritual experience. Yet such I believe, is the case of each of Basil Alkazzi's images, they "illuminate" spiritual visions. Some beings, among whom I would count the artist, are more clearly aware than others of spiritual presence's. Henry Vaughan, metaphysical poet, thought it in no way strange to open a poem on "The World" with the assertion "I saw Eternity the other night like a great ring of pure and endless light, as calm as it was bright."
The painter I think, has less difficulty than the poet in giving shape to spiritual entities. For, like the mathematician, he can create a world of symbols with no undertones of the dictionary meanings of language. Broadly speaking, Basil Alkazzi's aspiring spirits and rising souls take on four forms, sometimes used one alone in a single image, sometimes in a conjunction of two or three of the forms. There is, what I call Thread of Life, an undulating upward-moving entity; tailed comet-like beings flying like huge fireworks across the picture space; the beings who have reached the apogee of bliss, who float singly or in groups near the top of the picture space, like fields of ripe grain on the stem; those waiting to rise, clustered near the bottom of the picture like embryos.
The third recurring image in the recent work is one which can best be described as an earthbound block or blocks conjunctive with a rising arc. In one large painting (Metamorphosis I- 1992) the earthbound block is subservient to an aspiring triangle beneath the arc, while a second block floats over all at the top of the picture. The predominant colour of most of the work from 1989 to the end of 1991 is blue, in Basil Alkazzi's aesthetic the colour of the Universe; though blue also has another merit, as Henri Matisse observed in his treatise on his Chapelle du Rosaire "Simple colours can act upon one's inner feelings with all the more strength because of their simplicity. Blue, for example, accompanied by the shimmer of its complementaries, works on one's feelings like the sudden swift stroke of a gong." Which observation is especially true of the gouaches, the Whispering Silence series, four times and more larger than the usual paintings.
At this time there was a change of direction away from the non objective, though still symbolic painting to the extraordinary group of figurations on the theme of The Last Supper. In selecting them, Basil Alkazzi has aligned himself in a tradition which runs in Western painting from the Fourteenth century to the present day, from Fra Angelico to Stanley Spencer. Skillfully he has avoided wearisome comparisons with past paintings and with historical imagery by the portrayal of the hands of the participants, Jesus of Nazareth and his followers, and the ritual wine cup which went its rounds at the supper table.
Viewed dispassionately, they might well be described as a very odd group, including among them four fishermen- two pacific and two of such vehement conviction they were named the Sons of Thunder; a carpenter; a tax inspector; a nobleman; and a disaffected and disappointed militant. Each is represented and revealed in Basil Alkazzi's The Last Supper by no more than a pair of hands in conjunction with the wine goblet, itself moving into medieval history and ritual history, as The Holy Grail.
The predominant colours of the Supper sequence are the golden flesh tints of the hands and the gold of the wine-cup against a night-sky-blue background and jet-black foreground. It is perhaps the gold of the Grail which led the artist at the beginning of this year of 1993 to produce several metamorphic paintings. Almost monochrome yellow-gold, they incorporate some of the earlier elements- the planets, the comet-like forms in the ascendant; but before them the feelings induced by their presence is different. They are I suspect a new beginning. It is the gift of the artist, one of the rarest, to enable us really to see what we are looking at. Basil Alkazzi has that gift, none more so than in the recent paintings which heralded a new phase in his development.
Max Wykes-Joyce. Spring 1993
...WITHIN THE DREAMS...
BY BASIL ALKAZZI
A ball is struck, and the round form rolls across the green and gold field. Once a ball is set in motion, it rolls on. Once a ball is set in motion, within a moment, by a human mind, or Fate, there is nothing to stop it, until it makes the journey that was intended for it.
The wet leaves of the giant tree shimmer in the setting sunlight as though decked with a thousand candle flames. A ball is struck, back and forth, back and forth. The setting sun drifts further down, and is now masked by clouds, and then suddenly all the candle flames seem to have been blown out, but as the wind soars, and the clouds drift away, so they are lit once again.
It is a moment of rebirth, and within each life-span there are many re-births. Passing from sphere to sphere, latitude to latitude.
Once more I had to go within myself, as I do from time to time, to see what it was the inside self, the Soul, was seeking, wanting, needing, desiring, missing, and how the needs of the inside self could be realized.
I had to once more take responsibility for my thoughts. They had to be sifted, to be cleansed of the debris that had been projected there, or one had one's self placed there. I had been moving in patterns, treading set pathways not to my liking, and I wanted to move away. Through the cleansing, one looked at values, and the values of those one associated with. Through the sifting, one went through the ritual of erasing them from one's pathway in life.
1988 was a painful but revealing year. One suddenly saw the ugly corruption of those professing to be working for me and promoting my work, a tool they used to promote themselves. The vicious vindictiveness of those one broke away from was pathetic to witness. Karmic law being what it is, one that cannot be changed, they have received their just reward. For every sound there is an echo. For every ill deed there is a ricochet, a retribution.
Patterns are tattooed on our palms. Yet nothing lives forever on a plane, and nothing dies, there is only a passing on, from one form to another, one sphere to another. Patterns can sometimes be distorted, tattoos can be scarred, can be mutilated.
The Winter of 1988 and the following Spring in New York became turning points on many levels. Acknowledging my own self, and creativity, I re-accessed both, discarding the many extras, in order to continue without such externals as exhibitions, if one could afford to, and clearly I was fortunate in being able to afford to; thus concentrating the energy on purely creative aspects.
One looks into rooms that one had already looked in, rooms of bodies and souls. One looks at rooms that entice one, though one has already looked into them before, seeking warmth, seeking comfort, seeking success, and fame. One goes in and comes out. Only after coming out, after having gone in, does one realise that they were cold and empty and sterile rooms.
I now suddenly had no past, I only had a present and a future. The past is no more than memories. One cannot move from memories past, into a future. The future is hopes, aspirations, and dreams.
Within a lifetime there are many deaths, and with a death is a re- birth, the beginning of a new life, on a physical, emotional, psychic, spiritual, material, and artistic sphere.
Having freed myself, I allowed the unconscious to flow, cajoling the higher conscious to emerge, which then became basic and singular in that it was being manifested from an individual entity, but Universal because the theme which is the Soul, is so, and jointly then, it could be called a Spiritual embrace. I was taken, the mind was taken, the Spirit-force was taken, once more to a realm of what is quite obviously the beyond, on its very many latitudes. An inner space mirroring the outer one; reflecting the outer one within the Soul of an Earth body, but where the mind found release, drifted out, as in a dream, and where the dreams are no more than moments of startling truth. These were deeply experienced and refined metaphysical growths that found expression not so easily in words, but more so in images, transposing, the translucent forms and images, witnessed, and experienced with paint on canvas or paper.
Once there, I could not walk away from the images of the mind's eye of such power and allegory and depth, without transferring some of that memory, onto a canvas or sheet of paper. Nor could I, nor did I walk away without a sense of knowing of a Spiritual awakening, and an insight into one's own being, which is in itself, but a tiny molecule in the vastness of the Universal space and time on its very many latitudes.
To think, to believe, and dictate that ours is the only intelligence on this planet Earth, in the vast Universe, is arrogant conceit. There are other intelligence, there is a power greater than our own, and it is through them, and it, that we learn what we learn, confined as we are within a frame of a physical body. One is meant to cajole and teach the Soul within the body, and the body itself, as to how to live with that higher self, one's own higher self, a higher consciousness, one we can see, and recognise, and know, and accept, but one that can only be touched and embraced through the power of the Spirit, which is in the mind, and through the heart, the one within the Soul, because the Soul itself is an everlasting entity, that has growth. It takes on different forms, from time to time; is obliged to take on different forms from time to time. A different time span, other than a linear one, and within a linear one, from time to time; and it is that link, that growth, that one concerns the self with. Otherwise the Soul becomes malformed.
A perfection of Spirituality is sought by the image of the Seal; the image of the Seal being the image of perfection of Spirituality. Where the spirit body with all the knowledge, love, and faith, of this plane, lives in total and perfect harmony, with the Universal, Spiritual-entity of timeless moments, with all the knowledge, wisdom, love, and faith of that plane. Molecules of a life-force search out and cluster together in archway formations, opening doors for the initiates. One does not contrive at creativity, but allows creativity to emerge. The compulsion is, very often "seeming" to repeat, in order to perfect the image in one's mind's eye, onto an Earth surface, or canvas, and paper.
A painter expresses himself with images, just as a writer does with words, but a writer is never then asked to paint an image to express better what he has written, why then is a painter asked to express in words what he has painted? If words are required to express a painting, then either the artist has failed to express himself, or the viewer has failed to be empathic, by not allowing the images to penetrate that region of thought and feeling where words are not needed.
Titles are used as a guide, that and no more. So, names are given to each being, that and no more. Each being then "paints" his or her image of their inner self, which requires no words to express that inner vision.
An artist with all his complexities paints for himself, and not for other people. An artist reveals himself, his thoughts, by his work, to himself and for himself, and then others, perhaps, discover and see that self discovery, that self revelation in matter.
Forms, shapes, lines- the actual pattern of stones, made up of a movement, and so of a direction, are used to lead the eye into the soul of the painting. It is then the soul of that created image that whispers and speaks, to the subconscious mind, of the creator and the viewer, and it is that lost memory that one re-discovers, in the self, and for one's self.
As an artist I choose, like many others before me, as many beings, to tread my own path, a destined path, and one that now dazzles the perceptions of the mind's eye; the images of which are as yet un-categorised. But do they need to be? Labels as such, categorise, and by so doing confine, restrict, bind, a creative force so full of energy and light- An unfair attitude and outlook by those outside the mainstream of creativity.
Houses are built on graves and graveyards, and graveyards of battlefields, and graveyards of natural forces. Cities on other cities, where their previous forms still co-exist with the present form. A past life co-exists with the present life, just as childhood co-exists with adulthood. A moment past still lives in "memory" within a moment now.
Different time elements, different moon spheres co-exist with each other, and can be witnessed at the same moment, in memory, in thought, in inspiration, in dreams, in actuality.
An idea, a thought drifts across a plane, and the receptive mind snaps it. This original bubble is then absorbed, much like the sand, in a sand timer, but at that junction it is reversed, and the thought bubble drifts out and about on its own sphere, to be snapped up by another seeking mind.
To grasp the moment of creativity, is to seek the bubble, and in finding it, we then also find that moment past.
A reflection has as much substance as the original.
One relates to a past as one relates to a memory. That and no more, but one that one must learn from. It is a moment gone. It is not a moment one has carried with one to the present, but a scar one might have on the flesh, from childhood- It is a memory gone.
One cannot compare one's life, or achievements with those of others. There never is a comparison. Nor can anyone in any one given profession, compare and compete with another. Each Soul, and each body has its own limitations within limitless journeys.
Even a cluster of flowers on a stem, a family, a unit, do not bloom in unison. Each flower blooms in its turn, in its own orbit, and within each stem of that cluster, there are flowers that bloom, and there are others that are still-born. For each that bloom, each has a moment. That is the way of Nature. That is the law of the Spirit world, and of Nature, and so it is too with Earth beings.
But this, here, is the Spirit World. Only many of us are now living it in a physical form, for the evolution and evolvement of the Soul. We have come back to the Earth to live in the Spirit world in an Earthly form, to find a balance, to find a harmony, so that the Earth person, called Man-kind, called Human-being, after thousands of years, will at long last, finally learn and be able t live, in harmony with himself, and so with the other Earth people. Each Soul. Each Earth person. Then, hopefully, the miracle, will and can take place.
Earlier, in 1985 after my first visit to the USA, I fell in love with "America". TheAmerican peoples can live and think and aspire collectively, as only individuals can solitarily dream of, outside that flawed democracy. It is the dream in America that makes "America" the Utopean dream.
No nation, and no peoples are perfect, and the beauty of America is that it knows and accepts this imperfection, and strives, today, as in the past, to rise up, and above it. Individually one tries to emulate that dream. I did.
Birds can rise up and fly, but man is, through his body, Earth- bound. Once the mind is set free, the creation and separation of the upper triangle, then one can rise up beyond the limitations of the body. To be free as that beautiful, light, brilliant Soul; blue, golden, white, to drift, to float, to experience.
We fly a kite, we send up a dream. How can one have a dream come true if there is no dream?
Late in the Spring of 1989, I went forth like a baby turtle; with the same fear of a newly hatched turtle, reaching out, along the wet sand, and going to swim, for the very first time, ever, alone. Being hatched alone, and still alone, the heart pounding, going forth. Knowing perhaps instinctively that there are others too going along, but still going alone, towards a sea, a vast unknown ocean. That is how I leaped, into that unknown sphere.
Each being, each Soul, has its own evolution. One cannot enforce an evolution, either speed it up, or slow it down, of another being, that is not natural for that being, for that Soul.
There comes a time in many, when there is that curious feeling that there is something within one germinating, waiting to be born. But one must wait, the mind must be still, and wait for the new dream to take form.
A change of direction is not defeat, a change of direction is also an evolvement, an ascension, and with each change, one must grasp that moment.
Following the inner eye, inner path, allowing the Soul to migrate on the new journey coming my way, and for which one was being prepared, and for which one must prepare one's self, for being prepared. And prepare one's self for the moment when one is prepared.
Even seemingly dead trees, sometimes hold out a branch or two that are still alive. Something within the roots, make them live, make them reach out towards the sky, and give shelter.
Karmic situations come, and go, traversing our pathway. Sometimes we give it greater substance than it actually has, and we try to extend that re-visitation, re-union, on this plane, far longer than it was intended, or required.
Sometimes one has to go to a certain place, not to open a door, but to close one that had been left open or ajar.
We seek "commercial" success, with its material glory, but that kind of success, makes one more lonely. That kind of success, should not be achieved at a price, because that, on a personal level, will inflict a tremendous toll on one, and on one's creativity. One ought not to build a body on the ashes of a Soul.
Success is doing what one has to do and wants to do, to the best of one's ability, that and no more. It is listening to the applause within.
It is after all not a journey from this world that we make into the other, that would be far too grandiose, but a journey from the other one, that we make into this one. A learning journey, a giving journey, an educating journey, to fulfil and enlarge the experience of the life force on the other side, on one's return. To complete and be in harmony.
We look at a bird soaring in the sky, with deep longing, for it epitomises the Soul, free, unbound by Earth, a Soul before birth. That image of the soaring bird is a memory, of one's Soul, before the birth on Earth.
It is a memory we, each, must return to.
Basil Alkazzi, London. Spring 1993
Full text copyright 1993 by Max Wykes, Basil Alkazzi and IZUMI Art Publications Ltd.
Full text copyright 1993 by Basil Alkazzi and K.IZUMI Art Publications Ltd.
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American copyright conventions.