May 30th, 2010
“Some texts of Tibetan Tantrism mention technical details pertaining to specific visualizations. I will mention two exercises. The starting point in both exercises is the realization of the form of the vacuous body, which contains the caduceus formed by the pingala [the masculine, solar channel of life force, or prana, found in occult corporeity], ida [the feminine, lunar pranic channel], and sushumna [the channel through which kundalini ascends after having been awakened]” (p171).
Tibetan short a, p171.
“In the course of the first exercise, some letters of the Tibetan alphabet are used as the support and as the instruments of the magical imagination. These letters are the short a, which corresponds to Shakti [the feminine form of the divine], and the long a, written ham and pronounced hum, which corresponds to Shiva [the masculine form of the divine]… The two letters, shown in the illustration[s] above [and below, respectively], must be visualized in this fashion. The feminine a is inside the muladhara-chakra, at the base of the spine, and is brown. The masculine a is located in the sahasrara-chakra, at the top of the head, and is white. In the course of this exercise, one performs a short retention of breath between inspiration and expiration. During inspiration the apprentice should visualize his breath to run down, through the pingala and ida, and finally to reach the letter a that is located in the muladhara-chakra. When the breath reaches the muladhara-chakra, the letter takes on a more vivid color and becomes bright red, just like a fiery charcoal turning into flame. The apprentice is supposed to concentrate on this image and to feed it with prana especially during the retention of breath. After that, he must exhale, while imagining his breath ascending along the sushumna in the form of a blueish current” (p171-2).
Tibetan long a (ham), p171.
“In a second set of exercises the apprentice must imagine a vivid, vertical flame rising vortically from the letter a located in the basal center (chakra). After each breath this flame grows by an inch, so that after ten complete breaths it has reached the chakra located at the naval. After ten more breaths it has reached the heart; after ten more, the larynx; and thus all the way to the top of the head, where the apprentice must visualize the flame becoming one with the masculine letter ham…
“The second exercise differs from the first only in a variation of the visualization process. Soon after imaging a flame emanating from the muladhara-chakra, the apprentice imagines that the letter situated on the top of the head is beginning to melt, dripping a substance that feeds the flame and that makes it rise higher and higher. Eventually the flame fills the entire sushumna up to the sahasrara-chakra, in which the fusion, of better, the transfiguration, of ham takes place. The forced then assumes the nature of bodhichitta, according to Vajrayana terminology” (p172).
“In the abovementioned Tibetan exercises, the repeated visualizations are supposed to originate a process of induction and of arousal. The images, which are prefigurations of the real process, work to make this process real. Thus, at a given moment, they are substituted with real states and with real manifestations of powers. The texts insist, however, that between the prefiguration and the experience there will always be a hiatus, and that the moment of awakening represents something discontinuous and unforeseen. The images will be transformed and act of their own initiative, as if they were animated and carried around by an extraneous force. When the process of visualization eludes the control of one who starts it, awakening is near” (p173).
May 3rd, 2010
“How can we describe a picture by Poliakoff? It is, for instance, a surface in which are incorporated a rounded and a right-angled shape. But all about it is asymmetrical. It is a fact that this type of painting is very hard to describe; for it is made up of nothing. No memory of known shapes can be found in it. It is the world of silence and of ‘pure painting’. How can one describe silence?” (p12-13).
Oil painting, 1952 (p19). Click for larger version.
“A Poliakoff picture generally comprises a few simple shapes. A kind of light emanates from a central mass. The passage of the colors from dark to light and the effort of vibration in the texture are two characteristics of his pictures.
“A Poliakoff picture has no depth, no ‘sky’, no perspective. Thus, in the same picture, a yellow may be hollow or in relief. And a red placed next to that yellow can likewise be hollow or in inverse relief.
“The reason is that his forms stem from space, and space, as he likes to say, ‘creates the form’” (p31).
Oil painting, 1953 (p23). Click for larger version.
“Next to space comes the matière. Poliakoff covers his canvas with successive layers—three or four at most—of thin paint, applied with extreme sensitivity. His creations, which owe nothing to organic forms, thus produce a curiously sensorial impression.
“This effort to bring the paint alive is characteristic of Poliakoff’s work.
“‘The matière of all the great painters lives’, he says, ‘even in the case of Malevitch. I was much struck when I saw his famous white square on a white background. It proved to me once again the outstanding part played by the vibration of the paint. Even in the absence of all color, a picture whose paint vibrates, remains alive’” (p34).
Oil painting, 1956 (p41). Click for larger version.
“This ‘pure painting’… is the painting of silence. The Poliakoff miracle is that he knows how to make silence vibrate.
“‘When a picture is silent, it means it is all right. Some of my paintings start making an infernal din. They are explosive. But I am not satisfied until they have become silent. A form must be listened to, not seen’” (p36).