There is a sky right there, strangely empty, yet luminous, tranquil yet sinister, an omen impregnates the clarity of a presence unnamed made all the more ineffable and equally foreboding by the small body subtly etched in graphite, not a cherub exactly, but a piaf it seems, whose wings flutter as if in a panic, having been launched perhaps for the first time in the void, the frozen air of a deep winter.
The fledgling is alone braving the icy heights, as once did Icarus. But no wax holds his feathers; he/she is real. He/she approaches the top edge of the page as if willing to and desirous of trespassing upon the forbidden horizon, sensing this may be the moment of Grace, where a world ends and another begins. But in this act, there is also the desperation of the child aware he/she must leave the maternal nest forever to find his/her freedom at the cost of his/her life, for such an expanse lying beyond paper, marks, ink, and shade means the extinction of the tangible in the perception of those who behold such a motionless event as much as in the eyes of the falsely fictitious traveller. It is a self-sacrifice the little bird is about to perform, as he/she flies so far above his/her kind, no longer possessed by the terrors and the seductions of nigredo, no longer slumbering back into the greyness of matter.
Where is his/her nest? The branches, so finely designed, of the tree that stands to the left, from where we are witnessing the scene, are naked and thin, although we detect a suppleness, the sap still running within. It may have been so for some time, this being the midst of the most merciless season, between Capricorn, the Luciferian Messenger, and Pisces, the prebiotic Ocean, unforgiving and impartial. The branches stretch out towards the centre of the view, into an area where the paleness of the sky dissolves into the sadness of a dark mist, a twilight enveloping the heavier birds who are struggling in the muds below where we think something is moving, attempting to move, to evade live burial, consummation by drowning, the suction of elemental oblivion.
Below the young bird, two older birds no longer beat the thickening frost of the atmosphere with their wings. They plunge, stone like, to their end, it seems, although we make this assumption on account of that which agonises at the bottom of the page, in the marasmus of enslaved messengers.
Yet, I saw none of this as I gazed at the wondrous image time and time again.
Instead, what appeared was a lively dance as if choreographed in honour of Dionysius, a tableau of joy and pleasure where three angelic birds glided above a land nourished by the coitus of organic life and a pure mountain spring.
But I had not encompassed the totality of it, because part of it had been concealed. It was after removing it from the frame I discovered a narrow band, the area describing the earthly foundation cut away from the remaining space by a definite line coinciding exactly with the demarcation of the passe-partout. It is pale, almost echoing the sky, more like snow or the slab of an altar where the appointed admires the carnage. Thus a new feeling was instilled. It helped me realise how the two birds still blotching the sky were nose-diving. Another to the far left, was trapped in the branches, like a rose I once espied, having grown between the stems, torn by the thorns of her own body. What I saw in the fabric of the darkness below were dying creatures, mortified and consumed. These would never fly again, turned to bitter flesh. The spring had emerged out of a wing as white as a blade reflecting the moonlight. But these birds were broken, besieged by a shadow that lay upon and around them, indifferent to their plight, asphyxiating each with the greedy love of soulless worms.
An image appearing so simple and innocent reveals the horror of the world as it degenerates in its own delusional battles, and the mortal dilemma of a soul revolting against its fate. If we speak of death as we enter the world of physis, the passing away of the soul as it is wrenched out of its natural environment, then is not the purpose of art on Earth to resurrect the soul, to generate a spark breaking through the thick membranes of biochemical illusion and social norms, that will inspire the soul to rise above the gloom and the follies and soar, as the moineau in the picture shows us with such delicate honesty? This frail being also carries the remains of mythical predecessors, yet, neither the the ibis, nor the phoenix is needed here to unveil an underlying epilogue, an eschatological pun.
Then I look still more closely and realise the young bird is not afraid but almost contemplative, as if suspended within a sphere that already shares its sub-atomic structure with a different universe prior to absolute symbiosis where the smallest particles would disintegrate in the oneness, a oneness however encompassing absolute diversity.
There is a memory of a movement left in the act of rubbing out, the traces of which gives the impression of a film in slow motion. He/she seems to have catapulted him/herself into the core of the firmament, his/her innocence dissolving the mystery of paradise for an instant briefer than the shortest instant recorded by the human mind, thus imperceptible by the senses, but evident to the psyche where quintessence abides.
Who or what then are the falling birds crashing like warplanes? Do they even intend it? A veritable mass suicide of winged lemmings…or do they symbolise the lives and illusions separating themselves from the reborn soul, like the dying leaves from a tree, ending their condition of relentless decay in the original womb?
One of them, the wing of whom I mistook for a jet of natural water, appears to escape the gravitational pull of hades, as if he/she had dislodged him/herself from this torturous state, by gaining momentum before ascending. Bu he/she partakes of the flora of limbo if not purgatory, adhering to the back of the hellish pit-bull, the abysmal stomach of the alchemical beast that, dissimulated behind the passe-partout, a key that opens many doors but this one, remains invisible to us. Only he/she who dares unmask that hidden portion of the scene will comprehend the totality of the message. This message being open to several interpretations will nevertheless whisper its singular secret through a feeling, slowly developing from an archetypal correspondence of signs and enlighten us without the use of words.
It is unequivocal; four worlds amalgamate, distinct and fused, intertwined in the molecules of space and time, derived from an ancestral and unconscious knowledge of transmutation while transcending the artifice of alchemical manipulation, four layers namely Ether-supra consciousness, the oxygenated atmosphere of the conscious, the limbo of doubt, river of Léthé congealing the soul slowly, and Inferno, the dark valley… the anthropo-cosmique stage where enslaving duality actualizes, both mirror faces losing their conjoined veracity as we move through the last kingdoms of numerical reality. Here they are, represented with false simplicity, evoking the ancient ideas of moral geography, of religious spatial distinctions, and deeper, of spiritual conditions of being and personal introspection into the chambers of ordeal and illumination. It alludes also to the ecological cycles of the soul as it hovers hesitantly before hurtling to earth, where it lingers, incarnates, forgets, its body dying once more, to let the astral self rise again, leaving the shreds and detritus of materiality to their grave, and outgrowing the dead weight of desire, complacency and banality, to return to what remains unknown to the supplicant and the forlorn, even to the initiate, an unknown quality that will not ever become a phenomenon.
Of course this is my reading and had it been intended, None of this would have appeared to me.
The creatures below that we can hardly distinguish from the miasma are almost torn by the insistence of the lines acting as storms of thorns depriving them of any possibility of escape. They are blind; eyes wide open onto the mounting obscurity of the prima materia, chaos of the cerebral magister. Lines here are cut up, straight, blunt, cruel, yet retain the same quiet use of the sharp pencil employed in the depiction of more sensitive elements. The tree betrays a gentleness that also inhabits and emanates from the young bird that soon will pierce the shield of the surface of the page, the elegant cage of the passe-partout, the arbitrary angularity of the frame, and finally our sinking world oblivious to this minuscule life without which it will cease to exist.
Each time this image falls into my field of vision, a new detail rises from the beauty of its apparition. It changes with the days, with memories. It lives and breathes among the plants, no longer just an object. A reason to stare and contemplate.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2017