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STEFAN ARTENI

THE WAY OF FORM - A RETROSPECTIVE


Part II

Q C C ART GALLERY Queensborough Community College - The City University of New York
december 2005 - march 2006

A presentation designed by the artist

www.stefanarteni.net
The Polyphonic Monologue Addressing the Intersection of Art and
Meditative Spirituality at the Heart of Form
Folktales. The ancient Bird
Goddess appears first in
Paleolithic totemic carvings.
By the beginning of agriculture
in the Neolithic, Her worship
achieves equivalent
importance to the Great Earth
Mother. Throughout classical
antiquity She appeares linked
to the worship of many
important goddesses in the
form of their sacred bird
companion and alter-ego,
e.g. Aphrodite's dove,
Athena's owl, Saraswati's
peacock. Her gift to the
magical arts was a form
of divination called
Ornithomancy. Folktales
suggest the persistence of the
Goddess worship in the guises
of Artemis, Hekate or
the Virgin Mary.

The stylized images of the


sacred or magic Bird of
folktales and that of the raven,
the great black bird, the
messenger of death who
evokes the thought of battles,
are woven in Romanian rugs.
The mixed technique
allegorical compositions
underline the paradox of
founding valid visual themes
on local motifs.
Compartmentalized compositions
Compartmentalization and sequencing recall the segmentation of Byzantine mosaic, Romanesque bas-relief
compositions and Indian art, where visual constructs are placed in grid patterns and forms are combined to
display multiple aspects of the visual data.

Imagic constructs appear ambiguous. The baroque disposition of spaces, making use of friezes of interlocking
figures in elaborate paratactic [side by side] compositions reminiscent of carved metopes and polychrome
Gothic friezes, the linear quality and the stylization, recall pure stereometric forms.. The projecting low relief
and various levels of modelled texture alternating with a sunken relief created by incisions suggest a sculptural
painting revealing the cumulative effect of pentimenti.
Centaurs and Lapiths
The Centauromachy
refers to the tension
between nature and
culture, the archetypal
struggle between human
Lapiths and the half-
human and half-horse
Centaurs, barbaric forces
intolerant of culture.
Entities on the margins of
humanness have always
elicited cultural anxiety.
The inner
monumentality of the
visual continuum
derives from spiral
frieze narratives on
Roman monuments.
The Return of Ulysses
Ulysses , the sacker of cities, the migrant and the
wanderer, is the archetype of knowledge as survival. “The
Return - the Eternal Return- is the cosmic figure of
identity, the ontological tautology of Being the Same”,
writes Boyan Manchev. The nostos [nostos, return, is also
the root of the word nostalgia,] the harrowing return,
speaks of the migrant's tale, of the exile's story. “Every
exile is a Ulysses traveling toward Ithaca…toward the
center,” writes Mircea Eliade. “The power to become a
new Ulysses is given to any exile whatsoever (precisely
because he has been condemned by the gods…)” The
homeland becomes a lost Ithaca, and the modern-day
Ulysses bears witness to the debasement and degradation
of his homeland . There is also a kind of nostalgia for
Troy's brave siege, a tension between what was and what
may be. Ulysses still needs to achieve a mental/emotional
nostos, he has to find the true path to the Self. It is the
loop of nostos, the eternal return, the will to become what
one is. If ever we need to heed the poet’s rendition of the
monologue of Ulysses, it is now:

At table's head I sit with myrrh anointed


But long since am asleep under the walls of Troy
Feasters do laugh and filled has been my cup -

You drink with the expired and hail


the ghostly
I have remained under the sloping walls
of Troy.

You speak to me of temples and pilasters


Of the new gods that in my tracks have
grown
Let me then tell of my blue mates that
perished
Left far at Troy under the heaps of
ashes.
By constructing series of variations around myth and folk narrative and by using symbol systems that can be traced back to antiquity, one is lead to
the archaic mental paradigm of cyclic myths. Events are inherent to the cycle, and repeat themselves from time immemorial. Relations of equivalence
are established between cosmos, the structure of the year and the parts of the human body. The painting transcends obvious readings to touch on more
archetypal concerns, it deals with fundamental experiences, with the inner depths of the human soul, its mindless destructive violence and intense
creativity.
Salome. Salome is said to have danced for the head of St. John the Baptist. Oscar Wilde's play
and Richard Strauss' opera blur the boundaries between death and ambiguous eroticism.Is not
Salome another version of a possible outcome of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde?
Moldavian Folktale
The dragon slayer
tale's basic structural
scheme has been
historically
reconstructed in
variants. The figure of
the hero who killed a
seven-headed
serpent, the snake
symbolizing false
prophecies, is often
transparently Near
Eastern. The stories of
Hercules, called the
averter of ill, and of
Perseus, the rider of
the winged horse,
belong to the 'mighty
deeds' type of myth
and revolve around
themes of initiation
and the culture-
bearer.
Ariadne, Mistress of the
Labyrinth
It was Ariadne who helped
Theseus to escape the
Labyrinth. The center of the
Cretan labyrinth palace is
presumed to have been used
for the sport of bull-leaping.
The labyrinth may be the dance
ground of Ariadne designed by
Dedalus. The labyrinth is the
inside that is wholly outside, it
is a world of in-between, it is
an initiatic matrifocal symbol to
which a sacrificial dimension
has been added. The pre-
hellenic word labyrinthos is
close to labyrus, the double-
axe used in the ceremonial
slaying of bulls. Ariadne's
labyrus, or the ball of yarn
thread in the myth, is needed to
break a way out.
The medieval Chartres
Cathedral labyrinth was meant
to be walked as a pilgrimage
and/or for repentance.
As a pilgrimage it was a
questing, searching journey.
“Vision is tactile
without
contact…practice is
blinder in
implication, more
luminous in
application. The
origin of knowledge
acquired through
everyday practice is
on the side of
shadow… In place
of a planar
triangulation of
geometry there is
now a stereometry
of empty forms in
the epiphany of
diaphanousness.”
(Michel Serres)
Homage to Mario Sironi
The story of the flight into Egypt is told laconically - it is a model whose significance
reaches beyond differences, it is 'the flight', an intersection between the everyday and
the never ending liminal cycle of the life of refugees. The abbreviated forms are
defined by means of a thick, almost tactile, impasto, reminiscent of Mario Sironi's
broadly sketched wall compositions.
Mural Projects
Mural Projects
The
Theplayful
playful
assemblage,
assemblage,de- de-
assemblage,
assemblage, andre-
and re-
assemblage of areas
assemblage of areas
within
withinwhich
whichoccur
occur
multiple intertwining
multiple intertwining
formal
formalvisual
visualpictorial
pictorial
narratives,
narratives,
iconography,
iconography,and and
symbolism, often
symbolism, often
working
workingatatcross-
cross-
purposes,
purposes, helptotolay
help lay
bare the passage
bare the passage
towards
towardsaaresolution
resolutionofof
conflicting
conflictingobjectives
objectives
and
and the satisfactionofof
the satisfaction
those
thosecontending
contending
parties
parties––presentation
presentation
and representation.
and representation.
Form
Form- -pictoriality
pictorialityandand
pictorial facticity -
pictorial facticity -
becomes
becomesthe thecarrier
carrierofof
meaning.
meaning.
Through time's howling clamor
A voice of the nothing
Through chattering aeon
A wailing of humans
(Lucian Blaga)

Within the context of Erving Goffman's dramaturgical metaphor, people barely mentioned in history will be defined as
being removed from the stage - their senseless suffering, a suffering without redemption, is described by the obscure
folktale riddle: "If you turn right, you will be in sorrow, if you turn left, you will be in sorrow as well".

A civilization far from the state model, based on a network of cultural nodes, developed in South-East Europe about
7000 years ago. It had introduced the ritual use of markings and signs known as the lower Danube Valley protoscript,
which appears as the oldest human ars scriptoria, whose elements are still present in the folk art rooted in the region's
distant past. Marco Merlini describes a peculiar semiotic system based on a relationship between script, decoration
and symbolism. In rural tradition, where the Horae of Greek mythology, personification of the seasons and of the
natural order, and the choral performances in praise of Dionysos are still celebrated by sacred circular dances, such
markings are elusive expressions associated with magic powers and epiphanies.

The series stresses the topography of visual interfaces and explores ways to manipulate and restructure perception.
Multiple inheritances are at work. The technology of art becomes a display of virtuosity. Work on the material medium
provides a ductile visual texture saturating the surface and susceptible of all transformations and metamorphoses
which are embodied by means of a technique proper to monochrome Japanese ink painting mixed with rubbing and
monotype singular impressions.
Calligraphic (Zen) Icons
Calligraphic (Zen) Icons
Wen C Fong, the art historian,
Wen C Fong, the art historian,
explains: "Knowledge of the past
explains: "Knowledge of the past
means action rather than an end in
means action rather than an end in
itself; it is intuitive and existential,
itself; it is intuitive and existential,
rather than historical."
rather than historical."
Always unnaturalistic, painting as
Always unnaturalistic, painting as
graphia, as a form of writing, consists
graphia, as a form of writing, consists
of a 'given' form that is subtly
of a 'given' form that is subtly
changed by the subject who uses
changed by the subject who uses
it, by the sweep of a single
it, by the sweep of a single
brushstroke where different parts
brushstroke where different parts
of the picture are rhymed and unified
of the picture are rhymed and unified
by the artist's touch.
by the artist's touch.
From the artist’s biography :
From the artist’s biography :
“Rooted in Southeast European, Western
“Rooted in Southeast European, Western
and East Asian
and East Asian
spirituality, Arteni's reframing of
spirituality, Arteni's reframing of
imagic constructs has been prompted
imagic constructs has been prompted
by Niklas Luhmann's insight:
by Niklas Luhmann's insight:
"Symbols …presuppose the
"Symbols …presuppose the
difference between familiar and
difference between familiar and
unfamiliar and…enable the re-entry
unfamiliar and…enable the re-entry
of this difference into the familiar…They
of this difference into the familiar…They
are forms of
are forms of
self-reference using the self-reference
self-reference using the self-reference
of form".
of form".
Arteni's polycontextural stylistic
Arteni's polycontextural stylistic
matrix allows room for a heterarchic play
matrix allows room for a heterarchic play
and recursive catenation of
and recursive catenation of
image structures where painterly
image structures where painterly
time and painterly space - a topology
time and painterly space - a topology
of interlacings - may be envisioned
of interlacings - may be envisioned
as a polyphonic monologue.
as a polyphonic monologue.
Michel Serres remarks: "An
Michel Serres remarks: "An
object…is…polychronic,
object…is…polychronic,
multitemporal, and reveals a
multitemporal, and reveals a
time that is gathered together,
time that is gathered together,
with multiple pleats".”
with multiple pleats".”
In
Inan
anarticle
articlewritten
writtenfor
forthe
theonline
onlinejournal Theandros,Thorsten
journalTheandros, ThorstenBotz-Botz-
Bornstein
Bornstein argues that there is a striking parallel between Byzantineand
argues that there is a striking parallel between Byzantine and
Japanese aesthetics. The mute-optical element has priority.
Japanese aesthetics. The mute-optical element has priority. Acts of Acts of
formalization
formalization create
createaareality
realityof
oftheir
theirown,
own,aareality
realitythat
thatisisstrictly
strictlyaaformal
formal
one,
one, a style mediated only through style, a reality which presents nothingbut
a style mediated only through style, a reality which presents nothing but
itself - style as a virtual world, or, paradoxically, as virtual irreality.
itself - style as a virtual world, or, paradoxically, as virtual irreality.
Calligraphy.
Calligraphy.
Vibrant certainty
its touch so fine, making a sign
peak and abyss on the same line
Henri Michaux

Forms of graphic notation allow for communication. The system elements are interrelated and subjected to a surface rhetoric. Oracle bone inscriptions mainly used
for divination and bronze inscriptions on ritual vessels are among the earliest known forms of Chinese script. A web of sign practices appears as precursor to
modern characters that have evolved from these archaic graphs. But above all, calligraphy is an unique art in whose medium-scape even written words can function
iconically. Like calligraphers in earlier centuries, one draws inspiration from ancient calligraphy styles. As a result, several characters may be combined into one, or one
character may appear as two. It is a confrontation between the calligrapher and the form. .In Zen terms, the form becomes the calligrapher’s koan.

Handwriting is a long trained motor skill resulting in well co-articulated shapes like strokes and loops. Like most periodic motor behavior, graphic skills may be
conceived of as the outcome of non-linear coupled oscillators model resulting from the nonlinear coupling between two orthogonal oscillatory components,
identifying stable states (or attractors) in graphic skills. To sum up, both performance and degradation in handwriting find a unifying concept with the notion of
stability, a hallmark in dynamical systems theories, a subtle interplay between stable patterns and the necessity to adopt less stable shapes and their co-articulation
as attractors of underlying coordination dynamics that govern graphic performance.
.
Gesture, which belongs to the ‘sphere of action’, is – to use Giorgio Agamben’s formulation – ‘the staging of a mediacy, the becoming-visible of the
means as such. It makes manifest human existence as being always within a medium’… It makes the mediality of the process, of the ‘gesture’ as
Agamben defines it, the theme of its own action and demonstration…movement which enacts and annotation that holds it in time.

A quote from the artist’s biography :


“Arteni’s interest in calligraphy began in high school.
He studied with Chinese, Korean, and Japanese
teachers, and is now pursuing calligraphy with
Professor Yusho Tanaka (Setsuzan), Director of the
Department of Calligraphy, Faculty of Literature, Daito
Bunka University, Tokyo, one of Japan's foremost
Living Masters and president of the Nihon Shodo
Geijutsu Kyokai (The Japan Calligraphy Art
Association) founded by Professor Kamijo Shinzan, a
pupil of Miyajima Eishi and one of Japan's top
calligraphers Arteni has been awarded in 2005 the
highest rank, SHIHAN (Master Teacher), by The
Japan Calligraphy Art Association. It is tradition that
the teacher gives the student an art name which points
to the student's nature. In 2005 Arteni received the
special art name GEIZAN [meaning Art Mountain] from Setsuzan Sensei and Arteni Setsuzan Sensei and Arteni
Yusho (Setsuzan) Tanaka Sensei. Arteni was given a next to Arteni’s 2005 (the hanging scroll is a
part of the Teacher's art name, ZAN [meaning
prize-winning calligraphy calligraphy by Setsuzan
Mountain,] as a symbol of spiritual succession.”
Sensei)
Artist's
Artist's Books
Books (Sol
(Sol Invictus
Invictus Press)
Press)
In a time when books are produced and marketed like industrial products and scorned as the fossil remains of a bygone
In a time when books are produced and marketed like industrial products and scorned as the fossil remains of a bygone
form of communication medium one realizes that as a work of the imagination, as poiesis and techne, a book can be whatever
form of communication medium one realizes that as a work of the imagination, as poiesis and techne, a book can be whatever
one can dream it to be. The Greek term poiesis signifies creation or production, while praxis means action or doing.
one can dream it to be. The Greek term poiesis signifies creation or production, while praxis means action or doing.
Excellence in poiesis is achieved by skill, art, craft, techne.
Excellence in poiesis is achieved by skill, art, craft, techne.

“As the leaves of a Sol Invictus book are


turned and the
characters/symbols/images succeed
each other in space and time, each
seemingly the work of an inspired
moment which has flowed
spontaneously from the artist's hand, the
awareness grows that an important
message is being spoken to the eye and
inscribed in the mind.” (Isaac Gewirtz,
Curator, Henry W. And Albert A. Berg
Collection of English and American
Literature, The New York Public
Library)
“Laudes Creaturarum…is a stunning whole comprised of carefully
considered details. Each folio is a paper handmade from fiber of a
different plant that grows in Colombia…Page composition is based
on the golden section. Printed on each is part of the well-known
“Canticle of Brother Sun” by Saint Francis of Assisi…in its oldest
known version. Each section of type, in black, is decorated with
handcarved initials in red. Also red are the carved seals, their
references and cross-references reflecting many cultures, from
Egyptian to Chinese and Romanian. The dramatic drawings are
more personal but as multicultural. Like oriental “pictures of the
mind,” in black ink on the natural paper, they refer to the words of
Saint Francis as well, but through archetypal symbols…”
(Jacqueline Brody, Editor, The Print Collector’s Newsletter,
Vol.XXIV No. 1 March-April 1993)
Laudes Creaturarum. The very symbols used in different writing systems result from a compromise between the needs of the hand and
those of the eye and resist any easy distinction between image and writing. The visual diptych of the open codex enables the eye to
immediately grasp the repertoire of complex glyphs fully integrated as emblematic patterns, whether Egyptian hieroglyph, or American Indian
pictograph, or Chinese character, or typographic pattern. The large initials blur the boundaries between picture and calligraphy. Writing and
images intersect and emphasize visual links over comprehension, the main concern being to make picture and script appear as a decorative
unity - we may even speak of asemic writing, a play with the text configuration as shape and object.
Cantique de
Saint Jean.
The powerful
treatment is
derived from
Japanese
calligraphy and
Byzantine models
using the
medium to omit
spatial illusion
which would
'break up' the
surface of the
leaf. The ink
monotypes
explore
metamorphic
variations of
Byzantine visual
themes such as
the severed head
on a plate and of
the Baptism.
Coda
Hidai Tenrai coined the term hitsu i, the
spirit of the brush. It is a dynamic notion
dependent on the stroke. Abstract
variations on an ostinato progression,
give us an insistent, dance-like
movement.

The line is a calligraphic ‘three


dimensional’ line.
The Thinker as Poet
Wandering
River Bank
Encountering Sorrow
Whether relief or intaglio, carved seals are a vessel for a spiritual, dramatic art. The knife used for seal cutting is
called iron brush. Particular attention is paid to the enhanced aesthetic effect of seal script in the organic design
of the pages.
Apocalypse.
Stylized unreal
scenes are
placed in
constantly
changing
position on the
page using
intentionally
stylistic elements
that are archaic
in appearance
and signify a
fascinating
crucible of the
most diverse
influences. A
sense of magic
and expectation
is meant to seize
the visitor when
he/she peruses
the clay
monotypes.
From
Fromthe
theartist’s
artist’sbiography
biography: :
“The immediacy of ink splashes spattered
“The immediacy of ink splashes spattered
on paper creates a constructed void…
on paper creates a constructed void…
Zao Wou-Ki
Zao Wou-Ki
International
InternationalArt
ArtProjects
Projects

2004-2005
UNstant (An-instant), a collective work
packaged in book form, initiated and
made possible by I.D.E.A.C. (Institut
d'Esthetique des Arts
Contemporains/Universite Paris I -
Pantheon-Sorbonne) and
C.N.R.S.(Centre National de la
Recherche Scientifique), France, is
about exploring transversal thought and
emerging gesture in the visual, audio,
and movement mediums. Arteni's
intervention (ink works, artist's books
and monotypes portfolio) showcases a
polycontextural artistic matrix, the mark
as chronotopic palimpsest, the total
gesture as immediate enstatic
experience.

An excellent opportunity for presenting


UNstant was offered by a conference at
the University of Reading, U.K.,
September 2005, on the theme
"Transversalities, crossing disciplines,
cultures and identities".
The books room features also a few preparatory cartoni for the Orpheus mural. Orpheus was usually depicted as a young harp player wearing a Phrygian conical peaked
cap, seated on a rock, and surrounded by animals that were charmed by his music. An austere, obliquely classicizing form repertoire pursuing unexpected visual rhythms,
numerous transposed self-quotations and quotations - Orpheus and Pan surreptitiously adapt an early Byzantine type while the snake is a formal variation based on the
configuration of a cursive Chinese glyph - and the iterative use of a densely textured compartmentalized assemblage, strive to reinvent a stripped down archaic visual matrix.
The pure visuality of the integrated system may be identified with associatively structured memory - it is about form and about associative links allowing the choice of parallel
and/or overlapping and intersecting formal repertoires. Materiality, that is interest in the unfinished and open tangible facticity of substance, and spirituality, that is the non-
verbal magical-mythical infinite play, are twin aspects of the way of form, which is to be understood as process in the making: one responds to the way only by travelling the
way.
Assembled Orpheus Cartoni
“…form as possibility of choice, form that is an attempt to locate points of
“…form as possibility of choice, form that is an attempt to locate points of
fulcrum…in the chaos around us…”
fulcrum…in the chaos around us…”
(Danilo
(DaniloKiš)
Kiš)

“Beauty…is
“Beauty…isfreedom's
freedom'sessence…it
essence…itisisaastate
stateofofbeing…it
being…itstays
staysininreserve,
reserve,
unobtrusive, meek, a sort of silent movie.”
unobtrusive, meek, a sort of silent movie.”
(Nicolae Steinhardt)
(Nicolae Steinhardt)