Ocean Without a Shore – Bill Viola

“Originally commissioned for the 2007 Venice Biennale,Ocean Without a Shore was first shown in the 15th century Church of the Oratorio San Gallo, a short distance from the Piazza San Marco. Inspired by the writings of Senegalese poet Birago Diop, it takes its title from Andalusian Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi, who wrote, “The Self is an ocean without a shore. Gazing upon it has no beginning or end, in this world and the next.” Viola’s work expresses this sentient self and, bathing the viewer in a sensorium of light and sound, is a masterpiece that asks us to reflect upon fundamental ideas of love, hope, sorrow, anxiety, death, regeneration, and being.”
Quote sourced from http://withart.visitphilly.com/artworks/ocean-without-a-shore/

Bill Viola, Ocean Without a Shore, 2007, Video and sound installation, running time: approx. 90 minutes, PAFA, 2010.22

Since I came across this work I have watched the available online video clips multiple times. The incredible creation of an invisible threshold by the passing of bodies through a wall of water is otherworldly and magical. The work utilises flickering, grainy black and white footage on one side of the threshold, then as they pass through they become full-colour super high definition. The choice of video technique, the slo motion movement and the ephemerality of the water-wall threshold highlights the fragility of life and the fineness of the border between life and death, between one reality and another.

Link to video footage: http://youtu.be/eTakwOpWqG4



Denis Forkas Kostromitin

Featured image above: The Slant Serpent, The Tortuous Serpent, 2012-2013, Egg tempera, acrylics, gilding and ink on prepared wood block 

Denis Forkas Kostromitin is a Russian artist, currently living in Moscow, who has studied in China under traditional teachers. His paintings are dark, textural and hold a wealth of symbolism.

On speaking of Gilbert Durand, sociologist and anthropologist he says:

“Durand suggested breaking with the European Logos-centric tradition and going beyond the object-subject system. According to his hypothesis, our world (‘our’ being the subject and ‘world’ the external objects) is the fruit of imagination. Imagination is born from the fact of death, as a reflection of mortality – we exist ergo we are mortal ergo we imagine ergo we exist. The ever-unfolding vista of Mythos takes shapes of images, symbols, rituals, customs, social relations, poetry, games and legends. Imagination fills the space (or rather time) between itself and the realm of non-existence with things we see, hear, feel, create, destroy, hope for, dream about, etc.
If imagination is a reflection of mortality, its scale and intensity would probably be set by the proximity of death. This ‘(life)time’ would be a continuously changing value balance between Mythos and Logos and responding to the slightest changes in Mythos.”
Ansell. R (Ed.), 2013, Abraxas Issue 3, Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica, London, England. p134

I like this idea of the interplay between Mythos and Logos and the way Logos has to change according to shifts in Mythos.

Etna, acrylics on paper

DFC talks about his sigil construction technique and how it differs from that developed by Austin Osman Spare. His experience in use of eastern calligraphic techniques (especially farsi) have influenced his sigil creation and given it a very fluid form.

He also talks of art as an initiatory experience that allows artist and viewer to be in a place where everybody speaks the same symbolic language:

“I believe that art helps us transcend cultural barriers and brings us to the ‘plateau of initiation’, where everyone and everything speaks the same language. In my sigil work I attempt to establish immediate connection between Logos and Mythos. These auxiliary artistic elements serve as shortcuts to the ‘plateau’.”
Ansell. R (Ed.), 2013, Abraxas Issue 3, Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica, London, England. p139

M L K (Moloch) Tempera, blood, charcoal and graphite on paper 50 x 50cm 2011M L K (Moloch) Tempera, blood, charcoal and graphite on paper 50 x 50cm 2011

On the artist as ‘channel’ or ‘conduit’ for ideas and messages (this is something I will be exploring further in a future blog post):

“This striking recurrence phenomenon made me take a closer look as my own art and I soon discovered that I, too, had been passing on a message that wasn’t entirely own.”
Ansell. R (Ed.), 2013, Abraxas Issue 3, Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica, London, England. p137

“At the heart of Poïesis (hi-lighting my own) is metaphor, a vessel that can project idea ideas from one conceptual domain onto another; it allows us to manipulate imagination. I believe metaphorical projection and transcendence is the main function of religious rituals, and I choose to base my practice on the assumption that ritual is, in fact, a metaphor.
The purpose of my practice is to restructure Logos through a ritualised performance addressing Mythos and emerge with pristine artefacts of imagination.”
(bolding my own)
Ansell. R (Ed.), 2013, Abraxas Issue 3, Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica, London, England. p137

On talking of the use of sigil to convey messages to the unconscious in esoteric artwork (see Austin Osman Spare for further info on this topic) DFK has this to say:

“The power of sigils lies in their mystery, as the cryptic ornamentation stirs waters of the unconscious. This is why it is so much easier for the viewer to experience the spell than the artist. Unconscious puzzle-solving is the key element that opens the great cache of the Mythos.”
Ansell. R (Ed.), 2013, Abraxas Issue 3, Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica, London, England. p142

ABPA A , 2014, ink on paperΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ, 2014, Ink on paper

Ansell. R (Ed.), 2013, Abraxas Issue 3, Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica, London, England.


Austin Osman Spare

British artist and occultist 1886 – 1956

AOS is very interesting to me because of his depictions of the esoteric and the way he chose to express those ideas through diagrams, sigils and symbols that both reveal and hide the message.

He started out his artistic career at The Royal College of Art in London where his interest in strong line work (influences of Aubrey Beardsley and EJ Sullivan) apparently made him unpopular with the contemporary art scene. Throughout his life he worked in a variety of mediums: paintings, drawings, pastels and etchings. After developing his interest in Western Esotericism these subjects informed all his work from this point on and he developed his own powerful and unusual system of mysticism centred around his ideas of ‘Zos’ – the human consciousness and ‘Kia’ – the universal consciousness.


The Death Posture, 1913 (A self portrait. Interestingly the white horned statue of a woman is an ancient carving of Ishtar/Astarte that currently resides in the Louvre).

Many of his artworks from this time were ‘automatic drawings’ that were created during magical trance states and that he believed were created when his conscious mind was held at bay. The elements in his artwork which are of particular interest to me and my research are his use of sigils in his work. The sigils are created from words, letters, images and distilled into almost unintelligible symbolic diagrams. The messages within the sigils and their intent should bypass the conscious mind and find action in the unconscious mind. The desire and conscious understanding of both the practitioner (artist/occultist) and the viewer should be dispelled by the indecipherability of the sigil. It is preferable that neither viewer understands the meaning and that it is filtered through the unconscious mind and the meaning extracted without thought or desire.

“For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is in every way perfect.”
(Liber al vel Legis, Chapter 1, No.44 – Aiwass via Aleister Crowley, 1904)

The following quote expresses the feelings of a viewer who realised that Spare was creating diagrammatical infographics of his ideas as a method of communication, but that he did not have the necessary knowledge to understand them. Whether this is important or not is debatable as it was perhaps not the intention of AOS to communicate these ideas in a didactic form to a viewer who was uninitiated in the symbology of his mysticism.

In a 1914 review of The Book of Pleasure, the critic (anonymous) seems resigned to bewilderment, “It is impossible for me to regard Mr. Spare’s drawings otherwise than as diagrams of ideas which I have quite failed to unravel; I can only regret that a good draughtsman limits the scope of his appeal”.
(Review of ” The Book of Pleasure, the Psychology of Ecstasy” (by Austin Osman Spare) in The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 26, No. 139, (Oct., 1914), pp. 38-39)


Protection Against Evil People


The Formula For Atavistic Resurgence


The Death Posture


AOS and his cats


AOS painting in his studio

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