Yesterday I saw a painting by Nico Pirosmani - a portrait of a woman with a tambourine. A special detail that makes Pirosmani’s style so special is that he was painting on black cloth instead of white canvas. He couldn’t afford to buy special materials, but the solution he found, asking for old table cloths at taverns owned by his friends, became his unique, distinct feature. I didn’t know about this detail before and this discovery added another level of attraction to his work. I have a deep appreciation for his use of black, which he called the most potent colour. Only with a few strokes of white a whole new world is coming out of the darkness. Most of the times, that’s how it feels to me when I develop a new thought or idea. Actually, everything feels like that, a new relationship, a new place, new book etc. It is always a process of lines coming out of the dark. Knowing emerging out of not-knowing. The more light there is, the more options become available, the more challenging the darkness becomes, where at some point it becomes a fight between light and dark.
I feel strong affection to primitivist art which Pirismani is representing. When looking at such works, somehow clumsy, I feel at ease, they accept me for what I am and I accept them for what they are. They allow my occasional clumsiness to find shared ground. As a viewer we are invited to look beyond representation hinting that there is something else to look at. I love that unpretentious, pure, even naïve vibe those paintings have. It feels safe around them. I felt that strongly while looking at the exhibition of Pirosmani, which inspired this drift. A feeling of safety, created by a non-demanding presence. Non-wanting presence that feels calm. Sounds contradictory at first. When we experience non-wanting from someone else, we can feel uneasy, unimportant, unnecessary. At the same time when there is a lot of wanting, we feel trapped, suffocating and losing ourselves in the want of the other. In case of the latter, we push back to ensure we maintain our sovereignty and integrity. Under the condition that we are able to recognise what causes the discomfort, which isn’t an easy task at times. So, wanting is two-fold, non-wanting can trigger anxiety and fear of losing and too much wanting leads to unavoidable loss of oneself. Interestingly, there is always loss involved. Loss of other vs loss of self. Now let’s go back to non-wanting coming form the painting. That one feels good and has nothing to do with loss.
What is going on here? What makes a difference? Try to put aside that I am using a relation to painting to create parallels with relationships between people. But in the context of this argument, it makes a difference. When I look at the painting, it gave me the feeling or calmness and acceptance, but without giving myself into the contemplative process nothing would emerge. Its presence is non-wanting yet without my want there would be nothing. And it accepts my wants with no judgement and hesitation. Naïve style of the paintings makes the surrender is easier. It is an eternal mutual dependency between me and a painting that allows for non-wanting to be fulfilling. I try to make a mental move to distill what i am pointing at. The right non-wanting isn’t a threatening lack of purpose, but a space or equilibrium between two entities wherein both wantings become so essential and stable that there is no movement happening. Non-wanting is like a meta stable state, a temporary place of calm that can change any moment. A resting bench from where you can sit and observe what emerges before we make our next move.