MAPPING THE SOUL
Reproduced from Artesian Magazine No. 4, 2002.
I have made a discovery. I know better now what my strange drawings are about. The pictures show masses of weird and unfamiliar creatures, faces, bodies, objects, juxtaposed and changing from one form to another to another, without breathing space. I had come to believe that the line I draw encapsulates all things in the universe, revealing how all things are part of the whole, and how all things can become anything else, since they are all derived from the same matter. My drawings seemed to symbolise my search not only for oneness with the universe, but for a single image or expression to define the universe and all that it contains - a search for my own universal 'equation' and my own place within it. Now I realise that my drawings can be seen at a different level. They symbolise, of course, my inner universe too. All 'life, the universe and everything' are there, both as they exist and as I have experienced them - not only as a universal equation, but as a map of my inner universe - a map of how it is at this 'moment' (for the duration of creating the drawing) in time. This map is also a representation of the real outer universe, or my experience of it, since all things are one.
My realisation that perhaps we are all creating maps of our inner worlds came as I was working on a recent drawing. Gazing at it, following the ink lines with my eye, seemed to evoke the same fascination as I had as a child with studying maps - I would spend hours immersed in the detail of any map, mesmerised by the names, the patterns of routeways and settlements, coastlines and contours. I amassed my own map collection of anywhere for which maps had been produced; regularly lost (or found?) myself in the intricacies of street maps of any city, national road maps of any country, world maps, lunar maps, whatever I could lay my hands on - all feeding my longing to be an explorer of all these places. When I was an adult (not necessarily 'grown-up'!) my career in earth sciences allowed me to travel to remote parts of the world and create my own maps from the bare sand or rock, places that had never been mapped before, areas for which I could translate my own explorations of a real 3-D world into features plotted on a 2-D sheet of paper, for others to study and immerse themselves in. So, as I stared at my latest drawing I suddenly knew that I was still map-making, map-dreaming, just as I had been doing since childhood. Now I looked at my drawing from a different perspective - now I followed the lines as they took me to cities populated by weird creatures and distorted faces, through more open country to lands of eyes and ship-birds; lips and messages; caverns, curls and indescribable beings. Here, the beings are clustered close against one another, there, more open and free. Every line bears me to another realm, and on and on, throughout this universe.
What intrigues me when I look at the images on my maps, and compare them with other artists' creations, is where these bizarre images come from, these creatures that populate our universal inner lands. I often wonder how and why our memories, experiences, emotions, dreams, thoughts, visions become so consistently transmuted into a unique and strange iconography of our own. I suppose the images might come from a number of different sources, such as our personal experiences, memories, emotions and thoughts; ancient, historic and/or recent cultural influences; the 'collective unconscious' (after Jung), which includes our biological and genetic inheritance; our own personal unconscious; and/or a divine or mystic source. Fiona Adamson explained to me how the sum of our responses to all these factors passes into our imagination. There, the imagination seems to use a preverbal language, this being the most powerful and instinctive language that we have: that of symbol and image. The imagination processes the myriad of connected and disconnected 'inputs' to create our own family of images that symbolise our inner world, and form the basis of our universal maps. I have noticed that one of the most enduring images to appear on peoples' maps is that of the face. I love looking at other peoples' images of their inner selves as portrayed in their own distinctive style. I guess we are always searching for an image of ourselves, a definition of who we really are. When we were compiling Artesian's first book of ink drawings (Black Tide 1), I was enthralled to see how the artists all saw themselves. Each face peered out of the page with such openness and honesty: "Here I am. This is who I am," they announced.
Another feature of our inner maps which intrigues me is where our emotions are hidden within the images and symbols portrayed. Rosie McLeish has suggested to me that emotion lies within the properties of the line we draw - whether the line is faint or strong, simple or complex, thin or thick - these qualities may reflect confidence, rage, love, or some other deep feeling. Perhaps too, the amount of detail and control of the line we draw reflects our fear of letting go, of being open to facing past traumas, to fearing chaos or the unknown. The obsessive nature of some of our maps may be a way for us to deflect our thoughts from deep fears of some kind. It doesn't really matter, of course, why or how these images appear - they just do so, and there is nothing we can or should do to change them without compromising our integrity as artists. These questions arise simply out of curiosity, not out of a need to change or challenge what we do. Our map of the universe shows how it is. I have trouble finding titles for any of my drawings other than 'This is the way it is' - for this is all they can be. They are of the now. They show what is. They reveal my truth. And this is surely what all raw artists create - the raw truth of our inner universe. Allowing our own unique style to emerge, discarding as far as we can any other influences on our work, means we can create our own personal iconography - our very own symbols that make up our universal map. And in doing so, we take a step nearer to discovering what our own inner truth really is, and who we really are. There are no rules in creating these maps - no constraints of perspective, scale or convention. Instead, we create whatever is there, and it emerges in whatever way it feels like, and that we allow. We cannot judge this work (for very serious work it is indeed). It is not there to be criticised or analysed; for it, like the universe, just is. Do we need religions or scholars to tell us our truths? I believe we already know them and can reveal them to the world (if we wish to) through our universal maps. All we need to say, if we wish to say anything at all, is "Here is a Map of the Truth. Here is a Map of my Soul."