Once again, an inspiring interlude in my day, a sifting through old photographs and this time it is my travels to Turkey and those intriguing elements of Turkish culture. I am transported to the dark light, a dozen or so musicians appear wearing long black cloaks and tall, earthen-coloured hats. They begin an undulating, repetitious, trance-like melody. After some time, five more similarly-attired dancers arrive and slowly circle in formalized steps, bowing to one another. Awhile later, like the blossoming of a flower, they drop their black capes and step forward in full-length white skirts. One by one, at random, they begin to turn. With one arm toward the sky and one to the earth they whirl, skirts flying, their heads bent to one side. The music heightens and the dervishes keep pace with the beat.
I wonder whether the idea of whirling in order to get into a state of sublimity might parallel the making of art. The music certainly is almost like the sort of music that some artists use to provide a trance-like, creative “zone” – both rhythmic and repetitious. The dizzying whirl requires concentration and personal containment. Each dervish, while respectful of others, maintains his own inner world. It’s the activity itself, with all its discipline and rigor, that provides the transcendent state. Sufi dancing, like making art, brings the practitioner closer to an understanding of who he is. Control and self-control are at the core of the dervish cult.
For all the time spent pacing about in my studio space, these episodes are great. That surface over there has been waiting on me to have a go at this “whirling dervish”. I’ve been working on this painting for a while now, and I still haven’t decided if it’s finished or not. But I do see some WHIRLING of sorts in it. People ask me how I decide what to do when I paint? Or, how do I know when a painting is finished? Using Rumi’s words, it is that artist inside, who you don’t know about, that decides. Or as the author Joseph Conrad said, “Your inward voice decides.” I cannot explain how this all works, but the fact is, that if I listen to that voice and trust it, in more cases than not it will give me the proper advice.
I have to laugh! Finally, I understand it in terms of art and being in the moment of sheer joy. Although I may not exactly spin and swirl literally, my mind and emotions and energy towards my projects feel exactly as I see the dancers ecstatically in their individual, and group spins. I get caught in the excitement of creativity, one thing leads to another and it is a thrilling ride. I prefer to think that I am not spinning out of control. It is whirling in the joy of creativity, and following the energy of my heart, what is going on around me, and following the unknown path.