Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Swan Bride/Part 1 - Dagestan - A Brief History

You may wish to skip the history

Part 2 - Lezginka
Part 3 -  The Dance of  the Swan Bride
Part 4 - A Political Epilogue



Part 1
THE SWAN BRIDE 
A Brief History of Dagestan

To be moved by the story of the Swan Bride you have to understand her country. 
 

I have to admit that when we received the invitation to visit Dagestan we had no idea where the republic was.  We were drinking tea in the cultural hall at the Sochii Olympics and looking at the most beautiful dance costumes.

We were enjoying the warm hospitality of two Dagestani girls; Saida and Diana who told us about the richness of their country and invited us to visit, we had no hesitation in accepting their kind invitation.  Last week we visited Dagestan for eight days.

We now know Dagestan is a small Russian republic squeezed along the coast of the Caspian Sea. The name "Dagestan" is a compound of two words: "Dagi" which means mountains and "Stan" which means Country.  This name does not describe the Northern part of the republic which is flat semi arid land connected to the Eurasian Steppe, but "dagistan" is a good description of the Southern part of the republic which is all mountains except for one narrow belt of land that runs along the coast of the Caspian sea.  This narrow belt of land provided the only passageway for traders who wanted to cross from the southern Silk Road to Russia and the Balkan states in the North. 


In the 4th century the Persians built wall across the passageway to control and tax passing traders. They called their fortress wall Derbent, a place that has been in continuous habitation for 5,000 years and is the oldest city in Europe.  The modern name comes from the Persian word Darband which in their language means gateway.  Derbent was the gateway between nomadic peoples from the Eurasian and Mongolian Steppes who settled on the flat lands of the North and the Christian and Islamic empires of the Arabic, Iranian and Turkish peoples that came from the South. 
  

In 627 the Persian Christian leaning Sassanid empire were kicked out of Derbent by an Islamic Turkic Khaganate. In consequence Derbent has the remains of one of the oldest churches in Europe and the oldest mosque in Europe.  Christianity and then Islam spread through the Derbent gateway into the Caucuses and Europe. 

Dagestan is a crossroads country that is dotted with pockets of ethnic peoples who have settled in the mountains and lowlands along the coast of the Caspian Sea, this tiny population of 3million have over 20 languages and even more ethnic groups.  This is crude map of the ethnic diversity of Dagestan (boundary marked in dark pink). 



Diana and her friend, The Swan Bride, are Laks, who were Mountain people.  Saida, who sadly could not join us during our visit, is a Tabasaran

The Russians, in Imperial overdrive after Napoleon had been repulsed from Moscow, invaded the Caucases . The Caucasian wars 1817 - 1864 were very bitter and have been written about by Tolstoy and Lermontov who both took part in the fighting.  The last of the great warrior defenders of the Caucasus came from Dagestan; his name was Aman Shamil.  


Red bearded Shamil was captured in 1859 and taken across Russia to St Petersburg.  He told his compatriots that he had had no idea of the size and power of the country they had been fighting, and advised his armies to put down their weapons.  Some, including the Chechens (Chechnya) and Avars (N. Dagestan) did not heed his advice and continued to fight for a few more years, but without agile and brave leadership of Shamil the Caucasian cause was broken .  

Shamil's sons became officers in the Russian Army, and on the whole Shamil's advice was right. The Dagestani's decision to be loyal to Russia has saved them from the fate that befell the Circassians, whose rebellious nature was severely punished by their masters: In the 19th century the Russians forcibly moved 90% of the Circassian population out of the North Caucus mountains and dumped them in the Ottoman empire.  In the 1940s half a million Chechens, who Stalin falsely accused of being pro-Germans, were forcibly moved to Siberia the deserts of Khakastan where nearly 60% of their population perished.

The Dagestanis sided with the Bolsheviks against white cossacks who had been garrisoned in the Caucuses, but being loyal to Russia was not easy.  The Soviets outlawed Islam and in the 1940s moved half of the mountain people down on to the flat land that had been vacated by the Chechens.  Diana's and the Swan Bride's grand-parents were moved from the mountains to Northern Dagestan to Northern DAgestan.  Diana told me a story about how her great grandfather decided one day that the family would no longer pray or be faithful to Islam, and how her great grandmother never forgave him for his decision.  Diana said his decision was about protecting his family.  Diana's people, who accepted their fate as being part of Russia, now speak and think of themselves as Russian.  They say "Dagestan cannot exist without Russia", I heard this phrase many times, even from people who have reconverted to Islam.  One very Islamic girl asked me "what is this news about Scotland wanting to be independent from Britain?  We are amazed, we cannot understand it".


The Swan Bride Part 1 - A Brief History of Dagestan

The Swan Bride Part 2 - Lezginka

The Swan Bride Part 3 -  The Dance of  the Swan Bride

The Swan Bride / Part 2 - Lezginka



In my piece about Sochi
I wrote about my first impressions of Caucasian Dance or Lezginka as it is commonly called.  Together with the warmth of Diana and Saida's hospitality, it was Lezginka that made us want to visit their country, so before I tell you the story of The Dance of the Swan Bride I want to tell you something more about Lezginka.

Lezginka is part a culture that is unfixed and is only loosely connected to Derbent where the Lezgins live.  The Lezgins are but one people in a region that is brim full of ethnic diversity, languages and dance forms.  Across on the west side of the Caucasus are the Circassians (Adyghes, Cherkess, Kabardins, Shapsugs), and Ossetians, to the South West are Georgians.  In the Ukraine the Cossacks have similar dances that they call Hopek.

I drew this Circassian dancer at Sochi, She wears a crown and long dress with long sleeves. When she moves she floats about the stage on rapid foot movements that cannot be seen under her clothing. 


I could have drawn her making slow swan like movements with undulating arms, because all her emotions are expressed through the arms.  This Dancer, who is from Dagestan, dances in a similar way to the Circassians.

Both have long platted hair.  Theis fashion for platted hair is very old and universal across the region; in the museum of  art in Makhachkala (capital of Dagestan) I saw a 7th century Christian broach depicting a ladies face with similar plats.

This Lezgin dancer is in Pink.  The lowland Lezgins and Taberasans live near Derbent.  The dance finishes with all the girls collectively arranging their bodies to become an opening flower.


I have yet to identify which group this lovely Dagestani Dancer represents.

Some Dagestan dancers wear pantaloons and expression themselves through fast footwork which is a bit like the steps in Irish Riverdance.  This Avar girl from Northern Dagestan comes from culture furthest from Derbent who were the last to convert to Islam. Her costume includes references to the Sun and other pagan motives.


The male dancing is super-active, macho, and elegant.  In western ballet it is the women who dance on point, in the Caucasus it is the men.  This dancer is finishing his visual display on point on top of two drums.  And WOW, does it work?!


The men are very athletic, often jumping and spinning in the air, and landing on their knees


They like playing with sharp knives that stick in the floor when they are dropped or thrown across stage.


Often their dancing is tongue-in-cheek, and comic.  They join their bodies to make animals that walk across the stage.


and play instruments


But when a woman is on stage with them they strut like Eagles.  The men are the Eagles, and the women are Swans.  We have reached the essence Lezginka; Eagles and Swans..



Every republic across the Caucuses has their own dance company where the dance traditions are preserved, the Cucasian people love dancing and take their cultural heritage very seriously. In Makhachikala, the capital of Dagestan, each ethnic group has its own theatre.  This is the entrance to the theatre belonging to the Kumyk peoples.


The colourful dance and costumes of Caucasians are a refreshing change to the stereotype of Islamic culture that we learn about from the media.  As we will see dancing is central to their lives and approach to Islam, and in the end my story about The Dance of the Swan Bride tells it all.


The Swan Bride/Part 3 - The Dance of the Swan Bride




Links to other chapters

Part 1 - A Brief History of Dagestan
Part 2 -  Lezginka
Part 4 - A Political Epilogue





Part 3
THE SWAN BRIDE 
The Dance of the Swan Bride

The wedding began like any wedding in Britain might;  Hadizha, that is her name, was in her living room dressed in a huge richly decorated wedding dress, around her were a crowd of giggling girlfriends, their dark uncovered hair flowed over the brightly coloured silks and satins of their designer gowns. They all wore bracelets of flowers on their wrists to show they were friends of the bride.  They were posing for the official photographer and taking selfies.


It was a shock to learn that under Islamic law the marriage had already been completed in a mosque without the bride ever being there.   The custom is that the public wedding ceremony starts when the groom collects his bride from her home and escorts her to the reception.  Surely this arrangement was hard for the girls to take?  I never asked this question directly, but I did discuss Muslim culture with Diana and her friend Amina who was looking after us during the wedding day.

Three Jewels - Diana, Mami and Amina
Both girls seemed very satisfied to be under the protection of their fathers, they liked knowing their fathers were watching out and looking after them in a loving way.  Diana said she could disobey her uncle (she has no father) and he would not be angry, but it would change their relationship. Amina told me she could not visit Britain without her father's permission, and he would not give it because he was concerned for her safety.  Women's lib would be upset by their point of view, and it struck me that both girls are lucky to have kind guardians, maybe they would be more rebellious if they felt repressed.

The groom arrived to escort his bride and we joined a cavalcade which took us to the wedding hall.  Driving in Dagestan is an all male affair.  On the roads testosterone is king; they zoom, cut each other and play chicken with oncoming traffic. Driving a bride and groom to a wedding was an excuse for the male virtues of bonding, teamwork and "owning the road".  Our cars surrounded the wedding car from all sides, we honked our horns and drove through red lights, and deliberately stopped at cross roads to block traffic so the rest of the team could pass through.  At one point we met another wedding coming the other way, and we played chicken with them too.  Luckily there were no accidents.

The hall we entered had laden tables.  The cuisines were from the many mountain cultures of their precious country; plates of lamb wrapped in vine leaves, yoghurt and stuffed doughs, plates of Sushi for Mami, soft drinks for the devout Muslims and vodka for the Russians. 500 guests from the extended family were already settled at their tables, they had courteously left us places at the tables nearest to the garlanded raised dais with throne chairs where the bride and groom would sit.  Down the centre of the hall was a golden carpet along which the young couple would walk.   

We knew the Bride and Groom were about to enter when the music began.  Lezginka dancers arrived; three swans in long white dresses flecked with silver and three eagles in braided purple, greeted and danced the newly weds as they made their way to their waiting thrones.


The best man sat next to the groom whilst Diana, calm and collected, sat in quiet attendance to the bride.  The parents were absent, the beautiful mothers discretely sitting amongst their guests and dressed in finely woven blacks.  


A Champaign bottle was popped and the fizzing liquid poured over a champagne fountain, the bride and groom came down to accept a drink and a few friends used a microphone to toast the newly weds.

Disco dancing had started, maids brought more plates of food and every time we paused from eating a maid replaced our half used dishes with clean ones. It seemed like a western wedding, the girls started dancing whilst the men lounged at the tables.  I pulled out my drawing pad.  This is a drawing of Mami who had made friends with a soft lady called Saida.

 
There was an interval when the official marriage certificate was signed


Then Mr Mekhtiev led Mrs Mekhtiev to the centre to dance "The First Dance" of their young marriage.  They danced in a cloud of mist and golden confetti that puffed from a machine around their feet; they danced a Dance of Heaven and Togetherness.  Everyone clapped.


by now the music had changed to Lezginka, Diana was with a flock of her friends dancing the Dance of the Swans.

 
Every now and then the music would pause and a Russian with a deep, booming, rasping voice would invite guests to wish the young couple well.


Even I had done some dancing, but I was much happier watching and drawing.  I was never alone, drawing always attracts children, and by now I had made many little friends.  One, a girl called Alicia, had a camera with which she would approach my pad after I had completed a sketch.



She watched over my shoulder as I was drew a child on a chair.  When my subject left Alicia stepped silently forward and sitting in the same chair waited for me to draw her too.  My little friend, who spoke no English, arranged everything without ever speaking a word.


At intervals the Lezginka dancers came out and entertained us with more dances.  Then the bride came down from her throne and an extraordinary dance began - The Dance of the Swan Bride.

The Bride was alone in the centre of the room.  Slowly and softly she moved like a ghost in a circle, her eyes down and looking towards the empty space she had created. The men who had been lounging at the tables and refusing to dance suddenly became interested.   A man jumped into her circle and began The Dance of the Eagle.

His movements deft and strutting, his steps aggressive and arrogant, he was asking/forcing the Swan Bride to attend to his masculinity.  The bride would not respond, ignoring him she proceeded in her ghostly circle as if he did not exist.

Another man pushed the failed Eagle away, the failed eagle put money on the brides head and withdrew.  Fat men, thin men, young men, old men all tried to tempt the Swan Bride with their masculinity

 

even fast stepping little boys Lezginkad the bride,

 
but she ignored them all.  Diana attended her mistress collecting the fallen money until at last her new husband stepped into her circle and escorted his loyal new wife back to their throne.  Women's lib would disapproved (I have added my views in the political epilogue at the end of this piece)



Throughout the  ceremony we were treated as guests of honour: Important looking men came and asked to share a toast of vodka, they said they wanted to express respect for our presence and we were invited to say a few public words to the newly weds.  I made a bad speech and everyone clapped politely and told us that now it was our turn to dance the Lezginka.  I tried, the women were very kind and surrounded me like a flock of swans, and I danced The Dance of the Dyspraxic Eagle which I invented for the occasion.  I retired slightly embarrassed.

Mami, who has spent her whole life perfecting swan movements, and is trained to pick up new choreography, danced a swan dance.  The men got excited and Lezginkad her and put money on her head.


I collected the money and gave it to the bride.  Looking back I now realise that I should have collected Mami and taken her back to our table.

At the end, as the Bride was leaving the party, she once more danced the Dance of the Swan Bride, and then they were gone.  I expected the party to continue, but without the Swan Bride the party was over, guests departed, children ran across the empty floor collecting flowers from the dais.



Amina called a taxi to take us back to our hotel, I felt we had seen an apparition.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Swan Bride/Part 4 - A Political Epilogue


Links to other chapters

Part 1 - A Brief History of Dagestan
Part 2 -  Lezginka
Part 3 The Dance of the Swan Bride





Part 3
THE SWAN BRIDE 
A Political Epilogue

Lezginka 
When I went to Dagestan I was hoping to find out about the warm Islamic people I had met at Sochi.  I set myself the task of meeting them through their dance.  This Epilogue is really the answer I got

When first I saw Lezginka I was immediately struck by two things;

1. Lezginka makes a very beautiful distinction between the feminine and masculine
2. Lezginka is an example of colourful and exuberant Islamic culture

Street-Lezginka; Modern young people in the Caucases enjoy Lezginka.  For the boys it is a form of testosterone break-dancing and for the girls it is beautiful swan dancing.    I imagine many British Muslims, including the ones who have embraces fundamentalism, might relate to this opportunity to be cool, (a bit like reggae and rap have integrated the West Indian culture into modern British culture).

Before I left for Dagestan I wrote to the Islamic Council of Great Britain suggesting that they sponsor the Dagestan State Dance Company to tour Britain.  I told them that Islam needs to engage western culture with a more positive image. Perhaps ICGB should set up classes for Lezginka GB, and establish this Muslim dance as an alternative to Break Dancing, Salsa and Tango.

The Question of Women's Rights
When I was at university in the early 1970s Germain Greer had just published her book "the Female Eunuch".  I did not read the book but I did actively support the Woman's Liberation movement and Gay Rights movements.  I agreed with their aspiration then and I agree with them now.

Present day Dagestan is a very different society to the one I was brought up in.  During our stay in the Caucuses I only saw one woman driver, although Diana tells me there are many.  Diana herself is  thinking about learning to drive a car.  There is no question that Diana and her friends have less freedom than women had in British society in the 1970s.  To our eyes it is a little shocking that they are not more angry about what, from our point of view, looks like gender unfairness and repression.

In the 1970s there were still some people who advocated chastity before marriage.  In Dagestan it is the common aspiration of the young women.  They do not think it is a repressive idea.  To them The Dance of the Swan Bride is not controversial.  I am not a woman, but I imagine that many women who read my account of The Dance of the Swan Bride will be offended and annoyed that the girls do not rebel. I wonder if they are right to be annoyed?  I think to answer this question we have to look at ourselves and ask ourselves if we know something that Diana and her friends have misunderstood. I ask this question of myself, and I ask this question in a very broad context of troubled Muslim-Christian and East-West relations.

Islam in the Caucasus
Everyone is frightened by what is going on in Syria.  The Dagestanis are upset by stories that some of their young people have gone to fight alongside ISIS.  One girl wailed to me "they are killing people, killing people, can we talk about another subject now".  The people I spoke to are hurt by the attitude of the West to Dagestan, Islamic culture and Russia's intervention help people in Eastern Ukraine; our superior attitude really hurts them.  They told me stories of  refugees who are arriving in Dagestan after fleeing for their lives from the western backed Kiev government.  In one example the BBC website have wrongly written that Dagestan is "the most dangerous country in Europe".

Stalin virtually eradicated all religion, including Islam, from the Caucasus.  By the time the Soviet empire collapsed most people retained Islamic values but few of them wore hi jabs or prayed. Russia gave independence to the Georgians in the South Caucasus, but Chechnya and Dagestan were retained as part of the Russia.   Chechnya revolted against the Russians and they hoped Dagestan would join their side, but this never happened.  They should have known that Dagestan has long taken Aman Shamil's advice that war against Russia is always unwinnable (see my brief history of Dagestan).  

The Chechens chose war, war came, the Russians battled it out, the Chechens lost.  This is what Grozny looked like after the war


After the war Putin rebuilt the country, allowed them to build many mosques and allowed them a strong Islamic leader they could identify with.


Putin's action seem to have given Chechen people much of what they wanted; Islamisation and stability. On the day we landed in Grozny 100,000 people turned out to celebrate Putin's 62 birthday.  I met no Chechens, but I asked Dagestanis "Surely after losing such a bloody war the Chechens hate Putin? ".  Their reply surprised me  "No, Yeltson started the war, they like Putin because he supported them, ".   Chechnya is stable now, but they are worried about the many young people going through Georgia to support ISIS in Syria.

ISIS have said they are intending to restart the war in Chechnya.  This is the response they got from the pro-Russian  president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, (who seems to be popular).

“Taking all responsibility, I declare that those who have voiced a threat against Russia or who have mentioned the name of our President Vladimir Putin will be destroyed right where they made their statement. We will not wait for them to get behind the steering wheel of a plane. They will go where their fellow terrorists are rotting… I want to remind everyone who is planning something against our country, that Russia has worthy sons, ready to fulfill any order, wring the neck of any enemy in his own lair, wherever he may be. And we find ourselves with happiness ridding the world of these scum.<…>I emphasize that they finish their days under the hot sun in Syria and Iraq, and in the first instant of death meet their eternal flames of Hell. Allahu Akbar!

I do not pretend to understand what is happening in Chechnya. I have the impression that the Dagestani's and Chechens do not understand their own countries either.  Maria Dubovikova, a savvy Russian commentator, tells us Russia are fearful of a third world war starting from troubles in the Caucuses and comments that  "The world is on the brink of a third world war but no one has mentioned it and no one wants toThe day the international community realizes this, it could already be too late."   At present it seems that the Chechens have accepted Russian rule which allows them a lot of autonomy and freedom to build mosques.  Islam is gently flowing back into the Caucasus.  Some people like Amina are pleased, other like Diana are proud of their Islamic values but agnostic about the dogma.  

Dagestan has 20 different languages, and even more different ethnic groups, for a thousand years they have learnt how to live with each other by compromise.  They are aware that conflicts can start and get out of control.  They appreciate strong leadership and a certain level of repression in return for security.  

The West has tried to support democracy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya.  It has not brought stability.

Diana and Amina love their country, they love Islamic values and they are satisfied to be living under the umbrella of Putin's Russia.  They both say "Dagestan cannot exist without Russia"  Things are changing in many ways, the population is rediscovering Islam at teh same time more women are learning to drive which will be a good thing because the roads in Dagestan will become calmer and safer.  I expect Diana's daughters will be more demanding than Diana's generation, but this is very much their choice.  I think we should not judge their values from the outside, our values have hardly brought happiness and freedom to the Islamic world.

Russia Bashing
The way the media reports Russian affairs is very unsympathetic to the views of the ordinary Russians I have met.  Many Russians see Putin as a necessary evil, not a demagogue.  They see the Russian support for Russian nationals in Ukraine as a proportionate defencive response to hostility from Kiev (we heard stories that refugees have been steaming from Ukraine into the Caucasus, they say they are fleeing for their lives).  Personally I think the constant portrayal of Russia as an evil empire led by an evil man is not at all helpful to finding ways to accommodate the deep divisions between Christian and Muslim,  East and West.  We should respect their moral values judgements a little more and be more circumspect about thinking our societies where democracy and Woman's Liberation thrive are more moral than their.  No one has a monopoly on morality.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Visual Grammar Chapter 6: Shouting Hotpots and Ghosts

Links to Other Chapters in this Series

Chapter 1: A First Lesson in Drawing
Chapter 2:  Introducing the Dynamic Workspace
Chapter 3 : Words - Plastic Facts
Chapter 4 : Humpty Dumpty's Plastic World of Oneness
Chapter 5: Nature's Boundaries of Well being and Selfhood

Chapter 6:   Shouting Hotpots and Ghosts

We have discovered that even though the name of an object like Noah's Ark is a singular thing, the constituent parts of what makes a visual Noah's Ark are many and plastic and always in a state of change. For instance both these images are instantly recognisable as Noah's Ark even though the boats are not the same shape (plastic) and they have different animals (constituent parts) on board. 



Even very simplest of visual objects, like a face, are plastic and made up of a wide variety of possible constituent pieces: eyes, nose, ears, hair, pony tails, freckles, moustaches and bald patches........

 
But behind the huge variation of shape and constituent parts are rules: The water is always under the ark, the animal are on top of the boat;  The nose is between the eyes.  In earlier chapters we looked at the interaction between plasticity of the outline of objects versus placing of marks within the boundary walls of the object.  In this chapter I am going to attempt to take these observations further and explain the dynamics of the fluid relationships.

Energised Blankness 
To understand the dynamics of visual grammar you need to understand the concept of energised blankness.  This is very simple to grasp. To show you how it works I have drawn some running mice in the centre of  a blank piece of paper


Objects energise space around them.  This energy is not equally dispersed.  The mice are looking over their backs as if they are running away from something frightening.  The blank space where the eye expects to see what is causing the mice to run away has become energised.

If Energised Blankness were to show up as orange, and unenergised were to show as blue, the paper would look like this


The space behind the wall is unenergised because the eye expects to see nothing interesting in this area.  The floor is slightly energised because the eye anticipates the mice are running on it.

When I compose a picture I remove the un-energised space and extend the energised space.  So in this case I reorganise the composition of my drawing to be something like this.  Now every part of the compositon is contributing to the narrative of the picture


Blank areas may contain nothing, but they contribute to the composition because the space vibrates with energy and expectation, it is as if the blankness is shouting at us "watch out, something is about to happen in this empty area of the paper".

If I draw a stalk of grass in this energised space we are still not satisfied, grass is not what the mice are running away from.  The sense of shouting blankness is still there, the air around the stalk of grass still contains a shouting voice that is warning us "something is about to happen in this empty area of the paper".


I could draw lots more grass.  If I do this the grass itself becomes energised because the eye begins to believe that there is something dangerous hidden in amongst the grass, perhaps a snake.  Now it is not the energised air that is shouting, it is the energised grass.


The shouting will only stop after we have put something in the space that fits the predictions of the mind; something has to have frightened the mice, it was not the grass, what can it be?  A cat will do.


Placing an object the mind expected to see in the energised hot spot stops the shouting.  Look at these four pictures again; the three pictures with the grass and energised blankness have an asymmetrical unstable spooky quality, in contrast the picture with the cat is full of movement that flows across the image in a single sweep.  The subject of the cat picture is perhaps brutal, but it is not spooky.  It is as if the cat has drained the spooky energy from the air replaced it with a new sort of energy that instead of shouting "watch out, something is about to happen in this empty area of the paper"  winks: "I am the dangerous cat that is frightening the mice"

The Eye 
Objects energise space in all sorts of ways.  Eyes are ideal interesting demonstration objects in this respect.  This is a single eye placed in the centre of a piece of paper.


If we were to make an energy diagram it would look like this.  The hot spot is where we would expect to see another eye.


If I put a blotch anywhere in the blue unenergised blankness it looks like a separate object unrelated to the existence of the eye.


But when the blotch is put in the energised area it begins to wink back "I am an (bruised?) eye"   This is because the mind wants to see an eye in the hotspot area



If we  crop out the blue unenergised blankness the image of two eyes gets even stronger




and changing the spodge for a drawing of an eye makes the image stronger again
 


The energised blankness has guided me to draw a pattern that has strong psychological power over the human mind.  This is how active drawing works, active drawing is about working under the guidance of the subconscious mind. 

Returning to the Dynamics of Visual Grammar
 
Now I want to put what we have just learnt about energised blankness into the context of visual grammar.  Here is a smiley with a missing eye, it is a spooky image.


It is spookey because the image has a hotspot of energised blankness.   It also has a number of other warm and lukewarm spots of varying intensity.  These is an energy diagram showing just some of them. 


The energy can be graded from burning hot to warm to cold.  The most intensely energised blankness create the hotspots that scream for your immediate attention.  The missing eye is the first thing you notice about the image, whilst other missing things are hardly noticed as missing at all.   The missing nose is perhaps a warm spot, but less intense than the missing eye.  Ears, hair and body are lukewarm spots; we hardly notice their absence until we look for them.

This is what happens if we add an ear and nose



The blankness where the second eye should be is still screaming at us "I am missing an eye" 

By adding a nose we have drained the energy from warmspot at the centre of the face, but the lukewarm spot for the second ear has heated up and is now shouting "I am missing an ear too"




We think we have free will when we are drawing, and indeed we do make choices, but those choices are largely guided by what is happening on the paper while the drawing is developing.  It takes will power to draw an ear before a second eye, and once we have put in one ear the paper starts to insist that we put in a second ear.  Our addition of  marks on the paper, which I have called the dynamic workspace, are sequential.  By that I mean they follow an order.  The sequences are not random, if we do not resist we will be guided by suggestions from the subconscious mind and the result will be a window into our minds.   Faced with the image above we feel emotionally compelled (but which we can resist) to add the missing eye and missing ear (in that order) to complete the picture. 



The image is still missing hair and body, but these energised spaces are not very intense and the image is no longer spooky. We could consider the image finished, or we can go on adding bits to the lukewarm areas.

One lukewarm area is where the body should be.  Any object of any shape will fill this roll of being a body (as we have mentioned in earlier chapters context trumps shape and detail)


In fact I do not even have to draw the body at all.  I can rely on the lukewarm energy to provide a sense that the head has a body below it


 and I can make my little fellow taller by making the paper longer


Conscious decision-making is a very important part of drawing and Art, however giving ourselves up to be guided by unconsciousness is also Art.  Great Artists harvest from both conscious and unconscious mindfulness, and learn how to grow both aspects of their technique together.

Within the Borders of an Object
A visual object has a physical border between itself and the outside world.  Inside those borders are the composite parts (composite parts/objects contained inside the borders of the face are eyes, nose, mouth....) There are no limits (other than size and space) to how many composite parts are put inside the borders of an object; there is no rule that disallows a face to have ten eyes and a million freckles.

The composite parts inside the borders have lives of their own and they create hotspots which become the rules controlling the patterns that make a face recognisable.  Amongst the rules for a human face are that it has two eyes with a hotspot between the eyes where the nose sits. 

Influence of Objects beyond their  Borders
The smiley is an object that is physically limited by its borders, but the object, and the composite parts inside the smiley do influence the world beyond their physical borders; for instance next to every human left eye is the ghostly image of a right eye 

There is another way that objects influence the world beyond their own physicality.  Eyes are again excellent demonstration objects to show this influence.. When the cat looks right an energised hotspot develops starts shouting "I am the something the cat is looking at"


And when the eyes moves the shouting hotspot moves too


and because we are active drawers not resisting our unconscious urges we draw a mouse to eliminate the shouting hotspot.  Then we crop the unenergised space on the left of the picture.


Unfortunately the composition still looks unsettling.  This is because we have added a new object and our new object has caused a new shouting hotpot to develop.  The space directly in front of the mouse shouting "I am running into the space in front of me".....but we have given him no space to run into!


So we extend the composition to give space in front of the mouse.


and because we do not want the mouse to be eaten we give him a hole to seek refuge in


Projected shouting hotspots are extremely common in compositions.  They are created by gaze, pointing and projected movement, such as we just witnessed when we added the mouse.  We have seen that when the energy is left unresolved they create asymmetric compositions and ghosts, and when the energy is soaked up by an object the image becomes a balanced compositions.  Management of the hotspots is an important tool in an artist's armoury.

When we see the shouting hotspot caused by the roving eyes of a cat we envisage seeing an escaping mouse even though we are physically looking at blank space.  Actually evolution has equipped us to see these unseen ghosts in our real lives.  Consider a sports person catching a ball or hunter throwing a spear at a running animal;  The sportsman has to envisage where the ball will meet his hands and the hunter must throw his a spear at a point he imagines the deer will be when it reaches its target? 

When we walk into an oncoming crowd we have to manage a path that avoids us bumping into other people.  As individuals come our way we move out of their path, and they avoid us.  If we could look down on ourselves like birds with magic hypersenistive eyes we would perhaps see ourselves choosing to take the cold spots between the shouting hotspots cast by other people, and the people coming the other way will be predicting our path and avoiding us.

Generally the space someone is walking or looking into will have the feeling of future, and the area a person has walked out of will have a feeling of the past.  Sometimes, when walking on a sandy beach, the footprints will heighten that sensation of the past.  In the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel the children walk into the woods dropping a trail of crumbs behind them, as they go deeper in the forest and get lost they finally come across a Ginger bread house.
So the energy of this picture is focused on the past, the knowing eye finds the bread crumb trail and is aware of the light the children are walking away from.  The future into which the children are venturing is dark.  This picture is unusual in that it is holding us back in the past and not beckoning us into the future
As a rule I would crop a picture in a way that gives room for the subject to walk or look into.


In the above picture the space behind the dancer's shoulders is dead, the space between her hands is shouting energy, and she is looking up giving more energy into the area just above the hands.  The figure itself is also falling forward.  Everything about the front of the figure is about things that will happen in the future
 
But I can crop the future from a picture and keep the past.  This composition leaves space from which the dancer has stepped.  It has the quality of having finished a performance and about to make a reverence to an unseen audience.  This picture has a quality of  past events.


This ability to have choice about how to incorporate time in a composition has implications: The artworks themselves are created sequentially, and the audience scan the images sequentially.  Suddenly we are in realms of threads of thought and consciousness, of multi parallel worlds, this is where understanding visual grammar becomes really interesting because with the knowledge comes a potential to mirror strands of conscious thought.