Conrad Jon Godly,  hell 19  (2011)

Conrad Jon Godly, hell 19 (2011)

Conrad Jon Godly,  hell 2  (2011)

Conrad Jon Godly, hell 2 (2011)

Conrad Jon Godly,  hell 24  (2011)

Conrad Jon Godly, hell 24 (2011)

Godly: hell

In his book White, Kenya Hara writes of the title color, “White can be attained by blending all the colors of the spectrum together, or through the subtraction of ink and all other pigments. In short, it is ‘all colors’ and ‘no color’ at the same time.” In a way, this harkens back to the Heart Sutra: “Form is emptiness; emptiness also is form. Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness.

If that seems obtuse or baffling to you, that’s because it is (and, in following the Heart Sutra, it also isn’t). So let’s consider Swiss painter Conrad Jon Godly in this maelstrom of being and nothingness. With some deceptively simple strokes of oils, Godly creates (most godlike) mountains that in certain instances look almost photographic.

But what I want to focus on here is his 2011 series, hell. These are Alpine peaks rendered entirely in white, with seemingly minimal strokes. Gestalt Psychology extends into art and visual perception (any UX designer worth their salt has taken a few courses exploring some key Gestalt principles), and one of the baseline principles that we work with in this theory is Closure. We can form a whole shape or scene in our mind’s eye when we only see a portion of it. We see white as both a color and as an absence of color.

Likewise, observing ourselves observing this moment, can we see the duality of the present moment: That the only concrete reality is the present, yet the “present” is a constantly shifting mark — and therefore as unchanging as it is, it’s also continuously changing.

Today’s Contemplation: Yesterday’s practice, built around Rothko Chapel, looks at the inverse — mostly all-black paintings. What happens if we go from looking at those Rothko murals to looking at this Godly series? Can we continue to perceive the movement in a stillness often associated with monochrome? Can we perceive the movement in the stillness? Can we see the mountains while also seeing that they’re simply brushstrokes made at the right, random angles? Can we hold both of these experiences at the same time, while continually coming back to the breath and the body in this moment? And this moment, too? And this moment, too?