Thursday, November 17, 2005

Interview with (2005)

This interview appeared in 2005 for Healing HQ. Its a little dated, but upon re-read feels like it has good stuff to say...

Aram Brazilian

1) Where do the designs come from? Did you have any inspiration?
My initial inspirations for the sand circles came, not surprisingly, from my studies into the designs employed in crop circles. While I have no solid opinion on those amazing creations, I am drawn to the designs themselves which seem to speak a universal language.

When I first started, the designs were more intuitive creations- I was simply following shapes and playing with possibilities. But as most artist have experienced, the initial creative spurt soon moved to questioning the creations themselves, a desire to understand the qualities that were speaking to me - what are they about? what am I tapping into?

That led me towards several years of study of ‘sacred’ geometry. I say sacred with apostrophes because the sacred is the personal, internal part whereas the geometry is the universal part. The study of sacred geometry is the examination of how our ancestors interpreted the world, which to me is a fascinating field because the symbols are no less powerful today than they were to our foreparents. Geometry, which is essentially the study of relationships, became a visual way to understand the forces at work in this existence. Back then, there was no separation between ‘science’ and ‘spirituality’. Everything that was studied had direct spiritual implications. Then, in a feedback loop, the symbol, which first spawned a concept, would be further developed by the concept it had created. Myths and architecture and social systems followed the lessons. Being a quintessential Virgo (astrology- a system based on geometry which links humans to external forces), I was more drawn to the intellectual aspects of the symbols then to the sometimes esoteric philosophy that followed. However, one thing that geometry reveals is the concept of ‘as above, so below’. The designs I do in the sand can be recreated at any scale using the same layout techniques (only a rope was used in the making of my designs). It is not a stretch for me to see that relationships follow at all scales, from the level of quarks to the level of galaxies, and that the human spirit, which is energy, must also integrate these properties.

So to answer the question, I am inspired by the study of geometric symbology. I have been studying various cultures to bring out the concepts their inquiries revealed, and then adding a modern design interpretation, sometimes fusing ideas, sometimes leaving the originals intact. It is fascinating to see how deeply ancient cultures took their studies, what was put into art was directly related to some aspect of themselves. These ideas have stayed with us from those times, becoming permanent parts of our culture. To uncover current cultural history, to understand a culture better through its symbols is endlessly rewarding.

2) Are the designs mystical/esoteric? What do they mean?
What’s important to understand about geometry is that the designs inherently mean nothing. They merely reveal relationships such as, for example, phi, the golden ratio, which describes the growth of conch shells, the movement of galaxies, the proportions of the human body and countless other natural phenomenons. Since geometry was the way to directly understand the perfection of God, those who came across this understanding went the next step and asked them selves how the lessons related to themselves. In order to be in harmony with the universe, they determined, one should follow the lessons phi had to offer and create art and live ones life in accordance to this and other geometric principles. This is where the sacred in ‘sacred geometry’ comes from, the point where the academic becomes metaphysical. Countless books have been written on this topic.

Most of my designs are pure explorations into the possibilities using classic geometric relationships and as such share qualities with sacred symbols. Some of them are reconstructions of ancient symbols. Inherently the images are neutral of meaning. And yet…the designs still speak to us. There is harmony and flow, balance and growth. I could point to aspects of any of my designs and talk about what they symbolize, the sacred geometric principles that were the basis of the final forms.

For example, the design ‘Expansion’ is a take on the yin yang symbol. The yin yang is an amazingly compact and powerful symbol, the essence of brevity and succinctness while expounding a philosophy that is life altering. Inherent to my take on the design are the qualities that are part of the original. The classic symbol is created by having 2 same sized circles next to each other and then drawing a circle around them both. I used this as my guide and repeated the process several more times, expanding the design each time. After a few revisions I came upon the design I used, of the little creatures (what are those things?) leapfrogging each other. Now the symbol took on a different meaning, one that incorporated growth and change, of each step in the process as integrated with the steps that spawned it. I like that idea.

While I intended no particular meaning during the design process, the final form is laden with meaning, should one want to delve into it. Most of my designs, to various degrees share this quality. However, I myself do look at my work in this light, for me it is not neutral and I constantly examine my designs for these qualities as I make them. I have not yet set out to intentionally send a particular message (although those are in the works) but all of them are meaningful to me.

3) What is the significance of creating them in sand?
Temporary art is the most gratifying form I have done. When someone comes across something they know will not exist within several hours, or is in the process of dissolving even, there is an attention towards the work that otherwise might not be there. There is contemplation of the art and the artist. One might ask ‘who the heck puts this much effort into something that will be gone within a few hours?’ The thoughts that follow have a special quality.

On another level, it’s a relief to take home from the creations nothing more than a set of images. I can make the designs and let the ocean do the cleaning up and not be burdened by the accumulation (my garage spills over with my light sculptures!).

Then there’s the level that is shared by many other cultures around the world- Tibetans, Indians, and Native Americans among others- who create temporary sand art. For them the process of creating is the goal. The meditative state of mind that comes from intense focus is the conduit for deeper connection. The final creation is the offering, which is let go immediately. My large scale designs force me to work with a mindset that is very much about following process, about trusting in the steps I have laid out to achieve the final form even when it’s impossible to see what is really happening.

On an earthly level, the beach is the ultimate canvas- enormous, cheap (free, in fact!), renewed every time I go, easy to work with, and it allows me to commune in a natural setting, which, for a city dweller, is a necessity.

4) Any significance in the silica content of the sand itself?
Interesting, I hadn’t considered that. ‘Molecules’ has me wanting to create replicas of actual molecules. Silica would be a fun one to do.

5) Any significance to the moon phases and water influences?
I haven’t yet made pieces to reflect the phases of the moon or wave activity, however all my work is closely connected to these natural rhythms. I can only create during new and full moons and the days around them when the difference between the high and low tides are at their greatest. And during the year the tides and beach behave differently. I’m still learning about the variables in the beach. I love that my canvas is never the same way twice.

6) Any connection to ancient cultures?
Absolutely. I am fascinated by how ancient cultures can be understood through the symbols they revered. Symbols are grounded in something- whether stylized or geometrically exact. Ancient people made them on purpose and divined lessons from real qualities of what they experienced. The specific interpretation may vary between cultures, but sometimes the connections span the globe and speak to a quality of the human experience that unites us all.

'Celtic Swirls'
Some ancient symbols are so beautiful I merely want to recreate them on a large scale (for example, ‘Celtic Swirls’). Other symbols I incorporate into new designs.

7) UFO connections? Ancient astronauts, etc?
Just graffiti for passing visitors.

8) Any connection to crop circles?
 Mostly my (geometric) art has benefited from the design principles that crop circles follow.

9) Is there anything related to healing involved in the process or the appreciation of the art?

The images have an inherent quality to calm the mind and activate mental processes that have physical benefits. In my images I try to convey harmonious movement, balance, flow. I definitely feel those qualities are received by the viewer.

As the creator, I feel I am drawn to this imagery because I need it in my life. So in that sense it is healing for me as well- the design process, the construction process, and simply spending time at the beach all have therapeutic aspects.

10) Where did you learn your craft?
I would definitely call my artistic path as an intuitive one. I have no formal training or education.

11) Are there other artists that have similar styles?
I have found a few other sand artists who have a similar approach. I haven't really come across other artists who use the imagery I do though.

12) What tools do you use?
A rope and a rake. And Illustrator in the design process.

13) Which beaches have you used?
So far I have stayed on Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

14) what would be your ideal or 'dream' canvas?
A huge open beach expanse without footprints, several hours til low tide, and a nearby ridge from which to appreciate the creation. I get days like those now and then (and then sometimes I have to contend with digging dogs!)

15) Is your art akin to the mandalas of other cultures in that they get washed/blown away?
Definitely this plays an important aspect of the art. It wouldn't matter to me if the work stayed (if I had more beach to work with) but I like that it does.

16) did you build sand castles as a kid?
Ha ha :) I was an inner city kid. My idea of a fun day was to sneak into junkyards.

17) is it important to see the art from a distance or from up above to get the full experience?
Absolutely. One fun thing with these is watching people on the beach come across the design. Some people see that something is going on and try to understand. Other people simply have no clue. Either they are so absorbed in their own experience that they aren't aware or the unifying element of the work escapes them. And you're watching people enter onto the designs without comprehension. It must be like god's view of us going on with lives without awareness of the immense but simple patterns around us.

18) Do your patterns always reflect nature?
Mmm, nice question.. I’m influenced by themes of nature. We come to know something by the countless iterations that comprise a thing. The leaves on a tree, the waves of the ocean, the arrangement of clouds. No two of any of these are alike. Why, even our own bodies are simply collections of cells that are replaced on a daily basis. But we come to know them as a thing or event even though they are unique every time. This fascinates me. We know something by the patterns left behind- wind-blown sand, a river-carved valley, water-worn rock. These are a indirect way of understanding the interaction, the imprinted remains of an encounter. We don’t truly know something, we build an understanding based on indirect evidence. I love that!

At the heart of natural form is archetypes. These designs are those archetypes manifested. The spins of quarks, the most basic patterns in nature are perfect. However at the scale we operate, after countless iterations, we get what we have around us- the organic, the unpredictable. Yet patterns emerge and when seen at a far enough distance we get a tree that we identify as a member of a species even though no two trees are actually the same. I could ramble on for a long time on this topic…!

19) Have your designs ever been misconstrued as being created by aliens? And you had to tell them the truth... that it was you - not a spaceship with aliens... ever caused a panic?

Ha ha! I haven’t known anyone to think aliens did them, although I did get disbelievers when I said I did them. AS for the crop circles, my opinion is not set. If aliens did do them, they followed the same steps I did, which is a cool feeling, that geometry truly is a universal language. It would be fun to come across one of the beach designs and wonder what the hell I was seeing. I sometimes wish I could be an innocent observer, the wonder that a chance viewer must feel.

20) Is the art soothing or healing - in what ways?
Yes, on a number of levels. The design process is all-consuming. I spend hours at a time working on possibilities, time that is a mental vacation in many ways.

The time on the beach is a respite from city life. Beaches are amazing- once next to the water the rest of the city disappears, the sound of cars lost. I look forward to being at the beach as much as doing the designs.

And on a spiritual level, the designs are a form of psychic realignment. I am convinced that the forms have an impact, that simply seeing and thinking about the forms sets in motion effects within us. This extends to me as the creator as well as to the viewer, whether at the beach or in front of the computer. My desire is to bring these images to the larger awareness.

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