Here is an excerpt from my book Blank Canvas which helps to define the concepts held within, the idea of starting from a blank slate, which is something I feel most intensely at the start of a new year.
Blank canvas as a concept, a freeze frame within which new creation can occur, also connects with other art forms that time may change. Author David Keenan in an epitaph for beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti described his command of ‘beginners mind’, writing from a place that is pure and fresh, as though viewed for the ‘first time, every time, which really, you know, is the truth. Everything is new and risen up and blushing in its perfect moment’.
Swirling extreme movements can be utilized to support arriving within a trance-like state through dance, as shown by the Sufi whirling dervishes, or through Stanislavski’s physical action acting. Ashtanga or Vinyasa Flow Yoga centres on physicality, realigning the body for transcendental meditation, lifting into the air. Searching for a trance-like condition has also been associated with narcotic drugs, reducing the daily noise which covers a blank mind. Carl Jung’s psychological concept of serendipity relating to chance, breaking away from formalized structures as the randomness of early life creation is apparent within blankness, reflecting conscious and unconscious process decisions. Another element is Buddhism’s Śūnyatā state of no mind, relating to an emptiness or a void arrived at within meditative practice, so it is the stripping away which is important.
As former art student and socio-economist Inez Aponte suggests, ‘the notion of enlightenment is when all that drops away. That construct that we lived with drops away so we can actually see. We can really see. Most of us aren’t really seeing, we are walking around with filters’ . As the young Bill Drummond was told on his first day at Northampton College of Art by life room tutor Mike Little: ‘Everybody can look – only Artists can see. No life drawing no Art’ .
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