Posts Tagged ‘Tabula Rasa’


“When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.”

Wisława Szymborska, Poems New and Collected


“When I pronounce the word Silence, I destroy it…”

I love that line from the late Nobel Prize winning poet Wisława Szymborska. It so well sums up my own forays into writing as a young man when I found myself trying futilely to write about silence and places of silence. My words always seemed to defeat my purpose.

You can’t really write about silence.

Using words to describe silence is like using hate to demonstrate love or war to peace.  It doesn’t really work well.

No, you can’t write about silence.

You can only be silent.

Silence is a way of being.

That brings me to the painting shown above called Song of Silence.

This painting, Song of Silence, is being included along with a small group of vintage pieces in my upcoming show, Social Distancing, that opens at the Principle Gallery on June 5. Most of the early work for this show comes the mid 1990’s but this is the latest of the vintage pieces, from 2007.

It is a fairly large piece at 32″ x 32″ on paper and its size seems to accentuate its quietness. I did a number of similar pieces in the mid 2000’s and they were some of my favorites to paint. There was something special in the delicacy and restraint of these pieces. Their simplicity would lead you to believe they were simple to paint but capturing such an ephemeral feelings with minimal elements made them real challenges. Anything even slightly askew could make the whole thing fall apart.

For me personally, when these pieces worked, when they came together in that special way, they felt like magic. They transported me to a different state of being, to that place of silence, if only for a few short moments.

This is one of those pieces for me.

It’s been quite a while since I exhibited this type of work and I am eager to see what sort of response this brings in the gallery.  We’ll see.

The title, Song of Silence, seems like it might contradict my words at the beginning of this post but wordless music often has the ability to convey silence. As an example I am including a selection below from one of my favorite pieces of music, Tabula Rasa, from composer Arvo Pärt that I believe does this effectively. This music, as performed by violinist Gil Shaham, served as a large influence on much of my early work.


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I stop every time I go back through old posts on the blog and come across this photo. It makes me think about how we constantly take in information in many forms and what we do with that input– how it affects our perception and vision as we move forward. As an artist, this is the fuel that feeds my furnace. 


I was listening to music this morning as I read email and puttered around. My iPod was docked and in random mode so anything could come on.  At first one of my favorite pieces, Tabula Rasa from composer Arvo Part, played. It’s a modern classical piece that I have always identified with. Tabula Rasa translates as empty slate and was actually very influential in a lot of my early painting, helping me visualize the feeling of wide space as I painted.

Next up was Highway Patrol from Junior Brown, which is worlds away from Tabula Rasa. It’s clunky and chunky and throttles along on Brown’s deep twangy voice and his unique guit-steel guitar licks. I began to think about how the mood shifts so quickly between the two selections, how the mind is suddenly thrown from silence to chaos and how in the vacuum of that contrast something new is being formed

Something very interesting in this contrast. I began to wonder if this has an effect on my painting, on strokes and color selection.  Am I looking for different things in my work when different types of stimuli are present? It’s something I’ll have to examine further.

The picture shown is of a visual/psychological phenomenon called the contrast triangle. Just above the reflected light on the water is a dark triangle in the sky, tapering from the area above the lit reflection on water up to the moon/sun in the sky.

This triangle is not really there.

If you cover the water, the darkness fades away. Go ahead, try it.

The triangle only exists in our eyes and minds. Our reaction to the reflected light creates something new, a different form. Don’t know why I put this in today except that maybe this little area of created vision is similar to the influence of other stimuli on a person’s creative work.

I don’t really know.  I am working off the cuff here, you know.

Here was the next song that came up this morning, perhaps the third leg in my own personal contrast triangle.  It’s another favorite, Gillian Welch performing with her husband David Rawlings, with Miss Ohio.  What this triangle will produce in my eyes is yet to be seen but I am sure it is something.  We’ll see…

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GC Myers- Endless Time-webI was looking at some older paintings in the studios, my orphans as I call them.  But some are not orphans, not without a home.  Some are just here because they are my own and have some sort of special meaning for me.  Such is the case with the piece above, Endless Time.  It’s a piece that I consider a link to my earliest works, a reminder of the inner forces that drove me into the work I now do.

Back in 2009, I wrote in a blogpost here about this painting:

This is really a direct descendent from my earliest work that focused on open spaces and blocks of color, work that was meant to be spare and quiet.  The weight of the piece is carried by the abstract qualities of the landscape and the intensity of the colors.  

With this piece, I have chosen to forego the  kinship that the red tree often fosters with the viewer, acting as a greeter inviting them to enter and feel comfortable within the picture plane.   In Endless Time the viewer is left to their own devices when they enter the picture.  There is no place to hide, no cover.  They are exposed to the weight of the sky and the roll of the landscape.  They are alone with not a sound nor distraction.

It becomes, at this point, a meditation.  One is not merely looking at a landscape.  To go into this painting one must be willing to look inside themselves as well.

This painting, like much of my early work, was in large part influenced by a piece of music, Tabula Rasa,  from the great contemporary composer Arvo Pärt.  It’s a piece that speaks of empty spaces and the meditative quality of silences.  The purpose of my work as I saw it at that time was to find silence, to find a sanctuary from  the cacophony and discord of civilization.  That is still very much the case although the work has evolved in other ways.

I thought for this Sunday morning music I would share another composition from Arvo Pärt which I think also very much fits this piece.  It is titled Spiegel im Spiegel which translates from the German as Mirror in the Mirror.  Think of an Infinity Mirror where two mirrors facing one another produce an image that is endlessly reflected back upon itself in ever smaller variations until it finally disappears.  In some ways, some art serves as an infinity mirror of sorts,  I know that this piece does so for me.

So give a listen but be warned that this is a quiet and meditative piece performed with only a piano and cello.  If you’re looking for a toe-tapper or a sing-along, you might be disappointed.  But like sometimes looking at art, one’s openness and patience is rewarded.

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GC Myers- Eternally FreeJust a reminder that you can hear a radio interview I did with Tish Pearlman for her program Out of Bounds this morning on WSKG-FM in New York and Northern Pennsylvania.   It  can also be heard on a live stream online at wskg.org.  The show airs at 11:30 AM,  just before Ira Glass and This American Life comes on at noon.

One of the questions asked was about what sort of music I listen to in the studio and the one specific piece I mentioned was Tabula Rasa from composer Arvo Pärt, one that I’ve mentioned here in the past.  It always inspires me and reminds me of the drive to find the big silence of the open landscape in my work.  The piece above, Eternally Free, is a favorite of mine that hangs in my studio and is one that I am always reminded of by this music.

I hope you can tune in this morning but for now, here’s the second movement from this wonderful piece of music which is title Silentium: Senza Moto which translates as Silence: Motionless.   The big quiet.

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