Soaring into space
By Phyl van Ammers
The author interviews the artist Ashton Richard Brick and the artist’s mother Olga Justine Brick.
PVA: Tell me, what is the name of this picture?
ARB: This is No. 467.
PVA: What does it mean?
ARB: It means what it means. Why are you asking me these questions?
PVA: What about this one. You wrote “September” on it.
ARB: It is about soaring into space in September.
PVA: All right. I see a throbbing red hat or monster zit on a freckled animal thrusting its body into what looks like the beginning of a plaid pattern.
OJB: Is space plaid?
ARB: No. Soaring into space is plaid.
PVA: This happens in September?
OJB: The head is a ball of fire and there are two take off points (round circles with arms) at the foot of the creature/being is the green fire including various colors, e.g., the green temperatures of heat, according to what the artist told me. Stop being critical. Here is his Cosmic Paths in the Universe.
PVA: I see. I propose this story: There are three known paths in the universe.
The central path begins in nothing and becomes a ladder, and then a ladder with a tramline through its middle. The ladder stops abruptly and goes back into nothingness forever.
The other is a straight shot into the infinite. You go up directly. There is one arrow to show you how to get into the infinite and one modification of the arrow for subtlety.
The final path begins as a ladder and decides to become a palm tree, a nose seen from beneath the nose, a cupboard handle, a cake slice, a cloud, a city and a hibiscus flower with a curly stamen.
ARB: I have work to do. You’re in my way.
PVA: The main figure in whirling dervish – you spelled dervish wrong by the way –but he has yellow at the base of his hat – either that or the hat is part of his head, in which case he has yellow eyes but I don’t think so.
Dervishes constitute a sect of Muslim Sufis. Yellow is a Sufi color that opposes anger, which Sufis contend is the most destructive emotion. Yellow and orange invigorate the spirit, according to some practitioners.
More anciently, gold around the head represents a halo, like Christian saints have – that recall the more ancient image of the sun god, the One.
The dervish’s robe is half white and half black. We’re used to seeing the dancers in white but they begin their dance in a black coat, which symbolizes death, and they remove the black robe as they dance. Red is a color they believe that makes you want to fight.
His hands are as large as his head. They are open hands, not hands clenched in anger. The real dervishes’ hands are open to receive god or spirit. The dancer is extraordinary. He is still.
A segmented snake surrounds him. The snake’s head is marked with red for anger, but it not a real snake’s head, which is smooth and does not have pointy ears. The center of the snake’s head is an ovoid but almost a circle. The circle is an ancient symbol for the secret, the central mystery. The snake’s segments make him (the snake) look like a path. Symbolically, the snake is temptation and associated with male-ness and it also a fearsome enemy.
He is an angry dervish fighting with open hands or confronting the snake by frightening him with openness. The snake connects by a spiral to what could be the outline of cityscape becoming a mountain range. Snake/path, city and mountains surround the vigorous dancer. He is at the center of them. He is alone. He is a powerful singular male figure transposing anger and encountering challenge through the strength of his spirit. The dancer also identifies with the snake: the snake is charming and moves sinuously as if in partnership with the dervish.
OJB: His teacher was upset by his new work. She believed he should become more conventional.
PVA: His teacher is wrong.
OJB: That’s all right. The school fired her.