In my more whimsical moments I get a strange feeling that creating the first painting in the Metanoia series was like opening up a portal to another dimension. This was only my 3rd ever oil painting and a step back into semi-abstraction after completing 'The Inscending Spiral' series, a deep dive into the workings of my subconscious mind. ⠀
Moving into this new series, entitled 'Metanoia', I somehow started dredging up visions out of the darkness of my mind that felt unknown to me. I didn't really know what I was painting when I created this, but I think my subconscious definitely knew what was coming on that horizon I'd depicted. Within a year I had descended into a deep depression.
'Metanoia' is a word derived from the Greek meaning "to change ones mind". The psychoanalyst Carl Jung used the term to describe how his patients would sometimes spontaneously attempt to heal themselves by melting down and then be reborn into a more adaptive form.
I believe this painting was a signal from my unconscious to move into another state of being. The limbo state I'd always created in my work, between abstract and figurative art, was a depiction of a world that had no defined form. It had somehow signalled to me that in order to move from my old mode of being, and into something new, I had to first drift into a state of not knowing.
I didn't see the Jeff Foster quote below until after I'd come out the other side of my 'dark night of the soul'. I wish I had, it perfectly sums up what depression is in a way I'd struggled to communicate to those that tried to help me.
"The word 'depressed' can be spoken as DEEP REST. We can choose to view depression not as a mental illness but as a state of Deep Rest, a spiritual exhaustion that we enter into when we are de-pressed (pressed down) by the weight of the false self, the mask, the mind-made story of “me”. We long to stop pretending, and express our raw truth! To give voice to our secret loneliness, our shame, our broken hearts, boredom and brilliant rage! Depression's call to truth needs to be listened to and understood, not analysed or medicated away.
There is no shame in your exhaustion. We are all exhausted, my love. Slow down today. Allow yourself to rest, deeply. And weep. And breathe. And begin again. Now. I say, our depression is holy. It contains the seeds of new life."
- Jeff Foster
I'd come back to this quote only recently after reading the second quote below by Arundhati Roy, in her recent writing about the Coronavirus pandemic. They seem to reflect each other. The microcosm of the human psyche and the macrocosm of the world as it now stands. ⠀
"Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it."
- Arundhati Roy
Every day, hour and even second is a step into the void of the unknown. My new series of work came out of a need to depict that state of not knowing. But as in the Zen teaching of "beginners mind", a fresh perspective in each moment, looking on things anew, from a different angle, can prevent us from getting stuck in our old, unhelpful ways of thinking and living. And as Arundhati Joy says, to step into another world.