ATMann's Spirited Blog
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
For years, starting just after I worked for Davis Brody & Associates in New York, then ghosted houses for Robert Stern with a friend of mine in NYC, I got involved with Eastern mysticism via inner journeying and various other arcane substances around at the time. I quit working, journeyed to the East overland from Europe, lived in Morocco and India, and began teaching myself astrology and painting mandalas as a way of centering. The mandalas were of course very ‘architectural’ and highly structured and they rapidly got more and more complex. The early ones were calendars showing multiple calendar systems (Western civil, Catholic, Hebrew, Islamic, Mayan, Aztec, Chinese, Indian, I Ching, Chinese astrology and others) and how they interacted. Each mandala was a year shown around the outer ring and also within the seven rings that fit perfectly inside. Also the whole calendar rotated at the equinoxes and solstices — each change of season and you rotated it clockwise on the wall. Eventually I became founder/partner of a publishing house in London and we made calendar books throughout the 70s (for Simon & Schuster, Doubleday and English publishers), featuring my mandalas, drawings and very complex hand-drawn calendars with great detail.
To me they were a way of tapping into the yearly cycle and exploring correspondences of planets and signs to colors, plants, flowers, shapes, geometries and other symbol systems. My astrological books are quite renowned for the complexity of the imagery, especially one called “The Round Art: The Astrology of Time and Space” (1979), which is named for another interest of mine; the historical memory systems embedded in our perception of reality. The Greeks and Romans created it the art of memory and used buildings as memory ‘places’ in what they called the ‘square art,’ and they used the 5° ‘faces’ of the zodiac with constellation images for the ‘round art.’ (See Frances Yates, “The Art of Memory”) So I proposed and wrote about astrology as a form of memory art embedded in architecture and astrology as twin ‘sciences and arts’ as witnessed by the Masonic dynamic and mystery of the grand architect Hiram Abiff. My friend Roger Dean, who did art and album covers (and weird architecture) for the rock group YES, then commissioned me to write and illustrate my book, 300 pages, all color, with my design layout, illustrations and it was a grand project that got me going.
Anyway I began making the great calendar mandalas and only years later discovered that the sixteenth century mystic Giordano Bruno made similar images of seven circles within a larger one and advocated memory systems (see Frances Yates’ ‘Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition’) and was shocked as he was one of my creative and intellectual heroes. The mandalas probably took a few weeks to do and are quite large (20” x 28”). I am currently in the process of making giclée prints of them that are faithful to the originals. I also used liquid water colors that have faded beautifully over the years as they were quite vivid when I first painted them in the 70s.
They are mandalas, meditative diagrams, cosmologies and architecture, temples of the imagination devoted to the old gods and goddesses, and I have always wanted to design a building that embodied these ideas, but that hasn’t happened yet….. it would probably resonate with the geometry and proportions of the chakras.
Anyway I ramble on but enjoy the opportunities of our conversation, Tad