In the present time of global information we communicate in real time. Beneath our every encounter or conflict, or whether we find ourselves moving towards or away from, there lies an assumption that we can learn anything and everything by seeking information that is out there. And yet words often turn out to be hollow, fatuously uttered; and as time progresses and information builds up to overload, we move even further away from the essence of things.
So upon discovering a new work of art, this urge for information might make us immediately want to get in touch with the artist seek the precious knowledge from them. I have taken this approach several times in my career and would still make claims for its validity. And yet this time I was forced to ask myself (perhaps for the first time) if it really is the right approach and whether I shouldn’t pause instead – feel first, then interpret. What I mean is that while I cannot interview Mark Rothko, I can still fully enjoy his experiments with colour. And what about Picasso, or my beloved Klimt? The inexorable progress of history means I shall not be able to meet my favourite painters, although their art bears witness to the good they brought into our world. So as I put off for a while the interview with Cosmo Gonik, I choose to give precedence to a short review of my own senses. It was only due to chance and the internet that I came across something I found absolutely magical: the works in the hadronlepton series. Now, if we ventured onto the linguistic trail, moving from the artist’s name and the title of this series, there would surely be enough material for a treatise –. with the former echoing Democritus’ Little Cosmology and the latter opening into the inaccessible (to me, at least) domain of physics. And yet, as I marvel at Cosmo Gonik’s jewellery, I wish to leave aside all such things. Instead, my head rings with a little word, Ratna, which is the Sanskrit name for a pearl, or gem. As yoga unites the individual to the universe of which they are an integral part, these beautiful artefacts also feed into our most intimate essence and bring it to light, so that we may perceive the Self in everything and everything within the Self. Observing these works of art (and personal ornaments) with the heart, and not the mind, I also see how their simplicity somehow signifies quite the opposite of a simplification.
Symbols pave our way towards the realm of the sacred. Some symbols (such symbols as these) constitute ‘ethnographic documents’: notions of truth and falsehood do not apply to them, because their domain is not that of conceptual reason. Thus we make the experience of a process Italian ethnologist Ernesto De Martino identified as the ethos of transcending life into value. In a single act, some feature of reality comes to be de-historicized and is at once transfigured into a mythical, exemplary image, or icon, with which we are able to relate. One crucial feature of symbols is that we can make them our own: we are able to identify with them so that their intrinsic value is transferred to us and we become both active and passive subjects in their world. Hence the importance of identification. Myth pervades these creations and is the key to the deep meaning of what each of them represents. What myth truly represents is our collective memory; myth is our own past transfigured – and not just any time in the past: it is the time of our origins, where the roots lie of everything that is now, in the present. Human societies cannot do without the symbolic domain, and this is an issue that asks for serious consideration. We ought to remember, at least, that a sacred component resides within each of us.