S. Arteni, during his years as a student of Tanaka Setsuzan, President
of the Japan Calligraphy Art Association and one of the foremost contemporary
masters of Japanese calligraphy, explored the possibilities of a multi-layered
field for interpretive calligraphy. The encounter with East Asian calligraphy
triggered a process of interiorization, a journey back to
the source of all forms, to universes that can be regarded as culturally
homologous. All this implied
some sort of descent into Hell and, as a consequence, the discovery of
phases that preceded recent cultural strata. He caused a stir in artistic
circles at his 1997 Kobe Art Hall show (Kobe, Japan) and at the 1998 Avant-garde
Calligraphy exhibition (Seoul, Korea). The paintings were thematically
based on the Byzantine icon-making manual Ermeneia, composed during
the first centuries after Christ, and on the Baroque Iconologia
(first edition, Rome, 1593; first illustrated edition, Rome 1603) of the
Italian knight Cesare Ripa, a compilation of symbols and allegories used
extensively by painters and architects in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. However, Arteni, by transcending and transforming the model
images, created paintings which could be perceived as Nihonga (the Japanese
style of ink painting); for the symbol was not in what was painted,
but in the method that produced the paintings -- in how they were
The mutation of Artenis own heritage through the strategic appropriation
of the East Asian cultural matrix developed into process-oriented, spontaneous
methods. His efforts were rewarded in 1996 by the Japan Foreign Affairs
Ministers Grand Prize for Calligraphy. He continues his journey,
working on clay and sumi monoprinting, pursuing the union of painting
and calligraphy, while retaining the dynamics of both.
S. Artenis collaborator, M. S. P. de Arteni, nurtures the development
of hand-crafted, single-copy and limited edition artists books as
the Presss book designer, binder, and printer. She intends to revive
the tradition of the scriptorium: word and image will again be treasured,
read, reread, looked at, and meditated upon.
A traditional art has an ascertained means of operation, it has been transmitted
in pupillary succession or through how-to manuals, and it retains its
values even when it has gone out of fashion. The meaning of the work of
art is its intrinsic form. Form, in a traditional art, does not mean tangible
Narrations, commentary, are not art. A traditional art works by signs
and symbols. Convention, however, is not inflexible, it is not restrictive.
Byzantine Art is intended to encourage meditation and therefore reminds
the mind of Buddhism and especially Zen. It takes shape within the controlling
contexts of an established vocabulary of forms although it appropriates
images from pagan mythology. Image is reduce to a minimum of details,
only details which are necessary and sufficient for the purpose, and a
maximum of expressiveness, cleansing the work of everything personal.
In this sense, the Chinese character is the ultimate icon.
Nobody knows what will be the place of the book and of the printed word
and of the image in an electronic screen civilization. Writing lives in
a continuum of open-ended graphic expression. It is also tied to the act,
or procedure, or tools, of writing (lead, brush, quill), and hence is
a naturally expressive activity.
For Arteni, the realm of writing, which is always an image, is space.
Writing has to be emancipated and released from the quest to equate it
with language and can no longer be confined only to the function of communicating
Threshold of the Millennium
There is no creation without withdrawal into ones self. Modern man
begins by being disoriented with respect to himself. The globalization
of culture is a principal feature of contemporary art. As a result of
globalization, language models, methodologies, forms and images - fragments
of culture - become part of the
context in which works of art are created, while specific cultural matrices
are suppressed. At the same time, didactic tones, messages, social commentary
and attempts to question contemporary issues come to the forefront of
any critics review. Cross-fertilization of cultures is not the same
as globalization. Art has the power to overcome the didactic verbalization
and categorization. Painting is far from language. To paint is to decide
for silence. Kaneda Sekijo, the twentieth-century Japanese calligrapher,
said: form governs content.
Millenarianism, in the broad sense of hope, and apocalyptic views of the
nature and meaning of history are bound to the role of the book as a symbol,
even a talisman, of authority and power. For two thousand years these
ideas had an impact on art, on literature, on historical thinking, and
on the indefinable complex we call culture. The Greek word for revelation
itself implies a veiling rather than a disclosure: a symbol is a mystery
and characteristic of a symbol is its multivalence.
The varied texts, poetry, and poets illumined by Sol Invictus books may
different in philosophy and style. Upon further examination, however,
the ways in which they intersect with each other become visible. Like
John, who begins in exile on Patmos, like Francis, who has to learn to
do without in order to learn how to turn a Crusade into a pilgrimage,
the artist has to learn want because circumstance will dictate that the
artist become a wanderer and cope with the powerlessness of being an outsider.
Only thus can the artist learn how to transform personal circumstance
SOL INVICTUS PRESS books emphasize spiritual over autobiographical qualities.
Meaning is located within the context of juxtaposed forms
and images, interpenetrating and interdependent. Their heart and soul
emerge out of strenuous study in art and history, Southeastern European
tradition, and intense Zen discipline.
The 17th-century Japanese poet Basho wrote: Learn the rules well, and
then forget them. In Zen, aloneness is utter individuation achieved
through meditation. The viewer must project him/herself into the flow
of brushstrokes in order to experience art firsthand.
In creating and in viewing this art, the anguish and the intense searching
are finally dissolved: revelation, enlightenment, satori, seeing things
as they are. Past is remembered in the present moment and future is expected
in the present moment. Now is eternal.
Sol Invictus Press