A Concise Cosmology of Art

The word 'torus'

Torus: [1560s, from L. torus "A swelling, bulge, knot"]

Torus: [(in geometry and mathematics) "A ring-shaped surface generated by rotating a circle around an axis that does not intersect that circle."]

Torus: [(in nuclear physics) "A doughnut-shaped chamber used in fusion research in which a plasma is heated and confined by magnetic fields."]


The concept of the torus dates from antiquity, making an early appearance as an ancient greek column ornament.


The easiest way to visualize a torus (a toroidal structure or pattern) is in the familiar material form of a doughnut.

Dynamically and energetically, though, the torus is possibly the most elemental circulatory pattern, and can be found virtually everywhere in nature.  Energy and matter circulate through and around the torus in a circular manner, continually driven from one central polarity, around the outer reaches, and back again to the opposing polar center.

In this case, however, we will take the liberty of imagining the hole in the center as being only a point - having no dimension.


The familiar tracks made by iron filings, for instance, in proximity to a bar magnet demonstrate a toroidal electromagnetic field function.


The illusionary moire pattern suggested by two sets of intersecting lines with centers slightly displaced is also a toroid pattern. (It looks real to the brain - which seems mysteriously hard wired by nature to percieve it - even though it's not really there)


In physics, in order to isolate and study sub-atomic entities, a nuclear accelerator (an enormous doughnut-shaped chamber) is used, in which a plasma is heated, extremely condensed and its elements propelled by powerful magnetic fields to speeds approaching that of light.  A torus.


Grander yet, the magnetic field of the Earth itself is toroidal in form.


On a truly macro scale, black holes, which powerfully warp surrounding space, drawing everything in their vicinity toward annihilation at their core (and may be the other sides of white holes, where new phenomena may spew forth), galaxies, and possibly even the cosmos itself constitute toroid phenomena.


For our purposes, and to come back down to earth, it has recently been established scientifically that the human body, too, incorporates a toroidal energy field centering, interestingly enough, not in the brain, but in the heart (note: mystics have been saying this for millenia).


As such, the toroid may be considered as a universal energy function and as a symbol of endless regeneration and recycling.

And toroid patterns can be extremely, even unimaginably, complex.


Perhaps you can envision more of the countless ways this works because, one way or another, it's happening everywhere....

and in everything!


And what has all this to do with art?

The artist: Throughout her/his life the artist continually draws in meaning through life experience.  The business of art, then, becomes the reworking, reinterpretation and reformulation of that meaning through the artist's conscious and pre-conscious mind, intuition and craft into an artistic image.  That image then returns meaning to the world of experience to contribute richness to the lives of others.  In this sense, the artist is a living torus of meaning.

The art image: It's the spectator's toroidal window from their own world through to the artist's world....which is, in fact, the same world as their own.

The art gallery: Extending this reasoning, the conclusion is probably apparent.


The word 'image'

Image: [c.1200 - Middle English, from Old French, "image, likeness; figure, drawing, portrait, reflection; statue," earlier 'imagene' (11c.), from Latin 'imago,' 'imaginem,' "copy, statue, picture," figuratively "idea, appearance, piece of statuary; artificial representation that looks like a person or thing," from stem of 'imitari,' "to copy, imitate."]

Image: A concrete representation, as in visual, plastic or conceptual art, literature, poetry, movement or music, that is expressive or evocative of something else.

The conceptual foundation: The creation and witnessing of imagery (or of any form of art, for that matter), regardless of how it's been done, is an exercise in shamanistic ritual. And, intended that way consciously or not, it will have the same effect.

For our purposes, the word 'image,' in a discussion of art, can be validly used to refer not just to the visual arts, but to all the arts.  And so, we will use it that way.  In the visual arts image generally refers to an individual work, though in the case of collage, assembled sculpture, works comprised of multiple panels or sculptural objects, the overall image is actually a collection of individual objects forming a whole.  In poetry, a work is an assembly of individual images. While in music a piece is a succession of emotional and sometimes verbal images.  In dance, many flowing images are strung together to form a whole  In cinema the same is even more obviously true.  And, given that the whole of any of these non-visual creations cannot be said to exist without any of the parts, the whole can also be thought to comprise an image in the mind.

Art is, then, a multiplicity of toroids of meaning.

Let's also keep in mind, incidentally, that the gravity (import) of the image is always of greater importance than are - however highly regarded or seemingly inelegant - the tools used in its making, or the materials of which it's made.  The means of the production of a sensed image may be almost entirely irrelevant, and to become preoccupied with the means of production may seriously distract from the challenge of engaging the range of its possible meanings and implications - not to mention the spectator pleasures of inquiry and discovery.


Representational or Non-objective: What's in the image?

Representational art is descriptive.

Non-objective art is suggestive.

In one case, there will be things you recognize. In the other, things you may imagine you recognize.

The experience of a work of art is always a journey of discovery.  Ultimately (and hopefully) one discovers some deeper meanings in life, and more profound understandings of one's self.

And finally, since you are the world, and the world is you (toroidally speaking), the significances you find in any work of art - whether intended by the artist or not - will ultimately - whether you know it or not - be what you've brought with you.



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