To Andrea Bátorfi’s exhibition entitled "Unfolding"
by Lajos Pressing*
In: Unfolding / On he Border of Two Worlds. Catalogue.
Published by Millenáris Nonprofit Kft.
Like the Milky Way
on the expanding dome
of passing skies
and like reality after a burning fever
So gleams and shines
in my soul the world
human liberation desires
The universe sparkles
so clean and fresh, like a dewdrop
on heaven’s leaf.
A peculiar and mysterious world opens up in front of us in the photo-graphics of this exhibition, and somewhere, within the depths of our mind, intimately familiar feelings loom while contemplating these images: transient memories from our infancy, when our concept-based thinking had not nailed the phenomena to the structures of the limited ordinary world yet, and consciousness moved freely between the visible and the invisible worlds; or from even earlier times, the archetypal depths of existence before civilisation, when nature was permeated by the living presence of the spirit, objects had souls, and the sharp boundaries between imagination and reality had not existed yet.
The creations of Andrea Bátorfi make visible the layers of reality hidden beneath the surface of forms, inverting the "cosmic egg", so to speak, in order to show the organic life pulsing underneath its shell. Her graphics created by mirroring, cutting and intuitively rearranging multiple exposure photographs conjure up the illuminated, dynamic realm of energy vortices that are hidden deep within things while forming them. As interior and exterior or the experiencer and the senses are sharply divided only in the differentiated, conscious mind, it is not only the familiar contours which disintegrate and become malleable by entering behind the surface, but the dichotomy of a finite "self" and the world crystallised into matter is also dissolved. Just as man is created by the forces of the world, from human desires and ideas unfold those formations of individual fate and history which shape our earthly environment.
Since at the root of experiences internal and external or cognizer and cognized become one, we can start in both directions to immerse ourselves in the deep layers of reality. The outward way is art, which opens up the dimensions of beauty and reason in sensual forms, allowing the artist and the receiver to discover their own ideas and sentiments. The inward way carries us through imagination, which expands cognition into the realm of the possible, on to dreams and various stages of trance and beyond, to those archetypal depths where the spiritual, astral and biological existences melt into each other. Entering this inner path with a conscious mind is meditation. The way of art is active and expressive, the way of meditation is contemplative and receptive.
Andrea Bátorfi walks both ways simultaneously. During the creative process she is not moulding the matter in order to portray the ideas and inclinations that move her. Rather, she depicts the subjective experiences of an altered state of mind while abiding in a meditative absorption. Compared to artistic activity in the traditional sense, opening, receptivity and complete self-surrender become more emphatic. At the same time, contrary to the passivity of meditative absorption, she creates the visible imprints of the experienced internal journey in the form of graphic images. This type of creation is like mediumship elevated to an artistic level regarding its aesthetic value, which is able to mediate between different worlds and levels of consciousness. Through the archaic context of images beyond concepts, it makes the messages of higher forms of existence accessible. It is this mediumistic inspiration which the title Transmitting alludes to, chosen by the artist to designate the first phase of her artistic activity unfolding since 2000.
Although the starting point of her graphics is always a natural motif – whether the intertwined branches of the trees by the Danube, drops of dew sparkling on leaves of grass, the reflection of sunlight on the surface of the pool of water gathered in a rut, or the formations of water and ice – the artist makes no attempt to portray or to shape these formal impressions. Instead, with the tools of photography and computer technology she cautiously strips the calcified structures of everyday perception, and hatches from them a hidden realm which corresponds to the objective projection of a particular view experienced in a meditative state of mind. Mystical traditions have known since long ages that the way of experiencing the world reflects the state of mind of the beholder. The deeper the mind is absorbed into the subjective sphere, the closer it comes to the roots of its perceptions, to the point of enlightenment, where it realises its own true nature in the mirror of the world.
The works of the Transmitting series are pictorial documents of the first stage of absorption in the nature of the mind. The objective assessment of phenomena might conform to the demands of scientific cognition, but not to the truth of the heart, which feels rather than measures life. When, supported by sympathy and empathy, vision enters behind the crusted surface of forms, it comes into contact with the vivaciousness of things at first. As the continuous monologue of the mind fades, sensual impressions suddenly clear up in the silence of contemplation, and, released from the yoke of concepts, their frozen contours start to melt. The previously lifeless environment is suddenly populated, and from the maze of apparently motionless shapes a host of mythic creatures – fairies and nature spirits, dwarves and giants, goblins and elves – appear: the embodiments of the dynamic, creative forces of the mind manifest in creative imagination.
The images of the Unfolding exhibition, created later, all use the same technique and start from the same premise, however – in line with the deepening of the artist’s meditation – they go beyond evoking the spirit beings concealed in the hidden recesses of nature, invisible to the uninitiated eye. While probing the play of light reflected in forms, the artist realises that the many perspectives creating the appearance of solidness are merely the metamorphoses of light. Natural light and the quality of consciousness are in close analogy with each other – in an abstract sense, lucidity denotes the clarity of perception, understanding or presence even in the vernacular. The graphic mediations of Andrea Bátorfi do not merely reveal the connection of physical light and visual form, but also expose the relationship between inner lucidity and the contents of consciousness. As the images of the series gradually unfurl light from the shell of forms and it shines in an increasingly radiant way in its all-encompassing infinite freedom, similarly, consciousness absorbed in meditation sheds the ideas and concepts that have gripped its attention previously. A film-animation, which is the high spot of the exhibition, makes this meditative process, the unfolding of the illuminated nature of consciousness and its self-awakening, a memorable experience for the spectator.
The connection between spritual awakening and a sense of illumination is present in all the significant mystical traditions of mankind. The encounter with the transcendent, which is impossible to put into words, is often described in terms of light phenomena ("at mid-day, I saw in the way… out of heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me a light – and those going on with me" – Acts, 26,13). The use of the metaphor of light and the account of actual light-sensations appears often in the Bible, and becomes especially pronounced in its books of mystical tone, for example, in the vision of Ezekiel (1, 4: "And I look, and lo, a tempestuous wind is coming from the north, a great cloud, and fire catching itself, and brightness to it round about, and out of its midst as the colour of copper, out of the midst of the fire"; 1,27-28: "And I see as the colour of copper, as the appearance of fire within it round about… As the appearance of the bow that is in a cloud in a day of rain, so [is] the appearance of the brightness round about… ") or in the Gospel of John (9,5: "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world; 5,35: ”He was a burning and a shining light "; 12,46: "I a light to the world have come, that every one who is believing in me, in the darkness may not remain… " etc.) The lyrical idiom of the Psalms often expresses the elevation of unworldly faith with similes of light and lucidity, too (80,2: "O Shepherd of Israel… thou that dwellest [between] the cherubims, shine forth!" 36,10: "For with thee [is] the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light"; 139,12: "Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light [are] both alike [to thee]"). We could also quote the forceful images of the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas (24: "There is light within a man of light, and he lights up the whole world"; 50: ”If they say to you, 'Where did you come from?', say to them, 'We came from the light, the place where the light came into being on its own accord…' ")
The spiritual traditions of the East identified the divine light that conjures up the universe with the internal lucidity that is the true nature of human consciousness. Buddhist tradition holds that spiritual blindness – insensitivity to light which is characteristic of the fallen state of man – is caused by the preoccupation with the contents of cognition. Being caught up in ordinary perceptions, attention attached to our concepts and ideas show these as hard and solid realities, hiding their original emptiness, just as physical light, which fills the void between the atoms with its dance, creates the illusion of material forms.
Forms are fragments of the universe, which are made up of light in such a way that lucidity appears to be something else compared to itself. Form is the darkness within the light, similarly to the essential spirit which unfolds and loses itself in the world at the same time, too. The closed, unchanging, limited quality of forms constricts and binds light and in the same way lucidity, which senses them. Yet in its genuine quality, light is inseparable from the void that provides a place for the world: it is just as infinite and all-encompassing, intangible and free, and its evolving from the shell of forms creates a sense of expansion into infinite space. Consciousness realising its true nature expands in a similar way from the noise of concepts into the infinite silence of pure presence, the opening of which is symbolised by an unfurling lotus flower in the oriental tradition.
As the Tibetan Buddhist scriptures report, consciousness experiences more and more intense light-sensations through the stages of meditative absorption. They expand into infinity, and in line with them the mind also realises the emptiness of its ordinary self and of its perceptions. In the initial stages of the dissolution of forms it experiences more articulate light-hallucinations, later increasingly formless ones. Even later, when conceptual thinking stops, too, experiences cease to be objectifiable, and only the homogenous sensation of flowing lucidity remains until the point where "the clear light of reality", the self-awakening of the ultimate essence lights up.
Consciousness traverses the same experiences at the end of its lifetime, during the disintegration of the body and the mind, in the process of dying, when "The brightness of sky-oceans lights up around me/my boat sets out on the sea of stars/ and you are but a small dry stone, beautiful earth / which rolls away in the bottomless deep." (Nichifor Crainic: Passing Away). Tibetan tradition holds that before starting to roam in the bardo – the intermediate existence that follows death – every being returns into the "clear light" for a short time, where individual consciousness melts into the primordial lucidity of the universe as naturally as a little boy hides in his mother’s lap.
With the help of Andrea Bátorfi’s works we can follow the rebirth of light from the lap of nature, at least the phase which still has objectifiable marks. The more subtle levels of reality, however, do not light up on the canvas but in the beholders themselves in the inner silence evoked by the images, when thoughts become silent and allow mindfulness to take their place. As the artist herself says in her confession entitled "White Fire":
"The images are… exclamation marks. They have a presence.
They are gates that lead into the space of inner silence.
Although they contain an eventful formal world and exciting surfaces,
deep silence still permeates all of them.
Because they were born of silence and invite to join silence. "
The exceptional journey these images invite us to does not lead into a previously unseen, extraterrestrial world, but into the depths of our own souls. The significance of Andrea Bátorfi’s works goes beyond the aesthetic value of the otherwise visually enthralling sights. It reminds us of the roots that the West, immersed in the enchantment of forms, had forgotten about in such a dissolute way. Yet these are the roots that hold and nurture life, which sprouts from them again when the fruit falls and the trunk rots away. Because no matter how we try to delay it, the moment will arrive in everyone’s life when we enter the great lucidity and become one with the light, since, as the apostle Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Thessalonians (5,5): "Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness."