120, Блис Белай

120, 2016-05, Блис Белай (“Bliss Belay”), oil on linen, 60 x 90″ (148 x 228cm) (detail, 2, 3)

A few years ago I dreamt I was visiting remote rural Russia, living with a group of students in a rustic, barracks-style, communal guesthouse on a sunny grassland. We all awoke on a cold morning and walked out of the cabin in loose groups or as quiet, solitary figures, in a few minutes reaching a small lodge. I saw a blackboard, where written in chalk were the words, “Блис Белай”. There is much more to the dream, but I have to end the account here. I don’t know what the words mean— perhaps “belay bliss”, or “turn white”. Long before this dream I had wanted to do a series of didactic pieces explicating certain aspects of Russian language and culture, with big Cyrillic text superimposed upon the image diagrammatically, and this image had lent itself to the idea of Past, Present and Future Tense. The Past is innocence, the Present veiled in shadow, and the Future being Revelation, when an abrupt, illuminating, purifying Cosmic Event elevates consciousness beyond the Self and the world.

And then there are the Heron Sisters from the Siberian-Tuguskan folktale, Ivan the Mare’s Son. From Encyclopedia of Russian & Slavic Myth and Legend by Mike Dixon-Kennedy:

“On the stroke of midnight three herons flew down into the clearing, smashed themselves against the ground, and instantly became three beautiful maidens.”

And from Wikipedia:

Wormwood (ἀψίνθιον apsinthion or ἄψινθος apsinthos in Greek) is a star or angel that appears in the Book of Revelation. […] Although the word wormwood appears several times in the Old Testament, translated from the Hebrew term לענה (la’anah, which means “curse” in Arabic and Hebrew), its only mention in the New Testament is in the Book of Revelation: “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” (Rev 8:10–11) […] The Ukrainian language word for “wormwood” is чорнобиль or “chornobyl”, the Ukrainian name of the town of Chernobyl.