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Breath of the Compassionate

2004, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 37.5, by Jenny Badger Sultan

April 20, 2004--I've begun a painting with that grid of 8-pointed stars and crosses I saw and sketched at the show of Genghis Khan art. Feel totally boxed in by it. Tried some gestural marks--yellow, red--washed them away. I might introduce clouds. I could let the crosses be floral images, and perhaps the blue stars want to be sky.

April 23--Put in the endangered S.F. garter snake. Followed with the fox I saw in the Arboretum on Monday. Then a roadrunner, jackrabbit, chuckawalla from our trip to Anza Borrego. And then the huge hawk we saw. So, nature and animals in the green crosses. Put cloudlike forms in the stars.

April 27--Hate it. The green of the crosses reminds me of the color of my room when I was 13. The whole thing feels so dry. And the crosses interfere with the animals. I paint all that out--put a mixture of ultramarine and white on all the crosses. Animals gone. Now the colors remind me of my dream painting Little St. Bridget.

A thought: plants and flowers on the crosses. The stars for more mysterious images, possibly including the animals.

April 29--Wildflowers on the blue crosses. Try marks and visual texture on the stars. Print leaves on some parts. I just think of dragons when I look at what’s there--probably because I had put in the clouds a while ago.

May 14--Work in the stars. Recent wildlife sightings. They feel better here than in the crosses. The fox in the Arboretum, chuckawalla, jackrabbit, roadrunner from Borrego. A large snake. A snake with heads on both ends, from last night’s dream. The Pedernal from old New Mexico trip. Woman with goose--not sure I like that, too much like Leda and the Swan. Raven. Owl in the jacaranda I saw in Pokhara (Nepal)--so adorable, it makes me smile to think of it. I feel very happy with how the painting is developing now--the vague imagery in the stars brings in the animal world and relates to my old experimental drawings on paper. Now it’s a raven with the woman--they're communicating.

May 21--Great blue heron I saw in the Park today on the way to draw wildflowers at the Arboretum. Turtle--not a recent experience. Though I can think back to the sea turtle Hank and I saw in Hawaii.

Painting titled 'Breath of the Compassionate', by Jenny Badger Sultan. Click to enlarge

There have been many structures in my paintings of the past few years:

June 1--I finished repainting all the flowers. Desert gold poppy, desert sage, prickly poppy, Arizona lupine, desert chicory, desert dandelion, desert aster, cholla, checkerbloom, hedge nettle, blue-eyed grass, desert trumpet, desert verbena, apricot mallow, owl clover, creosote bush, ocotillo, johnny jump-up or wild pansy, sacred datura, monkey flower. Most of them we’d seen on our camping trip that Spring.

Then, on the last star tile I started a raccoon but decided against it--didn’t want the raccoon vibe. So I put in the deer I got a glimpse of at the Pinnacles. I am just about finished.

This painting is a tribute to Islamic art--the beautiful grid and also the plants and animals from nature. It is also a reflection of my recent experiences in nature. It is a beautiful painting--too pretty? There is a soft color vibration with the orange and blue, blue-green. The colors still remind me of St. Bridget. There is only 1 dream image--the snake with heads at both ends. Nearly done.

June 2--Finished--cleaned up the orange bands but left some of the accidental marks.

Sept 10--Reading “A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe” by Michael Schneider. I find that the pattern I used is called “The Breath of the Compassionate.” Made from the Expansion and Contraction of the square. (I was very moved by this--that such a beautiful idea could be represented by a geometric pattern.) On p. 274 he says:

Islamic tradition holds that there are one hundred names of God but only ninety-nine are knowable and speakable, and they are called the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah. The highest pronounceable name is “The Compassionate.” From its infinite goodness the Compassionate exhales and inhales. Through the polar cycle of divine breath the universe is periodically created, maintained, dissolved, and renewed.
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