A Timeless Way of Seeing
What, really, do we see? It is clear from so many experiences that we shouldn’t trust our own eyes quite as much as we do. We see what we want to see—sometimes, what we don’t want to see—but do we see the real world for what it is? Do we see ourselves as we are? If all that I take as “the seen” consists of external reality, I am seeing through the smallest of apertures into the Real. For it is this self, this “I” that sees; and it too is part of the reality to which I bear witness. And so if I am to see the Real, I must also see myself.
These are hard questions to ponder. Too often, pondering results in trivial mental games. We need the vision of others, especially of artists, who can teach us directly and immediately through their work not what to see, but how. This is what Theodora Plas, and every artist worthy of the name, bids us to: a way of seeing that transcends the biased vision to which we are addicted.
The first impression of Theodora’s paintings is of luminescence. The Real is luminous, suffused with light. Its reflection pours forth from her paintings and fills us with its essence. The only other experience so essentially luminous is love: whether of the beloved to whom we write or from whom we receive letters, or of the mysterium tremendum, whose Presence fills the universe with light. Theodora’s explorations of light, reflected in human and trans-human experience, are delicate, discreet, mysterious, ambiguous. Nothing explicit is shown in its entirety, ever: these are not icons to be worshipped, yet, like icons, they reveal a sacred reality. Ordinary life, whether overlayed by the patina of modern technology or by the downpouring of light, is suddenly laid bare by a sensitivity evoked by her work, so that one sees beyond the contemporary into the timeless. Art reminds us of our capacity for a timeless way of seeing.
By these most subtle of means, Theodora lets us in on a secret we have almost forgotten: that when that capacity is awakened, when we attend, when curiosity matures into interest, and when we pay attention with all that interest, we enter into a state both intimate and vulnerable. It is quintessentially meditative, even if—especially when—infused with the rich panoply of feelings that flood our being and unite with our attention. Behind our eyes, like that of the readers of letters in some of her recent work, lies what feeling has evoked, that state of intimacy and immediacy. There is no better way to discover what Theodora wants to reveal than by looking at her paintings long enough for our automatic thoughts and responses to pass away, and our predictable mental commentaries to become still. Then the painting reveals itself as a communication addressed specifically to us, full of mystery, portent, and promise. Then we recognize across time and space that we too are capable of intimacy, vulnerability, passion, grief, and wonder. Out from our mechanical sleep, we come alive; and alive, we begin to see.