A reflection given by Arie Trum from The Netherlands
at a meeting of the Board of Directors of the
Carmelite Institute, Washington, D.C., on March 22, 1996.


In the early spring of 1992 one of my best friends Kees Waaijman, a Dutch Carmelite, asked me to create--what he called--a "visual interpretation" of the Rule, with the text written in Dutch, of course. Three years later I met Jack Welch in Rome, and he asked me to do the same in the English language. The results of this question you can see here today. When I started playing with the idea, my first idea was to make a combination of image and text, that is, a painted illustration or drawing and text, like I do in most of my free works of art. However, soon enough I left that idea.

"No Image Satisfies" was the title of an exhibition of art held in Rotterdam in 1991 on the occasion of the celebration of the fourth centenary of John of the Cross. Sometimes one must indeed come to the conclusion that images do not satisfy. Stronger even: do only lead away from what is essential. Bad luck for the artist; however, a wise lesson at the same time. "No image satisfies." That seemed certainly here to be the case, because in my opinion Carmel-spirituality cannot be safely reduced to or caught in an image.

Now, does this mean I can only use a written text? I certainly do not hope so, because somehow I have this vague suspicion that I am going to need a very strong, but sober, universal symbolic sign. Reading and re-reading the Rule and the meditations on the Rule by Kees Waaijman,I certainly do not get the feeling that I am only dealing with letters, words, ideas and their pure rational meaning. After all a Carmel-life does not exist of Rule only. It is true that in my imagination Appear enough pictures and symbols, but developed into a quick sketch, they do not fascinate me long enough. There is, however, one image appearing continuously at the horizon of my imagination: AN OPEN SPACE, A PLACE IN THE CENTER. That image is gradually becoming more and more important and more essential. Obviously I have to work that out. I do have to create a center, do have to make room, to create space. Even if I should have to interrupt the written lines for that purpose, no problem. That center, that space seems to be important enough. Even the Rule has to make way for that.

Now it is my feeling that I have to enclose the center by a circle, at least a closed round form without end, without beginning. This enclosed center should not just become an ordinary center. No, it should become a radiating center, a very much alive center, an inviting center, your center, my center, THE CENTER. That is why I must decorate the circle with the most noble and most precious metal there is: GOLD, the ancient symbol of the Divine. Gold reflects light and it is the Light that I am going to need.

An open circle, that is, the enclosed inner space, is also to be experienced as a passage, a gate that leads into real life--life as it is brought to life by Jesus of Nazareth. The circle is also the cell of 2. the Carmelite where the small "p" of the word "place" gradually transforms into a capital "P" 50 that the "Lodging" can do God's work. All other images that I could think of, how beautiful or how interesting one could draw or paint them, will not be fit to hold a candle to this simple, sober but magnificent symbol: the circle enclosing space, room, interior, begin, end, begin. "The end of the journey forms the beginning of our strides," I read in the meditation of Kees. I cannot escape from that idea any more. This is what I have to do. Whatever part of the Rule I read, every time I come to the same conclusion. And the circle should be drawn in the center of the sheet, because CENTER and SPACE are the two ideas that I come across every time again. SPACE. "Through the Rule of Carmel I am being lead into the space of God," I read somewhere. I am very glad I did not allow myself to be tempted by the idea of drawing hermits in front of their caves, or drawing a picture of the prophet Elia at the spring, or Albert the Patriarch with his entourage handing over the Rule to the Carmel brothers. This has all been done many times before. No, everything I need now must be very sober, without decoration, without finery, without image--bare, poor, empty in the sense of: becoming bare and empty for God. Now I must hold on to that idea and get to work now without interruption. A circle does not know interruptions.

The inside of the circle is also the oratory in the center of the cells, the cells where the brothers or sisters are occupied. Occupied with conception. Where the living God x-rays their interiors.

The center, the open space, the place where the brothers or Sisters are to come together every morning. Not by force but conveniently, searching for their own center as well, every day again. The golden circle also represents the rising sun, conquering the night, symbol of the resurrection of Christ, the center of time. If you, however, take a close look at the golden circle, you will discover that in this very human and very earthly golden sun there is also a lot of shadow to be seen.

The written text of the Rule does not only exist of separate words and lines. Being written rather close upon, it forms a unity, a structure. And a structure is characterized by connection, so that the structure does not fall apart. The structure saves the connection.

The text has been written horizontally and vertically, together forming a cross. The written lines are being interrupted by the circle-- the circle enclosing emptiness. That emptiness, that unfilled space means that there is more truth than anyone in the world could explain to us. That there is more reality than we can reach and that there are no words for. In this emptiness the things happen that cannot be manipulated. That is why you see an empty center, symbol of the unpredictable reality, the mystery of God in God's inaccessible light. In this empty center we cannot force anything to our will. Our attitude will therefore be: surrender, confidence, let it happen. To go to that center, every day again to find "Nothing" and "Everything" at the same time. I do hope that while creating this work my own center became emptier as well. If you want to be creative at all, you are going to need an empty soul.

Finally, having burnished the last square inch of gold leaf, I cannot really decide whether my work is finished or not, at least not in the sense I learned in art school with questions like: is the color to my liking? Is the composition right? These questions have been answered during the making. It seems not to matter any more. After all I have the feeling that this work has not been created according to a rational plan. As a chess-player I should have failed, because all the time I have only thought one move ahead. Subconsciously I have used the power still dormant in people--and in myself--to be appealed to by mystery, by the unmentionable.

The moment I feel that I no longer view the work as creator, but rather as spectator--even though I happen to have created it--I can step back from it and think of it as "a story told," as "a journey ended." No longer do I see the work then as "artificially made" but more as "naturally developed." The transformation is completed and I myself have become an outsider who--just as any other viewer--can decide whether to begin a new dialogue with the work, in which everyone can follow in his or her own way the process, once begun with the first insecure sketches and writings.

For those spectators, I would like to conclude with the words of the mystic: read on, there is perhaps more written than there is written. Dare to read and to look and you will change and your world will be transformed into a new and significant unity.

Thank you for allowing me to make this work. Thank you for listening to my thoughts. May God bless you all.

Thank you.

Arie Trum Jsz.

Technical Information

Some technical information might be interesting. The calligraphy Of the original handwritten rule--from which this print has been made-was written with a goose quill. I prefer to write with a quill rather than a steel nib. A goose quill is the most precise and most sensitive writing instrument there is. While writing, it becomes part of you hand and follows exactly one's movements. The lettering has been written with thinned tempera-paint, which is a mixture of
pure pigments and the yolk of an egg. Thinned with enough distilled water in order to make the paint fluid enough to write with. It forms an ideal "ink."

The time needed for writing the test from top to bottom is between seven and eight hours, provided that all necessary preparations have been made. These are amongst others: the design, which is, of course, the most important part of the whole process; colors and sort of paper to be used; and the size of the lettering, which relates to the size of my quill. (The quill itself as well as the size, is cut with a special pen-knife). The text must be written in one session. One could not afford to have a break somewhere half-way, for one would immediately see the difference afterwards in the writing-rhythm.

From this original, which is a little larger than this print (100 x 55 cm) an edition of 500 copies has been made through a silk-screen process. Every copy is numbered and signed, and the golden circle is gilded by hand on every single copy in order to maintain and guarantee its uniqueness.

Because I preferred to use the so called "variegated gold" instead of one-colored gold leaf, the circle on every copy differs from the other. This is because the pattern in the gold leaf--consisting of oxidized copper--is different on every single leaf.

Those who would like to have this print framed might follow these instructions: Go to a professional framing shop. See that your print is provided with a 100% acid-free cardboard madding (passe-partout). The color of the madding should be the same sort of warm-grey as the print, BUT lighter. Please do not use a frame with too much gold in it. The gold will distract the attention from the circle. The color of the framing should be in accordance with the colors of the madding and the paper and should not be of too much contrast, so that the circle plays the leading part instead of the frame.

A 17.25 x 31.5 silk-screened copy with the gold-leafed circle done by hand by Arie Trum is sent as a gift to each person or group that sends a minimum donation of $500.00 to the Carmelite Institute.


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