“In the beginning,” whispers the ancient Book of Genesis, “the earth existed as an amorphous void, devoid of shape and substance.” Yet, for those of us living in the vibrant twentieth century, envisioning such a chaotic void becomes an audacious task. Our modern minds have been enlightened by the realization that a mesmerizing order thrives in the infinitely minuscule and the immeasurably colossal.
In this newfound understanding, we grasp that chance holds no sway over us or our surroundings. Instead, an intricate tapestry of order weaves its way through the fabric of our existence—both in the realm of thoughts and the tangible universe. This realization ignites a fiery argument, stating that even the most modest inkblot or scribble cannot simply materialize through happenstance. No, it carries a hidden significance, awaiting the discerning eye to decipher its enigmatic causes, origins, and purpose.
These fundamental contemplations serve as our guiding light, illuminating the path to unveil the genesis, meaning, and profound messages embedded within the signs we encounter throughout this remarkable journey.
Imagine an empty space, depicted here as a square etched with lines that symbolize the vast concept of “emptiness” (1). Our challenge is to scatter sixteen dots across this void in a haphazard, unplanned fashion. The accompanying illustration (2) vividly portrays the daunting task of placing these sixteen elements in a way that appears completely random—devoid of any connection or structure. The goal is to avoid evoking any semblance of a recognizable shape, picture, or figurative representation.
But here’s the fascinating twist: using the very same sixteen dots, it becomes astonishingly easy to conjure up a multitude of distinct figures (3) or arrangements (4). It’s as if the dots yearn to form cohesive patterns and meaningful shapes. We are faced with the paradoxical revelation that crafting an ordered form is far simpler than creating disorder—a nonform.
The reason behind this peculiar phenomenon lies deep within our subconscious. From a young age, our minds have been imprinted with the indelible marks of primary figures, pictures, and schemas. These imprints perpetually influence our field of vision and shape our imaginative world. It’s conceivable that certain archetypal forms are even inherited, existing within us from the very moment of our inception, perhaps even within the mind of an unborn child. However, it is worth noting that the scientific community remains divided on this thought-provoking notion.
2. Remembering a figure
Before we delve into the fascinating world of sign production, let’s embark on a captivating journey of pure memory. Our test subject? None other than the ever-mystifying dice—those enchanting cubes with their six iconic images etched into the fabric of our minds. Each reader, equipped with their own unique experiences, will conjure a vivid mental impression of the figure displayed (5). The intensity of this impression and the surge of emotions it evokes will undoubtedly vary from person to person. It all depends on the depth of their encounters with these signs—whether as innocent children marveling at their playful allure or as seasoned gamblers entangled in the thrilling dance of chance.
Enter the realm of the dice player’s realm, where six familiar figures (6) effortlessly emerge, requiring no deciphering or counting. These beloved icons conform to a known pattern, deeply etched in the player’s learned and experienced scheme of thought. However, prepare yourself for an intriguing twist. A simple displacement of the dots to unfamiliar positions instigates an involuntary frustration, as if the very fabric of order is momentarily unraveled.
Now, let’s examine figure one (7), where the displaced dot sends shivers of unease down our spines. Our innate desire for symmetry, deeply rooted in the concept of “center” and a sense of security, rejects this unexpected disruption. Symmetry, aligned with the structure of our own bodies, beckons us with ease and familiarity, while asymmetry challenges us to stretch our minds in search of understanding. Moreover, the displaced dot sows seeds of doubt, teasing us with the notion that it may be one half of the familiar figure two.
Prepare to be alienated by figure two (8), as it veers far from the customary diagonal arrangement that divides the face of the dice into equal halves. Here, the dots hang suspended, defying the fixed nature we’ve come to expect. Curiously, the association with eyes in a face cannot be dismissed, as if this figure holds a hidden gaze, observing our perplexity.
The intensity of this impression and the surge of emotions it evokes will undoubtedly vary from person to person.
Now, behold figure three (9). While it may differ significantly from the traditional linear arrangement of three dots on a dice, it fails to disturb us as a representation of three. What captivates our attention here is the emergence of an archetypal sign—the illustrious triangle. For the practiced dice player, this shape stirs unfamiliar memories, unraveling uncharted realms of significance and intrigue.
In our next revelation, behold figure four (10), where the archetypal sign of the rectangle gracefully takes its place as a representation of four. Although the unusual orientation—standing on one corner—may not disturb us greatly, it’s important to note that as we progress from four and beyond, our minds often require diligent counting to recognize the units. Here, a figurative arrangement like the rectangle comes to our rescue, aiding instant recognition.
Now, let’s explore the intriguing nature of a disordered figure four (11). With just one glance, our eyes no longer suffice for a swift recognition of the number. They wander back and forth, attempting to decipher the scattered dots, as if searching for a hidden truth within the chaos.
Asymmetry amplifies our irritation, as we find ourselves counting the dots, only to tumble into a vortex of confusion between the quantities five and six.
As we delve further, we encounter figure five (12), a perplexing arrangement that challenges our perception. Our instinctive reaction to the “vertical” and “horizontal” is significantly swifter than to the “diagonal.” In an instant, our minds conjure the image of a cross, momentarily obscuring the true essence of the figure.
Prepare for a completely novel arrangement of five dots (13), where the dominance of the “horizontal-vertical” style becomes even more pronounced. It becomes evident that this figure clashes with our deeply ingrained concept of the archetypal sign—the letter T. A clash between expectation and reality unfolds before our eyes, creating a sense of intrigue and cognitive dissonance.
Similar astonishment awaits us in the next arrangement (14), where the unmistakable shape of the letter L emerges with striking clarity. Asymmetry amplifies our irritation, as we find ourselves counting the dots, only to tumble into a vortex of confusion between the quantities five and six. The lower left dot plays a mischievous trick on our minds, blurring the boundaries between the vertical and horizontal rows. The once-familiar image of five on a dice becomes distorted and fragmented, eluding the grasp of memory.
Yet another intriguing arrangement of five dots (15). Its resemblance to the figure six—the esteemed victor—becomes so remarkably close that a wave of frustration engulfs all rational thought.
Let us explore three examples of alterations to the figure six (16, 17, 18) that will leave you in awe. With just minor displacements, the fixed memory picture can be effortlessly erased, paving the way for new revelations. In the first example (16), the triangular form takes center stage, captivating our attention. In the second example (17), marked asymmetry disrupts the familiar pattern, giving rise to a captivating triangular dot area. As we move to the third example (18), an invisible line gracefully connects the dots, giving birth to a mesmerizing circle. Counting becomes a necessity in each case, although the final example tantalizes us with a helpful hint—a hexagon that guides our understanding, making the task somewhat more manageable.
Behold the peculiar similarity between the arrangement of dots on a dice and the intricate coding of computer tape (19). A code, in essence, is nothing but a figure that a machine must recognize by comparing it with a pre-programmed matrix it has “learned.” Astonishingly, the process of recognition in human beings follows the same path, unveiling the striking parallels between our minds and the intricacies of technology.
3. Light & shadow – black & white
Our focus is honed on the timeless artistry of graphic drawing and communication, where the humble act of placing colored ink upon the pristine canvas of white paper becomes an act of profound significance.
We cast aside all other modes of communication that dazzle the senses—no audio-visual spectacles, no grand cinematic displays. Instead, we retreat to the sanctity of simplicity, embracing the raw power and inherent magic found within the strokes of a pen or the sweep of a brush upon the expanse of a blank page.
We unlock the true essence of drawing—an intimate and sacred dance between the artist’s hand and the vast universe of ideas and emotions. As we limit ourselves to this pure form of expression, we embark on a quest to unravel the depths of creativity, immersing ourselves in the intricate beauty of lines, shapes, and colors.
Together, we will peel back the layers of complexity that shroud our world, unearthing the essence of pure drawing and its profound ability to convey the depths of human experience.
Within the vast expanse of a seemingly empty white surface, a dormant area awaits transformation. It is a space that, despite its visible structures, is perceived as inactive and devoid of life. Yet, with the introduction of a single dot, a solitary line, the once barren canvas comes alive. In that instant, a portion, however small, of the surface becomes adorned, filling the void with the brilliance of white, radiating a stark contrast against the backdrop of darkness.
Light emerges only in the presence of its counterpart—shadow. It is through this interplay of contrasting elements that we perceive and comprehend the essence of light itself. Remarkably, the act of drawing or writing is not merely the addition of black ink, but rather the delicate removal of light. It mirrors the sculptor’s craft, where artistry lies in the act of chiseling away from a solid block of stone and in this manner forming it: the final sculpture is what remains of the material (20).
In this captivating perspective, signs take on a whole new significance in their capacity to communicate. They transcend the realm of mere symbols, for they are imbued with the profound duality of “light and shadow,” “black and white.” It is through this interplay that their true power unfolds, inviting us to delve into their depths, explore their hidden messages, and unravel the enigmatic language they convey.