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The Isness of Being

Over the past 15 years, I have created a large body of work entitled the Isness series. During this time, I have had several solo shows in different museums and art centers across the nation and have often been asked to explain what the word Isness means.

The title Isness refers to a philosophy I call the Isness of Being. Several years ago I came across a small book entitled “An Introduction to the Tao” by Professor Alan Watts. In this book, Professor Watts tries to explain the elusive philosophy of the Tao to the western mind. It is indeed an elusive philosophy but once understood, it is extremely profound. In fact, I would venture to say it is life changing. Professor Watts sums it up in a remarkable way, explaining that the core of the Tao can be understood if we meditate on his statement “All there is, is the Isness of Being”. It is quite interesting when we ponder on the structure of this sentence and notice how the whole statement is based on the verb to be. All there is (the verb to be), is (the verb to be) the Isness (the verb to be) of Being (the verb to be).

The more we meditate on this amazing statement, the more we grasp its significance to the life we all live. “All there is, is the Isness of Being” negates all our western method of thinking as in this is good or bad, this is tall or short etc. It actually sets a foundation for new thought patterns of total acceptance of the Isness of life and our essence of being inside the flow of existence. An interesting saying to refer to here is “how can life flow if you stand in its way”.

Isness 88, 60"x72" Mixed Media on Canvas by artist Bassmi Ibrahim

Forget about the clichés that we have been groomed to accept such as judging everything around us. Once we use these clichés, it influences how we look at life. Instead of trying to judge things or fit things into certain categories, things are what they are. The only important thing in life is that life is what it is. It is what it is.

The Isness of Being forms a certain plateau that I have immersed myself into for several years. Not only did it change the quality of my life but it also had a profound influence on this body of work.

The Isness series is part of the abstract school of art. And since an abstract painting is not involved with subject matter or pictorial references, it becomes difficult to find a title for a painting that doesn’t influence what the viewer sees.

The choice I made to title each of these works as an Isness indicates that each painting is truly capturing a moment of being or a moment in the flow of life. In essence, each one of my works should be viewed as just what it is, without attempting to look for a subject or pictorial reference. The nature of abstraction, if it is to be fully appreciated, is a new language of its own. It is a language of composition, color harmony, depth of field and the emotional response it elicits from the viewer.

Isness 96, 48"x60" Mixed Media on Canvas by artist Bassmi Ibrahim

Isness 96, 48"x60" Mixed Media on Canvas by artist Bassmi Ibrahim

New York critic John Mendelsohn once described my work as "lyrical abstraction". I think the description is appropriate since one of my primary concerns is the creation of new aesthetic values, depth, color harmony and a certain poetry that resonates with the viewer.

I was quite fortunate that I was led into the study of metaphysics and in particular the Asiatic philosophies which have become a way of life. This path or way of life is based on meditation and the silencing of the intellectual mind, to converse with a different and deeper layer of the human self.

All of the paintings in the Isness series are based not on intellectual values but are rather actual visions that I see during meditation. In the studio, the blank canvas is focused on until I reach a deep meditative state in which the painting is shown to me. In a way, the image itself is pulled from my subconscious or inner layers. The paint is thinned down and applied in several layers of translucency in a sort of a dance between my hands and the canvas.

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