Statements, Intros, and Bios

(Toc’s most recent statement about the work) I have been closing my eyes and spending time inside myself every day for 40 years. I have found a place inside that is a still-point where time is not. This Place inside me has grown till now I feel more it than me. In this sitting each day I do absolutely nothing, I let go – and see. On occasions very lucid sights occur whose intensity dissolves the-me, and whose scale is too huge to fit into my thinking. These paintings are my best response to those experiences. They are almost accurate.

The story occurring in the space between these images is the perennial Odyssey, the hero’s journey home. The sublime experienced in the work is my true-north. And now, the sublime requires color, so I paint in a careful language of tiny vectors, sculpting forms out of the loving void of space, catching and moving perception with their continuous coxing suggestions. I track the sublime into the dark by feel alone – it is my way home.

 


 

The Simple Yes – V10 No1
Ascetics and Animal Ethics of Lower Utopia
(Our mutual statement – Ricco/ Maresca Gallery 2013 – Toc Fetch and Tricia Cline)

We are telling the story of the hero’s journey …home. The perennial Odyssey. Certainly all stories, by virtue of being a story, are metaphors of the inner life externalized. Metaphors and Allegories are a kind of simple child-friendly sign-language of the non-linear non-verbal Heart. The Heart speaks to everyone in the languages of images, dreams, feelings, inspirations, metaphors, and the extended metaphor of allegory.

Our story then is a metaphor of the hero’s journey inward. Our images point inward. Our work, as we feel it instinctually, is to solicit that which reaffirms life, feeds life, and all that makes this hellish world – heaven. It is the Hero’s story because there is nothing more impossible in this world then to become yourself. It is the simplest thing (in that it already is) and the hardest (in that there is nothing to be done, no-doing). But, in realizing yourself you become an exile from this world of duality and desires and so inevitably you begin searching for your way home. The way home is within and follows the unknowable path that is named; “What-is-real?”

Utopia is another metaphor for yourself. The word Utopia, means ‘not-a-place’ or ‘no-place,’ Utopia only exists within the timeless no-place of your very self, and Lower Utopia is its borderlands where the pilgrims begin.

The deeper you go into Lower Utopia the closer all the different stories become, closer to being the One story about recognizing the Sacred within until it is without.

Art is a metaphor about being fully conscious, seeing through to the Real. Art mimics Self-Realization in that it sees its subject so thoroughly, and yet presents it as so instantaneous, that the viewer is suspended as a witness to their own Awareness (but only if they’re paying attention).

The actual object of the work is a glass for the water of perception, (to grok).

Our attempt is towards what James Joyce’s describes as “Aesthetic Arrest” – to solicit an experience of observation free of thought, free of time, and opened into silence. We work until we feel the transcendent awake and sentient in the Image. That is the work. The story then comes out of the works as feelings of realizations strung together by time, in which there is no real set beginning or end, only these epiphanies in which all of life is heroic.

(Tricia’s Statement) Within a single gestalt of gesture the entire trajectory of a life can tell its story – when the story is the hero’s journey home, what is the gesture? What does it take to embody that gesture within in order to embody it without through the work? To do this we live in the borderlands of transcendence close to Lower Utopia it is what the work requires.

(Toc’s Statement) I have been closing my eyes and spending time inside myself every day for 40 years. I have found a place inside that is a still-point where time is not. This Place inside me has grown till now I feel more it than me. In this sitting each day I do absolutely nothing, I let go of me and see what comes. On occasions very lucid sights occur whose intensity dissolves the-me, and whose scale is too huge to fit into my thinking. These paintings are my best response to those experiences. They are almost accurate.

The story occurring in the space between these images is the perennial Odyssey, the hero’s journey home. The sublime experienced in the work is my true-north. The sublime requires color, now, so I paint in a careful language of tiny vectors, sculpting forms out of the loving void of space, catching and moving perception with their continuous coxing suggestions. I track the sublime into the dark by feel alone – it is my way home.

(Toc’s paintings) I woke up one morning after ten years of drawing and had to paint which I haven’t done since 1996. These new paintings (40” x 60”) which are this show – turned out to be the expanded statements in color of the drawings from Volume Eight of my works. To me they are childishly open. There is a feasting ambiance to them – a “damn everything but the circus” feeling. The drawings of volume eight were a silent serious depth of realization – the paintings are like a celebration of that realization. Originally I imagined the drawings to be shown with their paintings – (Hiho to all aesthetic consideration in the face of the economic, because all the drawings went to LA – and so it goes).

I spent a couple of years in my twenties meditating and reading and rereading translations of the ninth and tenth mandalas of the Rig Veda. Obsessed, as it were, having arrived at the Vedas by way of Joseph Campbell and Heinrich Zimmer’s book  Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. I know that there are strong arguments about how far back in history the Vedas began – coming from such a long oral tradition there is really no way to know – some say three thousand some say even more. In my twenties reading them aloud – even in English – there have amazing resonances of a pre-time beginnings. The stories of the gods, and fire lit rituals for pressing the soma for love of the gods and to feed them. Rites for awaking the elemental personas living inside the body. After immersing in these verses it dawned on me that these “sacred” images were really just another artist’s beloved metaphors that were then handed down through their families and were later codified into religion. Through the succinct images of their times these poets attempted to sing praises to the personified elements of life; the spark – the juice – the breath – the body, and the timeless awareness in which they are staged.
The feeling of those verse have never left me and I can’t help but find their echoes in my own work. I have always felt my image comes to me like cognition (or at least I wait through visions until something undeniable stands up – stands forth and claims me). And then, it is during the work that an understanding comes – and what understanding that does come is the understanding of a viewer – the understanding doesn’t guide the work it arrives as a by-product of the work.

 


 

The Little Yes – V12 No 1

Yes! Yes is the essential feeling reality radiates. Yes has modes of feeling, sometimes it feels like peace, sometimes like joy, sometimes like an omni-directional love, and sometimes it feels like an effortless intuitive knowing – a being-ness. The subtle feeling of Yes is therefore your guide towards you (as in following your heart). Every experience is an opportunity towards yes. Since “the world is because you are” (because perception is a prerequisite for experience) then all things that come to you are exactly what you need to move forward towards …Yes, towards your very self.

The idea that your suffering is your greatest teacher – has been handed down by the worlds great seers for thousands of years. To live is the practice of untangling your identity. This practice eventually leads to fewer and fewer things of identity until eventually all that is left is … Yes. And that Yes is a complete and loving surrender to what is.

In art we do just this – sifting for Yes – all day everyday. Every mark is the question: is this true – is it Yes? But the answer is almost always: not-quite. This always-not-quite is painful, but in the world of form we know what is yes by knowing what is not yes. This ancient pattern of questioning, (netineti [not-this-not-that]) is a way of backing up towards the ineffability of Yes. The next question (for the artist) is; what isn’t “Yes” about this mark or these expressions. The question comes in a negative form because that is the nature of the mind. It is the nature of the mind to compare, to delineate, to limit, to label, to judge, and so on. An important part of the work is to bring the mind into alignment with its true function as a tool and remove it as the tyrant of identity. Most workers realize early in this practice that the “I” (or Yes) that is being looked for cannot be held as an object in the mind. Yes is not a thing. (“What is perceived cannot be the perceiver”). Anyone who thinks he can state who he is – is doing just that; thinking, and art is about feeling. Feeling (not emotion) is the one thing that cannot be taught – it is the truest thread towards who you are. Art is then the practice of feeling your way blindly deep down into your self – a kind of spelunking.

The work begins with an inspiration that arrives – from beyond the mind – from truth. Then you must brave the endless “No” with patient love, for the sake of that living Inspiration that has come to you. The Inspiration is trusting you to make for it a home in the world.

But eventually, if you are honest about the limited nature of the physical materials you are working on/with you have to accept that the limits of the materials will begin to corrupt your research, and degrade the experience. This is what tells me the work is done, and it is time to begin on a new page. Besides Inspirations are backed up out the door, down the road and out of sight, and as holy as the work is, you’ve still got to do your laundry and love your friends. Hi-ho.

(Statement) Through the eyes of an animal the sacred and realized awareness of Reality watches and waits. An animal is the perfect answer to its niche – its form is the very shape of its exact needs as sculpted by a million years of evolution. It is beauty incarnate because our criteria for beauty was sculpted by the same principles that formed that evolution. An animal looks out from the vast ineffable awareness of nature – which is our very nature as well. Animals live in a state of oneness with that ineffable nature – to me animals are holy.

Incessant habitual thinking blocks perception from experiencing that merged awareness that animals live. Absence of thought is blissful, absence of thought is peace. Peace is not exciting, it is not interesting, it is not attached to desires or their fears, it is not good or bad, it knows no past and projects no future, it is a subtle ever present self-effulgent completeness within each of us that is synonymous in experience with beauty. It is this realization that my work point towards in form and metaphor. I am making small crude reminders of that place within where the heart open outward towards everything.

 


 

I Am That – V8 No1 – The Animal Ethics of Lower Utopia

(Statement/Synopsis)

After ten years of drawing Kids of Lower Utopia Volume 6 No. 2 and No. 3, and after finishing its last page – I couldn’t stop drawing. I couldn’t stop drawing but I had no narrative focus – no connecting story, just flashes of visions that I thought would eventually tell me where to go. This is the origin of all of the drawings in this series Volume 8 No1 Titled,  I Am That – The Animal Ethics of Lower Utopia.

(Statement) Through the eyes of an animal the sacred and realized awareness of Reality watches and waits. An animal is the perfect answer to its niche – its form is the very shape of its exact needs as sculpted by a million years of evolution. It is beauty incarnate because our criteria for beauty was sculpted by the same principles that formed that evolution. An animal looks out from the vast ineffable awareness of nature – which is our very nature as well. Animals live in a state of oneness with that ineffable nature – to me animals are holy.

Humans are mostly blocked from experiencing that merged awareness by the incessant domination of thoughts in the mind.

The absence of thought is blissful. Blissfulness is not exciting, it is not interesting, it is not attached to desires or their fears, it is not good or bad, it knows no past and projects no future, it is a subtle ever present self-effulgent completeness within each of us that is synonymous in experience with beauty.

It is this realization that my work point towards in form and metaphor. I am making small crude reminders of that place within where the heart open outward towards everything.

Go to: I Am That – V8 No1 – Animal Ethics of Lower Utopia

 


 

The Single Songs of Schizotopia -V7No1
An Anthology of Lower Utopia

(Introduction)

This book is made from a collection of single page comics that in their original form combine digital-ink and pencil-drawing. Every page measuring 26” x 40”. This is a collection of spiritually tongue-in-cheek observations from that place in the Heart called Lower Utopia.
Lower Utopia is our metaphor for the place inside where truth lives. To realize Lower Utopia is to recognize what is real. The “real” is that which does not change. What does not change is true.
Nothing we say here is new, what is true was true long before the Woolly Mammoths stopped singing, and will be true when this earth is no more. But it is important to note that what is true is an experience that is beyond thought; it does not belong to the mind. It is neither a concept, nor an idea beyond all other ideas. The truth lives inside you. It is you. It is life itself looking out through your eyes. So, the question at the heart of each image in this book is “what is true?” These pages are a tongue-in-cheek remembrance of that unchanging reality that already exists within everyone and everything. Once you have realized the basic truths about reality there is no going back, and you find yourself exiled from the world you knew, the everyday world of the mind and its ego so intent on suffering. I would like to say, for the sake of words, that you become a seeker of truth, but that is not really true because the experience is more about letting-go of all you think you have found. To experience the truth is to let-go of ideas, concepts, beliefs, ownership, and all other illusions of habit that define you. And soon you find yourself an exile on pilgrimage in Lower Utopia towards the shrine of all wanderings – to the Very City that we call Schizotopia. It is called Schizotopia because there everyone is you. In the country of Lower Utopia and in the Very City of Schizotopia where all the art in the world is made, the people live in love with Love and practice Love on everything. The deeper you go into Lower Utopia the closer all the different stories become. Closer to being the one story about recognizing the sacred within until It is …without. This book is the sweet self mockery of a worker in consciousness (living in a transitional time when the world is choosing between planetary annihilation and inner peace). Each images is a puzzle piece from the heart of a story whose trajectory is grok-able from the clues within the image (for those who like such deductive puzzles). These pages are a series of softly comic spiritually surreal metaphors that present the juxtaposition of the inner in the outer world with love. Thanks for looking, Attention = Love Your brother Toc

Go to: The Single Songs of Schizotopia – V7 No1

 


 

Kids of Lower Utopia – V6 No3 – A Letter from the Front Lines

(The Realization of River Scout Finnagain)

In this, my 8th book, Kids of Lower Utopia: A Letter from the Front Lines, I am drawing, through the lens of my experience, an allegorical dream in which my heroine; River Scout Finnagain, travels through archetypal stages describing the greatest of the hero’s journeys – the one of self-realization.

To me this story is best told in the medium of the pencil. Nothing holds more directly the silent life of observation-in-light as a metaphor, undisguised, then the pencil; simple, direct, and so very elemental. My drawings are spoken in a careful language of conscious vectors summing into “still-points” where life’s attention waits, gathering silence.

The pages are a sequence of images in a formal proximity that initiates a narrative flow which solicits from the viewer intuitive leaps to bridge the space between pages – leaps through their own non-linear space of Truth.

Art is a metaphor about being fully conscious. It mimics self-realization by seeing so thoroughly, so seemingly instantaneously “now” that the viewer is suspended in “Aesthetic Arrest” and experiences observation free of thought, free of time. This …is our Work.

After River acknowledges her Self in V6 No 2 – Kids of Lower Utopia: Softdoor’s Older Sister’s I-AM Knot (The Realization of River Scout Finnagain), and having accidentally sacrificed the last joint of the left smallest finger to re-membering her Self, River awakens under a Dream as The Witness of her inner world and naked as a newborn (pages 11). She gathers her clothes by need (pages 14-19), and is followed to The Water by her most beloved reflection of Self – her god: Beautiful (page 20). Together they drink the water as equals (page 22), and begin to wander through the woods listening (page 24). Listening, River begins to hear the call of the Very Mountain (page 26). River climbs the Mountain (page 28), and talks to the dead (page 30). She is directed by a Chance encounter (with herself – page 32 ), and stands before the warm dark cave of her Self Eternal. Standing before the Unknown, River sums-up her life in a single question (page 34), and is answered by an even more direct question (page 36), to which she gives the right answer (page 37) she gives her whole life, and dies as her reply (page 38 Hurray!). In this death she recognizes herself, who she is, and ever was, and will be (she is YES, page 39). Now River holds her death close (page 40), and opens her eyes inside Reality (page 41), realizing the echoes of Truth (page 42). Now River moves inside the pattern of Life (page 43) the instrument of her own Realization, and beyond the Three Changes (page 45). River kisses good-bye to the Horse-of-Power (page 47). And then returns to The Water to wash away her last words of inner necessity (page 49).

Now River begins to run, gather exuberance and momentum (page 51), until she jumps off a cliff that appears in her way (page 53) …and flies Home (page 55).

Her home is the warm dark and vast space of awareness in the heart of her Self Eternal where all things are her – where all is River (page 57).

Epilogue : Finally home, River hangs with the Gods, being … One …her self (page 61).

Go to: Kids of Lower Utopia – V6 No3 – Letters from the Front Lines

 


 

Kids of Lower Utopia – Softdoor’s Older Sister’s I-AM Knot – V6 No 2 – The Realizations of River Scout Finnagain

Synopsis: Book two of Kids of Lower Utopia, was published for my opening at The Ricco/Maresca gallery NYC, 9/13/01, (only two days after the fall of the World Trade Towers – this timing was so bad that it achieved a feeling like a mythic wink). It is an eleven page story told in staged moments of self realization in the life of River Scout Finnagain. Book two is about returning to and surrendering to original innocence – to the state of the self prior to the world.

Each page was made to stand alone and …all together as a story. The actual language is pure American mutt. A crossbreed made up of part direct-observation, part axiomatic poetry, part implied photo-faith, and all summed up in a careful language of tiny vectors sculpting forms out of emptness, catching and moving perception with their continuous live suggestions. Nothing holds more directly the silent life of observation-in-light as a metaphor, undisguised, than the pencil; simple, direct, and so very elemental.

Go to: Kids of Lower Utopia – V6 No2 – The Realizations of River Scout Finnagain

 


 

Bio

Exiles in Lower Utopia – Tricia Cline – Toc Fetch

(Bio statement 2008)

I was born in Brooklyn in 1953. Since my father was a painter I grew up with art, and have been obsessed with making art longer than I can remember, (or so I’m told).

After serving a year in RISD in 1973, I knew that what I needed was not more “schooling in art” (an oxymoron), what I needed was to understand my self – this most primary tool of the work. So in 1973 I entered a work/study program in Switzerland to begin the practice of meditation and the study of Advaita.

After 10 years of this meditation and study I retreated to the woods of the Olympic National Forest to live as an animal.

Then in 1989 while living in Holualoa Hawaii, the toxic nature of oil painting led to a year of cancer. During that year I came close to death and studied life from that perspective. That time away from the world opened up a grand circus pantheon of interior personas and revelations, along with epiphanies about the proletariat nature of comic books and the virtually untapped possibilities inherent in that medium as art. In 1990 I moved back to New York, and began making comics as art.
At this time I met Tricia Cline, and together we began to do work that we call Direct-Observation. Direct-Observation is a meticulous love of an inspiration without projecting on it an interpretation. This approach was greatly influenced by the writings of psychologist James Hillman. When in life an imagine shows up, as in dream or in a lucid stillness, an image like a great black snake, if the dreamer, upon awakening, decides to interpret the meaning of the snake, he kills it. And thereby the relationship with the image is lost, because the vast ineffable Unknown that is speaking through the presence of the black snake, as a black snake, has been limited to only what is Knowable. The image is a transcendent guest coming through you into form. But through interpretation you cut off its link to that transcendent Reality.

In our work every iota of its space deserves total care and attention. Attention equals love. This approach towards detail is a kind of deliberate, very present meditation and allows a transcendent quality to enter through you.

Tricia Cline and I make (for lack of a more succinct label) a kind of tribal art – we don’t really own anything – much less that which arrives from the transcendent. People have forgotten the transcendent power of art. Here in the west art has been glorified as a product of the ego, as personal revelation, this couldn’t be less true, art comes from beyond the personal, from the transcendent whisper that is ever present to everyone (and every thing), and therefore there is really nothing personal about it. So the images that come to us are not based on ideas out of mind, the images that come are transcendent guests – friends – that we develop ongoing relationships with. The image is a friend that has come to teach you its life through the direct (non-interpretive) observation of it. To then be possessive of it is to “kill the snake.” It is through respect that the relationships open outward into beauty, respect that allows the image to be who it is and not just a thing in relation to us.

Go to: TriciaCline.com

 


 

Exiles in Lower Utopia – Tricia Cline – Toc Fetch

(Our mutual statement 2006)

We are telling the story of the Hero’s pilgrimage into the Self. Certainly, all stories, by virtue of being a story, are metaphors of the inner life. Metaphors and Allegories are a kind of sign-language of the deep subconscious or the Heart. The Heart speaks to us in the language of images, dreams, feelings, inspirations, metaphors, and the extended metaphor of allegory.
We work only in the most elemental of materials – simple graphite and clay, anything more is nonessential to a Direct Observation – the simplest direct experience. We solicit the most precise voice of these elemental materials in order to articulate consciousness as it echoes through the metaphor that is Form, and all this as the subtext of the Real (our direct observation of the Real). Our images come out of a mutual allegory in which the emphasis is on what is inwardly Real.
Our story then is a metaphor for the pilgrimage inward. Our work, as we feel it instinctually, is to offer all that reaffirms life, feeds life, all that makes this hell-of-a-world a heaven. It is the Hero’s story because there is nothing harder in this world then to become your Self. It is the simplest thing and the hardest. And, once you realize the sublime existence of the Self you become an Exile from this world searching for your way home. The way home is Inward.

Utopia is another metaphor for the Self. The word Utopia, means ‘not-a-place’ or ‘no-place,’ Utopia only exists within the timeless no-place of the Self. And Lower Utopia is its border lands.
The deeper you go into Lower Utopia the closer all the different stories become, closer to being the One story about recognizing the Sacred within until It is without.

Art is a metaphor about being fully conscious, seeing through to the Real. Art mimics Self-Realization in that it sees its subject so thoroughly, and yet presents it as so instantaneous, that the viewer is suspended in the very Awareness of the work, which is their own Awareness, (the actual object of the work is just a glass for the water of perception) — the viewer is suspended without question, without desire, without fear, in the very Now – Aesthetic Arrest (as Steven Dedalus defined it by way of James Joyce). The art work presents a language of perception in which every utterance is as close as possible to being absolutely necessary. The result is experienced as an effortless Direct-Observation, in which all things within its frame of reference are intelligent with life.

We work until we feel the transcendent awake and sentient in the Image. That is the work. The story then comes out of the works as feelings of realizations strung together by time in which there is no Real set beginning or end, only these epiphanies in which all of life is heroic.

Go to: TriciaCline.com

 


 

Statement (1/1/2014): Ten years ago I would have known exactly what to say. I could and would have spoke volumes because at that time my identity was deeply entrenched in words, and how singular and eccentrically those words were held together. I love words, but I am less and less found inside even their poetry now. I just don’t think as much as I use to.

A few years ago I had some realizations about life that have sort of shut me up. And now I find words less inviting or maybe they are a little too small and boxy to fit into. It almost feels like everything I need to say is a slight variation of “yes” and fits into a tiny duality that feels like a choice. The choice is as simple to say as: “open” or “close”. Very like the zero and one. So now instead of thinking myself into convolutions I just feel “opened” or “closed”. The question is (if it even rises up so far as to be a question) does this experience feel like an opening or a closing? Does this mark feel like it opens me or does it close me? Will the words I feel like saying open or close me and whoever I am speaking to? (The feeling is there way before the words take form). Does this action (I am to perform) open or close the space it occurs in? It’s a tiny feeling. It seems that the smallest things contain the most power. Or actually “opening is an ongoing feeling like a sweet humming (an indefatigable “yes”) that is far more delightful than words and everything is compared to its flow. So in my work I just settle in, guide by the little feeling that opens.

Otherwise I like the pencil it is kind and it is willing to return me to my childhood every time I pick her up. We do things that amaze me together (that amazement and awe are how I know it is close to what is real). Pencil and I go to places I could never get to on my own.

The pencil is a pointing tool it says, follow me. It is very old (as old as the charcoal of fire) and is the simplest way of traveling through a story, a line from here to there. I love color too, and I have carefully worshiped there. Color is a celebration, but color is not necessary to form, though everything is much sweeter and closer to the sublime with color, than it is without.
Art is amazing. It is this very crude language of attention, and yet it can point with such delightful accuracy at the transcend reality that it could never achieve. I love it. It is a mean old bitch and full of its own hideous suffering but it is the best life on earth “or so I feel.”

Enough.