From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 3

An Uncertain Reality, 2012

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 20”h x 25”w; Overall: 24”h x 30”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

The membrane that separates fantasy and reality can often prove to be rather porous within the earnestly supportive but impishly ephemeral province of the imagination. In this realm, the implausible and the questionable insinuate freely with the reasonable and the established in a pre-anthropic sort of childlike play, where anything is possible but everything remains uncertain. Shocked into action by this undisciplined commotion, critical faculties step in to do something … anything … to impose some semblance of order. Out of this desperate situation emerges an idea, a certain sort of reality where the factual and the fictional are shaped into another reality with far-reaching consequences that cannot be forecast, a reality in which the imaginative toys of the child are fashioned into the all-too-real tools of the adult.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 3

As Above, So Below, 2012

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 25”h x 20”w; Overall: 30”h x 24”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

Hermetic thought sums the wisdoms of the universe into a tripartite model. Operations of the Sun discern the spiritual constitution, or life, of all material existence through application of the mysteries of birth, death, and resurrection. Knowing how to quicken natural processes to bring a natural body to perfection and accomplish the magnum opus is alchemical wisdom, or science. Operations of the stars reveal meaning beyond the laws of physics in the movements of the planets. Understanding their metaphorical value as symbols in the mind of The All and how to deal with them is astrological wisdom, or art. Operations of the gods are gleaned through the black magic of Goëtia in alliance with demons, but better studied through the divine magic of Theurgy in alliance with gods and angels and thus unite with higher counterparts to attain Divine Consciousness. This wisdom is speciously cast as religion. The universe works such that whatever happens at any level of reality, physical, emotional, or mental, also happens at every other level. As above, so below; macrocosm (cosmos) is as microcosm (self). But Kabbalism holds that this wisdom of the changing, finite, mortal mysteries of the universe is only a short span of a long golden thread that stretches into an unchanging, infinite, eternal ‘unknowable’.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 3

Center of the Universe, 2012

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 25”h x 20”w; Overall: 30”h x 24”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

In 1610 Galileo Galilei published detailed observations made with a recent invention, the telescope, insinuating that careful study of the heavens might reveal far more than just God’s name written in the stars. Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger) got him into deep trouble with the Roman Catholic Church, as his conclusions contradicted the then accepted Aristotilean model of the universe putting the Earth at its center. Pope John Paul II issued a statement in 1992 vindicating Galileo, assigning the error to the theologians of the time. Eight years later the matter seemed to be closed when Galileo’s trial was cited in the Church’s official apology for errors committed by some Catholics over the past 2,000 years of its history. However, ten years after that a group of Catholics not formally speaking for the Church claimed that the scientific community had suppressed and even willfully distorted evidence obtained over the previous century supporting Earth’s placement at the center of the universe. Scientists counter that mapping of the known universe shows an ellipse of unevenly scattered matter. Whether ego or logic prevails in this argument may not make any practical difference in a place so vast as the cosmos. Wherever each one of us happens to be is in its own way the center of the universe.

From Zero to Infinity- Portfolio 3

Indra’s Net, 2012

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

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Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

According to the Vedas, the sacred books of India, the god Indra oversees material existence. Matter first manifested in a mineral state and gradually shifted into single germs that joined together into a vast network of infinite luminous, living threads. Perpetually intermingling and dispersing like shimmers of light, the Net of Indra engulfed and permeated the entire universe. As time passed, these threads became more permanently interwoven, their junctures held fast by crystals that reflected every other crystal. Indra’s Jewels thus ensure that everything is interconnected and that any change anywhere affects every other part of the universe in some way. Both classical and quantum physics also agree that everything is interconnected: energy dissipated whenever work is done can’t be recovered into useful, organized form, and since energy and matter are one and the same, all that exists is ultimately destined to utter randomness. At that point it is unclear whether Indra’s Net will be allowed to scatter into nothingness or be gathered back to condense everything into another cycle of creation and annihilation.Give customers a reason to do business with you.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 3

  

The Machinery of Heaven, 2012

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 20”h x 25”w; Overall: 24”h x 30”

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

An unknown artist was commissioned by Camille Flammarian to create an illustration for his 1888 book, L’astmosphère: météorologie populaire (The Atmosphere: Popular Meteorology) to serve as a graphic accent for text on a facing page that refers to the contact of a solid sky with the earth, a recurring theme in the author’s works. That anonymous effort, ironically known as the Flammarian wood engraving, is a magnificent visual encapsulation of an impulse we all know – curiosity. The intellect abides the compulsion to draw back the curtain of the way things are and take a peek at what might be a challenge to what it believes it knows. Giving in to this urge moves not knowing into knowing while steadfast resistance simply ensures the certainty of not knowing. Even more ironic is that knowing can carry as much risk as not knowing. The theoretical physicist Erwin Schrödinger came up with a wistful experimental metaphor for this conundrum: to find out if a certain kind of radiation is lethal, a cat is sequestered inside an opaque box that is exposed to the radiation and after some arbitrary span of time the box is opened to verify if the cat is alive or dead. The act of determining the cat’s fate actually determines the cat’s fate! Curiosity could indeed kill the cat — or not. We were not cast out into a universe of infinite possibilities as punishment for venturing a taste of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, but instead prodded into self-reliance from a state of complete innocence with the admonishment to avoid becoming overconfident about what we think we know of the machinery of heaven.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 3

The Measure of All Things,  2012

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 20”h x 25”w; Overall: 24”h x 30”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

We reflexively use our corporeal selves as the reference against which we measure all other perceived things. The concept of an “ideal ratio” is directly modeled after the proportions of the human body, a notion rooted in esoteric philosophy. The so-called Vitruvian Man diagram is an ancient visual paradigm showing the human element linked to the Four Elements, those being a metaphor for the physical universe. This representation has been recast countless times in philosophical, alchemical, astrological and medical texts that span more than a millennium of human thought. Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic re-interpretation of Vital Man is arguably the most poetic and precisely expressed statement of the “human ratios”. There is, however, another oft-missed layer of intention in this drawing that may account for its timeless appeal. As an initiate of the Secret Teachings, da Vinci was illustrating that Man unifies the microcosmic and the macrocosmic and thus the entire cosmos, and is indeed the measure of all things.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 3

Prime Mover, 2012

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 20”h x 25”w; Overall: 24”h x 30”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

Three hypothetical constructs have been advanced to explain the origin of life on Earth. The first and oldest proposes that life was created by a supreme being or spiritual force. A method to objectively test this hypothesis has yet to be devised. A second proposition states that life began approximately 3.5 billion years ago through a complex sequence of spontaneous chemical reactions that took place in Earth's early atmosphere. A considerable body of biological, chemical and geological evidence lends support to this theory. Convincing data is also emerging to support a third idea suggesting that the chemical building blocks of life were brought to Earth through chance collisions with comets or meteors exposed in deep space to the kinds of energy needed to form small organic molecules. Simple macrobiotic chemical compounds have indeed been recovered from meteors and detected in comets. However, since all of these suggestions invoke a process staged by an existential prerequisite, unequivocal verification of any one of them would most likely still leave us wondering about the principal that started the whole scheme. Perhaps all three of these hypotheses are conjoined in a self-sustaining cycle of creation and recreation, where all are the prime mover as well as the moved, where the grand scheme is the prime mover.

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Primo, 2012

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 20”h x 25”w; Overall: 24”h x 30”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

The circle is a venerable symbol of primordial unity, of something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force that it can’t be extinguished, exemplified across culture and time in the image of Ouroboros, a serpent swallowing its own tail. The notion of using the circle as an algebraic signifier for “nothing” came about sometime during the 6th Century, and the concept of “infinity” wasn’t fully realized for another millennium, visually expressed as a collapsing circle. The ancients often imaged the Sun and stars as circles, an apt visual simile, as it turns out. Over the course of tens of billions of years a star will, with each thermonuclear breath, expel incomprehensible sums of energy and atomic elements into the cosmic void. Even in death it continues to breathe life into the universe. Given enough mass, a star will suffer a quick, spectacularly violent demise, rending a hole in the fabric of space and time that inexorably draws matter and energy in to an unknown fate, possibly even recycled on the “other side”. The Sienese humanist and philosopher Alessandro Piccolomini didn’t know these details about stars when he first published De la Sfera del Mondo e Delle Stelle Fisse (The Sphere of the World and the Fixed Stars) in 1540. The work was intended as a treatise supporting Ptolemaic theories, but his astute discussion of stellar magnitude constitutes one of his major contributions to the field of astronomy by foreshadowing basic correlations between the relative magnitude of stars and their size and distance from Earth that would be established more than three centuries later. Circles within circles, indeed.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 3

Reflections, 2012

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 25”h x 20”w; Overall: 30”h x 24”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

In the cathedral of scientific materialism, it’s all too easy to pronounce preceding millennia of human thought about the universe a slow march from the darkness of superstition and ignorance into the clear light of reason. This gravely short-changes the intellectual sophistication of our ancient forbears. Thousands of years before the advent of the telescope, Egyptian priests knew that Sirius was a three-star system and were also well aware that Earth orbits around the sun. Ancient Chinese mariners thought the planet was a globe and through keen observation of the sun, moon and stars developed astonishingly accurate cartographic and navigational skills. Ptolemy’s map of the cosmos is conventionally offered as an historical artifact that was superseded by newer ideas, but it is in fact an accurate map of the spiritual dimension of the cosmos that was just as real to the ancients as the material universe, and why the Roman Catholic Church so vigorously defended its tenets. Many of the early heroes of modern science and rationalism, including Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Bacon, Descartes, Pascal, openly acknowledged their debt to ancient wisdom. Likewise, this work is a product of the artists’ reflections on their past and present efforts in their journey into the unknown.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 3

Spin, 2012

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 25”h x 20”w; Overall: 30”h x 24”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

Islamism looks to the Qur’an as the untainted guide to the discernment between truth and falsehood. While truth is absolute, our imperfection often causes it to be obscured by the pall of falsehood, so knowing oneself is the key to knowing truth. The question of what constitutes ‘oneself’ is a core issue in Sufism. The entity we take to be our own self is actually an independently operating false will motivated by pride, prejudice, envy, fear, false attachments, compulsions and habits. Only by wholly tumbling into the spirit’s obdurate and contradictory twists can one break down this counterfeit being and thus unveil one to oneself. The true self thus becomes aware of a permeating numinous current that signals direct communion with the cosmos. The ecstatic spinning dance of the Mellevi — or whirling dervish — order of Sufis is an outward expression of this experience. The metaphor is reiterated at the quantum level, where the sub-atomic structure of the universe is essentially comprised of spinning loci of energy.

  

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 4

Celestial Equilibrium, 2015

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 25”h x 20”w; Overall: 30”h x 24”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

First there was nothing. Then space, time and matter happened. After that, the situation became progressively more complicated. Matter assumed mineral, then vegetable, and then animal configurations, demanding in turn a perpetually burgeoning slate of rules for ensuring that circumstances didn’t spin out of control. Every esoteric and exoteric scheme of belief, from the occult to the scientific, has woven this narrative thread into the fabrication of their respective expository cloaks in order to weather the physical universe. Despite broad disagreement over the root cause of this situation, one thing seems perfectly clear: this equilibrium can only be maintained when all of its constituents, externalized as well as internalized, deal with it on its own terms.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 4

  

Connections, 2015

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 25”h x 20”w; Overall: 30”h x 24”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

Sub-atomic geometry imposes certain statistical policies by which the physical manifestations of matter are governed. Without these conventions, there could be only the anarchy of absolute non-existence. No space, no time, no point of reference to define emptiness; the cosmos in all its infinite vastness and diversity would not be even a potential. The very existence of any form of energy dictates the inevitability that something physical will happen. Energies concentrate into furnaces that spew out atomic building blocks for myriad sorts of localized circumstances, some proving favorable enough to support the breathtaking intricacy of living things. The deeper the foray into complexity, the greater the prospect of variation trailed by all of its inherent uncertainties. Existence is one big craps-shoot, but with such vast resources and copious allotments of time at its disposal, nature has no need to discriminate between ‘failure’ and ‘success’; whatever is simply is until it becomes something else. As unsettling as it may be, our reality is a constantly shifting set of circumstances that in relatively short order tends to recycle the detritus of its precedent conditions. The Archaeopteryx that ended up preserved over the course of millions of years perhaps wasn’t so hapless after all.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 4

Entering Heaven, 2015

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 25”h x 20”w; Overall: 30”h x 24”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

We have over thousands of generations peered up into the heavens to discover, perhaps sometimes to impose, order upon what initially appears to be the chaotic stretching into eternity. Stars are not haphazardly scattered throughout the night sky, but gathered instead into the super-symmetry of galaxies which themselves associate into clusters that make up the filigree of matter infiltrating the vast distances of the cosmos. Masses of matter move among the stars with a degree of periodic reliability that allows us to precisely map our own individual location in space and time. Familiar patterns in the night sky have spurred the imagination along myriad analytical, metaphysical and whimsical paths. Even the dispassionate mathematical rationality that permits the assembly of only two rhombic forms into the remarkable Penrose tiling array, an ordered structure that lacks any apparent repetitive pattern, suggests a higher order that we may sense but perhaps never comprehend. Still, these rules work within a constantly evolving, scheme, truly immersing us in the miraculous. Each time we gaze out into the universe is thus an act of entering heaven.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 4

Free Fall, 2015

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 20”h x 25”w; Overall: 24”h x 30”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

“God does not throw dice.” This was Albert Einstein’s insistent mantra in response to Werner Heisenberg’s proposition that, at the quantum level, existence is essentially a statistical process. But even chaos has structure, chance tending to parse itself out into discrete packets of probability. These packets determine fundamental sub-atomic interactions that define atomic patterns that in turn assemble into molecular configurations that seek organization into ordered recurrences of increasing complexity and scale. Physical existence at every level has thus been encoded into quantized packages: simple binary “decisions” aggregate into higher orders of “information”; electrons shifting from one discrete energy level to another give rise to the regular crystalline lattice units of a rock or the “code of life” embedded in a strand of DNA; reassembly of matter into different configurations releases units of energy that define the rhythms of existence we know as time. Falling into this game with no choice but to play, it is we who are left to throw the dice.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 4

From Zero to Infinity, 2015

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 20”h x 25”w; Overall: 24”h x 30”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

Physicists estimate that there are a total of 1080 atoms in the universe. Enormous as this number is beyond our ability to mentally frame in any sensible terms, it is nevertheless a finite quantity. Excluded from this calculation is the so-called and barely understood ‘dark matter’ which is believed to comprise more than nine-tenths of the universe and thus also occurring in finite measure. Then there is the anti-matter that is held to constantly annihilate the vast majority of its sub-atomic counterparts that occur in our realm, possibly originating as material from other universes; a recent astonishing hypothesis even allows that our universe resides in a wormhole connecting with other universes. So, 1080 atoms … can we really be that confident? Every cosmological model of existence, physical or metaphysical, delineates nothing from something, creating the paradox of a larger whole made up of zero and infinity. As a diametric opposite partner to infinity, nothing must exist, and because infinity encompasses everything it must therefore also encompass nothing. Neither can “be” without the other. This simply restates the age-old prime mover or existence, chicken- or egg-first conundrum, but without forcing the choice of settling down into one frame of reference over the other.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 4

  

Guiding Lines, 2015

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 24”h x 20”w; Overall: 30”h x 24”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler used the term ‘guiding lines’ to denote a scheme of biased apperceptions concerning self, others and the world. Like a map’s meridian lines, they’re not really there but influence how one steers through life. Constructing relationships out of seeming chaos extends beyond the realm of social interaction into practical and conceptual contexts connected to survival and development of higher critical faculties. A prominent asterism found in the constellation Orion, the supernatural hunter of Greek mythology, is a line of three almost evenly spaced stars — Alnitak, Alnalam and Mintaka, from east to west — historically seen as a belt cinching the hunter’s tunic. Used for navigation since pre-history, this guiding line has captivated astronomers for millennia. Alnitak aligns to the north with the red supergiant star Betelgeuse, at the shoulder of the hunter’s upraised club-wielding arm, while Bellatrix, a blue-white giant star anchoring the opposite outstretched arm supporting vanquished quarry lines up with Mintaka at the west end of the belt below. Traced southward, these vectors intersect below Alnitak at a bright point known from antiquity: the Great Nebula of Orion is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth. Immediately southwest of Alnitak and also aligned with Orion’s Nebula along the line extending from Betelgeuse is Sigma Orionis (S Ori), a multiple star system populated by scores of sub-stellar planetary-mass objects, including S Ori 62 and S Ori 68. The cosmos is an endless map of guiding lines that can shepherd us from the purely fanciful to the factually pragmatic to the profoundly metaphysical…if we keep our eyes, and minds, open.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 4

Illumination, 2015

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 20”h x 25”w; Overall: 24”h x 30”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

Light and darkness interpenetrate. In effect, each clarifies the other, for neither can be apprehended without the contrast afforded by its opposite. The wavelike interference exhibited by light might even be stretched, perhaps to a point of intellectual tautness that might touch on the useless, to make the philosophical case that darkness and light are properties of each other. Understanding is essentially an act of intellectual compression. In our daily confrontations with the ceaseless cacophony of existence, we reflexively seek out patterns that allow us to superimpose some semblance of context onto the milieu into which we have been cast. Whether this order is real or imagined is open to question, for the contorted relationship between the physical universe and our perception of it is illuminated within the jurisdiction of the mind. Most of what we currently think we know about the world is indirectly derived from a confusing web of inferences spun from machines of our own making, so how can we be certain that our ability to separate foreground from background truly reflects a cause from nature rather than an artifact of our own construct? In the end, all we know is that when electrons and photons dance, light-dark-day-night-wake-sleep-life-death-wisdom-indifference happens.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 4

  

Music of the Spheres, 2015

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 20”h x 25”w; Overall: 24”h x 30”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print)

Synopsis:

  

In Greek mythology, the musician Orpheus “measured” the seven spheres of the solar system — Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn — through the invention of numbers that he related to musical tones arranged into octaves. The eighth note of an octave is an elevation of the first note and thus always serves as advancement into the next octave. In essence, then, the octave denotes ascent through the seven spheres, which in antiquity were central to all thought and experience as they were regarded to being physical manifestations of the principal deities that mediated the evolution of matter from mind. A number of modern composers have gone even further by experimenting with novel formats of graphical musical notation illustrating music as a natural phenomenon. Indeed, NASA probes have recorded the unique electromagnetic frequencies generated by our solar system’s planets as they careen through the space fields surrounding the Sun, revealing a striking resemblance to the “music of the spheres” described by occultists from ancient times through to the present.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 4

  

Paradigm Shift, 2015

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 20”h x 25”w; Overall: 24”h x 30”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print).

Synopsis:

A curious aspect of our individual relationship with time is that we are always compelled to deal with it in the present tense. No matter how finely we cut the unit of time, we can never encounter what has become set as the past or what may yet be as the future because neither exists in actuality. As Albert Einstein posited in his theory of general relativity, time is inconstant and experienced relative to a given physical circumstance. This indicates that time is a vector in space, with the velocity of light imposing the limit of what can be experienced. The Minkowski lightcone diagram encapsulates this argument and also indicates that the extent of fixed outcomes and potentialities increases exponentially with increased distance from the plane of the observer’s point of reference. It is evident from the folklore of virtually every culture across the world that our ancient ancestors grasped this concept as well. The Greeks even classified time into the unstoppable progression of external events, managed by Chronos, and the more fluid situational interior interpretation felt by each individual, overseen by Kairos. Existence was therefore clearly understood as an encounter with time demanding continual paradigm shifts for the discrimination of what was, is, and might be.

From Zero to Infinity - Portfolio 4

True, 2015

Victor Raphael & Clayton Spada

Image: 20”h x 24”w; Overall: 24”h x 30”w

Pigment inks on watercolor paper (inkjet print).

Synopsis:

Early Greek and Ottoman Islamic philosophers argued that successful cosmological models must be based on the logic that, ultimately, our senses inform us of what is real. Lucretius restated this more formally and more forcefully in his De Rerum Natura (The Nature of Things) and went on to urge that models that do not meet this test must be rejected. It was also widely recognized by these and subsequent Renaissance and Enlightenment thinkers that our senses equip us to quickly verify phenomenological “fact” but are far less reliable with respect to explaining the cause of the fact. Even though such arguments were advanced prior to the development of instrumentation that augments our perceptual range, they are still relevant because even our most advanced technologies still leave us to rely on our animal nature and accumulated experience with the real world to validate the information gleaned from these perceptual aids.