The elements – the theory behind 16x5s
Our physical world consists of combinations of five basic elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether. I aim to visually depict those elements through my art, and each can be distinguished in the fluid combination of watercolours.
Every major culture has understood that everything that we see and experience is made up of these five fundamental elements (in Sanskrit – Panchabutas) and that each has its own character.
It is said that our universe was created out of the manifestation of these five elements and that everything that we experience is a direct experience of them. Plants, animals, rocks, fauna, humans and even our thoughts are composed of the five elements. Every particle of Creation is made of these building blocks.
So too are these visual descriptions of places I’ve been. Each of these works is an attempt to capture the mood and moment of the place. Created ‘en plein air’ and mostly completed on-site, each is a moment in time and emotion. The 16 x 5 proportion is simply a framework in which to create each work.
More about the five elements
Earth (Privithi): Although we can touch and smell the earth there are two parts to this element – one is eternal and the other is perishable. The first exists at an atomic level; our body and our sense organs are earth, which is given shape by Jiva (life)… but these are perishable whereas the atoms in mountains or rocks are less so.
Water (Apas): It may appear as a river, pond or ocean yet all these forms are perishable. From the seas or rivers water evaporates to reform in the sky as clouds. Then in the shape of rain, it comes back down to earth. Constantly fluid we can touch, taste and feel it.
Fire (Agni): As with all the elements it has both eternal and perishable characteristics. The essential character of fire is heat. There are four important types of Agni; the fire of the earth, the fire of the sky, the fire of the stomach (literal hunger and digestive power) as well as the fire we commonly use. There is also an inner fire that drives us as human beings: the fire to create, procreate and communicate.
Air (Vayu): One can experience air; when we breathe, we feel the strength of a storm or gentle breeze, all of which are temporary, while air at an atomic level moves around us eternally.
Ether (Akash): This element is unique in that it only has one form and that is eternal. Ether is the carrier of sound, man-made or otherwise. We hear it and experience it through our sense organs, predominately our ears. Ether is also linked to the concept of Akashvani or divine sound. The primordial mantra AUM links the Jivatma (life force/ atman or soul) to the Paramatman or omnipotent supreme soul.