The Magical Handwriting of Light(Reflections on Ljupco Ilievski’s photographs of Kokino )
First there was… the view. It comes first, even before the words have reached us, as soon as the veil is lifted from the eyelids that shield us from the touch of the unfathomable magnificence of the world. And it is the last one to leave, once voice has abandoned us, once everything that can be said has been exhausted and the spirit remains all alone with its most refined instrument – the eye and its secret power to understand the soundless speech of existence.
Vision is a language through which the Creator of the Universe talks to us – claimed George Berkeley, the “brilliant bishop” of Cloyne, and one of the most original philosophical minds that the history of human thought has ever seen. And indeed, faced with the view of the ancient, sheer cliffs that rise to the sky like hands outstretching in ritual, the cobalt blue of the horizon that liberates the view from the earthly cage, the giddy heights, the morning blush cut through with the golden sabre of sunrise, could anyone’s soul remain untouched by the feeling that these magical views are sending us a message from out of this world, a message written exactly in the language of sight? At the point at which, just like in Kokino, nothing remains between us and the sky, there is nothing that could separate us from ourselves any more, and from the consciousness of our innerself, connected to the womb of the universe by inextricable strings, from the meaning that is unveiled before our eyes like a celebration of the deepest, inexpressible knowledge.
But then again, do the rocks, with their craggy faces, whisper the same thing to each hand that touches them? Do the meadow flowers around the stone throne at Kokino smell the same to each consciousness enveloped in their sweetness? Can the same sound be heard by each ear struggling to hear the voice of eternity echoing in the skies? And if this is so, if the secret of the world touches us all in the same way, if, speaking as Berkeley, it leaves the same mark imprinted onto our senses, how can we know this at all, trapped in the uniqueness and unrepeatability of one’s own body, the irreducibility of our own experience, the blending of the touch with the skin that feels it, the sound with the ear that hears it, the view with the eye that sees it? Do the gates and windows of sentiency really exist, and can we open them up, even for a moment, to someone else’s spirit and share through them a piece of the unshareable – the way that the world is experienced from our most intimate core, from our own field of consciousness that is fed through the senses and only through them it can reach the otherness?
Yes, there is a wonderful skill that can do this, the most difficult thing, at least for one of the sense fields – the sight: it can separate our look and our views from ourselves and offer them as a present to the others. It is a skill that can be mastered only by the noble eye, eager to transform its vision into a precious trace that will outlive the moment and reach territories that will remain forever inaccessible to it: other times, other spaces, other minds. This is the art of photography, or writing with light, which transforms even the most ordinary perception into a miracle, restored to life by the consciousness that does not only watch but also sees. That is why artist photographers, especially those who, like Ljupco Ilievski, the author of the fascinating photographs from Kokino, patiently pursue the reflections of beauty and eternity on the modest human horizon, are maybe the most dedicated contemporary interpreters of the language of sight, calligraphers of the spirit, well versed in the secrets of the most subtle of handwritings – the magical handwriting of light.
Ljupco Ilievski, as he himself says, is one of those people whose soul was trapped and enchanted by Kokino at first sight. This magic, it seems, carries with it all the primordial, mystical force of the sacred place whence it originates, and it flows out through the images that testify it, transporting itself further on to all those that will touch its reflection. And suddenly, through these photographs, through the cosmic landscapes captured in them, the world is wonderfully transformed: it is no longer the mute intimidating space that horrifies with its wildness, it is no longer an abyss of the absurd that we are thrown into without a question or a purpose. Instead, step by step, image by image, it reveals itself as the cradle of sense, a home whose warmth has been forgotten for millennia, a pearl of order, a height that summons us to awake the best in us and to return ou
And up there, in its infinite blue, clouds linger caught in the uniqueness of the moment at which it seems as if we can see, from within, the ripples of some enormous body of water; standing at the summit of Kokino is like being at the bottom of some ocean in the skies, the sunrays penetrating through its depths like the hands of the sun wanting to take us in its arms. And through the images of the night, adorned with a precious stone – the Moon, finally we realize the feeling that led ancient wise men to think that the Earth is enveloped in a dark blanket, a thick cosmic cloak, the stars being tiny openings through which we see the eternal flame burning on the other side, the sea of blazing light in which our corner of the universe is immersed.
The stellar flame that lifts us, awakening the passion to reach its source, and the glossy black velvet of the sky that protects us from burning away under its touch, breathe in unison and consonance through Ljupco Ilievski photographs, intertwined in a giddy dance overheard during the many sleepless nights on the rocks in Kokino, in anticipation of unrepeatable sights. The night sky and the stellar reflections scattered on it announce jointly the greatest mystery that, just like to us today, must have been breathtaking to our ancient ancestors who chose Kokino as their temple and connection to the heart of the universe: the mystery of beginning to see, the opening of the celestial eye, the ritual of meeting, face to face, the very source of light, the golden pupil of the Sun, the ruler of our world.
The first ray of sunrise, at a precise moment and in a single point delved especially for it, piercing through the rocky massif and throwing light on the stone throne at Kokino’s summit: not only is it an interesting astronomical phenomenon caught by the curious eye of the master of photography, but it is also a precious testimony to the supreme cosmic event and its ritual repetition. This ray is the divine sword lowered onto the modest human shoulders, to lift them and comfort them, to fan the fire of admiration for the immense whole, from which we are a part, with its perfect, implacable but also protective order. That is why the ancient megalithic observatory of Kokino, the place from which you can watch the most important thing – the sky, sacred and sublime, is itself a sacred and sublime place; it is only here that one can achieve, if only for a moment, the meeting that all human depths yearn more than anything else: the meeting of the human and the divine, of limitations and infinity. Only here can the secret of sight be “desecretised” as the crossing of our view with that of the eye of the universe which, in some inexplicable way, knows about us and watches over us from the inaccessible heights.
Millennia ago, ancient Romans spoke of the genius loci – the spirit of place, that invisible essence composed of energy, force, values, accumulated experiences whereby certain points in the material world build their magnetic attraction. Ljupco Ilievski’s photographs appear to be doing the impossible: not only do they infallibly identify the very genius loci of Kokino, sublimating its hidden essence, but they also show it as visible and yet untouchable. But the nature of light, one of the greatest wonders of the universe, has always been like that – visible yet untouchable. And, again, it is light, tamed by the hands of the master, playfully spreading on the pages of this book, that will forever whisper through the magical pictures to our eyes in its mystical language. And it will only hint at why it is exactly here, on the pinnacled rocks of Kokino, that the heart is transformed into a noble parchment that only light can write on, whose meaning cannot be interpreted during the course of a single human life, but only by eternity into whose arms we once again feel as one with the source of existence.
Ana Dimishkovska, PhD.