Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Magic of Art & The Art of Magic

"Personaje Astral" - oil on board - 1961 - Remedios Varo

"Behind the veil of all the hieratic and mystical allegories of ancient doctrines, behind the shadows and the strange ordeals of all initiations, under the seal of all sacred writings, in the ruins of Nineveh or Thebes, on the crumbling stones of the old temples, and on the blackened visage of the Assyrian or Egyptian sphinx, in the monstrous or marvelous paintings which interpret to the faithful of India the inspired pages of the Vedas, in the strange emblems of our old books of alchemy, in the ceremonies at reception practiced by all mysterious societies, traces are found of a doctrine which is everywhere the same, and everywhere carefully concealed. Occult philosophy seems to have been the nurse or god-mother of all intellectual forces, the key of all divine obscurities, and the absolute queen of society in those ages when it was reserved exclusively for the education of priests and of kings. It reigned in Persia with the magi, who at length perished, as perish all masters of the world, because they abused their power..."

"Actually, art and magic are pretty much synonymous. I would imagine that this all goes back to the phenomenon of representation, when, in our primordial past, some genius or other actually flirted upon the winning formula of “This means that.” Whether “this” was a voice or “that” was a mark upon a dry wall or “that” was a guttural sound, it was that moment of representation. That actually transformed us from what we were into what we would be. It gave us the possibility, all of a sudden, of language. And when you have language, you can describe pictorially or verbally the strange and mystifying world that you see around you, and it’s probably not long before you also realize that, hey, you can just make stuff up. The central art of enchantment is weaving a web of words around somebody. And we would’ve noticed very early on that the words we are listening to alter our consciousness, and using the way they can transform it, take it to places we’ve never dreamed of, places that don’t exist."

- Alan Moore via a 2013 interview found here.

“In Mexico City they somehow wandered into an exhibition of paintings by the beautiful Spanish exile Remedios Varo: in the central painting of a triptych, titled “Bordando el Manto Terrestre,” were a number of frail girls with heart-shaped faces, huge eyes, spun-gold hair, prisoners in the top room of a circular tower, embroidering a kind of tapestry which spilled out the slit windows and into a void, seeking hopelessly to fill the void: for all the other buildings and creatures, all the waves, ships and forests of the earth were contained in the tapestry, and the tapestry was the world."

- excerpt from Thomas Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49" (full quote)

Remedios, I told you that I am making you a spell against [the evil eye]. There it is. Last night I had a fever of 38, auto-suggestion perhaps—I do not feel well enough to go out—Come to see me if you can? Can both of you come to drink your tequila? … Leonora.

- Alleged Note from Leonora Carrington to Remedios Varo written on a drawing - found here.


Alan Moore, described as "the greatest graphic novel writer in history" - and, a self-professed magician - has been constellating on the web in recent weeks, beginning with the Mysterious Universe article: Artists Manipulate Minds Using Powerful Magic. Well, that's an attention grabber for sure, but, In the article, Lee Arnold is, for the most part, referring to graphic art; pulling examples from the advertising world, and the slick shlock found on television. But, then, the ways and means by which we're manipulated via the televised world is a given; it goes without saying. In reference to magic however, advertising and commercial iconography is the lowest common denominator - the bottom feeder - of the creative spectrum. It represents mere tricks of the trade, a practiced sleight of hand, and not the workings of the "Magus."

But, it got me to thinking about art and magic, and, although Moore was elucidating specifically on the written word - he is, after all, a writer - my thoughts turned to line and form... as they would, in my perennial investigation of a form language.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Jewel - Image and Premonition

The Jewel - Digital - 2006, Dia Sobin

She looks like some exotic, tattooed, Middle-Eastern cat-woman - possibly a court card from the Tarot of the Cat People - and was the first of my enigmatic hybrid creatures; but, I have a strange amnesia about this image, and how it emerged. And, it's difficult to talk about, because it's emergence coincided with the death of my mother in 2006; a harrowing, catastrophic period in my life (and hers), which I'd give anything to forget.

But, the point of this post - and the one which will follow it - is an attempt to discuss the paranormal aspects of art, specifically, art as imagery. Which is not to say the word "paranormal" appeals to me, because it doesn't. I prefer to refer to all of the weirder, inexplicable, and/or misunderstood varieties of human experience as transdimensional* - precognition, telepathy, ghosts, aliens, UFOs, faeries, the whole lot. In other words, I feel that all these human experiences are very real, and valid. Why we fail to understand them is because, in spite of all we think we "know", we don't "know" enough. We may never know enough.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thoth... and/or, Why it is That Artists Die in Art School (w/ update)

(Color translation of) An Automatic drawing - pastel on paper - 1973, Dia Sobin
(original drawing at the bottom of the post)

I came upon a scrapbook of old drawings of mine recently - very old, pre-art school drawings - of which the above is an example. It was a colored version (executed in pastels) of a black and white automatic drawing I did around the same time. I did a lot of automatic drawing in my pre-art school days. I liked this one because it was less abstract than the others... it was a recognizable symbol and I knew it meant something, although, at the time, I was unable to identify it. Years later I would come to the conclusion that it was a representation of Thoth, the ibis-headed Egyptian moon god of knowledge and wisdom, who was both patron of the arts and sciences as well as an important occult symbol. My teen-aged self had dipped into the collective unconscious and Thoth is what emerged.

The drawing is obviously not an example of high art. It is primitive, at best, looking like something pried off a cave wall. And, yet, therein lies its power... a vitality and immediacy that I've somehow lost along the way, and will never again recapture. But, why is this?

Because, shortly thereafter, I went to art school.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Transdimensional Landscapes of San Base

There are numerous new artists out there - too many, in a sense, to wrap ones head around - and new artists jumping into the digital arena every day. But, every now and then, I'm introduced to new art (this time via MOCA) that really resonates with me, and art that fulfills the purpose of what I believe art should ideally be; that is: a visual language which has the ability to both illuminate and transform. And when I find the art, the artist, I am moved to feature them here... and so, I present to you San Base, a Russian artist now living in Canada.

San Base, as in the case of many digital artists, though artistically inclined, was initially trained in the science of mathematics, becoming a cybernetics engineer before fully devoting his efforts to his true passion, painting. What he refers to as "Dynamic Painting" - both the images and the program he developed to generate them - represents the marriage of his painting skills and his digital expertise, and the result... well, as you can see from the example above, the result is amazing.

All too often digital creations are too slick - lacking integrity, emotion, and poetry - but, Base's transdimensional landscapes breathe, shift and transform as naturally and aesthetically pleasing as running water and drifting clouds. One recognizes something... maybe it's the way we dream... or the organic composition of our thoughts and memories. But, no description is ever necessary with successful art. It simply is, and, intuitively, we know it's precise.

Bravo, San Base!

Incidentally, after you've viewed this "painting", you might want to try this one!

For more of San Base's work, including imagery for sale, more videos (even a few Mandelbulb fractals), visit his website, and his online studio.


PS: And, here's two new articles in cyberspace that may interest you... "Art + Technology = New Art Forms, Not Just New Art", and "What is New Media Art?"