*From Maurice Tuchman’s ‘The Spiritual in Art – Abstract Painting 1890-1985’ describing Frantisek Kupka’s translation of his visionary experiences into visual form.
Frantisek Kupka 1871-1957
Gary Lachman spoke recently at The Black Light Exhibition, an event sponsored by The Center for Contemporary Culture Barcelona.
Lachman, whose presentation begins at about the 5:30 mark in the above video, briefly covers a history of the relationship between art and the occult. He speaks for roughly 35 minutes tracing the roots of this phenomenon from paleolithic cave paintings to the varied works of William Blake to the secret Gnostic paintings of Hilma af Klint and to the expressions of contemporary artists such as the filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, which is then followed by a Q and A session.
This exhibition stood on the shoulders of another exhibition curated by Maurice Tuchman in the 1980’s in Los Angeles, ‘The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985’.
Tuchman in the introduction to the wonderful book published in conjunction with this event states,
“Abstract art remains misunderstood by the majority of the viewing public. Most people, in fact, consider it meaningless. Yet around 1910, when groups of artists moved away from representational art toward abstraction, preferring symbolic color to natural color, signs to perceived reality, ideas to direct observation, there was never an outright dismissal of meaning. Instead artists made an effort to draw upon deeper and more varied levels of meaning, the most pervasive of which was the spiritual.”
The cover of the accompanying publication for The Black Light Exhibition
From the CCCB site,
“Esoteric traditions can be traced back to the very origins of civilization, having served at different times to structure philosophical, linguistic, scientific or spiritual ideas. Despite their importance for the development of twentieth-century art, they tend to be ignored or disparaged these days due to the dominance of rationalistic thinking and the difficulty of talking about these subjects in clear, direct language.
In recent years, however, many artists have taken a renewed interest in subjects such as alchemy, secret societies, theosophy and anthroposophy, the esoteric strands in major religions, oriental philosophies, magic, psychedelia and drug-use, universal symbols and myths, the Fourth Way formulated by the Armenian mystic Georges Gurdjieff, etc., generating an interest in these fields that had not existed since the counterculture of the sixties and seventies.
According to the writer Enrique Juncosa, curator of this exhibition, this interest may be due to the fact that we are, once again, living in a restless and unsatisfied world, worried about new colonial wars, fundamentalist terrorism, serious ecological crisis and nationalist populism, just as in the sixties and seventies people feared an imminent and devastating nuclear catastrophe. Furthermore, much of today’s mainstream art is actually rather boring due to its complete lack of mystery and negation of any kind of poetization or interpretation of our experience of it.””
Photo by Asa Lunden
Photo from a 2013 Exhibition of works by the Swedish mystic Hilma af Klint who as Lachman describes in his presentation is probably the first Abstract artist, predating Wassily Kandinsky
“[N]obody is willing to invest money in poetry. But film will continue existing thanks to the resistance of…poets. You can be sure that cinema history is made of films that recreate the inner world of their artist, and not the movies we see today and that I hope will not continue to please the public for much longer. Since the beginning, cinema has been in a difficult situation. To make movies, you need money. To write poetry, all you need is some paper and pencil. I bow to those directors who keep trying, with what they have, to make their own movies. We have seen that these films have a specific, personal rhythm.”
The Worlds of
Art by Matt Melanson
There is a new podcast in town, Weird Studies, hosted by Phil Ford and J.F. Martel –
As they describe it,
“Weird Studies” is a scholarly field that doesn’t and can’t exist.
The Weird is that which resists any settled explanation or frame of reference. It is the bulging file labelled “other/misc.” in our mental filing cabinet, full of supernatural entities, magical synchronicities, and occult rites. But it also appears when a work of art breaks in on our habits of perception and ordinary things become uncanny. The Weird is easiest to define as whatever lies on the further side of a line between what we can easily accept from our world and what we cannot. And it defines an attitude towards whatever lies on that side of the line: a willingness to remain suspended between explanations and abide in strangeness.”
In this episode the two connect the dots and discuss those connections and surrounding pathways into the origin of contemporary existential fear and how it manifests in recent works such as David Lynch and Mark Frosts’ ‘Twin Peaks – The Return’.
Along the way their map include signposts from Philip K. Dick, Norman Mailer, Stanley Kubrick, Carl Jung, William Burroughs, Guy Debord, H.P. Lovecraft and many others.
A fascinating and thought provoking look into the abyss, to synchronous expressions of art, and the implications for modern life as we live under the shadow of the mushroom cloud.
“I wish to paint in such a manner as if I were photographing dreams”
“In the medieval tradition, Beksinski seems to believe art to be a forewarning about the fragility of the flesh– whatever pleasures we know are doomed to perish– thus, his paintings manage to evoke at once the process of decay and the ongoing struggle for life. They hold within them a secret poetry, stained with blood and rust.”
― Guillermo del Toro
A Short film about the life of Leonora Carrington
(A few examples of her work below)
* Todd Haynes
“I have no doubt that whatever kinds of movies you like, seeing ‘Wonderstruck’, you will not have seen anything like it before.
It intercuts a story of one little deaf girl in 1927 who travels into New York City searching for answers, with the story of a little boy who becomes deaf in 1977, fifty years later, also on a journey.
And so the question keeps getting posed every time you intercut from black and white to color, silent film to sound film, why are these two stories sharing one movie?
When you really are excited by, motivated by the richness and strangeness of popular culture that we all share – movies, music, you realize that everything that’s great has been gotten away with and that it has sort of snuck into the conventional languages that we come to expect and that’s when our minds get percolated. That’s how we get pricked by a new experience.
And it’s also what reinvigorates the respective mediums involved. Getting away with it I think is what culture is about.”
“[It’s] too easy to put symbols in service of narrative. The trick is putting narrative in service of symbols.” – J.F. Martel in a recent tweet regarding how to watch Twin Peaks
“Artists end up producing symbols, beacons that point to those vast regions of reality which psychoanalysts call the unconscious. In other words, art doesn’t belong to the conscious world. It belongs on the same plane as dreams, visions and synchronicity.” J.F. Martel
“True works of art are powerful symbolic constructs, genuine oracles that can give society access to what’s going on below the threshold of collective consciousness.” – JFM
“I learned that just beneath the surface there’s another world, and still different worlds as you dig deeper.” David Lynch
“It makes me uncomfortable to talk about meanings and things. It’s better not to know so much about what things mean.” DL
“Because the meaning, it’s a very personal thing, and the meaning for me is different than the meaning for somebody else.” DL
“When something’s abstract, the abstractions are hard to put into words unless you’re a poet.” DL
“Cinema is a language that can say abstractions. I love stories, but I love stories that hold abstractions–that can hold abstractions. And cinema can say these difficult-to-say-in-words things.” DL
“I like things that go into hidden, mysterious places, places I want to explore that are very disturbing.” DL
“In that disturbing thing, there is sometimes tremendous poetry and truth.” DL
“As Henri Bergson says, if we could perceive reality directly, we wouldn’t need art.” JFM
“The reason we need art is that the intellect is constantly reducing reality to a conceptual order that accounts only for an infinitely small portion of what is real.” JFM
“If things get too specific, the dream stops. There are things that happen sometimes that open a door that lets you soar out and feel a bigger thing. Like when the mind gets involved in a mystery. It’s a thrilling feeling. When you talk about things, unless you’re a poet, a big thing becomes smaller.” DL
“I don’t know why people expect art to make sense when they accept the fact that life doesn’t make sense.” DL
“Symbols are signs, but signs pointing us to the unknown, perhaps unknowable aspects of reality. They call us to the dark expanses that extend infinitely on every side of the small castellated island that is the human world.” JFM
“Met on its own ground, the work of art as vector of symbols is an inexhaustible producer of meaning. Invariably, the work reveals more than its creator ever intended and more than any interpreter can fathom.” JFM
“True beauty is not pretty. It is a tear in the facade of the everyday, a sudden revelation of the forces seething beneath the surface of things.” JFM
“The more unknowable the mystery, the more beautiful it is.” DL
“I love mysteries. To fall into a mystery and its danger … everything becomes so intense in those moments. When most mysteries are solved, I feel tremendously let down.” DL
“I want things to feel solved up to a point, but there’s got to be a certain percentage left over to keep the dream going. It’s like at the end of Chinatown: The guy says, ‘Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.’ You understand it, but you don’t understand it, and it keeps that mystery alive. That’s the most beautiful thing.” DL
“When you sleep, you don‘t control your dream. I like to dive into a dream world that I’ve made, a world I chose and that I have complete control over.” DL
“I would love to be in that state [of a waking dream] all day long, but you have to have some quiet. The world is getting louder every year, but to sit and dream is a beautiful thing.” DL
“A lot of people assume I have very strange dreams, but I’ve only had one dream that affected a film. I don’t dream much at night. Most everything is daydreams.” DL
“I like making films because I like to go into another world. I like to get lost into another world.” DL
“My movies are film-paintings – moving portraits captured on celluloid. I’ll layer that with sound to create a unique mood — like if the Mona Lisa opened her mouth, and there would be a wind, and she’d turn back and smile. It would be strange and beautiful.” DL
“In my mind it’s so much fun to have something that has clues and is mysterious – something that is understood intuitively rather than just being spoon fed to you. That’s the beauty of cinema, and it’s hardly ever even tried. These days, most films are pretty easily understood, and so people’s minds stop working.” DL
“Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see, one chance out between two worlds, fire walk with me.” – Twin Peaks
From the wonderful blog by Rhys Tranter comes this link to an interview with the producer of the new documentary about David Lynch. A must see for anyone interested in Lynch who in his own words provides some insight into his early history and creative process.
Jon Nguyen on a new documentary exploring the life and work of the American artist and filmmaker