“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso
Spirituality has always held a place in our human experience, thus a place in art. Right from the dawn of humanity we have produced images of Gods, visions of the afterlife, and the ascendency of the soul. As a species we are in a constant search for the meaning of life and presence of spirit. And throughout history Artist have been the translators and interpreters of this experience and search for the divine.
Art being the result of inspiration has its basis in spirituality and inspiration in itself. So, any definition of art must therefore include the understanding that it is a form of communication of that provides the artist’s understanding of existence. Together with the techniques and style used, the theme of any particular piece of artwork is just the means to communicate that message.
Usually the selected form was imposed by whatever society the artist was part of, along with the subject matter of the artwork. The content was often religion and pushed by religious intuitions in primitive societies, but artists have gradually expanded these themes over a period of time to include limitless individuality implementations.
There is a chapter on ‘Spiritual Practices’ in ‘The Psychology of Spirituality’ that people may engage on a regular basis, preferably, to continue their journey on the path of spiritual growth and development towards maturity. Meditation and prayer feature, as well as the appreciation of the arts and creative activity. Contemplative reading of literature, poetry, etc., and listening, singing, and playing sacred music are also listed.
All forms a powerful bridge between a particular form of art and spiritual experience is formed by rhythmic and repetitive dance and chanting, by powerfully harmonizing the left and right halves of the brain, similar to the effect of meditation. Furthermore, people coming together to engage in such practices, as when playing in an orchestra or singing in a choir, may well experience enhancement through sharing it of the potential for spiritual gain.
For those who need it, this is further evidence of the principle that through the spiritual dimension of experience, everyone is connected to everyone else. ‘We are already one,’ as Thomas Merton once wrote, ‘But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.’ Art can help us do that.
There are shapes from sacred geometry and symbols so ancient that their meanings resonate in our very being even if our consciousness has no awareness. Colours vibrate to different frequencies, bringing the viewer to desired states.
In Indigenous cultures Objects have known to be decorated with the symbols of their tradition. They would be beautifully embellished even the most mundane utensil, so it became a work of art. The stones and crystals they used were of aesthetic and spiritual significance.
Turquoise was excellent protection, promoted healing and strengthened already inherent healing abilities. Amber taught strength that could help you truly understand life. The art and spirituality in the native traditions were intertwined so they became one. By contrast, through the use of art, many religions attempted to portray their dogma and biblical stories. Look at Michelangelo’s, DaVinci’s and many others’ work. To this day, we’re trying to see the meanings and secrets contained in the art beyond the obvious for clues.
Religion and spirituality have had the greatest impact on art throughout history, and this is most likely due to the fact that man has constantly tried to express himself through art and religion. These two activities have in a multitude of ways dominated the human consciousness. From cave paintings to ancient Egyptian cuneiforms to paintings from the Renaissance, art has provided a solid foundation, Art has served to give the ruling ideologies of that time a solid representation. It was sometimes treated in ancient times as a craft to be learned and studied, and artists lived modest, submissive lifestyles.
Art was used by early societies to worship divine beings and used to canonize religious themes and spiritual leaders in the Middle Ages. Painted images began to gradually move away from the spiritual ideologies of society during the Renaissance period and became more and more individual.
The three women artists whom all found their artistic language within the context of the spiritual movements of their times: Houghton in Spiritism, af Klint in theosophy and Kunz in naturopathy. Their artworks bear witness to a “mediumistic” practice: Houghton and af Klint were inspired by higher beings to paint, while with the help of a pendulum Kunz developed her drawings. Furthermore, the volume shows stills by Harry Smith and James and John Whitney, who made experimental films during the 1940s, inspired by various occult movements.
Georgina Houghton began her ‘mediumistic ‘ drawing and painting in 1860. Different ‘ spirit guides ‘ led her to draw and paint freely. The earliest of her works depict botanical forms, but the brightly painted pictures were soon formally complex and completely abstract: arches, waves, and spirals overlap in different layers, while microscopic lines and dots juxtapose sweeping brushstrokes.
Hilma af Klint was convinced that for her Temple Paintings, beings of a higher level level of consciousness used her as a medium. As she said: “The pictures were painted directly through me, without any preliminary drawings and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict; nevertheless, I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brushstroke.” From 1906 to 1908, Af Klint created the first 111 works of the series; from 1912 to 1915, a further 83 works were added.
“My art is destined for the twenty-first century.” The healer, researcher and artist Emma Kunz said of her drawings which she created with the help of a pendulum from 1938 on Graph paper. These complex works of geometry are records of natural flows of energy. They are part of this artist’s extensive work and activity, dedicating her life to disease and health research, the Microcosm and macrocosm, Humanity and God.
Harry Smith, while listening to jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, and Theloniou Monk, impressively described how different forms and colours appeared to him. He tried to make these inner images visible with his paintings. While living in the 1940s in San Francisco, Smith extended this practice to the film medium. Not least because of a lack of money, he developed a wide range of experimental techniques that led him to formal innovations unparalleled in this time’s animated film.
An important contribution to an emerging debate in contemporary aesthetics on the use and misuse of spirituality. The John and James Whitney brothers developed a device in 1943 that allowed them to create synthetic sounds directly on the audio track of the film. They synchronized the sounds with abstract forms in their Five Film Exercises (1943 – 45). The films convey a ghostly presence; it almost seems as though we were receiving a message from another world through Morse code. The brothers saw these films not as works of art, but as exercises that created a connection between sound and image that was mutually interrelated.
The 20th-century monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton wrote in a letter to Boris Pasternak in October 1958: “I do not insist on this division between spirituality and art, for I think that even things that are not patently spiritual if they come from the heart of a spiritual person are spiritual.”
Pablo Amaringo of Peru was an Ayahuasquero; that is, a master of brewing the plant-based ayahuasca, an important component of indigenous Amazonian spiritual practice. In this tradition, the visions released by the ayahuasca brew have cosmological significance as well as medicinal purposes.
Both Attributes are present in the colourful and complex canvasses that Amaringo produced while under the influence of the brew, reciting shamic songs called icaros while he was working. Although his images conjure extensive flora and fauna varieties, celestial realms and extra-terrestrial and shamic beings.
By precision of detail, Amaringo brings these metaphysical visions into our lived experience, especially his precise and precise renderings of botanical life found in the Amazon region. In other words, the spiritual visions of Amaringo were not mere fantasies induced by ayahuasca but based on acute observation and comprehension of the real organic world. Amaringo was able to relate our everyday world to the metaphysical one around us that he believed to exist.In several works including ‘Llullon Llaki Supai,’ Amaringo unites the heavenand the earth and the inhabitants of both realms.
This 2006 piece features exquisitely detailed plant life, heads of portraits, waterborne life, ethereal human forms and heavenly bodies. All these elements exist in a dark yet brilliantly coloured environment that seems to break open here and there, revealing the following realms of existence. Dedicated to keeping alive the Amazonian traditions and spirituality through study, spiritual practice and art, Amaringo founded Usko Aryar Amazonian School of Art in Pucallpa, Peru in 1988, where he taught and served as a director of the school until shortly before his death.
He not only instilled the discipline of painting in his students but also love and respect for the ecological life of earth. In 1992, Amaringo was rewarded by the United Nations in the Global 500 Roll of Honour for these efforts. Pablo Amaringo’s work with these and other honors, It finds its place among collectors interested in spirituality and environmentalism with its expansiveness of vision.
For Richard Mayhew, painting in the landscape is more about a higher consciousness experience than mere fact-based reality. His canvases are expressions of spiritual rather than literal truth, shining with light and colours so rich that they seem to float in the rooM.
Looking at his paintings, we are actually ‘seeing’ recognizable natural world elements; trees, fields, lakes, mountains, heaven. But the organic forces of wind, rain, sun and air did not form the peculiarities of these elements Through Mayhew’s relationship with his heritage’s spirituality, they emanated
Born and raised in the summer seaside resort town of Amityville, New York, Mayhew grew up influenced by his parents’ spiritual traditions: his father, African American and Shinnecock; his mother, African American and Cherokee. This dual Native American and African American heritage imbued Mayhew not only with deep respect for the natural world’s wonders, but also with a sense that the earth and cosmos also have a spiritual dimension, and that this spiritual dimension also exists in the human soul
Then Mayhew creates his landscape paintings from the spirituality of his soul. They are representations not of what he sees, but of what he feels in the world. A flowing spirituality guides his hand and his brush across the canvas.
Although the method of Mayhew is transcendental and instinctive, he is nevertheless a highly trained artist, having studied at the art school of the Brooklyn Museum, the prestigious Pratt Institute, the University of Columbia, and the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence. And while his training in colour, form, line, and artistic discipline served him well, Mayhew’s deepest creativity was liberated by the Abstract Expressionist contemporaries of his youth.
He was also introduced to the Impressionists by his studies in Europe, whose understanding of the etheric qualities of light influenced his thinking. The Impressionist and Abstract Expressionist influences are evident in Mayhew’s work and have remained with him over the years, as seen in works like ‘Above and Beyond’ from 2009.
Although the shapes actually suggest the organic world, the shapes, gliding like weightless, and the mist of colors are spirit redolent. It is a felt one, a landscape that exists on a higher level of consciousness and created on that higher plane by an artist working.
Mayhew’s paintings took their place in American art history’s narrative. His paintings are still on display in major venues and are represented in major collections such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the National Gallery of Art, and others. In acquiring his work, landscape collectors and spiritually influenced art remain active.
While all art aspires to higher meaning, spiritually influenced art explores human experience by elevating it beyond our everyday reality. Artists who pursue this quest for the sublime allow themselves, unlike any other, a creative adventure to explore realms that others may not be able to see or are too afraid to see. Artists like Pablo Amaringo and Richard Mayhew are inviting viewers to share their courage to enter mysteries, and for that we are the better. By their visions, we are enlarged.
Jungu Yoon opens the Eastern – Western art discourse and introduces the reader to a discussion about the impact of digital culture on aesthetics. It also opens up a new debate on the impact of digital culture on traditional aesthetics, which is important reading for artists, practitioners and theorists alike.
I am interested in investigating how contemporary art can occupy the spiritual void left by the retreat of religion in modern (western) societies, as Nietzsche and Jung predicted. This academic text very rigorously defines the numinous which is a deeper spiritual and universal human phenomenological experience than the sublime or religious experience. Jungu Yoon has set out to identify a more universal human experience of numinousness and spirituality than our concept of religious experience defined culturally. To address and engage a wider audience, he merges East and West, not geographically determined. His use of multimedia to generate this experience is highly effective. Because of the lack of philosophical and theoretical material on this topic
An important contribution to an emerging debate in contemporary aesthetics on the use and misuse of spirituality. Jungu Yoon opens the Eastern – Western art discourse and introduces the reader to a discussion about the impact of digital culture on aesthetics. It also opens up a new debate on the impact of digital culture on traditional aesthetics, which is important reading for artists, practitioners and theorists alike.