Sunday, December 15, 2013

ARTICLE ~ Spiritual Art & Practice ~ Conclusion

Everything and nothing to do with me

The purpose in writing this series of articles has been to explore what the relationship between the spiritual and art may be. This has been a personal quest. Having set myself an intention to develop art as a practice, I wanted to be clearer in my own mind about the territory I'm entering. One personal concern was that in the rush for creative practice, my Buddhist practice could get sidelined. As in the past, I've have a tendency to 'drop the bucket in the race to find the next source of water.' So I've wanted to pin down what the potential areas for art as a spiritual practice may be. This has by its very nature drawn me into looking at the whole topic of 'the spiritual' in art, in perhaps more detail than I'd first envisaged. 

So it is a given that art can have a spiritual effect, and an artistic process can become a spiritual practice. At the same time both these can become Self serving conceits. They may give ones sense of Self and ones artwork a grander loftier air, and whilst appearing to be not about 'me and mine', in essence are. The spiritual can become a great and commodious cloak to hide all ones self centred motivations beneath. 

Praise and appreciation is good to receive, whether its for an exhibition, for a creative project I've instigated, or for the rituals and shrines I create. I'm acutely aware that the mental state or emotional mood I was in at the time of creating a shrine say, can often be far from exemplary. Certainly not exalted, inspired or uplifted with any spiritual connection. I've found praiseworthy results are frequently created in the teeth of egregious resentments, mostly about the creative task itself.  I don't find it easy to put this truculent negativity to sleep. 

If I'm lucky, engaging with a creative process will itself transform the conditions that caused the negative state to arise. That's not always possible, if creative frustration lies at the root of it. I find it  paradoxical that what maybe communicated through my art is not affected by this, or become a direct visual translation of that mental state.  Something the complete mirror opposite can often emerge in the finished piece. This is perhaps a reflection of how un-integrated I am in this area.  The negative effect is upon the internal process, and not upon the end product.

I do seem able to run creatively on auto-pilot, in the face of unfavourable conditions. The positive effect of a piece on others to inspire awe or emotionally move people, seems to happens regardless of this. I just paint the painting or do the shrine. What happens afterwards seems little or nothing to do with me. However unconscious, the creative process opens up areas of my psyche not exposed by anything else I do.  So is it something I do,  or is it something expressed through me, or is the effect of an artwork entirely in the eyes of the beholder?  Without an objective source as a stimulus for what people feel or sense about an artwork, it must be founded entirely on the subjective perceptual and internal emotional response of each viewer. The artist's self-expression can only be one element in the story. For the spirit of something emerges through an artist, emerges through the artwork and emerges through the attention of a person looking at it. The personal is also universal, and the universal is also personal. This seems to be present at every point in the artistic process and in the finished piece

Artistic ideas can be hard to realise and bring into being, there are difficult births.  At other times ideas almost paint themselves without obstacle or much deliberation.  Solutions can be unearthed slowly and deliberately or pop into ones head fully formed, without precognition or forethought. These ways creative ideas emerge are not unique to me, or to artists, its appears to be how they happen to all sorts of people in all walks of life and activity.  Ideas could be the simple snapping of brain synapses. Though not a random event, it can feel like that they come unbidden into awareness as though something is speaking through us.  Not all cognitive processes dealing with creating solutions appear to be conscious ones. Some brain functions may run quietly in the background. Though its possible to map how the brain functions and the rudiments of how it operates, we're not yet able to fully comprehend how it generates ideas or solutions to problems. It maybe everything to do with me, or not entirely.

We habitually see ourselves as the brains in charge, the controlling agency in all we do. Yet so much of how human beings live is unconscious, it seems hard to sustain this view in all eventualities. Elements do appear as if they are nothing to do with me. We operate far more unknowingly than we're ever likely to know or admit.  Out of our desire to Self-aggrandize we blow our own trumpet far and wide. Buddhism would say that the conditions prompting any thing to arise into our awareness are multi-faceted and have a mutual complexity inbuilt into them. An example is given of a group of sticks propped up against each other for support that together make a stack.  It's never one stick alone that is the determining thing, not just me, not just them, not just events. not entirely Self or entirely Other, not everything nor nothing to do with me.  Whatever I do as an artist though undoubtedly playing its part, is unlikely to be the whole story in how people eventually respond to finished artwork.

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