I have called my art Dynamic Art; what is Dynamic Art?
I shall define Dynamic Art by showing its development in context to a brief art historical survey with particular relevance to Expressionism and Abstract Expression.
Dynamic Art, like Expressionism, occupies a fluid space between so called ‘Representational Art’ and ‘Symbolical’ or ‘Evocative Art’. According to Gordon, R, (1960) these two means of artistic expression more or less define the history of art:
‘In this way one can surmise that man’s interests have swung between an extrovert view of the world to an introvert one- from sense relationships to Symbolism representing the world behind the senses, as in Egypt, Byzantium and our present age of art just in its beginning’.p.4
Gombrich (1989) when writing about early Christian Art also talks about the evocative nature of images:
‘The picture no longer existed as a beautiful thing in its own right. Its main purpose was to remind the faithful of one of the examples of God’s mercy and power’.p.129
Thus we have a separation of the representation of the ‘thing’ itself, and something that it wishes to convey which goes beyond mere painting or sculpture. This is closer to what Plato describes as an ‘archetype’. For him Greek representational painting, because it sought to create an illusion of reality, was further removed from its true being than say Egyptian art. He compares the work of a painter to that of a mirror which reproduces all the things of the world. This reproduction of the things of the world is of a lower order than the carpenter’s work of producing a table. The manufacture of the table is closer to the ‘archetype’ than a painting of a table. He (like Robin Gordon) divides art into two schools, but with a different take. The school ‘which shows objects in their true proportions and with their actual colours,’ he calls ”figurative” (ikastic) (Procopiou, 1964, p.228). Interestingly the school that we would call representational art, creating illusions of volume, fore-shortening and perspective, Plato defines as ”imaginative” and ”fantastic.”
The name ‘Expressionism,’ a movement that flourished in Germany, was at first a derogatory term. It meant nothing more than a kind of subjectivity born of anti-naturalism. For the gallery owner Herwarth Walden (1891-1941), Expressionism really was ‘a turning-point in art:’
‘What he and others hoped to find in the new art they supported, to contrast with both the realism and the hollow idealism of the 19th century, was what they called Durchgeistigung, the charging of every action with spiritual significance with soul’.Lynton, 1974, p.38
Thus the portrayal of nature became a vehicle for expressing soul, and colour liberated itself from the object .Colour became less a description of an objects value and definition, and more a means of showing mood and emotional intensity. Kandinsky (1866-1944) who was to make the journey from Expressionism to Abstract Expressionism says about colour, after mentioning its first superficial effect of attraction or repulsion:
‘And so we come to the second main result of looking at colours: their psychic effect. They produce a corresponding spiritual vibration, and it is only as a step towards this spiritual vibration that the elementary physical impression is of importance’.Kandinsky, 1977, p.24
Kandinsky formulated very precise ‘laws’ informed by his own very intense experiences and his interest in Rudolf Steiner’s insights. Others such as De Koonig (1904-1997), Rothko (1903-1970) and Pollock (1912-1956) where perhaps more instinctive. Whatever their aims and ideals, the Abstract Expressionists liberated themselves from a dependence on ‘known’ forms, and the attachment of colour to those known forms, penetrating into a sphere that could be defined as ‘energy’ and ‘vibration’. This is an elemental sphere that is both freeing and limiting. Freeing because it nudges the mind into entirely new perspectives, and limiting because it remains forever subjective and intangible Harrison (1974) writes:
‘Pollock seems to have found the actual procedure of paint application increasingly expressive; not the means of depicting, but the actual means to mimetic life within the painting, of the significance which the depicted for was to have embodied’.p.177
Rothko and Pollock lived very much on the edge, both died tragically. It was almost as if the break through from the known description and mapping of the world to this unknown region of pure form and colour constitutes a kind of ‘threshold’. Lievegoed, in his book, Man on the Threshold, defines it thus:
‘“Humanity has crossed the threshold”: Unknown forces gain entry to consciousness from the “unconscious” realm; they create confusion, which manifests itself in fears, depression, and the like’.Lievegoed, 1983, p.18
This transition from the known to the unknown, from the firmly grounded to the mysterious and terrifying is a common feature of humanity. Artistically, the period just before the First World War, and its ending, brought Dada. A protest against the old obsolete systems.
If the First World War was the death throe of old and corrupt systems, than the second was even more decisive. The mass destruction of civilian populations and the cataclysm of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was the crossing of a boundary, a step too far into unknown regions were anything, including the total destruction of humanity could happen. The Abstract Expressionists, notably the American ones of the early forties, stood on the threshold, and were blasted by the winds that blew in. The challenge of our time is to go beyond. Human psychology perhaps cannot survive the blasts, the human spirit can.
Rudolf Steiner (1970) puts it very succinctly when speaking of initiation knowledge, all firmness and certainty are for a time lost, the soul experiences chaos, unlimited dismay and grief:
‘Then the soul may be forced into complete fragmentation, as though it must disintegrate into an endless multiplicity and dissolve into all the beings out of which the cosmos is composed’.p. 41
All things have an end, including fear, doubt and dissolution. Steiner indicates that at last knowledge and balance are regained:
‘And finally man passes through a stage when he ought to feel himself to be only an instrument, a tool’.Steiner, 1970, p.42
Thus it is possible to see a journey from the known world, through confusion to greater certainty, to a condition of selflessness and service (more of this later). Artistically for me this has been a going backwards and a going forwards. Backwards to an art that was never representational, (pre-Renaissance) and forwards to a means of expressing something that perhaps gives a foretaste of art beyond the turmoil of the threshold. Let’s start by going back.
In the work of Kandinsky De Koonig and Pollock one can see a definite transition from recognizable form to pure colour ‘vibration’, it is as if the world dissolves. An example of this halfway state is Pollock’s painting, Male and Female:
‘The title does not clear the matter up, since it is possible to see male and female attributes in each of the figures. Passage yields to passage in an enriched virtuoso vocabulary of splatters, drips, swirls, scumbles, gestures, arabesques, filled-in shapes, and inscribed numbers, hieroglyphics of painterly calligraphy that, for all its energy, never crowds or squeezes the picture’.Frank, 1983, p.41
For me and what I have called ‘Dynamic Art’ this is the crucial phase, the stage before complete dissolution. Because in order to show something of the ‘beyond’ one needs to reference back to the recognizable, using the language of form and colour in a new way. Gordon, R (1960) writes about this:
‘We are at the moment on the verge of a new entry into the Symbolical Archetypal world which must be entered in full consciousness rather than intuitively as was done in ancient Egypt’.p.5
Realism and Abstraction are extremes and I would like to see my art, Dynamic Art, functioning in a kind of middle ground. Thus references to and indications of the ‘known’ world are used, but not so much as vehicles of emotion and instinct as of concepts and gestures. Not concepts in a dry and intellectual sense, but in terms of ‘ideals’ inspired by Spirituality, brought to realization through artistic processes.
Because on one level what can really be achieved as ‘New’ in art? Just about everything imaginable has been done. The challenge is not in new gimmicks, bizarre juxtapositions, retro-mappings, but in something inward and ‘personal’, something that individualizes and humanizes. And that’s where I see the challenge of ‘Dynamic Art’, the personal that which is the very essence of individuality, should somehow reflect values, ideals and aspirations which are universal. Cecil Collins (2002) puts it beautifully:
‘In our Age one of the great tasks for Art and Religion is the strong re-affirmation of the supreme holiness of all human identity’.p. 101
I suggest that the further in you go, the more universal the language of inner experience becomes. Jung (1967) talks about the ‘Collective Unconscious’, which can be understood to mean layers upon layers of ‘psychic evolution’ embodied in a single individual:
‘Just as the body has an anatomical prehistory of millions of years, so also does the psychic system. And just as the human body to-day represents in each of its parts the results of this evolution, and everywhere still shows traces of its earlier stages- so the same may be said of the psyche’.p.381
For me this is a going ‘inwards’ to more universally held ‘beliefs’, liberated from dogma and the cloak of sectarian interpretation. Dynamic Art seeks to find a language that can resonate with anybody.
A defining factor of Dynamic Art is the fact that the ‘viewer’ has to become active, something is demanded of the viewer, he cannot just stand, amazed, perplexed, overawed by the art work but must engage actively. What is demanded of the viewer is imagination. Eisner (2001) says:
‘Imagination gives us images of the possible that provide a platform for seeing the actual freshly, we can do something about creating what lies beyond’.p.14
It’s almost as if subtle threads of the imagination, stretching from the viewer to the picture, are actually woven into it. The work of art only attains a kind of completeness if there is somebody in front of it. This somebody continues the creative process, weaves on; brings the image further in his mind. This process is most successful if both the artist and the viewer, or should I say the participant, have developed a certain level of selflessness. The participant has to be free from preconceptions (strong after echoes of ‘high culture’), approach the work freely, freshly without expectations. This has its resonance with Brooks (1998) Goethenistic methods of contemplation, where the phenomenon is allowed to inform and teach the student:
‘This method shares with transcendental phenomenology the idea of purified subjectivity as an instrument of investigation’p. 53
The artist, if he is truly dedicated and serious in his endeavour to demarcate new ground, can also, at times, become a selfless vessel. ‘It’ can create through him, he can become a medium, a messenger as it were from another place, another space, guided by higher powers. This experience can be like the not I, but the Christ in me of St. Paul.