Saturday, March 28, 2015

Crocheting Spirit


                                  When one is just beginning as an artist it seems too confining to be classified as belonging to some already well in place group. And yet, very rarely any artist would be so unique that a separate cubicle in art taxonomy would have to be made-just for one. Even if the effort at uniqueness made someone to create sculptures using only toothpicks, or  rejecting all materials and just sitting naked at Museum-it will be gathered into [and this is just a provisional name] “daft offerings “group.
                                   Within the broad groupings of contemporary art there is a considerable section of figurative [more-or-less] art and in it many sub-groups. One that always gives me pause and a head-scratch of bewilderment is what they call “spiritual art”. The first, momentary reaction would surely be positive to anything called “spiritual”. The trouble comes next, when you realize that the understanding of the “spiritual”, especially when connected with art is very blurry and the more examples of it you see the less clear it seems.

Spiritual artist Sri Chimnoy

                                   As I examine my own inner life I need to state that I don’t have a “spiritual” life. I experience thoughts and sensations and feelings but none are of “spiritual” nature. The concept of spirituality takes such a prominent place in any proclamations of values, of spheres of our concern and yet-I don’t experience anything that should be called spiritual. When I think what “spiritual” is the answer that comes is that it is a pursuit of imaginary being and elaborating that inner illusion. When that pursuit is crystallized by rituals it is religion.

                                   This is not a definition generally available because usually accepted definition of spirituality is “personal transformation”. I cannot quite grasp it. Why one would need a transformation and are such changes possible?  Who or what requires of all of us “personal transformation”? Of course if you sell a product it must be claimed that everybody needs it, most especially if it assures your good standing with Imaginary Entity always so keen on obeisance.
Another definition that I fashioned is that spirituality is seeking contact with invisible but sentient beings. Rain Dances and letters to Santa would fit that definition well. Turning the prayer wheel or using rosary is seeking to influence the invisible being with piety. In that, writing two books “Conversations with God” should qualify right on top of successful search for any contact with invisible but sentient being. What a triumph: at last! Except that it is of course just so much smooth verbiage-garbage. Nobody who talks with God would be returning to scribbling third-rate books any more than people who intend to pay their rent by publishing a book on how to become a millionaire in 60 days.
                                      However, the air of tacit complicity on the part of both the author and the readers is assumed already in the title [no more credible than “How I was eaten and digested by crocodile”] and if you reached for it you agreed to have your leg pleasurably pulled. Now extend that tacit complicity to the congregations of four churches on my short street   and then beyond to all “spiritual” people on the globe. Nobody is suddenly jumping to the microphone and wailing  in pain over the radical, unbroken absence of the object of their supplications, adoration. As if mind-numbing litanies and polite genuflections could suffice while real contact with the invisible sentient being was irrelevant or even unwelcome.
                                      On all sides we  are surrounded by such thick walls of religious edifices, decorum and custom reaching to us from the layered past and enduring  right into the future to populate, to move all the heavy furniture of their mythologies, so that the future will not be open and yet unwritten, but already musty with past. Malchus will be again and again looking for his bloody ear in the dirt of Gethsemane. God Gamesh will keep his elephant’s trunk because nobody will say-“elephant’s trunk? Are you serious?” Billions of people will believe in god with elephant’s trunk and billion others will believe in Resurrection. With such surplus capacity for believing “spiritual art” has huge audience.
                                      For proper reception of “spiritual art” one has to assume the suspension of skepticism and take it like the book of conversations with God. One has to dim the lights and “play along”.

                                      Spirituality and spiritual art are coating the mouth of the abyss of the Ultimate Unknown with breath-fresheners, offending the Greatest Mystery with domestication routines and blaspheming with soothing bromides. What is particularly galling is lack of visions, repetitiveness, crippling symmetries. The colors are so shrill one wants to run from such “spirituality”. When I look at these examples of spiritual art I see that their authors are crocheting doilies for subatomic particles.

                                                                                  Alex Gray


  1. You caricature a subject, and then follow by criticism of your own limited understanding of the subject, not the subject itself. A typically adolescent debating tactic that I congratulate you for displaying so wonderfully.

  2. Two points in my answer to you.First- I am staying true to my own experience and however much has and is written about it –myself,as a typical human being have to admit that I never experienced what is meant by “spiritual”.It is not willful diminution of the subject by caricature,as you assumed,but indeed total lack of empirical experience.I know that millions have or claim to have spiritual contact with supernatural entities but I am judging this grave matter by my experience,not by literature,not by testimonies of others .70% of Americans “believe” in aliens visiting Earth.Probably even more “believe” in having contact through prayer with divinity.I have deepest doubt about reality of such contact.Seems like self-hypnosis, intense self-delusion.
    So-that is to insist that I have no intension to belittle “spirituality” but proceed by my experience.Second part of my reaction-and more to the subject of my blog is evaluating,considering artistic merits of contemporary art that is classed as “spiritual”.In short-it’s very bad.