Primordial energy in Art.

Simply put, for me the process of creative artistic endeavors involves the constant exploration of intuitive approaches to alternative ways of «seeing» combined with technical exercises (both accepted and experimental). With several centuries of recorded art history now available as a learning resource and guide, the predilection to limit oneself to long-established styles, genres and motives is often overbearing. It has often been said that all has been done before, and indeed the history of Art is evidence of a dance that is two steps forward and one step back — with each new style yearning to establish itself as “the new original style or genre”.

But what impulses are commonalities in the process of creating Art — i.e. beyond established academic and technical norms? What is it that makes one particular work of Art so encaptivating that it is difficult to get out of our minds? Is there not some primeval instinct that is awakened — perhaps a recognition deep inside? Something that is far more basic and powerful than iconic and archetypal images such as Biblical scenes, the Madonna, or Marilyn Monroe? And is this primordial energy present within the artist whilst these powerful works of art are being made? Oftentimes such works seem to be « guided », divinely inspired; and that they almost paint/create themselves. Almost as if an ingenious idea jumps out at us … or that the « luck » of the Universal providence brings everything together, magically, suddenly and spontaneously. 

And how does the Artist access this primordial energy source? Some decades ago scans of old paintings revealed background sounds embedded in the painted layers. Will we one day be able to research, measure and compare energy output differences from certains works of art? When artists tap into that primordial energy source, how does it feel — excited, a warm burning, joyful, passionate… perhaps an active combination on a short continuum? And is this energy present in all genres and styles of Art? Nature landscapes and figurative works often feel “inspired”. But what about primitive art and some abstract art (eg. works by Rothko, Picasso,  Pollack etc., or even in musical works by Philip Glass and Meredith Monk? 

Many artists over time have employed shamanic rituals, hallucinogens and drugs, alcohol, Kundalini yoga, prayer, chanting, meditation, sex rituals, primal therapy, out of body travel, background music, etc. to attempt to access their primodial energies. And those practices are still explored and practiced today:

Artist and Dharma teacher Kongtrul Jigme Namgyel has written about his own process of painting with an awakened eye:

The mysterious gaze of the Mona Lisa has been explained as a technical effect, but the decisions by the artist involving both the figurative and landscape elements create a subjective overall effect that feels “other-worldly” and which cannot be wholly explained by the subject’s gaze and the technique used. Here DaVinci has – in my opinion – tapped into a primordial source, and achieved much more than a portrait of the subject. He has created an experiential bridge to the Common Viewer, and an unforgettable recognition of something so personally identifiable that it is unforgettable.
Even works by lesser-known and less technically adept artists than the Great Masters sometimes achieve a similar effect as regards primordial recognition. The fact that few (if any) artists have fully replicated that effect from one work of art to the next suggests that this inspiration is a phenomenon, rather than perfection of style and technique. 

Most artists are in and out of “the zone” while both away from and in front of the canvas. Although much of my painting ideas and planning takes place before I actually move from preliminary sketches to actual painting, I do enter another world/another state of mind when painting. There ideas, conversations in my head, constant experimenting and decisionmaking coalesce with “automatic painting” — where the body and less-structure mind move of their own accord in an exciting state of paranormality. Of course, translating these ideas and impulses into proper two-dimensional images that can open the passageway to the Viewers’ own primordial recognition requires a solid mix of technical experience and expertise. But we learn from one artwork to the next, and newly-learned techniques are incorporated or at least considered in subsequent works. In this way, each work of art in progression is a continuation of one’s magical dance in and out of a primordial subconscious.

— Adam Donaldson Powell

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