Visionary Art Glossary

A work in progress subject to continual updating. Last update : Dec 2023


Abrasion (Abrazione)
A loss of media or scratches, often resulting in a loss on the surface, extending to the paint and ground layers, caused by faulty cleaning, friction as well as where the frame touches the painted surface.

Accelerated Perspective
Accelerated perspective is an intentional exaggeration of perspective often in a stage setting to permit a shallower than appears actual stage depth. Accelerated perspective was developed in stage scenery in sixteenth-century theater productions. It shows objects as if they were farther away than they really are by diminishing their size or by elevating the visual horizon so that the stage appears is sloped upwards in order to accelerate effects of perspective diminution. The term is also used to describe non-mathematically derived perspective that create an exaggerated sense of spatial depth, drawing the spectator violently in the space of the painting.

An altarpiece is a picture or relief representing a sacred motif or subject and suspended in a frame behind the altar of a temple/church/sacred space.

A term from Neoplatonism, which refers to the process of transcending physical reality to achieve spiritual understanding. In the context of visionary and sacred art, anagoge can refer to the power of art to help individuals transcend the material world and connect with the divine.

A longing for a time you’ve never known. From Greek: Greek anemos, ‘wind’ + noos ‘mind’. Anemoia is a psychological corollary to anemosis, which is when a tree is warped by strong air currents until it seems to bend backward, leaning into the wind.

A broadly applied term which refers to the history and culture of a period of Western civilization. It is primarily used in an art-historical context to describe Greco-Roman life and art in Europe prior to the decline of the Roman empire.

The literary, cultural and architectural remains surviving from Antiquity were particularly valued during the Renaissance. Artists might depict Roman ruins in the background or use classical inscriptions and Roman lettering within a picture. They also sought archaeological exactness in dress.

Refers to the wire framework upon which clay may be sculpted – like the skeleton of a body, it is covered but vital to structure. It is also the term given to geometric organisational layouts underpinning painted compositions.

Atmospheric Perspective (Arial Perspective)
A principle taken from observable nature by the painter to depict distance in their work. As the distance between objects, such as mountain ranges, and the viewer increases, the contrast between the object and its background decreases, and the contrast of any markings or details within the object also decreases.

Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627–1678), a seventeenth-century Dutch painter remarked that “it appears that [in nature] the air forms a body even over a short distance, and clothes itself in the color of the heavens.”

The colours of the object become less saturated and shift towards the hue and value of the general atmosphere such as the blue of the sky, though at sunrise or sunset distant colors may shift towards red and the aforementioned principles may be inversed.

Atmospheric perspective had been firmly established as a mimetic device by the fifteenth century, and explanations of its effects were written by polymaths such as Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519). The landscape in the background of da Vinci’s portrait of Ginevra de Benci provides an early example of aerial perspective.

A Dutch term used to describe a style of an older artist who no longer conforms to any current or prevailing style. Such a style is often seen as visionary, for example the late style of Rembrandt (1606–1669) or Titian (c. 1488/1490–1576), or Beethoven’s late string quartets, or in recent history the works of Ernst Fuchs  (13 February 1930 – 9 November 2015)  and H.R Giger (5 February 1940 – 12 May 2014).

Autochthonous revival
Refers to a cultural movement that seeks to revive and promote the native cultural symbols, lore and traditions of a particular place or region. The term “autochthonous” means indigenous or originating from a particular place, and the revival of such traditions is often seen as a response to the cultural hegemony of modernist influences.

Autochthonous revival movements can take many forms, including cultural festivals, art, language revitalization efforts, traditional music and dance performances, and the creation of paintings and literature. These movements often emphasize the importance of preserving the cultural heritage of a particular place or region, as well as the need to resist cultural homogenization and maintain the distinctiveness of cultures.

An implied or visible straight line in painting or sculpture in the center of a form along its dominant direction. In painting, consciously employed axes are used to give structure and stabilize the composition, analogous to the spine does in the human body.

Pictorial balance is an arrangement of parts aimed at achieving a state of visual equilibrium between opposing forces or influences. Balance may be achieved by various methods including symmetry and asymmetry. Renaissance painters such as Raphael (1483–1520) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), balanced some of their works around a rigorous symmetrical design. Raphael placed the most important figure in the middle of the composition, with balancing figures on each side, a standard arrangement for all classically balanced pictures. 

An aesthetic greatly developed by the Swiss artist Hans Rudi Giger, representing a fusion of the organic and mechanic, occuring in a physical and sexualised way rather than via the intellectual or cerebral envisionings of the cyberpunk genre. Highly influential and triggering, HR Gigers influence has become pervasive within movies, computer games, tattoo work and painting.

A term from Aristotle’s Poetics, which refers to the emotional release or purification that can result from experiencing a work of art. In the context of visionary and sacred art, catharsis can refer to the transformative power of art to help individuals connect with the divine.

In Italian capriccio (plural, capricci) means that which is capricious, whimsical or fantastic. In relation to painting the term is usually used to describe imaginary topographical scenes.

The Venetian landscape painter Francesco Guardi (1712–1793) recombined capricci with natural architectural elements, drawn from actual sites, to create inventive relationships for decorative effects.

Piranesi (1720-1778) , the supreme exponent of topographical engraving, was particularly adept at such visionary Architectural Capricci.

Fantastical view of the Via Appia. Engraving by Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Capriccio themes echoee in Shelley’s celebrated Sonnet Ozymandias:I met a traveller from an antique land, Who said — “two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert… near them, on the sand, Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lips, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; And on the pedestal these words appear: My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, Look on my Works ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away

Chiaro – Light. Scuro – Dark, or shadow.
In painting, a style emphasising dramatic contrasts between light and dark.

Continuous Narrative
Continuous narrative represents different parts of a single story within the same visual space, using of two or more chronologically distinct episodes, which repeat characters as necessary.

 (Italian pronunciation: [kontrapˈposto]) is an Italian term that means “counterpoise”. It is used in the visual arts to describe a human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot, so that its shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs in the axial plane. More generally: The curved line around the straight.

In classical philosophy, notably explored by Plato and later by Plotinus, refers to a guiding spirit or divine influence. Plato viewed daimons as intermediaries between gods and humans. In Plotinus’ Neoplatonism, daimons embody higher spiritual principles.

Under Christianity, the term’s meaning transformed. Daimons were often associated with malevolent entities, leading to their characterization as demons. The Christian interpretation deviated from the original philosophical concept, reflecting a shift in understanding and adoption of terminology within different cultural and religious contexts

(Classical Ancient Philosophy): In Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophy, the demiurge is a divine craftsman or creator responsible for shaping the material world.

Depth Psychology
(Transpersonal Psychology): Depth psychology is a branch of psychology that explores the unconscious mind’s profound impact on human behavior and experiences. Originating with thinkers like Sigmund Freud and later expanded upon by Carl Jung, depth psychology delves into the hidden layers of the psyche, examining the influence of dreams, symbols, and archetypes. In the context of art, depth psychology becomes a tool for artists to express and explore the depths of the unconscious, giving form to symbols and themes that transcend surface-level consciousness. Artists engaged in depth psychology often draw inspiration from dreams, myths, and the collective unconscious to create works rich in psychological symbolism and meaning.

(Classical Ancient Philosophy): In ancient Greek thought, eidolon means an “image” or “phantasm.” It’s often used in the context of Platonic philosophy to describe the ideal forms or archetypes that are imperfectly imitated in the physical world.

Entoptic Phenomena

Entoptic phenomena refer to visual experiences that originate within the eye itself, often manifesting as geometric patterns, shapes, or lights. These visual perceptions are not external stimuli but arise from the inner workings of the visual system. Common entoptic phenomena include floaters, afterimages, and the perception of blood vessels or cellular structures. In the context of shamanism and altered states of consciousness, entoptic phenomena may be induced by various practices, such as rhythmic drumming, meditation, or the use of psychointegrator plants, contributing to the symbolic and visionary aspects of spiritual experiences.

A physicalist explanation of entoptic phenomena, acknowledged in ophthalmology, face controversies in more traditional ‘spiritual’ contexts. Critics argue for cultural and psychological influences in shamanic or psychedelic settings. Subjectivity, limited research, and debates on inherent significance and hallucination overlap add complexity to understanding these visual experiences.

Fantastic Realism (or, Vienna School of Fantastic Realism)
Wiener Schule des Phantastischen Realismus is a group of artists founded in Vienna in 1946. It includes Ernst Fuchs, Arik Brauer, Wolfgang Hutter and Anton Lehmden, all students of Professor Albert Paris Gütersloh at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. It was Gütersloh’s emphasis on the techniques of the Old Masters that gave the fantastic realist painters a grounding in realism combined with religious and esoteric symbolism. 

Fetish (fetishism)
In art and cultural studies, fetishism refers to the attribution of magical or supernatural properties to objects. It can also involve an obsessive or irrational devotion to certain aspects of art, often associated with specific rituals or beliefs.

In contemporary art and cultural discourse, fetishism extends beyond the supernatural and includes the excessive or obsessive devotion to objects, symbols, or practices. It explores the psychological and sociocultural aspects of attachment, often revealing complex relationships between individuals and the symbolic value attributed to certain elements.

In philosophy, flux denotes constant change and impermanence. Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic thinker, embodied this concept in his famous phrase “panta rhei” (everything flows). Flux encapsulates the dynamic nature of existence, illustrating the perpetual state of transformation in the material world. Artists often draw inspiration from flux to portray the ephemerality of life, using it as a thematic foundation for capturing the ever-shifting aspects of reality in their works.

A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop.

Driven by recursion, fractals are images of dynamic systems – the pictures of Chaos.

Seen from an angle. An aspect of perspective. The size of an object’s dimensions along the line of sight are relatively shorter than dimensions across the line of sight

An art technique involving the use of smoke or soot to create unique patterns and textures on a surface. Artists often employ candles or open flames to generate the smoke, allowing it to deposit on the canvas or paper.

A surrealist technique developed by Max Ernst. It involves rubbing a pencil or other drawing instrument over a textured surface to create a pattern. The resulting image is often unexpected and abstract.

Drawing from psychology and classical philosophy, Gestalt in art explores the holistic perception of forms. Artists employ Gestalt principles to create unified compositions, reflecting the interconnectedness of elements in the viewer’s psyche, drawing inspiration from the philosophical concept of unity.

A term that is often associated with esoteric and mystical knowledge, particularly in the context of Gnosticism, a religious movement that emerged in the early Christian era. In the context of sacred art, Gnosis can refer to the spiritual insight or understanding that is conveyed through visual imagery.

In many religious traditions, sacred art is viewed not only as a means of aesthetic expression, but also as a way of conveying spiritual truths and insights. Through the use of symbols, allegory, and other forms of visual language, sacred art can offer a glimpse into the divine and the mystical.

In sacred art, Gnosis can be conveyed through the use of symbols, such as the halo or the mandorla, which represent the divine radiance and illumination that can be attained through spiritual enlightenment. It can also be conveyed through the depiction of mystical experiences or visionary encounters with the divine, as seen in the art of William Blake or the visionary art of Alex Grey.

Golden Mean
The Golden Mean, an Aristotelian concept, advocates moderation and balance. In art, it guides the creation of harmonious compositions, where proportions and elements achieve a balanced equilibrium, reflecting classical ideals and aesthetic beauty.

Golden Ratio
The Golden Ratio, a mathematical proportion revered in classical philosophy, appears in art as a divine aesthetic principle. Linked to harmony and balance, artists utilize this ratio to imbue their works with a sense of cosmic order, echoing the classical belief in a harmonious cosmos.

‘Grove of Academe’
This refers to a symbolic or artistic representation of the sacred space associated with Plato’s Academy. In art, it may depict serene groves or academic settings where philosophers and scholars engage in contemplative discussions and creative pursuits. This concept encapsulates the ethos of classical philosophy, emphasizing the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, and artistic exploration within a tranquil and inspirational environment

A term used to describe the study or artistic representation of the lives of saints and other holy figures. The word “hagiography” comes from the Greek hagios, meaning “holy,” and graphein, meaning “to write.” Hagiography can refer to written accounts of the lives of saints, as well as to works of art that depict scenes from their lives.

Hermeticism is a philosophical and mystical tradition rooted in the teachings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. In art, Hermeticism may influence symbolism, emphasizing the interconnectedness of the macrocosm and microcosm. Artists may incorporate hermetic principles, such as the doctrine of correspondences, into their work, weaving esoteric symbols and meanings into the fabric of their creations.

Hierophany refers to the manifestation of the sacred or divine in the material world. In classical philosophy and mysticism, artists may channel hierophanies through their work, depicting symbols and narratives that transcend the mundane and offer glimpses of the transcendent.

A holon is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part. The word was used by Arthur Koestler in his book The Ghost in the Machine.

The phrase to hólon is a Greek word preceding the Latin analogue universum, in the sense of totality, a whole.

Meaning ‘toward wholeness’. Holotropic states of consciousness involve altered mental states characterized by a sense of unity, interconnectedness, and expanded awareness. In transpersonal psychology, artists may explore and express these states through their creations, providing a visual language for the ineffable experiences associated with mystical and transcendent realms.

The Horae were goddesses of the seasons and natural cycles in ancient Greek mythology, and they were often depicted in art as beautiful young women. The tradition of depicting the Horae in art has a long history, dating back to ancient Greek and Roman times.

In Greek mythology, the Horae were said to be the daughters of Zeus and the Titaness Themis. They were responsible for maintaining the natural order and were associated with the changing of the seasons, the passing of time, and the cyclical nature of life.

In Roman art, the Horae were known as the “Hours,” and were depicted in a similar manner to their Greek counterparts. They were often shown holding a key or a scepter, symbolizing their role as keepers of the natural order.

The tradition of depicting the Horae in art continued into the Renaissance and beyond, with many artists incorporating them into their works. One notable example is Botticelli’s “Primavera,” which features three Horae in the center of the painting, surrounded by a group of other mythological figures.

Humanism was a move away from a religious view of the world, where God and the Church were the centre of the social and cultural focus, to one which saw human beings as being the agents of their own destiny and thus the focus of society and culture.

A cultural and intellectual movement of the Renaissance that emphasized secular concerns as a result of the rediscovery and study of the literature, art, and civilization of ancient Greece and Rome.

Icon (Iconography, Ikon, Ikonography)
A spiritual icon in art is a sacred representation that holds profound symbolic meaning within a religious or spiritual context. These icons often depict revered figures, deities, or spiritual concepts, serving as a focal point for contemplation, prayer, and worship. Icons go beyond aesthetic value, acting as conduits for connecting individuals with the divine and facilitating a deeper understanding of spiritual truths. They are prevalent in various religious traditions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam.

Iconography, a rich artistic tradition, encompasses symbolic representation in religious and mystical contexts. In Christianity, Byzantine icons use specific symbols to convey spiritual truths. Hindu art employs intricate iconography with deities represented in various forms, each holding symbolic attributes. Islamic art features geometric patterns and calligraphy as visual symbols. In Buddhism, mandalas and mudras serve as iconic representations. Indigenous cultures globally utilize symbolic imagery in ritualistic art. Iconography’s power lies in transcending mere aesthetics, conveying profound meanings, fostering contemplation, and connecting viewers with the sacred and transcendent aspects of their respective traditions. See Neoiconography for contemporary expressions.

Idealism contrasts with materialism and postivism – Idealism posits that reality is fundamentally shaped by the mind, mental constructs are ultimately isomorphic with material existence. In art, this translates to a focus on conveying abstract ideals and concepts rather than strict realism. Plotinus is considered an idealist philosopher. He developed Neoplatonism, which posits the existence of a single, transcendent source (the One) from which everything emanates.  This philosophical stance challenges the dichotomy between mind and matter, asserting that the mind actively shapes and influences the perceived world, leading to a more nuanced and interpretive approach in artistic traditions.

Ideal Form
(Classical Philosophy): Plato’s conceptualization of unchanging, perfect archetypes representing the essence of reality. In art, the pursuit of Ideal Forms involves transcending the material world to capture timeless, universal truths, elevating the work beyond mere representation.

See Mundus Imaginalis

Jung, Carl Gustav (1875–1961)

A pioneering Swiss psychiatrist, delved into the intersections of classical philosophy, mysticism, and transpersonal psychology in art.

1. Archetypes in Art: Jung introduced archetypes, universal symbols in the collective unconscious. In art, archetypes manifest as recurring motifs—symbolic expressions of profound human experiences transcending cultural boundaries.

2. Alchemy and Transformation: Jung’s exploration of alchemy unveiled symbolic parallels between artistic creation, mysticism, and the transformative process. Artists utilize alchemical motifs, portraying inner metamorphoses in visual narratives.

3. Individuation in Classical Myth: Individuation, Jung’s path to self-realization, echoes classical hero myths. Artists, inspired by these narratives, depict the journey toward wholeness through allegorical compositions.

4. Mandalas as Transcendental Art: Mandalas, drawn from Eastern mysticism, represent Jung’s notion of wholeness. In art, mandalas serve as transformative symbols, guiding viewers on a spiritual journey within the artwork’s intricate patterns.

A nuanced concept in ancient Greek philosophy, representing the opportune moment, a qualitative and timely occurrence. It contrasts with Chronos, the quantitative, chronological time. In art, Kairos inspires creators to capture pivotal, transcendent moments that go beyond linear time. In ancient Greek philosophy, Kairos represents the opportune moment, a qualitative and fleeting time. Artists may explore the concept of Kairos in their works, capturing profound moments that transcend chronological time.

(Classical Philosophy): Derived from the Greek word meaning “order” or “world,” Kosmos encompasses the harmonious arrangement of the universe. Artists may interpret and depict the concept of Kosmos in their works, exploring the cosmic order.

The ancient concept of “Kosmos” transcends mere astronomical understanding. In classical philosophy, especially in the works of Plato and Pythagoras, Kosmos represents an ordered, harmonious, and intelligible universe. It embodies not only the physical cosmos but also the metaphysical and moral order. Unlike modern astronomy’s “Cosmos,” which primarily refers to the physical universe, “Kosmos” encompasses a holistic worldview that integrates the celestial, ethical, and metaphysical dimensions. It reflects an interconnected and purposeful cosmos

Logos, in classical philosophy, embodies the principle of divine reason and order. Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic philosopher, stated: “Everything flows, nothing stands still. … You cannot step into the same river twice.” This captures the dynamic aspect of Logos as an ever-changing principle shaping reality. Additionally, in Stoicism, Seneca expressed the Stoic view of Logos: “God is near you, he is with you, he is within you.” This reflects the idea of Logos as an immanent force in the cosmos and within human consciousnessLogos weaves through Stoicism, Neoplatonism, and Christianity. Artists, inspired by Logos, craft intricate visuals portraying the cosmic order, symbolizing the interplay of divine intellect and material reality.In art, Logos may be depicted as a guiding force, influencing composition and symbolism, reflecting the harmonious balance inherent in the universe.

The labyrinth symbolizes spiritual journey and self-discovery. In art, labyrinths represent the complex paths of the mind, inviting viewers to explore inner realms and contemplate the mysteries of existence.

Liminality refers to the transitional or in-between phase of a ritual or a rite of passage, during which individuals or communities experience a state of ambiguity, ambiguity, and suspension of normal social norms. The term was popularized by anthropologist Arnold van Gennep and later developed by Victor Turner.

Key characteristics of liminality include:

  1. Transition: Liminal phases mark a transition between two distinct states or stages in a social or cultural context.
  2. Ambiguity: During liminality, the usual social structures and hierarchies are often disrupted, leading to a sense of ambiguity and fluidity.
  3. Communitas: Liminal experiences often foster a sense of communitas, a feeling of equality and solidarity among those undergoing the transition.
  4. Symbolism: Symbolic elements, rituals, and practices are often prominent during liminal phases, helping individuals or groups navigate the transition.
  5. Transformation: Liminality is considered a transformative experience, where individuals may undergo personal or social change before re-entering the mainstream social structure.

An example of liminality is the transition from adolescence to adulthood in certain cultural initiation rites. During this phase, individuals may experience a temporary suspension of their usual roles and statuses, engaging in rituals and practices that mark their passage into a new social identity.

In mysticism, lunar symbolism represents the feminine, intuitive, and reflective aspects. Artists may incorporate lunar motifs to convey mystical experiences, emphasizing the interconnectedness of the moon with cycles, emotions, and the subconscious in their works.

Derived from the Italian maniera, meaning simply “style,” mannerism is sometimes defined as the “stylish style” for its emphasis on self-conscious artifice over realistic depiction. … Mannerism coincided with a period of upheaval that was torn by the Reformation, plague, and the devastating sack of Rome.

The figures in Mannerist works frequently have graceful but queerly elongated limbs, small heads, and stylized facial features, while their poses seem difficult or contrived. … The Mannerist style completely emerged in the paintings of these artists as well as in those of Parmigianino.

Applying the Darwinian evolutionary algorithm to the mental space, in The Selfish Gene (Dawkins 1976) the great English ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins defined a `meme’ as: “a unit of cultural transmission”.

`The new soup is the soup of human culture. We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation… Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.’

Dawkins [1976]

Memetics proposes that our minds are a terrain or ecosystem host to ‘ideas’, rather than ideas being an intrisic part of our personality structure. Such an approach is useful in the examination of ideologies, as it gives ‘wiggle room’ between one’s ‘core identity’ and what one ‘believes’. It is also a useful theory through which to understand the spread and competition of ideas

Subdefinitions relating to memetics (the study of memes)

  • Memeplex – a collection or grouping of memes that have evolved into a mutually supportive or symbiotic relationship. Simply put, a meme-complex is a set of ideas that reinforce each other. An example of a memeplex would be a religion or political creed.
  • Meme pool – a population of interbreeding memes.
  • Memetic engineering – The process of deliberately creating memes, using engineering principles.
  • Memeoid – people who have been ‘possessed’ by a meme to the extent that their own survival becomes inconsequential. 
  • Memetic equilibrium – the cultural equivalent of species biological equilibrium. It is that which humans strive for in terms of personal value with respect to cultural artefacts and ideas. The term was coined by Christopher diCarlo.
  • Metamemetic thinking – coined by Diego Fontanive, is the thinking skill & cognitive training capable of making individuals acknowledge illogical memes.
  • Eumemics – the belief and practice of deliberately improving the quality of the meme pool.
  • Memocide – intentional action to eradicate a meme or memeplex from the population, either by killing its carriers or by censorship.

Historical correlations to ‘memes’ could include everything from ‘discarnate entities’, ‘egregores’, ‘spirit possession’, ‘archetypes’, and so on.

Mundus Imaginalis
Henry Corbin refers to the mundus imaginalis as having a ‘central mediating function’ so that all levels of reality may ‘symbolise with each other’ .

“The technical term that designates it in Arabic, ‘alam a mithal, can perhaps also be translated by mundus archetypus… the same word that serves in Arabic to designate the Platonic Ideas… these images subsist preexistent to and ordered before the sensory world… a world in which subsist the forms of all works accomplished, the forms of our thoughts and our desires, of our presentiments and our behavior. It is this composition that constitutes ‘alam al-mithal, the mundus imaginalis.”

For Corbin, the mundus imaginalis is a ‘fully objective and real world with equivalents for everything existing in the sensible world without being perceptible by the senses’ .

Reference: Corbin, ‘Mundus imaginalis, or the imaginary and the imaginal’, 1972. 

Telling a story – such as a sacred myth – through pictorial fields and representations.

Refers to a contemporary revival or reinterpretation of traditional iconography, particularly in the context of religious or spiritual art. It involves the creation of new icons that maintain the symbolic language and spiritual significance of traditional iconography while incorporating modern artistic styles and expressions. Neoiconography reflects a dynamic fusion of historical iconographic elements with contemporary artistic sensibilities, often seeking to convey timeless spiritual messages in a relevant and accessible manner.

Originating in the 3rd century CE, extends Plato’s philosophy, emphasizing the ascent of the soul toward the divine. Neoplatonic emanations begin with the ineffable “One,” the ultimate reality. From it emanates the “Nous” (Intellect), containing divine archetypes. The “World Soul” emanates from the Nous, connecting the divine with the material. Individual souls, emanating from the World Soul, journey towards reunification with the divine through philosophical and spiritual ascent.

Neoplatonism’s lineage traces back to Plotinus and extends through philosophers like Porphyry and Iamblichus. Its influence endured in medieval Islamic and Christian thinkers. In the Renaissance, it resurged, impacting art and philosophy. Marsilio Ficino, a Renaissance philosopher, popularized Neoplatonism. His translations of Plato and Plotinus, coupled with his own writings, influenced artists and thinkers. Botticelli, known for “The Birth of Venus,” embraced Neoplatonic ideals, infusing his art with spiritual symbolism. Raphael’s “The School of Athens” also reflects Neoplatonic themes.

(Transpersonal Psychology and Art): Pertaining to dreams. In art, oneiric imagery involves dream-like, surreal elements that evoke the unconscious. This concept is central in both transpersonal psychology, where dreams are seen as gateways to the unconscious, and in art movements like Surrealism.

Prefiguration & Prophesy
To show or suggest something that may or will happen in the future.

Prime of Styles (Ein Verschollener Stil)
Designated by Ernst Fuchs – a ‘hidden prime’, a secret grammar expressing itself through the human representations of the divine. The theory of which he set forth in his inspired and grandiose book Architectura Caelestis: Die Bilder des verschollenen Stils (Salzburg, 1966).

A concept from ancient literature, often depicted in art, representing the battle of the soul, illustrating inner conflict between vices and virtues. This allegorical concept is prevalent in classical philosophy and religious art.

In mythology, a psychopomp is a guide of souls to the afterlife. In art and psychology, it represents a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms, guiding the individual in their psychological and spiritual journey.

Perennialism, or, perennial philosophy 
(Latinphilosophia perennis),[note 1] also referred to as perennialism and perennial wisdom, is a perspective in spirituality that views all of the world’s religious traditions as sharing a single, metaphysical truth or origin from which all esoteric and exoteric knowledge and doctrine has grown.

Perennialism has its roots in the Renaissance interest in neo-Platonism and its idea of the One, from which all existence emanates.  In the 20th century universalism was further popularized in the English-speaking world through the neo-Vedanta inspired Traditionalist School, which argued for a metaphysical, single origin of the orthodox religions

In alchemical and mystical traditions, quintessence represents the purest, incorruptible substance. In visionary and outsider art, quintessence can manifest as symbolic representations of spiritual purity, transcending conventional artistic forms to convey the ineffable and divine in unconventional ways.

Renaissance Man/Woman  (Traditional) 
Renaissance Person (Modern colloquialism) 
A person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. The term was first used in the seventeenth century but the related term, polyhistor, is an ancient term with similar meaning.

These thinkers embodied a notion that emerged in Renaissance Italy and that was expressed by one of its most accomplished representatives, Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472), that “a man can do all things if he will.” The concept embodied a basic tenet of Renaissance humanism, that humans are empowered and limitless in their capacity for development, and it led to the notion that people should embrace all knowledge and develop their capacities as fully as possible.

The term applies to the gifted people of the Renaissance who sought to develop their abilities in all areas of knowledge as well as in physical development, social accomplishments, and the arts, in contrast to the vast majority of people of that age who were not well educated. This term entered the lexicon during the twentieth century and has been applied to great thinkers living before and after the Renaissance.

Smoke/mist/haze. A term given to extremely subtle nuanced blending in order to create indeterminate ‘edges’ that may change according to viewers subjective state or interaction with various light conditions within the oil glaze. It is the endevour of the painter to make the separation of masses soft, blurry and indeterminate. Its’ emergence as an approach is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci but is evident in the work of Giovanni Bellini and his students Giorgione and Titian.
It is a style used pervasively within the contemporary visual arts. Though some artists still explore and pursue sfumato with conscious emphasis and using approaches such as the airbrush to perfect the effect. 

Shamanism, a cross-cultural spiritual practice, involves intermediaries (shamans) connecting realms. Anthropological theories view shamans as mediators between the human and spirit worlds. ‘Shamanism’, rooted in the etymology of the term ‘saman’ from the Tungus people of Siberia, gained prominence through the anthropological insights of Mircea Eliade. Employing methods such as rhythmic drumming, chanting, and trance induced by psychedelic plants, shamans access altered states, what Eliade called ‘techniques of ecstasy’. Utilizing trance, often induced by psychedelic plants, dance, and meditation, shamans access altered states. Entoptic visions shape their spiritual experiences, influencing mythogenesis. Collective healing is central, as shamans address individual and community ailments.

In the contemporary world, issues of spiritual commodification and the cultural appropriation of traditional symbols emerge, as shamans have become enigmatic romantic figures in the western anthropological imagination. With this caution, there are many parallels to be found between shamanistic and artistic practices. The connection between shamanism and art lies in their shared ability to express, symbolize, and embody the spiritual dimensions of human existence.

Latin : Breath/hiss/heart
An alternative term for ‘sfumato abrazione’ coined by Daniel Mirante to describe a sfumato approach, either via mouth spray, atomiser or air brush, combined with forms of reductive technique.

The theory of sublime art was put forward by Edmund Burke in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful published in 1757. He defined the sublime as an artistic effect productive of the strongest emotion the mind is capable of feeling. He wrote ‘whatever is in any sort terrible or is conversant about terrible objects or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime’. In landscape the sublime is exemplified by J.M.W Turner’s sea storms and mountain scenes and in history painting by the violent dramas of Henry Fuseli. The notion that a legitimate function of art can be to produce upsetting or disturbing effects was an important element in Romantic art and remains fundamental to art today.

Ancient Roman verb stupeo, a term which strongly marks the state of an astonished mind, to express the effect either of simple fear, or of astonishment

The combination of different forms of belief or practice. In the context of art, syncretic works may blend themes, motifs, and styles from various cultural or philosophical backgrounds to create a new, hybrid form.

C. G. Jung relates the temenos to the spellbinding or magic circle, which acts as a ‘square space’ or ‘safe spot’ where mental ‘work’ can take place. This temenos resembles among others a ‘symmetrical rose garden with a fountain in the middle’ (the ‘squared circle’) in which an encounter with the unconscious can be had and where these unconscious contents can safely be brought into the light of consciousness. In this manner one can meet one’s own Shadow, Animus/Anima, Wise Old Wo/Man (Senex) and finally the Self, names that Jung gave to archetypal personifications of (unpersonal) unconscious contents which seem to span all cultures.[12]

A permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigment mixed with a water-soluble binder medium, or egg whites

One of the qualities most admired by Michelangelo’s contemporaries was his terribilità, a sense of awe-inspiring grandeur.

(Classical Ancient Philosophy and Art): Derived from Greek, meaning a contemplation or meditation on death. In art, this term can refer to works that explore the nature of death, the afterlife, or the transience of life, often rooted in ancient philosophical ideas about mortality.

A term from Aristotle’s philosophy, which refers to contemplation or intellectual understanding. In the context of visionary and sacred art, theoria can refer to the intellectual or spiritual insights that can be gained from experiencing or creating art.

A term from Neoplatonism, which refers to the use of rituals and spiritual practices to connect with the divine. In the context of visionary and sacred art, theurgy can refer to the use of art as a tool for spiritual transformation and connection with the divine.

Iamblichus was a Neoplatonic philosopher who lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, and he was known for his writings on theurgy, which he saw as a means of spiritual ascent and communion with the divine.

In Iamblichus’ view, theurgy was a form of divine magic or ritual that involved invoking the aid of the gods and goddesses through the use of symbols, incantations, and other sacred practices. Through theurgy, practitioners sought to purify their souls and align themselves with the divine, and to ultimately achieve a state of spiritual union with the gods.

Iamblichus emphasized the importance of theurgic practices such as the invocation of divine names, the use of sacred images and symbols, and the performance of ritual sacrifices and offerings.

Traditionalist School 
A group of 20th- and 21st-century thinkers who believe in the existence of a perennial wisdom or perennial philosophy, primordial and universal truths which form the source for, and are shared by, all the major world religions.

The principal thinkers in this tradition are René GuénonAnanda Coomaraswamy and Frithjof Schuon. Other important thinkers in this tradition include Titus BurckhardtMartin Lings, etc

Refers to the concept of a hypothetical, original language from which all languages are derived. In the context of classical philosophy and mysticism, it represents a symbolic or divine language that holds inherent wisdom. Artists in visionary or outsider art might explore the idea of Ursprach as a source of inspiration, creating works that reflect the mystical and transcendent qualities associated with this concept.

Rooted in classical philosophy, a vates is a seer or prophet. In the context of visionary art, artists may be seen as modern-day vates, channeling insights and transcendent visions into their creations, acting as conduits between the seen and the unseen.

Veduta ideata
Larger-than-life depictions of ancient civilisations in their glory

Veduta di fantasi
Architectural fantasies of things that may have existed but are forgotten, or may yet be to come, or exist soley as an ideal, or metaphor or allegory.

In the realm of art, “visionary” refers to a style that goes beyond the ordinary, tapping into profound insights, spiritual dimensions, and heightened states of consciousness. Visionary art seeks to manifest unseen realities, often drawing inspiration from mysticism, transpersonal psychology, and classical philosophy. Artists labeled as visionary often explore the mystical, transcendental, or otherworldly aspects of existence, using their creations to evoke a sense of awe, wonder, and connection to the divine. This genre encompasses a diverse range of expressions, from psychedelic landscapes to symbolic representations of inner visions

Rooted in Japanese aesthetics, Wabi-Sabi embraces imperfection, impermanence, and simplicity. In the context of outsider art, Wabi-Sabi influences artists to celebrate the raw, unpolished nature of their creations, finding beauty in the unconventional and unconventional expressions.

Weltanschauung (Worldview)
In classical philosophy, Weltanschauung refers to a comprehensive worldview or philosophy of life. In art, it influences how artists interpret and portray the world, shaping the themes, symbols, and narratives in visionary and outsider creations.

Wisdom (Sophia)
Wisdom, often referred to as “Sophia” in Greek philosophy, represents the pursuit of knowledge, insight, and virtue. It is a central concept in various philosophical traditions, including Platonic and Stoic philosophies. In Gnostic thought, Sophia is a celestial being associated with divine wisdom and the emanation of spiritual understanding. Her journey involves descending into the material world and seeking reunification with the divine. The personification of Sophia serves as a symbolic representation of the human quest for wisdom and spiritual enlightenment across different cultural and philosophical contexts.

Wuji (無極)
A concept from Daoist philosophy, wuji represents formlessness. In art, wuji inspires a state of creative potential, echoing mysticism and transpersonal psychology in the exploration of limitless artistic expression.