About Visionary Art

True Culture is based upon Immanence & Transcendence.

Visionary Art – The Marriage of the Static and the Dynamic.

The first forms of art were revealed and created by our ancient ancestors and perpetuated through an unbroken chain of transmission. Art contained the essence of a people, their identity, their story, their history, their longings, and their belief in the goal and destination of human life.

Aesthetic forms, styles and symbols arose out of explosions of creativity and then settled into modes of refinement and repetition, punctuated by periods of dynamic change.

Sacred art cannot be defined and understood soley by its static or traditional expression, but sacred art also exists within the personal creative impulse. This is the meeting of the ‘transcendent’ ideal forms with the ‘immanent’ personal experience. To the meeting of these two poles we give the name Visionary Art.

Historical Context

In 14th century Italy, the Quattrocento,  western painting made a transition from ikon painting and the strict transition of traditional forms, into a more dynamic and more personal artistic vision. the transition occurred in stages in-step with the rapid technological transformations of the western world. The changing worldviews, cultures and modes of relationship to nature and community precipitated dynamic transformations in artistic depictions of inner and exterior life.

Ikon painting, for the primary purpose of personal worship, started evolving into larger, more complex ‘narrative’ or ‘mythic painting’, and then humanistic aspects of such myths became particularised into archetypes of common human experience. This happened during a time where the writings of Plato and Homer were being unearthed from the past and restored to cultural memory, inducing artists and scholars to reflect on the relative nature of cultural mythic systems. This rapid shift – occurring in a single generation – is most strongly represented in the paintings of Mantegna, Botticelli, Giovanni Bellini, and his apprentices Giorgione and Titian.

Mantegna

With the high renaissance and mannerism these depictions became ever more ‘humanistic’ and specific to individual experience, with the relationship to the strict forms of transmitted tradition becoming ever looser. With Symbolism, Romanticism and Surrealism, the nebulous and increasingly idiosyncratic and diverse personal experience of the Mysterium Tremendum came to the fore, shortly before being overwritten by modernism and post-modernism.

The Current Epoch : Spiritual Renewal

Traditional cultures continue to practice the static forms of art such as ikon painting and mandala or thanka painting. We must note however the fact of decline of engagement in traditional religions. The value systems, moral and ethical systems and ideals of tradition and its juxtaposition with western world comprises a tension rather than a harmony. It is however possible that visionary or sacred art may develop itself beyond its dis-empowered relationship to traditional art markets and galleries and rather comprise a fruitful area of human creativity, expression and knowledge in its own right, as a vital perpetuation of the sacred forms and symbols, a ‘new seasons effoliation’ upon the tree of Sacred Art.

Despite the official history depicting the supremacy of modernity over tradition, painterly lines have diverged and continued to explore the Mysterium tremendum et fascinans (1) with technique and form maintaining stronger ties to tradition than may at first be appreciated. Even Salvador Dali or Ernst Fuchs had in their own ways incorporated ancient hieratic art, renaissance and mannerism into their study as they simultaneously explored their own personal symbolism. In visionary art therefore we see the potential integration of the conservative traditional forms with the dynamic personal creativity – the marriage of the Immanent & The Transcendent.

Beksinski
Beksinski

Cross Cultural Perspectives

We live in a multi-polar world of civilisational models that have evolved independently, or through competition or synthesis.  Traditional civilisations contain numerous correlations between values, which are expounded in the philosophy of ‘Perennialism‘ (2). And yet it can be one of the most enlightening things to learn of our own culture from the perspective of a different culture. Therefore where possible the Era of Visions project attempts to incorporate, communicate and correlate across the various traditions, whilst respecting their unique integrity.


Footnotes

1.
‘Mysterium tremendum et fascinans’
Outline of Rudolf Otto’s concept of the numinous
 (based on The Idea of the Holy. Trans. John W. Harvey. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1923; 2nd ed., 1950 [Das Heilige, 1917]): “Mysterium tremendum et fascinans” (fearful and fascinating mystery):

Mysterium“: Wholly Other, experienced with blank wonder, stupor
tremendum“: awefulness, terror, demonic dread, awe, absolute unapproachability, “wrath” of God, overpoweringness, majesty, might, sense of one’s own nothingness in contrast to its power, creature-feeling, sense of objective presence, dependence, energy, urgency, will, vitality
fascinans“: potent charm, attractiveness in spite of fear, terror, etc.


2.
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


3.
Mundus Imaginalis
“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.”
-Mundus Imaginalis, or the Imaginary and the Imaginal by Henri Corbin