‘The Aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.’ Aristotle – Greek Philosopher (384 – 322 BC)
Our ability to imagine is a valuable gift and one to be acknowledged for its vital role in our evolution. By imagining we can think about the inner workings of the universe and form images in our minds of intangible concepts that generate and sustain the world we live in. In our minds we can conceive of possible futures, fantastic alternate realities and of ethereal realms of existence. Then we can call upon numerous, rich symbolic systems to share our inner thoughts and feelings with others; mathematics, music, writing, art and even movement such as hand gestures and dance. Such symbolism has the potency to convey a great deal of information as well as to stir the emotions and we rely on it to bridge our inner and outer worlds.
When we employ symbolism in art, and also the sciences, we are creative beings subtly mimicking Nature and celebrating Her creativity. From the seed of an idea we plant pen on paper, apply brush to canvas and a new form comes into existence, whether it is conveyed by numbers, words, music or through art. Even something as simple as a circle can convey a great deal more than information alone. Symbolism communicates with us physically, mentally and spiritually. Because of this, symbolism has the capacity to change us, often profoundly.
The extraordinary ability of our mind to comprehend and intuit profound levels of understanding through symbols and art has another essential feature and that is intent. The power of the created form to facilitate change comes from the intent of its creator at its inception, during the creative process and in its use. As a creative act with a specific intent in mind, our creations are given life. This is living art. Every part of living art has a function. Each is employed because of what the part represents. From the composition, shapes and patterns, colours and tones to the materials and even the location if the art is used as part of the landscape. Layer upon layer of symbolism can be engaged to effect. Even the images in their own right can carry symbolism, such as elemental, animal and plant symbolism. Human creations of this nature attract and hold people’s attention as they are saturated with intent. And this intent sinks into the body, subconscious and the depths of our soul.
Our creative deeds are activated and sustained by both physical and spiritual energy brimming with the power of intent. Because of this it is important to take the intent into careful consideration. A thought precedes speech and action. The energy behind the thought’s source, such as an emotion, is then carried as a vibration into what we say or the do. It is then carried through the hand and received and held by the medium used. It is well known that art can be therapeutic and a useful tool for releasing emotions. If this is the intent then these emotions will be imprinted in the art. To fully appreciate the power of intent in art try this group exercise. On your own piece of paper draw three circles. Draw them at the same speed in your own time, while keeping an impassive face. Choosing your own order, draw one circle while imagining yourself filled with anger and another without any emotion. For the third circle fill yourself with a sense of goodwill and enjoy the experience of drawing, watching the ink appear on the paper. Now swop the drawings within the group. Try to determine which drawing is which by holding your hand over each to see if can sense the energy contained within.
Through art we can convey complex science and furthermore we can merge science with spirituality. Our ancestors knew this and because of this the use of symbolism in creativity was regarded as sacred and a sacred purpose was part of the intent. Bringing something into existence through art can be used to integrate us with Nature, with reality. It can expand our mind’s scope and ability to delve into the aspects of reality that lies beyond the boundaries of our physical senses.
Artfully constructed geometric drawings and structures as representations of the celestial is a common heritage of humanity, frequently employed in sacred rites across the globe. The mandalas of Asia, Medicine Wheels of the Native Americans and Jewish Kabala, to name but a few, are models based on geometry. Such models as these have been created down the generations to display the inner workings of the universe as shown to us in Nature and conceptualised in our Minds. The perception of edges and lines is established when these geometric images are drawn, however symbolically it is what they signify beyond their literal form that is significant. They represent ideas and distil the essence of reality. As the Greek philosopher Pythagoras (c580 – c500 BC) said, ‘Limit gives form to the limitless’.
Geometric shapes and principles weave a web. They hold together, or sustain the energy contained within them. When an artist decides on the composition and lays it out they are in effect establishing these force fields. Art forms are structured by geometry and then coloured by light, which is the fabric of the web’s threads. Light not only reveals the underlying form, it also adds vibrancy and dynamism to it. Colours within light add another layer of symbolism that invoke profound psychological, emotional and physical effects on the artist as they create and also on the viewer. Literally we absorb colours and they nourish us. Some calm, while other colours may energise us with their vibrations.
Light and the dark are the opposing active and passive duals that enable shades in tone. From the duals come discord and also a subtle balance as each nourishes and sustains the other. Without opposites how can we appreciate the interplay of love/hate, up/down, in/out? Duals are necessary to set up the tension between opposing forces, like magnetism, that we draw out as lines and boundaries. Architects rely on these when using precise geometry in buildings. Black facilitates subtle variations in tone to create the perception of depth and volume. Also variations in coloured reflect the dynamics of our senses and emotions. Colours of light are additive, blending to white, while pigment colours of the Earth are subtractive, merging to black. Each is a subtle reflection of spirit and matter respectively.
Our ability to be creative is a truly incredible faculty. So is our resourcefulness as we employ the myriad of materials around us in our creative endeavours. Water, wood, air, soil and fire are the Classical Elements and are representative of the creative dynamics within Nature. Art as a science blended with spirituality invokes the alchemical fusion of materials, mathematics, symbolism and the power of intent in living art. Such art greatly affects the artist and viewers emotionally, physically and spiritually.
‘To say the word Romanticism is to say modern art – that intimacy, spirituality, colour, aspiration toward the infinite, expressed by every means available to the arts.’ Charles Baudelaire – French poet (1821 – 1867)