Art History Influences
Image: Tomas Saraceno - SFMOMA installation, December 2016
I had recently learned to view Cubist still life paintings when I completed my first few symbolic sketches at the age of 18. Cubism challenges viewers to see overlapping objects from multiple perspectives simultaneously. Dynamic Symbolism continues to explore and expand the concepts of line that delineates objects and line as an aesthetic object in and of itself. Color harmony explorations and simulation of movement make Dynamic Symbolism different from Cubism. I compare some of my paintings to a film compressed into one frame of time with overlapping ideas, symbols and movement.
The goal of understanding my artistic potential was the impetus for my studies in college. At the university level, I took art classes to master technique and learn about materials. My artistic style, however, flowed through my fingertips fully developed, not taught in a classroom. My studies drew me to the work of Georgia O'Keeffe and the theories of "Der Blaue Reiter Gruppe" led by Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Kandinsky's work explores the physical and psychological effects of color on human intelligence and perception. He intended in his paintings to directly stir the viewers' unconscious. Kandinsky relates color and form to music and thus guides the transition in art from realism to abstract and psyche. Kandinsky's theoretical writings in the early 1900's educate artists in the techniques of creative practice and spiritual development. In "Concerning the Spiritual and Art", Kandinsky wrote: "Legitimate and illegitimate combinations of colors, the shock of contrasting colors, the silencing of one color by another, the sounding of one color through another, the checking of fluid color spots by contours of design, the overflowing of these contours, the mingling and sharp separation of surfaces, all these open great vistas of purely pictoral possibility." In my practice I take on the task of exploring these color interactions.
How do I paint abstract symbols? My research has led to Carl Jung's discussion of dream symbols and the collective unconscious. The symbols people imagine in my art resemble his description of archetypal symbols in dreams. Jung wrote about his discoveries in psychology stating: "The more civilized, the more unconscious and complicated a man is, the less he is able to follow his instincts. His complicated living conditions and the influence of his environment are so strong that they drown the quiet voice of nature. Opinions, beliefs, theories and collective tendencies appear in its stead and back up all the aberrations of the conscious mind. Deliberate attention should then be given to the unconscious so that the compensation can be set to work. Hence it is especially important to picture the archetypes of the unconscious not as a rushing phantasmagoria of fugitive images, but as constant, autonomous factors." Dynamic Symbolism directs my attention to the unconscious, and natural and animal images move through my paintings. The best description of what I do with my art, Jung states in Man and His Symbols, Approaching the Unconscious, "Archetypal forms are not just static patterns. They are dynamic factors and manifest themselves in impulses, just as spontaneously as the instincts."
Another source of information that enhances my thoughts about Dynamic Symbolism is Native American beliefs about animal teachers and spirit guides. I have read a great deal about Native American spiritual beliefs including the compilation of teachings called the "Medicine Cards", in which each animal brings a message to the person who draws the cards, similar to a Tarot reading or Nordic Runes.
I photograph as the painting progresses and write my thoughts and feelings about the art as they occur to me. I want to begin research about perception internationally, gathering data from artists, students and collectors worldwide, translating into English and recording what people see. The idea that people actually see abstract images according to their culture and experience fascinates me. Art, Dynamic Symbolism in particular, is a non-threatening way to present equally valid points of view and to practice seeing what others perceive.
© Sally Rayn, 2018 All rights reserved