About the Artist

The Dynamic Symbolism Project

The 7 minute edit of the Talk Art interview

“As the mind explores the symbol, it is led to ideas that lie beyond the grasp of reason.”


 C.G. Jung, Man and His Symbols.

  • Read Artist's Statement

         A deep appreciation of the flow of abstract line, form and color motivates me in my journey as an artist.  I have created my own artistic style, Dynamic Symbolism, painting with pastels, charcoal and acrylics. My technique uses stream of consciousness guided by intuition to connect scattered forms and colors into cohesive works of art.  I have no preconceived plan or sketch for a painting, so the audience must address the content of my art rather than try to interpret my intentions.  My paintings allow viewers creative freedom to interact with the art and form their own borders for concrete images.  Each viewer can find different symbols, and everyone’s vision is valid. The symbols that people see are dynamic and overlapping.   Every viewing of the art contains the possibility of seeing something new.

         When new viewers first encounter Dynamic Symbolism, they frequently discover images in my paintings that I had never seen before, but recognize when they point them out. My art inspires different interpretations across a variety of cultures.  After years of pen and pencil sketching, I created “Fate of the Animals Continued”, 1983, a colorful pastel painting named after the artwork of Franz Marc.  In it, a Chinese graduate student in Religious Studies at Stanford saw mystical Tibetan cave paintings, and a man from Trinidad saw Carnival masks. That same painting suggested apocalyptic images to a Christian, where a dancer saw choreography.

       The charcoal drawing, “Dancing with Swift Shields”, was completed in 1997.  I had displayed this drawing for years in tribute to friends who had died of cancer, and in it I saw a crab shell and claws emanating from the center.  Then, recently, at an art show an East Indian woman pointed out a perfect elephant’s head in the center.  Elephants are part of my childhood memories from when my family lived in South Africa and toured the game reserves. However, it took a woman from India to see it first in my painting. Hindus revere the elephant as Ganesh, the Remover of Obstacles.  Another person, who owned a saltwater fish tank, outlined a triggerfish using the same lines that form the elephant.  Many people interact with Dynamic Symbolism in this way and see what they are accustomed to seeing.

         Painting sales will allow me to continue what I believe to be important and groundbreaking artwork.  Dynamic Symbolism presents a creative way of seeing and processing information. Fragmentary images from nature and humanity that flow through my art reflect our contemporary consciousness in a new and startling way. People today begin to understand that nature, humans, the earth, air and oceans are all interconnected. We realize that our collective actions have consequences beyond what we can recognize.  Our connection to the wild and to our instincts shrinks along with the fragments of open space that are left. Yet, people still look for answers.  I seek my solutions through Art.  I believe that the artist’s foremost obligation is to encourage evolution in consciousness.  We are the guides that can reflect and transform the Zeitgeist.

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  • Read Supporting Art History Research

         When I completed my first few symbolic sketches at the age of 18, I had recently learned to view Cubist still life paintings.  Cubists challenge 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 dream of fulfilling 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 theories of “Der Blaue Reiter Gruppe” led by Kandinsky and Franz Marc.  Kandinsky explores the physical and psychological effects of color on human intelligence and perception, intending in his paintings to directly stir the viewers’ unconscious.  He 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 is this interaction with my art created?  That is a question that I strive to answer.  My research has also led to Carl Jung’s discussion of dream symbols and the collective unconscious.  The symbols 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.

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© Sally Rayn,  2017  All rights reserved