What Visionary Art Can Teach Us
There are many connotations to the word “visionary” with regard to art, but what is integral to our understanding of the term is the relentless commitment of the artist to the expression of higher creative and spiritual images, symbols and ideas. What is known as the visionary art movement of today developed out of the Austrian fantastical realist school of painters, established by virtuoso painter, draftsman and illustrator Ernst Fuchs. Fuchs converted to Roman Catholicism from Judaism during World War II, and from that point on his works became steeped in metaphysics, religious themes, alchemy, and creative reinterpretations of Biblical illustration and iconography.
Through the careful study of manuscripts and treatises on painting, Fuchs managed to revive the mischtechnik or “mixed technique” of the Old Masters, beginning with an ink drawing over which opaque egg tempera was then layered with thin color glazes of oil paint mixed with resin, varnishing in between each glaze. The stunning effect is a luminous and almost three-dimensional image that captures light through the various color layers. Fuchs then taught famed visionary painters such as Robert Venosa, Alex Grey and Mati Klarwein, who went on to produce works of grand spiritual depictions, often combining a melange of ancient mythologies from diverse regions of the globe with New Age imagery, personal dream, ideational or psychedelic experiences.
The aim of visionary art is a revival of the arcane, the spiritual and the primordial in modern life. Most of the time the visionary art movement is considered a form of surrealism less the absurdity, and to some a form of “outsider art”. Seen in mostly New Age, tattoo and music conventions and gracing album covers, visionary art is rarely in “official” modern art museums. They have managed to create a parallel artistic institution, where admirers of such works experience the art through small private shows, print selling and the like, outside the confines of modern galleries. Visionary art is made in a modern context, yet exists to highlight a time before modernity, often blending digital elements in with depictions of archaic rites (such is the case with Neil Hague’s work).
Visionary art serves to challenge the ugliness, vulgarity, and bleak chic-nihilism of the professional art world, serving the longing for the spiritual within us that has been buried under existential layer upon existential layer of decadence, spiritual emptiness and the apathy of the mass-consumer. “Modern” (i.e. contemporary) art as it is known in the cliché sense, is a celebration of the alienated and maleficent desire-ridden character of the modern subject; visionary art pushes back at this by venerating the subject – the transcendental subject. Where modernist abstract expressionism became less about visibly rendered motion gesture and the unconscious, and more about geometric minimalism and gallery-led profiteering, visionary art ushered in a return to detail, veneration and glorification of the beautiful human (and altered-human) form, and all-around emphasis on skill and good draughtsmanship.
Visionary art challenges the social from a spiritual perspective and seems (apart from ocassional flirtations with drug politics and environmentalism) to sidestep the trap of art becoming overtly political or reduced to a mere conveyor belt for an ideological agenda. Visionary art is not always pleasant and uplifting, but even presses towards a darker and more haunting duality in what I like to call the “negative mirror” of visionary art. Taking the lead from Goya, Blake, Bosch and other darker Old Masters, certain visionary artists often portray surrealist subject matter of a terrifying and ghastly nature – the two most notably being H.R. Giger (of Alien fame) and the late, great, Polish painter Zdzislaw Beksinski. They produced works of great detail and formal realism, with stunningly grotesque fantastical depictions of warped humanoids, chimeric monsters and eerie dead landscapes. Giger explored a sci-fi flair, making himself (in)famous through eroticised “biomechanical” fusions of man and machine, populating non-Euclidean nightmare realms. Placed side-by-side with a Robert Venosa painting of an angelic enlightened being, and you quickly see how the “necronoms” Giger depicted make up a negative image of visionary art’s more recognisable spiritual side.
The problem with visionary art is not its skill or depth – any other genre pales in comparison – or its goals, which are largely noble and pure. The problem with visionary art from the outset is its “flights of fantasy” as it were, its lack of an overt structure or wisdom tradition. To be effective, visionary art must be grounded in a specific spiritual tradition; to further the mission of wedding the primordial past with a vibrant art form that can effectively challenge the problems of modernity without being weighed down by either ineffective nostalgia, or haphazard syncretism.
The new art the online dissident Right must create can take the lead from visionary art in its celebration of craftsmanship, realism, and metaphysics. Visionary art not only provides a template for a return to realism and Renaissance beauty, but also has a foothold in digital art as well. Digital concept and fantasy artists such as Android Jones (of Disney fame), Justin Totemical, and Cameron Grey create vast tapestries of psychedelic phantasmagoria using 3- and 2D representations of divine beings and nature. In a way, this is an act of profound subversion of modern techno-digital society, and the alienation and detachment from authenticity that often comes with it.
What visionary art attempts to address is a lack of newer forms of serious, sincere art which aim to (even for brief periods of novelty and creative cultural moments) re-orientate the soul towards a path of expression able to weave through and navigate the current degenerate culture’s censors and matron gatekeepers. But this can only be effective for the purposes of a spiritual political-existential framework if visionary art can be grounded in more substance than a free-floating buffet of religious traditions, various mystical schools and philosophies.
In Conclusion: For a New Art
There is a feeling in producing a work of art, maturing it to its completion like a parent seeing off one of their now-grown children. The experiential act of art, the sensation of “feeling alive” or having the same peak / limit experience of a mystic, a yogic practitioner, a person engaging in mountaineering, or any of the other endeavours of mankind that have lead to a pure “satori” moment of direct engagement and oneness with the totality of the direct present. To “be here now” as Ram Dass says, is to be one with the surroundings of immediacy, not tempered by the ruminations of the past or the doubts of the future.
The artist finds him or herself in a peculiar space of direct expression: to be totally alone with one’s art, yet to be at odds with the surrounding world the artist must represent at its most intimate levels. The artist peers behind the illusory tapestry of Maya – the world as it presents itself – highlighting the most glaring contradictions, values, and neglected antipodes from the collective consciousness of their time, and in their own society and location. Therefore, the artist often lives a life of precariousness and contradiction, caught within a liminal moment in time, yet wishing to carve a way forward.
I shall conclude with a statement I began with, one that might agitate some. The Right as of late (although this has not always been the case), is entirely bereft of any serious exploration into artistic realms of being. I have given some insight into how the new forms of Right-wing art could potentially look, either by creating a new style (as Italian futurism attempted) or by modifying and participating in existing art movements, like the revival of landscape art and visionary art, that can provide the spirituality and authenticity the Right craves.
God must be above all considerations in determining the work of the strong-willed, daring and irrepressibly creative future-artists of the Right. The Right must champion not a safe, cautious return to previous art forms, but a great appropriation of past styles and genres, borne out of a willingness to further elucidate and retrofit them to our needs – in order to ultimately represent an aesthetic that speaks to the Man of Today whilst still venerating eternal divine principles.
The new art of the Right must also champion any artform which attempts to install newer forms of sincerity, and mercilessly chop away at the destructive nihilism of misappropriated, decontextualised manifestations of post-modernism. The Right must learn from the mistakes of politicized conceptualism and overall crass consumerist kitsch: the lesson being that any art that does not try to nourish the soul, but deaden it, must be cast into the flames of History.
Artwork done by me, entitled: “Short Hill trails” (2016, acrylic on canvas, 10×10). https://www.facebook.com/giantartproductions/photos/a.1254859821218829.1073741828.1254797357891742/1256643847707093/?type=3&theater