Art Notes


These notes are not about my own paintings, (that would only render the artwork superfluous) they are more a record of certain discoveries and insights that have come about through my personal immersion in creativity. What begins as a quick pencilled sentence in the studio, may grow into a paragraph and survive for deeper consideration in a later notebook entry. I have been a painter for most of my life and these jottings have emerged as a natural result of my aesthetic quest. Through my experiences of creative expression the search for new meaning has always been the most compelling force. When I say 'new meaning', I refer to that which so far, remains undefined and therefore beyond current recognition as meaning - that metaphysical edge - where existence itself must be questioned through its own principle - creativity.

Through the inner necessity to analyse my own compulsion to paint, my main studies have been the psychologies of perception and creativity in general, Eastern philosophy and quantum theory (I find it exciting and important that the 'Void' of the Oriental Mystic and the 'Quantum Field' of the physicist may be the same phenomena) plus of course, enquiry into the vast fields of art philosophy, theory and history. Such studies (in a somewhat erratic way) have given me a greater sense of balance and awareness of my purpose and direction.

Owing to that wonderful facility the computer I recently began to revise and polish these fragments towards something more intelligible and comprehensive. Of course, I realize that at this stage they lack continuity and cohesion of form and therefore do not see them as a potential publication. They are more an ongoing thesis of research and it is my hope that someday they may prove useful to other creators, especially if, like myself, they are forced to fight their own way through the addictive and schizoid traumas of art-making.

When all is said and done, the most important thing is the work itself. I am continually giving birth to material objects called paintings, and like any caring parent, must give them the best start before letting them live their own lives. In this context then, these notes may be likened to an obstetrician's progress report.

Any questions or comments on the following are most welcome. Please email me at
- Keith Morant

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Language and Art

The structure of human thought is born of language and the structure of language gives birth to thought. Each is the others building blocks and mutually conditioned in their formation through memory. Thought is made manifest by words and words denote definition. Definition becomes symbol and reality is obscured by that symbol. The symbol as definition is an illusion that, through its statement, implies an opposite. The implied opposite is the substantiation of dualism, and as such, becomes the springboard of human conflict.

However, there are thought processes that can arise outside of these conditions. They are often termed ‘intuitional responses’ or ‘original thought’ and such mental activity arises outside of the limitations of conscious intellectual thought patterns. Such thought is generally unrecognisable to the conditioned mind and therefore becomes immediately suspect as a form of neurosis, often met with confusion and/or derision.

The only areas where such mental processes are found to be acceptable are in the spiritual or religious domains. Here the ego-driven fear of the unknown and its institutionalised belief systems have always found acceptance. Although even this, as man evolves through scientific education and communication technology, is slowly but surely diminishing.

On the other hand there is one area where such expression dominates and continually gains ground with increasing power. This, of course, is the area of human creativity, commonly known as ‘art’.In true art the language and expression of the conscious idea comes secondary to intuitive processes. It is this combination of imagination outside of the memory-laden intellect, and intuition beyond logical decision-making that may produce an indelible effect on our nervous system. Such imagery (often through its archetypal strength) becomes assimilated into our cerebral memory bank where it takes root and is assimilated into our conscious awareness. Finally, this new knowledge is assigned its symbolic status and becomes the most vital part of our survival kit as the language of the future.

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Creative Life

I have 'naturally' made pictures since I was an infant, an activity that was not always acceptable to those around me. As I matured I began to question this propensity very seriously by reading and studying all that I could find concerning art and artists. Through such study I came to the firm belief that, in higher terms of the definition, a person does not just decide to become an artist; either he or she is an artist or is not. On the other hand, it must be remembered that every human is an artist to some degree and that the creative process in every individual contributes to the foundation and progress of their society. There are however, those few whom nature endows with a creative force that may only be termed as 'excessive' it is the force, which, as Van Gogh stated; "is greater than God and greater than myself". Throughout history such people, because of their non-conformist attitudes and seeming 'abnormality' have often suffered derision and neglect, but equally as often their work has proved of great importance as a source of nourishment and learning to the minds of later generations.

In trying to come to terms with my own compulsion to paint I have read deeply on the subjects of art, artists, philosophy, psychology and human creative history in general. It has been my desire to comprehend not only the multifold meanings of art, but also more importantly, the reasoning behind my own innate desire to create. My findings, while certainly enriching my mind as to the necessity of art as a natural balancing process of the collective human psyche, has not given any satisfactory explanations or conclusions as to my personal predilection. Indeed, my researches have often lead me in a contrary direction where I am confounded by the perversity and unpredictability inherent to aesthetics and the so-called 'art scene'. Of course, in this age of ultra-communication and media conditioning, the dissemination of knowledge is at once both manipulative and out of control. The plethora of paradoxes and downright absurdities one encounters in the jargonese of art writers alone is enough to confuse the most enlightened of researchers. My own investigations have led me to conclude that, on one hand, any art knowledge can only be related to in retrospect, and on the other, while it may be of certain educational value, such knowledge is quite useless as an indicator to future directions or states.

I have been painting now for over forty years and I believe such experience has given me an evolving advantage where sometimes a satisfactory conclusion may be reached. However, every painting is a totally new experiment and I know that I will never live long enough to experience any form of ultimate satisfaction. What small accomplishments I do experience must stay deep within myself in the knowledge that they may not necessarily communicate their fullest potential in my own time. I must always work for the future in the hope that someday, whatever it is that nature is expressing through me will communicate some form of stimulation and nourishment to future minds.

My own work has been termed 'celebratory', a description which I am not displeased with. I am generally of an optimistic disposition and am constantly amazed and delighted at the very fact of existence itself. I have no Gods as for me the weakness in all doctrine is human sensibility, but at the same time, when I see the incredibility of nature I cannot blame man for his search of divine justification. I believe that the most important tool in mans continuing struggle for survival is communication, and am personally grateful to be alive in a time when this tool is almost over-used. It is my greatest wish to communicate, through my art, my own vision of existence in the hope that it will find a place in the evolving consciousness of man.

In the quest to arrive at an understanding of my own creative urges I have encountered many blind alleys. It is only lately that I have realized that these frustrations were largely of my own making. My enquiry and assessment of the problem was based on intellectual analysis and philosophical logic, which, with a mindset of traditional art values, left little or no room for spiritual considerations. However, over recent years, through my studies in Eastern philosophy, I have come to accept the importance of acknowledging man as an integrated facet of nature rather than the alienated force that his egotism has generated. I am happy to have discovered what is known in Zen as the 'True Self', the self that is not an ego conditioned and clothed in illusion or blinded with desire; the self which is the Non-Self of nature, which transcends dualistic thought and accepts the 'oneness' of all existence.

While its foundation is Buddhism, Zen is not a religion or even a philosophy; it is purely a state of mind - an awareness of the Absolute. It has given to me 'Direct Perception' of what is termed my Original Nature, and has facilitated (through meditation) a much deeper awareness of the creative principle. From this unexpected source many of my questions are being answered and the most enlightening discovery for me has been the realization that the deeper motivation behind my compulsion to create is, after all, merely another surge of the force that we call 'Nature'.

Perhaps a great part of my inner necessity to create is a reaction against the transience of existence. Permanence is an illusion. Everything exists in a continued state of 'becoming' and all existence is the sum of its opposite. Death is as much a necessity to life as life is the predicate to death. This is the nature of nature; its only reality being change and metamorphosis. When I am painting I know that I am closer to the manifestations of these truths than at any other time. The use of all my physical, mental and spiritual forces in the creation of new images somehow seems to check or contradict this phenomenon. The painting, if it is true to itself and conveys its mystery with convincing authority, becomes another positive that displaces a negative, and therefore pushes back the boundaries of the unknown just a fraction further.

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Journey of Discovery

There cannot be a verbal appraisal of my paintings as, in the final analysis, each is its own self-referential statement, and if it could be written down then the work becomes immediately superfluous. Over the years I have been influenced by many schools of artistic thought and have worked in seclusion (and often great frustration) in an effort to improve on this or that theory or aesthetic. Sometimes it seemed that I destroyed more paintings than I had actually painted and I learnt well the truth of old Picasso's words: "You do a thousand to get half of one". However, the continued pressures experienced through projecting mind into matter has finally begun to pay off and I find that I can now more frequently produce a pictorial statement that is to my satisfaction. I have now attained a deeper understanding of my compulsion and it seems that a greater part of the answer lay in allowing the unconscious and intuitional more 'headroom' in the area of reasoned and intellectual creative effort.

By running my unconscious alongside of my intellectuality in the act of painting there are moments of peak experience where my metaphysical truth emerges as a (for want of a better word) language. This language has been termed 'highly idiosyncratic', and quite rightly so. It is the signatorial truth of my existence as a human being - a truth that I hope, because of its intensity of original mentation, will communicate to future minds.

Rather than have any ulterior purpose in the form of religious, political or social messages, my art is always a journey of discovery into the essence of being. It is an attempt to externalise the truth of my own existence on as many levels as possible, always in an effort to communicate a greater awareness of the exuberance and quality of life. It is my hope that the work will stimulate future enquiry into the greater spheres of understanding that still lie beyond contemporary intellection, and that while initially seen only by the eye, may eventually be perceived by mind. It is my view that if a creator has the power to communicate his existential truth, then because of his very humanity, his statement may become a valid addition to the grammar of mans evolutionary language. The feelings of today are the thoughts of tomorrow.

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Creative Impetus

When I begin a painting I know that, apart from a strong urge to create and a highly developed instinctual direction with tools and materials, there can be no specific design or plan for the picture as a finished product. Following a period of psychological and emotional incubation there emerges an overwhelming physical compulsion to project thought and emotion into material existence. This compulsion is, and always has been, the greatest and most essential force of my personality. It is a force, which I have become fully reconciled with as that of nature creating through my being. In trying to analyse this phenomenon objectively I have come to believe that it really has very little to do with the ego entity known as 'me'.

In my work I try to emulate the power of music and evoke the universal through the specific. It seems that this is only achieved when certain synchronizations of conscious and unconscious mentalities are attained. I often seem to be working at the very edges of my mind where I become deeply involved with the great dichotomy of the known and the unknown. It is like treading a fine tightrope across the abyss between meaning and futility, and the further I move out the more I leave logic and conscious reasoning behind. It is through this mental and emotional balancing act that I may encounter a new order, which I would term the logic of chaos - Nature itself. Here is where my search begins - where the battles are lost or won. I fight to capture a fresh and vital sensibility; a new state which, while it may initially emerge as totally alien in its self-referentiality, still project the potential for a higher order, an order that remains absolute until, through time, it may prove relative in its assimilated greater conscious awareness.

I see art as the ultimate exertion of the communicative energy we regard as nature, and as with any newly discovered phenomena, it will always initially defy analysis by human intelligence. It is an inspirational precursor to human intellectualisation and therefore functions as an inbuilt reflective generator of human progress.

All existence is creative impetus and, on that premise, I see no point to life other than creativity. I am very aware of the indifference of the Universe, and in coming to terms with this, I realise that the most obvious and greatest truth to mankind is the Creative Principle. I believe that if my little life is to hold any sense of purpose at all then it must be in the effort towards alignment with that principle.

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Art As The Question

Up until the beginning of the twentieth century the painter fulfilled the dual roles of a recorder of image in time and space and a producer of decorative artefact. Today there are mechanical and technological means of achieving both of these ends and the creator, freed from the necessities of reproduction and illustration, must research and work in more profound areas of self-expression. The artist is no longer useful as a mere recorder of physical existence and must work beside the philosopher and psychologist towards a deeper understanding of the human predicament. To produce art now is more of a challenge than at any previous stage of human development and, if it is to communicate successfully, then it must do so above and beyond the efficiency of today's electro-technical expertise

Because of the uncertainties aroused by individual spontaneous and intuitive expression in contemporary art, the 'avant-garde' is often regarded at best, a sort of neurosis or decadent diversion, and at worst, a collapse in moral integrity. I believe it to be a myopic view that the latter-day freedom of the creator from his traditional roles of illustrator should be considered a breakdown in documentary depiction. On the contrary, the artist, whether he knows it or not, is always an illustrator. The great difference is that now his illustration is for the future, rather than of the present or past. He is an anticipatory illustrator - an archaeologist of future artefacts - excavating that which is obscured by traditional and conventionalised mindsets.

It is well to remember that art, apart from being the highest record of mans existence and progress in the physical sense, is simultaneously the most sensitive and emotive of all his aspirations. It is my belief that those aspirations are more potent today than ever before, and will, on a deeper and more psychological level than any previous human expression, prove to be the natural and necessary accompaniment to the progressive sciences and technologies of our times. Where once it was the task of the artist to give the answer it is now his function to inspire the question.

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The art theorist, Dore Ashton, has called the painting of pictures in series "Organic vision". I find this term particularly apt as over recent years my own work has very often 'evolved' as a continuum of variations on the same theme. Sometimes an idea, its motif, medium and application will run into as many as twenty or more works, which, while termed a 'series', remains for me, psychologically at least, one work in its entirety.

I am often surprised at the results of the inner urge that demands 'yet another' variation on my original expression. At the outset of a work I may feel that the painting will be conclusive in itself, but as it develops my deeper unconsciousness seems to be noting and filing away an inventory of alternative potential conclusions which, if they are strong enough, will continue in further pictures until it (and I) are exhausted. I find that a series of works will often come all at once and any break in continuity of my concentration and application can prove disastrous.

When I am working this way it is as though each painting opens up a new vista; a further extension of feeling and mentality that is another compulsory step towards a greater conclusion. When considering this phenomenon I realize it to be an important aspect of my creative impulse and, while it is largely an unconscious force, its parallel with any structural growth in nature is obvious. I see this 'organic' force in art is another offshoot of the universal creative principle of nature and believe it to be a vital part of the 'creativity of nature' as well as the 'nature of creativity'.

In art, the greatest testimony to this 'organic' power of expression is music and I often tend to regard a completed series of my paintings as much a musical as a visual achievement. This sense of musicality is in the works continuity and 'sequential-through-time' element. Because of its 'variation on a theme' and the separation of its constitutional units, the work may often be related to on a temporal basis. Therefore, the viewer of such work receives a very different impression from the usual visual stimuli of a 'once only' all over effect. Perception becomes linear through the sequence of works and responses connect through temporal as well as spatial effects.

I believe that if strong continuity is maintained within the sequential diversity, then a higher level of communication will be established.

The series, as a work method, brings with it the dilemma that while on one hand the continuity of the expression is important as a cohesive whole, on the other, one wants to believe that any individual work would prove strong enough to stand in its own right. When considering the series in its entirety, the order in which the works are numbered and placed for viewing is of paramount importance. A certain expression of either form, motif, colour or line may occur and, through the sequence, may visually enlarge or shrink, become emphasized or obscured, strengthen or weaken, balance or disturb, even disappear altogether, only to reappear when time and space is right. These are aspects of the deeper levels of creation and are born of an unconscious and emotional necessity rather than any conscious or aesthetical theory.

Sometimes, when viewing a completed series, it seems that the order of creation may be improved by rearrangement. This happens when the works are spread out in the order of their creation and a more detached view of the whole is gained. What has seemed a natural development in the creation is not necessarily satisfactory in the final assessment of order. I regard this final urge to rearrange the works as a conclusion to the creative act as a whole. After all, throughout his historical rise as a force of intelligence and aesthetical judgement, man has, where possible, always rearranged the organic forces of nature to his own satisfaction.

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The most rudimentary mark of human intelligence is the drawn line. Whether in the earliest of our ancestors or in the growing child of today, it is always the first and most effective method of communication. As a projection of the human brain by physical means the graphic line is the quintessential definition of human intelligence. It is the most direct transmission of human consciousness through space and time and signifies in any language description, meaning, emotion and purpose.

Line is the most powerful convention of the artist. Its uses in the illustration of form, perspective, texture, mass, weight, or any third dimensional illusion has always proven the surest method of expression towards communication. All development in art has its roots in the necessity to communicate a visual record and, until this century, the line has been used primarily for descriptive translation of visual phenomena. However, along with many other artistic conventions, it is now being surpassed by electro-technology as a superior means of creative communication. As an expression of higher artistic values, the graphic line as representation of visual phenomena only is no longer valid - it is outmoded and belongs only to the realm of the illustrative and anecdotal.

However, as we have witnessed through the developing art of this century, higher complexities of abstract thought processes are reinstating the line to new levels of communication. As a force in its own right the line is reasserting itself as a conscious and unconscious transmitter of statement and purpose without overt reference to formal knowledge. In contemporary art it is becoming an expression in its own right that may be as laden with emotive inertia as it can be charged with spontaneous vitality. Like the human signature, which evolves naturally and independently from the educational techniques of writing, the line in art has grown to be the signatorial expression of nature-through- man. It is no longer merely a device of laboured contrivance with which to depict or illustrate, any more than the pen and copperplate italic are the only means to write.

In art today the function of line should be to evoke new emotional responses rather than reiterate old ones. It must transcend the vanities of correctness in description to a more immediate communication onto the neurosystem before the brain. As with all great devices of individual expression - its purpose must be stimulative before it is explanatory.

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Sign Of Nature

When painting I find that the greatest problems arise at the beginning of the picture. Before things gather momentum or 'come together' one has to psychologically die many times. I believe the reasons for this lie in the fact that one begins from a singular conscious assertion that, as the work progresses, proves inadequate against the increasing volume of decisions that are to be made by the creating mind. Conscious deliberation is attacked and loses ground against the onslaught of the multi-tentacled will of the unconscious. This causes an imbalance between cognitive and emotive directions that may degenerate into a vicious circle of confusion and anxiety.

From the outset of the work, whether or not a conscious plan is involved, (and sometimes it is not) the fullest expression causes an expansion of mentality that necessitates a 'displacement' of conscious decisions. I find that, as my concentration and involvement with the work develops, I move through an area where the work seems to gain its own sense of direction, and this is where the conflicts begin. The dominance of my conscious will and thought patterns are brought into question by, what I can only term as natural and highly pressured intuitional forces (in psychological terms; the super-ego) and an excruciatingly manic state may ensue. I consider this to be one of the greatest problems inherent to creative expression. I see it as the basis of all that is schizoid in art - the cross on which much promising talent has been crucified. However, I have come to realize that the real problem lies not in the critical invasion of these intuitional forces so much as in our assessment of them. Because of the conditioned ego, and its exploitative detachment from nature, the creator (who has usually enlarged his ego through such practice) cannot accommodate such alienated power. What the artist often fails to grasp is that these intuitional forces that rise from the depths and are so insistent in the open area of creativity are, in fact, more his true inner self than the conditioned mind that began the work.

A good analogy of this would be the human signature; no matter how well a child is schooled in correct writing or inscription his or her handwriting will inevitably develop beyond any academic conditioning. It will naturally evolve beyond the rigid 'joined-up' copperplate script into the idiosyncratic sign of his or her true nature, and, as with much personal and artistic communicative expression, the signature is initially illegible.

In art, as with writing, continued practice and experience allows the 'nature' of the personality to develop through its expression. If, then, as a painting evolves, the artist can learn enough will-power to, in fact, not use his will; if he can learn to know and trust his nature enough to work on intuitional levels and allow unconscious decisions to be fluently expressed, the result may be as honest as it is vital. This is a learning process that is as deep as it is frustrating. It is a matter of tuning in holistically to all levels of ones existence and working from both sides of the persona simultaneously. On one side there is the left-brain dominance of the logical, analytical, symbolical, sequential and syntactical. On the right-brain side there is the global, intuitive, perceptual, spatial and poetical. All practice and experience in artistic expression must work towards the unified function of these faculties. On one hand there is freedom and imaginative spontaneity and on the other, discernment and conditioned control. So, while the creator must be a conduit that enhances the flow of nature he must, simultaneously, be able to check its flood.

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Beyond intelligence

I believe that the work of art should present the spectator with an integrated force of line, form, colour and space that is expressive of its own inner logic and balance. The statement of the work should draw its own self-referential conclusions that express a new sense of order (even if it is beyond initial intellectual comprehension). The work should be on a level of communication that remains just beyond of the grasp of conventional logic and yet attracts a response of emotive empathy. Such creative expression is born of a synthesis of intellect and emotion and, at first viewing, should be received neurologically rather than intellectually. However, once this nervous reaction (to what may seem a chaotic vision) has been absorbed by the perceiving mind, a sense of familiarization begins. As the viewing mind assimilates the inner mechanics of the work a process of deeper identification takes place. Over a period of time, (ideally more than less) the mindset of the viewer projects its own gestalt onto the picture and begins to 'relate' to it - this relationship is eventually construed as 'understanding'.

What is happening here is that the work of art is fulfilling its purpose by nourishing, through its existence as a physical fact, new levels of mental and emotional cognition. By exposure to the work the viewer is forced into a position of critical analysis where, owing to a lack of appropriate intellectual language, he is consciously confused. Unconsciously, however, he may gain some sense of recognition, comfort, or even reassurance. Feelings of this sort would be similar to those experienced when confronted with (yet protected from) the turmoils of nature. By way of example, being inside of a house when a storm is raging and the rain is heard beating down onto the roof. Such feelings of comfort emanate from our unconscious primordial response to the need for security. We always need the assurance that, in spite of the chaos out there, some form of protection does exist beyond our own knowledge and reasoning.

The creator, then, must consider the unconscious of the viewer as much as the conscious and the neurological as much as the intellectual. The work must, in the first instance, be beyond human intelligence if it is to prove through time a stimulant to greater enquiry, then, as with all aspects of nature, it will eventually come under the scrutiny, analysis and categorisation of human intellection. If the proposed work of art survives such rigorous tests and becomes a recognizable symbol of human progress then its value as a source of nourishment and assurance may serve as yet another step in the evolution of the human spirit.

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Art As Language

The pressures that compel physical creative expression are born of existential tension and anxiety that is caused as much by the internal world of paranoiac apprehension as by the external world of physical threat. In its struggles and traumas for 'survival-through-order' the human neurological system, brain and mind is no different from any natural organic growth, and the inner world of the psyche contains as much persistence towards systematic organization as the outer reality of nature. Art is born through the anguish of this predicament and any success in its expression is its triumph over it.

In human terms, the highest example of this is in musical composition (naturally traced back to the rhythms of heartbeat, pulse and breathing and its expression through drums string-vibration and wind instruments) where the sequential elements of particular sounds contribute to a finely balanced whole which evoke in the listener a purely emotional response. Such immediacy of communication is beyond conscious thought or language and is the expression of nature-through-man as much as man-as-nature.

For the visual artist the same birth-pains are enacted. Archetypal visions are the basis of his evolutionary struggle and he too must follow nature. He must work beyond all the mimetic responses of his ego processes and overcome the constrictions of conventional thought and language. He must cut through the illusions of organized structure into the deeper creative principles of organic growth and, as with the composer, tune his work to his own nature.

Whether he uses sound through time or form through space, the creator is always motivated by the compulsion to resolve inner tension. In either case if a work is to be successful in its communication to others then the accomplishment lies in the direct transmission of harmony and balance. The equilibrium sought by the creator is attained through emotion and the unconscious more than intellect and the conscious - it is merely another aspect of nature moving inexorably towards the establishment of order out of chaos. However, because of its deeply subjective source and consequential originality, such order is often initially considered unacceptable as a genuine presentation. The mind of the viewer, (or listener) with its conditioned reaction to order, does not recognize the new conclusions that the extended consciousness of the artist has established.

Of course, for the creator, this is where language and conditioned thought-patterns must be sacrificed for the birth of the new, and his unconscious compulsion must fight against such ignorance. This is the danger zone - where anxiety and insecurity reign supreme - where fragmentation of thought and fear of rejection may undermine the stability that his inner necessity demands and block the ability to create. It is the schizoid edge where he teeters between meaning and futility above an abyss of despair.

However, when a satisfactory result is achieved and proves successful in its communicative force, we call it 'Art' and it is through this power that we discover (later rather than sooner) the deeper harmonics and logic of our existence. It is, then, through these anxiety-driven resolutions that we may come to understand that the words, signs and symbols of our intellectual languages are very far removed from being our only (or even our best) method of communication.

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Art As Nature

I find it futile to discuss the pros and cons of so-called abstract or figurative art. Such classifications, as with any doctrines or aesthetical theories, are hollow and of no real consequence to the progress of art or artists. All art is metaphysical and therefore any dialectical approach to it is absurd. In the final analysis there is only one valid criterion that may be applied to a work of art; and that is whether it is honest or dishonest. A good work of art will have its own strength and integrity. A bad work of art will, through its lack of originality, be weak and lack integrity. As long as the artist has followed his truest convictions and has not been influenced by what is deemed 'acceptable' by other standards, and as long as he remains uncorrupted by the mannerisms and devices of other artwork, then he may produce an honest and therefore meaningful work of art.

As a painter I work on many different mental and emotional levels and, as any true artist knows, the best education in any creative endeavour is experience itself. I believe that the accomplished painter must so familiarize himself with his chosen medium that he is able to control conscious and unconscious intentions as well as the ever-attendant accidents.

It is not humanly possible to make two painted brushstrokes that are identical, but if one were to practice that brushstroke every day (as in Oriental calligraphy) one would soon become deft enough to pass the mark off as a definitive sign or symbol. Continuous practice and experience in painting leads inevitably to automatic responses that, in turn, develop a freeing up or loosening of conscious differentiation. It is through this evolving awareness that the creating mind moves into higher ratios of cognition where conscious intention fragments and dissolves into unconscious and intuitional expression. As a multitude of new decisions are encountered the intensity of concentration activates a necessary reliance on more spontaneous effort to conclusions. The accident becomes an integral part of the expression and should be absorbed into the application with complete confidence. I find that it is through this area of critical awareness as I become closer to the work that, through a sense of 'oneness' with materials and expression, I not only work with the accident but also even attain the state where I create the accident to work with.

Such highly tuned expression produces an immediacy and vitality that, while it breaks rules and conventions, simultaneously establishes potential for new reasoning. A balance must be maintained which oscillates between the facts of content in the work and the implication of 'more than fact'. To achieve this level of expression I believe the creator must be wary of representational devices and the application of techniques for their own sake.

Representation is conventional or relative knowledge contrived to evoke in the viewer conscious identification, sentiment, judgemental views and retrospective comparison. While this form of expression was the foundation of Western art, this century has seen great psychological shifts that have resulted in a deep undermining of its integrity. Representation, as a means of communicating an ideal in art, is no longer valid. It is a lesser force of expression that undermines the art-object in its own right and generates a form of emotional propaganda. The art teacher of today, with his academic approach to aesthetics, has much to answer for in this context.

Technique, as a method of application for its own sake, is also a potential detraction in a work of art. While certain effects may be obtained through physically manipulated mediums on the picture surface, such effects should not exceed their necessity as a contributory factor to the work in its entirety.

The finished work of art must show that its existence owes as much to the forces of nature as it does to the intelligence of man. It should convey much more than just the results of human cerebral decision-making and expertise and, through its vitality, impart a greater force than just a summation of human application. Through its specific ness it should speak in universals thus evoking a greater awareness of the mystery of existence itself. Within its presence of 'now' it should echo time past and yet hold promise of time future and stimulate enquiry beyond the boundaries of contemporary intelligence. Such work will eventually be regarded for what it is and says as another facet of nature - its true function will lie ultimately more in what it does than what it says.

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In my own progress as a painter texture has become increasingly important as a part of my expression. In the past I have been reluctant to exaggerate picture surface for fear that the results would seem too contrived - even border on the Kitsch. But lately (and not without some surprise) I find that actual physical imprint and protrusion on my created surfaces have become important methods of articulation. I have come to realize that much of my earlier pictorial efforts contained applications of tonal graduation and highlighted form that was (albeit unconsciously) an attempt to create the illusion of textural depth and relief. This has led me to a deeper consideration of texture and its roles both as a mode of expression and as an observed phenomena.

One aspect of painting which remains largely disregarded is that of surface. While sculpture and the decorative arts tend to regard texture as an integral part of their expression, the painter generally relies on the two-dimensional flat surface. Traditionally the communication of the painter has rested on the visual illusion only and any surface irregularities have been incidental to the application of his medium.

If painting today is to be a method of conveying expressions of truth beyond the descriptive or anecdotal allusion, then (as with music) it must communicate through the immediacy of its own presence. Texture with its sense of tangibility opens an extra channel of perception where the work may transmit its objective reality more conclusively. To attain convincing communication it should evoke as many instantaneous conscious and unconscious reactions in the viewer as possible.

The tactile gives the observer a more immediate and vital proof of what he perceives. This is the third eye of perception; where the information received is transmitted to the brain and analysed immediately in terms of substance or material composition. Because it is so closely connected to the visual, the recognition of texture as the verification of matter is generally sublimated and lost in the mental responses to the observed whole.

However, an artwork where visual and tactile responses are simultaneously stimulated may communicate with much more power than a work produced for visual appraisal only. Such work should, by its very physicality, project its statement directly onto the viewer's nervous system in self-referential terms. I have come to believe that this is an area of creative expression where an artist may enlarge his vocabulary towards communicating greater universals, especially those that concern existence and time. Where appropriate, because of its tactile evocations the art-object will speak with more immediacy and, by displacing the illusory, gain greater strength of purpose and statement. The textured or manipulated medium emphasizes a physical reality that is an existential record of 'man-through-time' and the influence of one upon the other. Man, in his transient condition of growth and decay, is always at the mercy of time, and the marks or traces left on any surface are the record of his efforts to adjust and control this situation.

Texture, then, by its very physicality of disturbance and imprint, is the most conclusive signature of existence and, as a potential device of direct communication, remains an important method of artistic expression.

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The Paradox Of Creation

For me, art is always an answer to which the question must be found, and it is with this in mind that I know that I must always create a new vision of reality. An original statement must be produced which, while initially appearing beyond comprehension, will gain its own strength of meaning through the passing of time. I believe that the artist must always work from the reality of the relative into the unreality of the absolute - forge a path beyond the boundaries of intellectual limitation into the light of future consciousness.

I do not regard art as an exercise in intellectual reasoning and logic; it is a self-referential conclusion where rational calculation is minimalised and used only as a means to an end. In the effort to produce work that is uncontaminated by conventionalised language and symbols I believe that the artist must learn to free himself from pre-conditioning and overt intellectual considerations.

There is a paradox in that the artist, through his knowledge, experience and mental application, attains control by effectively going out of control. As the work proceeds, his initial conscious purpose of expression undergoes many changes. As images or symbols are created an internal relationship develops between not only the signs themselves but also between the painter and the work as an evolving whole. There is a subtle shift from his conscious deliberation to an unconscious scanning process where intellectual reasoning and logic gives way to spontaneous reaction and intuitive response. The creator in action encounters many different and often contradictory problems that the conscious mind alone cannot possibly accommodate. This situation necessitates an enlarging of mental capacity that spans out from conscious concentration into unconscious perception and decision-making. This state of creative sublimation remains, as a mental phenomenon, largely unresearched, as modern psychology still tends to concentrate on the content of the unconscious rather than its processes. However, it is here, through the interchanges of mental reason and unreason, where the creator may be said to enter the battlefield of existence itself - the field where his deepest awareness of self is truly tested in skirmishes between knowledge and intuition. It is here where the schizoid thrives on the conflicts between intellect and emotion - the rational and irrational - meaning and futility. If the creator can hold his ground in this area of chaotic extremes and if he can fight through to a conclusion in which he is confident of potential communicative nourishment, then this paradox, like life itself, proves to be the necessity of its own force.

The conditions and conventions inherent to all artistic achievements bring with them their own laws. The origination of such laws has meant the usurpation of preceding laws in order to break new ground for spiritual and intellectual growth. Old or traditional laws in art are useful as a training area towards the manifestation of new ventures in creativity, but the strength and communicative success of a true work of art will always be due to its originality through the invented law. Therefore a sense of lawlessness (even destruction) is vital to any truly creative endeavour. It is important that ideas of any anecdotal or representative images are suppressed and that the spontaneous growth of the work in its own right is allowed to emerge. A development through the elements of chance and intuitive response must be allowed to evolve between creator and creation until, as a conclusion becomes imminent, conscious deliberation begins to assert itself again. This time, however, the conscious will is not acting on any preconceptual levels but in direct response to the work itself. It is through this area of activity that intellect and emotion function in unison and the highest form of decision-making takes place - this is where the spiritual or universal expression may manifest itself.

Working from and through the unconscious with well developed insight is the only way to defeat the banality of ego-driven decision-making. It is the combined effect of imaginative and spiritual values that may carry the work to higher and more vital levels of communication. Of course, this is a direction fraught with accident and error and only the education of experience and a highly developed trust in the unconscious will open up new areas of control. This control (which seems so out of control) is, in fact, the power of nature itself - the force of survival in the face of chaos. It is a control, which is born of much more than mere intelligence; it is Nature at her best - creating the potential for new intelligence.

To find and express this natural truth, then, the creator must go far deeper than surface intellectual criteria. From this viewpoint he will know also that the work is as important in what it rejects as in what it projects, and that negation for its own sake is as dangerous as overstatement. A balance must be maintained which, on one hand, may contain a reference to conventional knowledge and assumptive conclusion, and on the other, an area that is open to potential emotional realization. He must connect and work with his deeper self of intuitive understanding beyond knowledge - the self that, while it may use conventional techniques and application, will create unconventional conclusions, which will stimulate enquiry into higher levels of existence and meaning.

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The Necessity Of Mystery

There are essentially two kinds of art - the psychological (personal) and the visionary (collective). The psychological is the subjective expression of personal experience, while the visionary is objective expression of spiritual awareness. As an implicit aspect of the human ego all artistic expression is born of the former - the subjective compulsion to communicate experience as a means of establishing the self. However, if with the development of that self the creative compulsion becomes the main driving force and overrides all other directional considerations, then the result may be a the latter - the objective communicator motivated by altruism.

The visionary in art locates and deals with the primordial experience on a communal level. Jung has described this type of art, as "a kind of innate drive that seizes the artist and makes him its instrument, and the visionary artist is 'collective man' - one who carries and shapes the unconscious psychic life of mankind. While it always begins in the individual psyche as subjective expression such art will, in a few rare cases, communicate beyond the bounds of the personal into the realms of the universal. What begins with an individual voice may, through the course of time, resonate with collective vibrations. This power that "seizes the artist and makes him his instrument" emanates from the depths of mans historical existence - from the very matrix of life from where all human experience springs. It is the microcosm serving the macrocosm - the vital link between the part and the whole. It is language beyond thought and while thought processes may be seen as launching pads for its flight, its mysteries may be likened to the stars in outer space. As with all phenomena in human existence, the very presence of mystery demands exploration and demystification. It must be brought from beyond the telescope of absolute understanding and placed under the microscope of relative knowledge. In art, as in nature, all vitality of growth is maintained through the continued renewal of mystery, and its revelation is a creative act. The visionary begins where intellect and language cease, and art, as our greatest inspiration toward spiritual unity – is our most necessary mystery.

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In the consideration of artistic expression, whether as creator or spectator, the most important factor is the ability to discern between what is true quality and what is merely novelty. Novelty is that which may have popular appeal but fades in its importance with the passing of time. Quality, on the other hand, is that which often, in spite of unpopular or controversial inception, increases in its importance with the passing of time.

Quality in art is an ultimate truth expressed through an individual's unique experience of existence. Its success in expression and transmission lies in its potential to communicate something more than its surface values only. Such quality is revealed to the observer (albeit often too slowly) through that teasingly intangible element which elicits epithets like 'transcendent', 'mysterious', or 'spiritual'. It communicates through the neurosystem and the unconscious rather than the intellect and conscious.

Of course, the greatest and most immediate conveyor of such quality is always that most abstract of all the arts - music. However, throughout this century, (especially since the demise of the visual academism which preceded the invention of photography) visual art has been reborn. We have witnessed a great shift in human conscious awareness to a level where pictorial art is continually establishing new values and criteria as to what is, and what is not 'quality'.

I believe that if the artist of today is to rise above the banality of novelty and escape the seductive forces of popularity and material gain then he must be prepared to sacrifice much. By 'sacrifice' I refer to what T. S. Eliot meant when he said: "The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality". Whatever he creates, the artist must express more than just himself; he must convey the deepest truth of his being through which nature, as a primal force, has moved. His expression must aspire to clarity of vision and a vitality of life that is untainted by illusion. His work must always present something that is totally new, but which will begin to age from the moment of first being encountered. The mind of every new viewer is another birthplace for the work of art - where its potential qualities will enter the psyche as a newborn enters the world. As the knowledge of its existence is assimilated so the ageing process begins - evoking new knowledge, new language and new sense of purpose - and in art, as in life - real progress is always in purpose rather than statement.

Of course, attached to such effort is the great paradox that the ego (the strongest driving force behind any human endeavour) becomes an anathema to such manifestations and must, therefore, be overcome. If the creator can suppress the illusionistic dualities of ego (Eliot's sacrifice of self) and maintain his allegiance to the creative principle; if he can sustain a deeper questioning of existence through his own experience of being, and if he can avoid compromising his direction by conforming to social, political, or philosophical influences, then his production may eventually find a place in the collective human psyche; to stand as a symbol of the universal creative impetus that establishes our ideals and aspirations towards a better future. Also, of course, through its particular type of stimulative nourishment, it will become recognized as QUALITY.

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Art As the Absolute

The most powerful force on this planet is the human urge to create. It is born of the necessity to survive and has evolved from the innate desire for control over environment and destiny. To this end, mans manipulation of nature, including his own species, has often been of urgent opposition and aggression. Paradoxically, the state of war and oppression, which results from his political and religious machinations, has always been best recorded through his finest artistic achievements. But now the weakening of his religious instincts and the growing awareness of his precarious position as a life form has engendered an increasing neurosis on many levels of his society. The twentieth century has seen the greatest changes in the shortest passage of his history - from the most barbaric forces of war to the most incredible progress in scientific invention. Such a period has also meant that the artist, as the hitherto presenter of the physical norm with all its attendant academic rules and aesthetic theory, is no longer a leading force in the development of intellectual awareness.

However, I believe it important to remember that nature is its own force and purpose, and that the expression of that force and purpose is infinite creativity. While artistic mimesis or representation for purposes of identification may no longer be an important factor in the greater scheme of human progress, the work of art is still a necessary projection of nature-through-man. The creative impulse is fundamental to human survival as a means of persistent biological, intellectual and spiritual fulfilment. It serves to reinforce his identity by generating reassurance of an existential purpose.

Art is not a mere representation of life but more an anticipatory expression that, by expanding our vision of existence, strengthens confidence in our endurability and progress. It is no longer concerned with just the physical and relative aspects of human existence but with the deeper untapped levels of imagination and the unconscious. Art, along with all other facets of human development, must evolve far beyond any previous states of knowledge and growth. Instead of being a language of conventionalised knowledge (relative only to the past) it must be a language in search of absolute knowledge (relative only to the future) and therefore stand elusively, yet compellingly, just beyond the intellectuality of the present. It must function as a stimulus to enquiry rather than a record of realization and carry an awareness of the universal rather than the temporal and regional. It must enquire into the unconscious forming of our thought-patterns and languages and work with science in the primary endeavour of erecting our sanctuaries of the future.

I have come to believe that the true function of the artist (alongside of the scientist) is to continually knock at the door of the unknown. To ensure that his knocking gains a response the artist must always maintain a sense of loyalty to his inner necessity. He must continually project his innate vision of being, a vision that must not fall victim to the urges of compromise or be altered in an effort towards popular taste and approval. Whatever great universality is projected through a work of art, it is always only one individual's subjective effort towards a conclusion. If the intelligence and intuition of that individual succeeds in rendering a new and vital truth, then it will only be realized through the passing of time and the ongoing expansion of human consciousness and, as has so often been proven, the greater the truth - the longer the time.

In this light, then, I have come to terms with my own compulsion to create. I believe that this continuing urge to express is a primal force in its ongoing search for future absolutes. This force is its own appetite, feeding through the creator on all levels of conscious and unconscious perception, and, more importantly, on itself. Its result is the absolute (as opposed to the relative) and it is this that is expressed and possibly communicated through me in the name of art.

'Absolute' knowledge is more an intuition than knowledge, in fact it is intuitional understanding beyond knowledge and its purpose lies in the stimulation of future relative knowledge. Relative knowledge is founded on our conscious perception of relationships - past and present, time and place, positive and negative etc. and is useful only on a comparative or retrospective basis. Absolute knowledge, on the other hand, is the hitherto unseen, unknown and uncomprehended. It has no relation to conventionalised knowledge and emerges as a new phenomenon of nature; a new truth of existence, to be assimilated into human intelligence and ultimately allocated its place in our relative world.

Nature is always a state of 'becoming', a continuing flux of creative dynamics of which we, the humans, are the best result to date. However, the evolution of the human is also the evolution of illusion, and the greatest illusion of all (through ego and intellect) is mans detachment of himself from nature. What ever we may believe or think we know, there is one great undeniable fact; that nature is absolute and man is only one small part of it. Any knowledge that we have gleaned through our evolution and intellection can only be relative, and therefore subsequent to that absolute.

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When I am painting I find that the most satisfying of all activities is the spontaneous gesture. It emanates from a deep inner compulsion which does not consciously illustrate, interpret or symbolize anything in particular and yet is somehow deeply intentional of all of these. It is my autography, which, while it flows from my own unconscious, often seems (in the best examples) to have come from somewhere other than just myself. It is a very private yet, at the same time, universal force - a direct and ritualistic action that, at its most successful, may convey something of a vital and spiritual aura.

I have painted this way for many years using countless methods of application in efforts to achieve certain desired effects of fluent animation. However, more often than not, attempted forms and lines would result in a stiffness of laboured exactitude from which obvious contrivance drained all life. I realize now that, while my intentions were always genuine, my inability to loosen or release my mind from conscious thought processes blocked the flow of true signatorial gesture. On reflection I now realize that the reasoning behind some of the terrible skirmishes that took place in the execution of earlier paintings was based on the opposition between conscious decision-making and intuitive responses. Such psychological conflict has been an underlying cause of my creative problems for many years and it is only now, after much continuous effort, that I begin to realize and accept that my nature must find expression over and above my intellect. I see this as the problem, which is fundamental to all creative mentality and temperaments. It is the battle- ground of all that is schizoid in art.

Personally I now experience a sense of relief in coming to terms with and, to some degree, understanding this problem. Of course, I realize that conscious organization must always be an integral part of the creative act and that there can never be such a thing as pure automatism. However, I do believe that the role of the creator as an intellectual and conscious perpetrator must be diminished. The only exception to this may be a training situation, but even here part of that training should incorporate the values and uses of intuitional expression through gesture.

All painting is, to a greater or lesser degree, gesture, but by far the greatest achievements in the refining of direct communication through controlled spontaneity are those of the Far East. The main reasons for such phenomena in cultural development lie in the evolution of the Oriental written language that is based on the ideogram (representation of the visual image described in symbolic pictorial terms). This is the basis of their calligraphy that, in its application, is gestured painting at its best. In its execution the artist is as fully cognizant of the space as with the mark or image placed within that space. The unpainted area, rather than be considered merely background, is a vital and integral part of the whole where the negative is animated by the positive and vice-versa. Because of the way in which this written language has evolved there is a very fine line between what is 'written' and what is 'pictured' and this is why in Oriental art a common aspect of expression involves the placing of a poem or statement within the picture image. Such painting often includes an elaborate seal and signature of the artist, which is applied after careful consideration as to its aesthetic relationship to the rest of the work. The ideal result is when the gestured marks applied to the surface seem to energize or animate the empty space into its own expression as a vital part of the whole. It is always a matter of balancing form against emptiness in an effort to make emptiness form - by intuitionally sensing - exactly where to stop.

Such work must contain a sense of directness in which there are no afterthoughts or decorative additions. The actual picture is primarily a work of what is known as 'wu-nien' (no mind) where no thought must arise between the decision and the act. In Zen this is known as 'Playing the Stringless Lute'. (Painting by not painting) - it is the fusion of event (existence) and the Great Void from which it emanates. The Oriental mind has a great advantage over its Western counterpart in that its cultural communication has been based on the gesture of the brush rather than the mark of the stylus and such confidence in application and technique is the result of many years training.

The validity of the spontaneous gesture in painting lies in its direct conveyance of the artist's unpremeditated personal language. Gesture is like voice in that it carries the inflections of emotion; or like handwriting in that it expresses character and temperament. Gesture indicates through its immediacy the honesty of its creator's intention. It reveals a speed of decision-making that defies conscious deliberation or contrivance and is therefore closer to a statement of true feeling than intellectual design.

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Art As Nature 2

I believe that in my creative activities I must remain psychologically free on all levels and at all times. It is important that nothing is forbidden and that I am able to express the quintessential nature of my being. I must be continually alert to the pervasiveness of illusion and not be influenced by other considerations or judgements of my efforts. Nor must I attempt to judge my own progress in the light of contemporary assessment. I must move forward through each stage of development as honestly and naturally as possible without being influenced by retrospective views of my own work. I know that, as a natural creator, the only thing worth expressing is the truth of my own existence in the purest terms possible. The effort towards such expression necessitates complete freedom from illusionistic and manneristic devices and a supreme confidence in my ability to project the essence of my true self as an original force of nature.

I must work like a farmer or gardener, continually tending my natural growth towards spiritually nourishing conclusions. I must learn and use nature, my nature, and place my trust in the climate of my own intuitional responses. All that matters is that, while I live, I retain and strengthen my freedom to dig deeper into my soil, sow my seeds and harvest my fruit in the knowledge that its nourishment will fulfil its purpose only when the time and conditions are right. It is of no consequence how my work is judged today because, as with any truly natural growth, its first importance lies in its existence - the stimulative nourishment that I aspire to is, after all, for future and therefore higher conscious states.

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Unlike any other functioning artists (musicians, writers, performers etc) for the studio creator there is no feedback - no audience acknowledgement, no royalties, no box-office or even applause. The work is created in lonely silence and, when detached from its creator, hangs by its own merit - also in lonely silence. The life and success of a work of art depends ultimately on its viewer, and more importantly, on the reasoning of that viewer. History has shown that great achievements in art have remained, often for years, just beyond the grasp of that reasoning until, because of their stimulative qualities towards a universal truth they become accepted as valued symbols of our existence. It is important that the artist is aware of this phenomenon, especially in relation to his own work. The viewer of today and the reasoning of that viewer can in no way be relative to the future standing of his efforts.

Where art is concerned I believe there are two kinds of audience worth considering; the audience of approval and the audience of acceptance, and the difference between them is very distinct. When a work meets with approval it means that it is liked, usually because it conforms to the contemporary viewers conditioned idea of what art should be. When a work becomes accepted it indicates the recognition of its genuinity as an important communication of universal values. The latter is far more important than the former. The audience that approves can only be contemporaneous with the work and its creator and, if there is enough approval, then such art becomes popular or fashionable. This audience cannot judge the artwork in an historical context and therefore remains blind to its potential or relevance to future conscious states. The audience of acceptance, however, is that audience of the future who necessarily sees and judges the quality and progress of artwork in a retrospective context. For the true creator the audience of acceptance is the only audience worth playing to - no matter how long it takes them to arrive at his theatre.

Art is the highest definition of human identity and, at its most original level, is the most incisive tool with which to dig deeper into the meanings of existence and question the human predicament. To this end the creator must always be true to his (conscious and unconscious) self and work towards the projection of that self in its purest manifestation. His art must be an effort of communication from the profoundest levels of his being in the knowledge that, while it may initially appear alien or chaotic to the contemporary observer, it will finally prove valid in its stimulation and nourishment to future minds. He must be an inventor in the extreme sense of the term and concern himself with art and only art. Also he must be able to practice that art with supreme confidence that his inventions, through their truth and communicative power, will prevail.

When I say that he should concern himself with art I mean that he should reject the directives and props, which are continually being placed, along his path by educationalists and the so-called art establishment. These are the standards which are flown to mark out the areas of acceptance and containment of what art is to the bourgeoisie; they are the signposts which indicate the avenues of compromise and display seductive invitations like: 'Commercial Success', 'Illustration and Representation', 'Political Statements', 'Fashionable Commissions', 'Religious Messages' and a myriad other clichés of conditioned society.

Such overwhelming temptation to quicker success (in a word, popularity) has the effect of condemning much contemporary artistic effort to forgettable mediocrity. In his effort to break new ground the artist must continually question existence itself through his power of invention. Only by the force of his original truth will he overcome the illusions of ego. He must, at all costs, remain true to his commitment to the future and maintain his belief in the enriching potential of his inventions.

Of course, one must acknowledge that in these days of over-communication by so many different forms of media there is often the case where the studio artist is 'taken-up' (by the audience of approval) and promptly turned into a media-celebrity of sorts. However, if an artist is serious enough in his intention and therefore does function beyond or ahead of society then this is less likely to happen. When it does happen though, as we have so often witnessed, that artist slips into the dangerous trap of becoming a product of the media, manufactured for public consumption like a pop star or sports-celebrity and promoted for reasons of fashionable sensation. In most cases this is the death-knell for what may have proved a promising creative spirit. This is the 'nine-day-wonder' syndrome which must be seen for what it is - the greatest corruption to the progress of art.

"God forbid that I should be popular".
- Joan Miro

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The true work of art is Nature at its highest level.

Art must do more than derive from nature – it must be nature.

In art, a new reality must be evoked – not an illusion.

Art is not to be understood so much as experienced – it is through the experience that we may come to understand.

Art must always question existence.

A true work of art will take us beyond known reality – its new reality will give us new knowledge.

Art is a necessary fiction through which we establish fact.

The golden rule in art is that there isn’t one.

- Morant

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