Anthea Joy Simpson of Melbourne, Australia recently sent me some questions about my work. I thought they were pretty great so posted my answers below. I'm not sure if this will be ending up on a blog or in a magazine somewhere, but here it is now:
You have written on your website about the relation between (your) art and the psychopomps of the spiritual world, and you say that these psychopomps are able to ‘restore psychic order and bring forth a deeper level of consciousness and clarity’ –
Q: Would you say that you have very specific relationships with these psychopomps in the sense that they are particular individualised beings with whom you frequently commune?
No, absolutely not. The paintings are like “psychopomps” in the sense that they mediate two very different modes of experience. The figures in my work are more like ideas than actual people or beings. They are real in the sense that a Greek God or Hindu Deity is real. I would even go so far to say that they are as real as world leaders like Barack Obama, someone who has an actual life and identity, but who’s presence is stronger in the realm of archetypes. I guess you frequently commune with Obama when you see him on the television, but your relationship is not personal.
So no, I am not a “medium” for them.
Q: In restoring psychic order or gaining a deeper clarity and consciousness, is that a therapeutic process only for you as the artist, or is that also for these spirit beings as well?
I’m not really sure about what goes on in the spirit world, I would imagine that someone/something up there has an awareness of me and my work and the work of other artists, but I don’t imagine it as the sort of place in which narrative exists in real time. It is outside of time as we experience it.
For me making art is not really therapeutic as much as it is necessary. It is a means of understanding images in a way that you cannot when you are not making them. You don’t really see someone’s face until you try to paint it. You perceive it, but you do not see it. And so it is with every subject.
I think that all art is sort of therapeutic in some sense. But the patient is human civilization .
Q: Do you think the psychopomps kind of, ‘knock on your consciousness’ in order to attain your audience/attention for the purpose of their own self expression through you as a channel?
I think that Eros is a powerful force, as is Thanatos. I think about these forces or experience them working on me at all times. But no, I do not channel them directly. My work is Shamanistic only in the broadest sense, I am not a guru or representative of some sort of logos or cosmic intelligence. I think it would be pretty arrogant to make this claim, and most people that do seem to be somewhat fraudulent. The most I would say is that I make real what otherwise is merely a potential-an entelechy.
A channel that announces itself as such immediately closes the door.
In one brief text/chat exchange we had, I suggested that when you are painting, it may be like a ‘conversation’ –
Q: Would you say that is an accurate way to describe what is happening?
I think there is a conversation with the painting. As it is evolving it seems to offer you with certain paths or drags out other passages. It’s more like a series of consecutive possibilities than a conversation though. Maybe more like a chess game.
Q: If so, are these conversations between yourself and the psychopomps very clear and conscious?
Q: Would you say that when you are painting, the process is completely intuitive?
It is highly intuitive. But the intuitions guide technical skills that are more analytic and evaluative.
Q: How much does your ‘rational, critical mind’ engage in the process?
Mostly in the planning stage or after the work is done.
Q: Do you ever struggle, argue, wrestle or battle with your works as they are coming into being?
If they are difficult technically, yes. I often feel like a painting is kicking my ass, fighting with me, refusing to come forward easily. Sometimes I feel like the painting has won, and I just walk away with a sense of defeat-with the feeling that the work doesn’t wish to come into being. Usually I am relentless and tire it down. I have enormous patience and will work for months on something if necessary. Eventually I catch it.
Q: How much of your creation is under your own conscious control? In terms of theme/form/colour/texture? Or, are you in a state of total surrender to it?
The aesthetic decisions are pretty intuitive. My skills have grown over time. Some stuff I can’t really explain how to do-some things can’t really be taught. But again, its not a surrender in a sort of automatic sense, its more like it just comes forward from me. My color choices are who I am. I am not disassociated from them.
Q: Do you consider yourself to be producing these artworks for only yourself? Or – are they also for other people, for the psychopomps and other spiritual beings?
The paintings are for anyone with eyes. Hopefully that answers your question.
Q: Do you consider your work as a kind of ‘service to humanity’ or to Spiritual beings at all?
No, I’m not that arrogant. That sounds like something a Conceptual Artist would say.
Q: Do you consider yourself to have a certain ‘responsibility’ in terms of how you use your talent? Like, a social and/or spiritual responsibility?
Most talented people never become famous to the point where their work really matters beyond the handful of people that are aware of it. I don’t think I’ve passed that point, and actually this could be said of even the more “well known” artists that show at Blue Chip galleries on the global scene. They are not widely know outside of a group of specialists, only a few visual artists ever break into the wider popular consciousness.
I think that while many people find my work enchanting or fascinating, others find it unsettling. These people might feel that I am shirking my responsibility to ostensibly make art for a larger audience, work that is more for the “general public”. This makes me sad.
People seem to search out things that amplify their own pre-existing personalities, beliefs, and sensibilities and to block out that which confounds them. But it’s actually good for people when they are perplexed by things-it means that they will think a little, or feel something that they didn’t feel. If art can do anything it is to shine a light upon that which has been unexamined, to make visible the invisible, and to ultimately help us understand who we are.
I love work that is full of unmitigated joy and visual delight, I mean who doesn't ? But if art was ONLY overflowing beds of lush and verdant flora-or paintings of unbelievably super-cute kittens and puppies, I think it would be committing a grave crime against humanity. It would fail in its duty to express the full range of human existence. If I have any social responsibility as an artist it is to be honest to my own experience of being human and to try to communicate this experience without thinking about whom it will or will not please. Taste is fickle and impossible to satisfy, you have to realize that the ability to please everyone is possessed by no man. But this is actually why and how art can be so powerful, because just as it pleases us so much- it does sometimes displease.
June 16, 2011
Jacques de Beaufort