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Unio Mystica
A. Andrew Gonzalez
24x18 inches
Acrylic on Clayboard panel
Completed July 2002


Unio Mystica is part of Damian Michaels' Art Visionary Collection in Australia.
More information at http://www.org.nsw.gov.au/exhibitishow.htm
Catalogue of the "Fantastic and Visionary Art" tour:
http://www.org.nsw.gov.au/merchand.htm

Foreword to exhibition tour catalogue by Alan Sisley:

Orange Regional Gallery is delighted to be able to present the exhibition Fantastic and Visionary Art for tour.

This exhibition contains work from sixty different artists, from seventeen countries. Most have not been shown in Australia before, and it is certainly the first time that so many contemporary makers of so called Fantastic and Visionary art have been shown together in this country.

Whilst Fantastic and Visionary Art can be seen as a large category, spanning many centuries, this exhibition concentrates only on artists who emerged since the Second World War. These artists are generally little known in Australia, where exhibitions of the art of the unconscious and mystical realms has tended to concentrate on the work of artists who emerged between the wars, such as the first wave Surrealists.

Visionary Art is a description derived from the great psychiatrist Carl Jung, who believed the Visionary Mode derived from the historical unconscious and pointed to things unknown, hidden and secretive. For Jung such art was a true symbolic expression an art which could shape the unconscious psychic life of mankind because it had "penetrated to that matrix of life in which all men are embedded, which imparts a common rhythm to all human existence, and allows the individual to communicate his feeling and his striving to mankind as a whole".

Jung said: "Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes him and makes him its instrument", and the Visionary Artist is "collective man".

I think the majority of the artists in this exhibition would identify with Jung's notion of the artist/shaman, the revealer of hidden and healing truths, but others would stress the individuality of their vision and assert that the collectivist aspects of Jungian thought are irrelevant to their art.

It should be said at this point also, that many of the artists in this exhibition are now, or have been in the past, subject to intense visionary experience that they have understood in more or less supernatural and spiritual terms. That is not to say that each work in this exhibition is some sort of "painted hallucination" but it does assert that these artists make art which attempts to remind us of the thin tissue of "conventional reality" cloaking the "real truth" behind appearances. They have been shaken to the core by visionary experience, and can no longer view the mundane world with passive trust.

We are particularly pleased to be able to include works by Ernst Fuchs and HR Giger in the exhibition.

These two artists are particularly important in the development of post war Visionary art, exerting a wide influence not only through their amazing paintings and prints, but also via their adoption of popular art forms such as movies, television, book publishing and furniture design. To oversimplify things somewhat, Giger and Fuchs are seen as representing the two poles of visionary art, between which many others place themselves.

H.R.Giger represents the "dark side" of the Visionary movement, contrasting with Fuch's more expansive, spiritual vision. Giger is of course famous particularly for his work designing the Alien movies, but his bleak and claustrophobic vision of androids ruled by demonic unconscious forces has become symbolic of the alienation and rebellion of many young people. His work is sought eagerly by collectors throughout the world. Both Fuchs and Giger have achieved considerable financial success..both own castles, and Giger has a museum devoted solely to his work.

The exhibition includes work by the five most celebrated representatives of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, Ernst Fuchs, Arik Brauer, Rudolph Hausner, Wolfgang Hutter and Anton Lehmden who met in 1945 at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts (where the famous Hieronymous Bosch Last Judgement was housed. It is said that the young artists studied this work so much in search of technique that the director of the Academy had the work boarded up for its own safety!).

Their youthful experiences of the dissolute remains of the Austro- Hungarian empire and the rise of Nazism with the subsequent persecution of Jews and non-doctrinaire artists, (among many other groups) helped turn their art towards utopian and anti rationalistic ends.

It is interesting to note that conservative Vienna was not however the place where most of them gained wide critical acclaim, but Paris. The artists were familiar with most of the leading surrealists of the day, but they were not willing to subjugate themselves to "the strict dogma of the unreflected, sub conscious act of painting as espoused and propagated in the form of manifesto's by Andre Breton" and none identified as Surrealist painters. They were however, helped on the way to fame and fortune by older companions in art such as Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte.

In 1965 the first important touring exhibition of their work was organised, which due to public demand travelled throughout Germany as well as Austria and from then on they began to accumulate prizes in Biennales and other international shows. In Japan alone there were five major exhibitions and retrospectives.

By the 1970's their work had become the virtual trademark of contemporary Austrian culture. Indeed, although the Vienna School artists have since then passed their days of strong individual development, their influence to radiate throughout the world, and in Vienna alone there are now three generations of artists proud to be known as Fantastic Realists. This exhibition includes work by some of those succeeding generations of artists; notable among these is Peter Proksch.

Of particular importance to succeeding generations of painters has been the Vienna School rediscovery from the old masters of the famous egg tempera paint mixture and glazing method taught by Ernst Fuchs as the Mische technique. This technique enables great detail and luminosity. Fuchs has been sought out by students from many countries, and Vienna School techniques are now practiced and taught in turn by Brigid Marlin and Robert Venosa among others, although it is a most labour intensive technique.

Many of the works in the exhibition are of small size. This is common for Visionary art of all epochs because the detail invested in visionary works precludes large-scale pieces, and because the visionary state that accompanies the creation of many of these works, does not allow for prolonged contemplation.

Europe and America have a number of museums devoted to imaginative art of the sort we are showing, museums which include works by most of the artists we present here. It is the wish of the artist, collector and exhibition curator Damian Michaels, that Australia is not left behind, but should have its own strong collection of Visionary Art. Damian Michaels has founded an international art magazine "Art Visionary" from his Melbourne base, and in the pages of his journal we become aware of many of the artists we show in this exhibition and of their sense of community and shared purpose.

Although Fantastic and Visionary Art is not a movement with a committee and a manifesto, when one sees Damian Michael's correspondence with the artists of this show, one realises that this exhibition is indeed a grouping of like minded souls, which has arisen in an almost "traditional" fin de siecle manner, in the hope of forging something potent and good for the new millennium

Many of the artists emphasise the life affirming and spiritually elevating nature of these works, and some regard this art as vitally important to mankind, believing it provides numerous Jungian keys to consciousness expansion and liberation.

Although many of these artists would see themselves as belonging to a contemporary international Visionary Art movement, others owe their allegiance to Surrealism and Symbolism, and others would deny adherence to any force other than their own imaginations. Some are experimenters with the new generation of psychedelic drugs, and owe as much to Leary and McKenna as they do to Freud and Jung, or Eliaphas Levi and Crowley.

Perhaps paradoxically, given the rather old fashioned stress on realist technique of many of these artists, most take advantage of the latest technology, and are connected via the Internet. Most of the artists who identify as Visionary artists are connected, and constantly exchange ideas with one another, most have web sites, many linking to other artists. As a result there is a strong sense of community among the worldwide visionary art scene, which in turn leads to developments in parallel.

Despite the similarities and differences in motivation and intent, what is clear from this fascinating exhibition, is the dedication of all of the included artists to exploring the limits of the human psyche, and of their intense commitment to creativity and imaginative vision. Many of the artists believe that the making of this visionary art is in itself a spiritual activity that has beneficial effects for the artist, and for all those who come into contact with this art.

Visionary art is not new; indeed, it is as old as art itself. Anthropologists speculate that the very earliest cave painters were intent upon sympathetic magic when they painted their bison and deer under the control of man. It is believed that the art had a shamanic purpose akin to the ceremonial uses of many works of Aboriginal Australia.

Many of the artists of the Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance periods were intent upon elevating the viewer beyond the humdrum of his material plane into an ethereal realm of the spirit. Religious artists have wanted to record the great deeds of Christ and of Christians so that unlettered people would know of these deeds and imitate them. Many Christian artists aimed to transport the viewer into a state of contemplation akin to their subjects.

Many used similar techniques of luminosity, colour and figural expression as are used in this show. Certain of these great artists from Western art history have influenced most of the artists in our exhibition, and this is as it should be. Isaac Newton is often quoted "If I have seen further than other men, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of Giants".

One notes that the goal of art as a means to spiritual growth has been shared by many artists who were not figurative painters. I think of the Islamic calligraphic artists and in particular of the great twentieth century abstract artists Kandinsky and Mondrian.

However, most of the artists in this exhibition are figurative artists, and as such have a lot in common with the Surrealists and the Symbolists, both groups intent upon shattering the illusions of mundane existence in the hope of a better world.

In many respects the artists of Fantastic and Visionary Art remind me of the Neo Platonists, rediscovering the elemental and eternal power of the archetypal forms, and, like Plato, convinced of the power of art to change society. Some critics of this art would perhaps agree with Plato that such art can also be dangerous.

The artists of this exhibition may also be compared to the mystical Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, re-discovering and mastering what they understand of the styles of the old masters, not because there is something intrinsically good in the figurative art and techniques of the past, but because they believe that a well drawn human figure is the most universal and potent cypher, capable of unparalleled communication and penetration into the mass consciousness.

In other words, they use the human form because everyone has a body and we can identify more easily with symbols that interact with the human form. Certain of the artists are swept along by their own imaginations, and sometimes a crudity of drawing and of expression creeps in, however, in most cases the overall power of the image overcomes a naive expression, as it did for the famous visionary artists William Blake and Le Douanier Rousseau.

I believe this is an important exhibition, and I am delighted that we are able to present it for tour. I wish to thank the staff at Global Arts Link in particular for their help and their faith in the importance of this exhibition.

I wish also to thank James Gleeson and Watters Gallery for the loan of a fine work. It is important to be able to represent Australian artists of the highest calibre in this exhibition, as Australia has a proud Surrealist and Visionary tradition.

I am grateful to Damian Michaels not only for his curatorial exhibition development, but also for drawing so many of these fine artists to my attention. Damian is indeed an artist of Vision, whose collection, magazine, and eventual museum will surely take their place among the significant art events in this country.

Alan Sisley Director, Orange Regional Gallery June 2003


Copyright A. Andrew Gonzalez. No reprint without permission. All Rights Reserved.