The Vacuum, Enter the Unconscious

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“Our epoch is a time of tragic collision between spirit and matter – a time of terrible, inescapable vacuum, a time of enormous questions. When religion, science and morals (the latter by the strong hand of Nietzsche) are shaken and when the outer supports threaten to fall, man turns his gaze from the external to the deeper essence within him.” Kandinsky

“I paint forms as I think them, not as I see them.” Picasso

The 20th century departure from the traditional outward referencing of the world of objective reality as a source upon which visual artists could engage their internal inter-subjectivity in the production of their art, echoed the  prevailing malaise, the loss of certainty, the nihilism, and the vacuum that accompanied the larger shift from one cultural epoch to the advent of a new beginning.

The nihilist movement (Dada) came to the conclusion that art was dead, and civilization was bankrupt. They offered nothing but noise, irony, and cynicism in its place. However, other artists explored a number of different directions arising out of the ashes of former traditional cultural conventions in their search for something to say.

“Only at rare intervals, when the clouds part in a dark sky of the crumbling canon do a few individuals discern a new constellation, which already belongs to a new canon of transpersonal values and foreshadows its configuration.” Art and the Creative Unconscious, Erich Neumann, page 110.

The vacuum that Kandinsky refers to occurred in the interval between the dissolution of the former cultural canon and the point of ignition of a new cultural epoch. This vacuum provided for an undifferentiated free-fall from an adherence to previous conventions and prepared the way for an unfettered access to the Collective Unconscious with its images, symbols, and archetypes. Evidence for this can be found in the work of Picasso, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Malevich, Miro, Klee, Chagall, Magritte, Arp, Brancusi, and Moore, to name but a few.

While some readers of these blog postings may be familiar with the history of the radical turning points in the visual arts in the early pivotal years of the 20th century, others may not be so informed. The attempt here is to provide a context within which I have been able to find something to say in my own work. I am gradually filling out that objective and plan to arrive at the point where I can write about my drawings, paintings, and sculptures within a condensed contemporary visual art overview.