Painting by Darwin Leon
Art may imitate everyday life and we may be pleased with its familiar representations, but the living principle of art is certainly not the mere imitation of material objects and formal motions. Firmly rooted in our desires, passions, fantasies, erotic dreams, social concepts and beliefs, art is the creative alternative to the mundane, monotonous and mechanical life of habit and blind reaction that tends to quiet desperation, stagnation, disease, and violent outbursts unless life is artfully expressed.
The art of painting is an imaginative search for tentative answers to the mysterious challenges of life. The fine artist is of course cognizant of the historical principles of technique over time. Still, the painter who is most intimate with the origin of the motivating spirit of art does not allow her explorations of structure and experiments with line, color and form to be stifled by the forced application of colored paint in a certain way.
The innovative artist who sincerely appreciates the precious gift of art appreciates the historical evolution of art as well. He is glad to represent civilized art. He does not wear the habit of revolutionary nihilism. He refuses to be stupefied by contemporary habits. He is eager to challenge himself in every way in order to receive that spirit of art without which the foundation and progress of civilizations would be impossible.
Although I work with several styles of art, my favorite manner of artistic expression is surrealistic. I am inspired by Surreality, the unconscious and subconscious reality beyond or underlying everyday common sense as well as intentional or willful 'rational' thought. Thus I share the Surrealist Movement's interest in the free, uncensored, "automatic" expression of the irrational, paradoxical, and absurd aspects of life that provide us, if we are open to them, amazing insights into the unknown hence mysterious context that governs our behavior far more than we would like to admit. At the same time, I share the prehistoric and classical interest in the interpretation of the irrational by poetic and artistic means. Without this evolving interpretation of the unknown, interpretations, which take coherent forms in human art, we would not exist as human beings.
The imaginative surrealistic flight from apparent reality to Surreality fell out of fashion some time ago, in part because many surrealists were distracted by the attraction of the modern spirit to contemporaneity of fleeting fashion. In the blind adoration of the contemporary fetish, artists lost touch with the marvelous traditional hypostasis of their art. The post-modern world (a world incidentally foreseen by surrealists) offered such a bewildering plurality of incongruities to contemplate that people fled from the art of the amazing into contemporary conceptual cubicles adorned by the ornaments of modernolatry.
Thus did modernity degenerate into the staticism of pseudo-dynamic post-modernism. Frightened by its own self-caricature and afraid of profound interpretation, post-modernism settled for the illusory dynamism of fleeting frivolity justified by a subjective anti-art ideology even more stultifying than the arrogant gods it sought to depose. Reason, dismayed by its confines, rebelled against history and memory and rationalized its own destruction with the foolish ideology of the ludicrous, reducing the conception of the human race to prehistoric nonsense. Thus are enemies determined by their enemies. Disorder was jokingly condemned in a disorderly fashion, in senseless, grotesque parody. But once the joke was taken seriously, once disorder became conventional, the anti-art movement lost its life in contemporary relativistic mediocrity, a static ideology rationalized by self-destructive dogmatic skepticism most often expressed in the dictum, "There is no right and wrong in art."
Yet Surreality remains. The truth prevails. The superior 'underground' movement endures. Instead of denying the way, I embrace it. Painting is a self-controlled meditation for me. I am not a robot: my paints to not automatically flow from the tubes. I relax and submit myself to the flowing stream of waking dreams when I am painting. I do my best to keep the errors of prejudice and preconception to a minimum while meditating. But when Surreality surfaces, I must admit that I am aware of it and that my art is intentional. My dreams, then, are guided: I am at the wheel, and the fundamental wheel is traditional - I did not invent the wheel nor does it need to be reinvented. That is not to say that the wheel may not be modified or that tradition is forever set in stone. Some of the innovative modes of negation devised by the anti-art and postmodern artists to challenge traditional conventions are "new traditions", valuable modifications of the rebellious approach creative minds have always taken.
I refuse to repudiate or to willingly participate in a futile attempt to annihilate my own memory and the related memory of the human race (history) hence condemn myself and humanity to a false freedom expressed by knee-jerk reactions prompted by the lizard brain. Primitive man, after all, despite the myth of the noble savage, was in large part enslaved by the natural environment and the customary or habitual responses of his social group; it was by virtue of his gradual command over his imaginative process that he managed to free himself. Wherefore my work naturally reflects that progress. My work is not produced in a vacuum: it has a strong social, political, religious and cultural context.
The context of the Renaissance has had a profound effect on my way of thinking. The Renaissance, the rebirth of the spirit of art, is the most important period in the history of art since ancient times. It is with an understanding of the nature of the Renaissance that the spirit of art may arise once again from a dark age. If students of art wish to be masters of art, they need to study the elements of the great art of the Renaissance.
When we behold the great art that the masters of the Renaissance produced, we do not say it is "cool" or "hot." Denizens of the "modern art world" tend to misidentify "art" with "attraction" - two very different ideas. We might say that an attraction is "cool", or "interesting", but a work of fine art is amazing. We speak truthfully when we say it is “amazing" and "marvelous", because we are indeed amazed as we marvel at the creation.
Receiving transmissions from the Beyond is one thing; conveying them is another. Artists must constantly develop their skills. That means they will have to understand form, structure, perception, vision, identity, perspective, prospective, statics, dynamics, and many other aspects of the original and indispensable spirit of art. And skilled artists should courageously face the truths of their circumstances no matter how awful and tragic those truths might be. Great Masters such as Caravaggio, Rubens, Michelangelo, and others were not afraid of the tragic aspects and the mysteries of life. Life is not always "pretty", or "cool" or "hot", or "interesting." Art should be attuned to origins and period crises along the time-space continuum. The greatest mystery in life is found in its origin and its crises, at the nexus of the ends of old periods and beginnings of new periods. The origin and nature of life and death, of good and evil, is the stuff dreams are made from.
Again, artists should be highly skilled in an objective sense, first of all, no matter how abstract or unrepresentative of anything plainly visible their art might be. To be truly attuned to the nature of the spirit of art, it behooves the dedicated artist, at least the artist who would strike out on her own, not to be too hasty to be unique, but rather to do her best to recapitulate the history of art from time to time, absorbing the essential elements of the most remarkable styles and approaches of the great masters.
Art must be saved by artists. Art is presently a species endangered by the anti-art defeatism that was stillborn as a joke on the jokesters a century ago. Confronted with the horrendous destruction of the Great War, writers blamed the destruction on culture and wanted to destroy culture. But culture is the mental development and evolution of the human race. Yes, anguished writers believed they could find some relief from their fear and anxiety by destroying culture, the deliberative product of the human mind and memory, with barbarous mechanisms such as cutting arbitrarily chosen cultural arrangements up and randomly pasting the pieces back together into, say, an absurd "poem."
Whereas the impressionable poets were wont to bow down to the Impressionist artists when the those artists entered the bohemian café, the post-modern artists, impressed by the intellectual attack on intellect, bowed down to the despairing writers and became anti-artists. In their understandable despair, afraid to believe anything at all, they found what they were looking for: nothing at all: their salvation was nowhere to be found. Therefore contemporary art represented the destructive life they hated, becoming virtually the very thing it protested.
And now the historical spirit of fine art must be recovered yet again and brought forward. The culture of high civilization is not the enemy of man but is his best friend. That is, if he would not be a brute. His brutal enemy is primitive, ignorant, and barbaric, and is all too "contemporary” or determined by the collective unconscious and blind habits of his time. In critical terms, the brutal art is all subjective concept and no social ideal. The artistic brute has a concept that he does not really understand, and his success depends on a popularity contest whose winners might as well be randomly selected by a computer. The surrealist artist brings those inchoate forces of cultural darkness to light, not to celebrate them as a contemporary attraction but to tame them. Note well that Renaissance Masters were not "contemporary": they painted and practiced the "classic" subject matter of thirteen centuries prior for nearly three hundred years.
Although I tune in to Surreality, I do not rely on the arbitrary and accidental determination of my main subjects - as if one could intentionally be unintentional. I choose the subjects that I meditate upon. Of course I do not deny that providence might have a role in the determination of my choices, that there may be no such thing as an accident. My works may reflect current events, or project future events corresponding to destiny. My projections of the future are not contrived but are the consequences of my penchant for constant experimentation and exploration of the myriad forms that the spirit of art can take when the medium is willing.
Despite my intense interest in the discovery and exploration of new frontiers, I am quite mad about cubism and surrealism, as can be seen in many of my works to date. I am now experimenting with a more intense way of abstracting and enhancing the figure, a movement I call cubosurrealism. The marriage of surrealism and cubism conveys the unconscious and subconscious suggestions of the momentous and marvelous Surreality better than either style standing alone.
It is a very fine thing, I think, to embrace the best aspects of natural traditions wherever they might be found. For example, the heroic tradition recognizes heroes. It is natural for social creatures to find and emulate the best among them. Creative artists have a tradition of recognizing their own heroes, the great artists who have most influenced their artistic progress. I happen to look up to Salvador Dali. I do not idolize Dali, but he is my artistic hero, the inspiration for my artistic mission.
Of one thing I am certain: Dali was ahead of his time and of our time. Salvador Dali came up with his own style and imagery while abiding by masterful technique. That is, his innovative expression was carefully controlled by traditional means. Dali had a paradoxical way of entertaining the general public with intellectual subjects they might not otherwise comprehend or be interested in. Of course his greatest sin was in getting rich by bringing fine art before the public in a commercial way - as if a master has no right to make fine art out of a lipstick advertisement, so everyone could be amazed and exclaim, "Voila!"
People are rediscovering Dali and are consequently finding meaning in postmodernism. Sophisticated people are now claiming that appropriate projections and interpretations of Surreality are therapeutic. The anti-artists said that salvation is nowhere, but practitioners of surrealistic art finds the possibility for the resurrection of art and humankind everywhere, in every possible subject whether it be concrete or abstract.
The resurrection of art remains to be seen. That is why I carry forward with my project with my manifesto in mind.