Max D. Standley: Reality and the Creative Process
An Essay by Max D. Standley
Reality is a relative term. We can ask if there is any evidence, aside from the mystics claim, that our seemingly solid and material world is only a dream. From what the scientists tell us at this time, the mystics are right. The universe that we have been conditioned to see is more of a virtual reality than what we have been led to believe is the real deal.
Lucid dreaming, when you are aware that you are dreaming while you dream, puts a spin on what we perceive as real. For anyone who has experienced a lucid dream, it is both a wonder and is demolishing. It makes us question what is real and what is imagination.
This gets to the very nature of consciousness. What we are conditioned to think of as reality, from childhood, is an old habit that is hard to break. Non-lucidity is the issue here – not being aware that we have been conditioned, as it seems to be in a normal dream. In the transformative vision we receive our “knowing” from the death and rebirth experience that we must go through, before we can truly know ourselves and be who we are. It is this transformative experience that gives us this unique vision.
The process is the reality, which is all in the here and now, no past or future. How strange that seems to our conditioned minds. The idea of nature being unified, along with the concept of panpsychism (the belief that mind, or consciousness, is omnipresent throughout the universe and is a fundamental aspect of the universe), has encouraged this artist to express the oneness of the microcosm and macrocosm.
Art can lead us to a more spiritual reality. I try to form a new symbolic whole by combining unrelated images, a kind of reordering of what we deem reality. It seems to me that some artists need to express the archetypes as Carl Jung speaks of:
The creative process, so far as we are able to follow it at all, consists in the unconscious activation of an archetypal image, and in elaborating and shaping this image into the final work.
So in this sense it asserts the unity of and manifestation of God in nature. The view that the mind is evolving into higher consciousness is a worthwhile idea. It appears that the aesthetic sense happens at the highest levels of the mind, giving us access to the fourth dimension. To me, the fourth dimension is not spatial or temporal; it is the realm of the spiritual or cosmic consciousness.
Lines and tones are signs of a hidden reality. Going beyond the surface, our vision transports us into the spirit. It’s an immersion in the psychic, manifest into the material. As in the quest of the alchemist, my own symbols are arrived at through meditation and the contemplation of nature, and can be used as guides for the observer. Going through the meditative act of painting and engraving may lead to a genuine vision that brings out the Great Mystery all around us. It’s been a daily quest for a long time – to become one with nature. Oh, the fascination with the meaning of it all. When you get multiple symbols, several in the same place, it creates mystery and access to the meanings beyond the symbol. The whole is greater than the parts.
You can experience my work on many levels. At first glance a three dimensional realism is seen, at times trompe l’oeil in its illusion. The realism draws you into an inner world of symbol and metaphor that hopefully extends your consciousness into other dimensions. It’s about looking at the hidden.
The act of creating does not build the ego, it makes the ego different. In other words, your old self becomes smaller and less important, and is always changing into that new being. This happens when a person is in the flow; there is a feeling of being released from your old self. If it happens, it is very liberating. As a result, the finished work will resonate with this sense of release. This isn’t the end result as much as a new beginning, we can start again as a child learning and growing,
Since any verbal description of the absolute is limited, we can show it only through symbols that go through the layers of our consciousness.
As an example, the two dimensional spiral is a remarkable symbol. It comes from its source and returns to it. Spirals show the cycles of change within the continuum, and contain the ideas of expansion and contraction.
Significant on a personal and cosmic level, it seems to me that symbols in fact have a psychogenetic nature. They can express the archetypes in our constitution. placing art in the realm of psychobiology. Therefore there is a transformative value in the use of symbols in art, as it changes both the artist and the observer. This is the ideal that is strived for. Our intent is the driving influence for change for better or worse, more conscious or less conscious, light and dark, hopefully going in the direction of the light.
All of this applies to the chosen medium. Oddly enough, line engraving can teeter between a sharp realism and an out of control abstraction. Being spontaneous with as many tools that effect the copper as possible – dry point with varied points sharpened at different bevels and angles, round, angular, pointed, etc., mezzotint of various intensity, and of course graver work in many depths widths and textures, as well as abrasives and polishing, the printing process itself – is a large part of the expression. Knowing about the various kinds of paper and its conditions, of this cellulous field of expression, all contribute to the final image.
It’s all a synthesis of life experience leading into the next moment we call living. Oil painting has all of this, and more, with the subtleties of tone, color, a faster expression using a brush, and the fluid medium. It affords one with a more varied flow of expression.
Whatever medium, the goal is spontaneity of invention and change as the art is created; the chaos of potential creation projects a unique sense of unity. My work is suspended between the animate and inanimate, an exercise in projecting human thought into objects – being spirit and flesh and at the same time, natural textures
Expressing the zeitgeist, the spirit of the time and the general characteristics of a particular period, is what the visionary artist does. It can become evident in retrospect, if the culture changes and begins to see from the vantage point that the artist had earlier. There is a connection between contemporary art and quantum mechanics, and how our minds, a “limited” perceptual apparatus, could be part of a universal mind. A higher dimension and space time continuum is clear, in light of quantum mechanics. It makes mind a part of the actual world’s physical processes, by connecting the observer and the observed. .
As William Blake has said:
He who does not imagine in stronger and better lineaments and in stronger tones and better light then his perishing and mortal eye can see does not imagine at all.
—Max D. Standley