I'm still not entirely sure what this painting is about, but here's the stuff I was thinking about while I made it. I do want people to approach it in the way you would a David Lynch film, to not really try and figure it out, but just soak it in and see how it makes you feel and what it makes you think about.
I think a big part of it is my nostalgia for North Carolina. I lived there from ages 5-10 and got a good taste of the hickness. I started this painting as a spur of the moment, fleeting feeling of intense, unleashed inner wild man. The part of myself that comes out when it's not stopped by any inhibitions (aka drunk). The weird inner cretin that's not afraid of how off-putting they may be, pure instinct and impulse shrouded in a small tunnel of perspective. The inner party boy heavily inspired by Larry Enticer 69, Trailer Park Boys, Gummo etc... There's this intense feeling of relief and freedom that comes from shrugging off all responsibility and being completely indulgent in the first impulse or desire that hits you.
The Bacchus/Dionysus tattoo on the bottom right of the torso embodies that hedonistic drunken binge. This is an expression of that spirit in the modern day, with a little hint of violence and stabbing for flavor.
This is personal and something I really don't need to share, so I'll just say that over the course of painting this, the focus shifted from hillbilly-beast-unleashing to the Shadow self, and that I don't drink anymore. And we'll leave it at that :)
Thomas Metzinger is an amazing philosopher that focuses on what he calls the Phenomenal Self Model (PSM). He's great to listen to/read if you want to understand how flimsy your sense of self really is and how it comes to be, which is great for understanding how your ego represses parts of yourself to create your shadow. This is from the beginning of The Ego Tunnel.
"In a series of virtual reality experiments, Olaf, his PhD student Bigna Lenggenhager, and I attempted to create artificial OBEs (out of body experiences) and full-body illusions. During these illusions, subjects localized themselves outside their body and transiently identified with a computer-generated, external image of it. What these experiments demonstrate is that the deeper, holistic sense of self is not a mystery immune to scientific exploration--it is a form of conscious representational content, and it can be selectively manipulated under carefully controlled experimental conditions."
In other words, the ego/self is not limited to your body. Your sense of identifying with things is flimsy and can meld with everything around you (I am the universe and everything in it) or shrink to the point of your own limbs feeling foreign. This is a huge part of getting "triggered." When your sense of self attaches to an ideology or fandom or brand or character and you identify with it, and that external thing is attacked, then you're attacked, and you need to defend it!
Here's a talk from the Deconstructing Yourself Podcast with Metzinger - https://deconstructingyourself.com/podcast/dy-012-consciousness-spirituality-intellectual-honesty-guest-thomas-metzinger
The alchemical Great Work, the Magnum Opus is the life lived with ones full potential being met, the unification of the ego with the Self. The system of the individual encounters something that breaks it apart, what it thought it was we realize is BS (Nigredo). Our sense of self is shattered, the house of cards comes tumbling down, we realize there is no objective reality, we see the emptiness in everything in the Buddhist sense. The disassembling of the chariot; when taken apart what is the meaning of a wheel? What is the meaning of a splinter from the wood of the wheel? Everything only has meaning relative to everything else, within a context. Even the tiniest, most insignificant thing is dependent on, held up by, and exists in relation to EVERYTHING else.
So then what? Nothing matters, there's no meaning in the world, life is pointless? No, you make the meaning, you make the rules, you assemble the pieces back together however you want according to your will. This is your chance to put things back together right. "It is a Latinicized term meaning "whiteness". Following the chaos or massa confusa of the nigredo stage, the alchemist undertakes a purification in albedo, which is literally referred to as ablutio – the washing away of impurities. In this process, the subject is divided into two opposing principles to be later coagulated to form a unity of opposites or coincidentia oppositorum during rubedo."
The guy in the painting would be in this negredo stage where nothing has meaning, nothing to lose, the massa confusa.
Here's another awesome talk from the Deconstructing Yourself Podcast related to this subject by the author of Seeing that Frees - https://deconstructingyourself.com/podcast/dy-025-emptiness-liberation-and-beauty-with-guest-rob-burbea
Also here's yet another amazing episode from the same podcast that's really talking about the shadow from a different perspective, calling these troublesome parts of ourselves our blind spots - https://deconstructingyourself.com/podcast/dy-018-seeing-your-blind-spots-with-guest-kelly-boys
You should just listen to every episode, it's great.
Chaos magic in relation to the deconstruction of the self
What I love about chaos magick (symbol on the bellybutton) and why I think it ties really nicely into this whole negredo stage of emptiness is it's approach and perspective on the traditional Golden Dawn ceremonial magick setup. It takes all of these "empty" (in the buddhist sense) parts and processes and rituals and plays with them and finds the core parts that work, it mixes and matches the puzzle pieces in order to carry out an intent, whatever that is. I think one of the fundamental mechanisms of magick is using your intent to modify future probability, as Tom Campbell would put it. All of the ritual trappings and flair in ceremonial magick are techniques in order to help you focus your intent into something clear and strong. What happens so often with just about every packaged procedure is people get caught up in the trappings surrounding the intent, and not the intent itself. Why I like chaos magick in the context of this painting and the deconstructing of the self is it's openness and outside of the box thinking of taking all of these "empty" ritual techniques like using the pentacle and chalice to represent the elements of earth and water, and mixing and matching them with whatever other tools are available, and experimenting and seeing what works. Doing things like invoking Superman to bring out your confidence. That contrast between ritual objects also reveals more about what fundamental factors are at play, which I think is mainly intent and willpower. So I threw that chaos magick symbol in there to drive home this idea of there being no inherent meaning in anything, no objective self either, there's what appears to be in your field of experience and you choose to interpret it and do with it what you will.
The "born to lose" and discordianism symbol are heavily inspired by Robert Anton Wilson - "The Sacred Chao is not the Yin-Yang of the Taoists. It is the Hodge-Podge of the Erisians. And, instead of a Podge spot on the Hodge side, it has a pentagon which symbolizes the Aneristic Principle, and instead of a Hodge spot on the Podge side, it depicts the Golden Apple of Discordia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_of_Discord) to symbolize the Eristic Principle. The Sacred Chao symbolizes absolutely everything anyone need ever know about absolutely anything, and more! It even symbolizes everything not worth knowing, depicted by the empty space surrounding the Hodge-Podge."
The sacred chao is in there because discordianism, that's all you need to know. The moment your eyeballs graced this text you've been pontificated. Also, The Game. http://discordia.wikia.com/wiki/Discordianism
I think it was in his talk Techniques of Consciousness Change
he mentions these four dispositions of people: I'm ok, you're ok; I'm ok, you're not ok; I'm not ok, you're not ok; and I'm not ok, you're ok. This really stuck out to me and I've thought a lot about it since. He goes into a short description of each I think, and I could be remembering this wrong as I haven't listened to it in a while, but mentions the last type as the kind of person to have the "born to lose" tattoos. This stuck out to me as great imagery and inspiration, and I think I as well as many others fall into this category of thinking everyone else has got it together and we're behind and something's wrong with us, "why can't I just be normal?" etc... This is a big part of my personal shadow, feeling inadequate. This painting is almost a ritual releasing of all my shit I don't need.
The Dove and Serpent tattoo is a rabbit hole of it's own, but is very much tied into the overarching idea behind the painting, which comes down to all the fun little predicaments we get into with having an ego. The serpent represents the mind, the intellect, left brained thinking, things in particular, boundaries, limitations, earthiness, physical death and mortality. Basically lots of parts of the ego. The dove transcends boundaries, limitations, and conditions and represents the spirit or soul, the Self in Jungian terms. On a 2D plane the dove would be the Y (flying) modality and the serpent X (slithering), and in order to move dynamically you need both. The two are supposed to work together to navigate life, not be at odds with each other. But in a lot of cases the mind and ego ends up strangling the spirit! Instead of the ego merging with the self, it stifles the spirit and tries to control it according to what parameters are "best", quelling fears, making it look good, fending for itself at the expense of others etc...
This is where we get into rough waters with this video in terms of it being pretty far out there, but I think it's got some great nuggets in it in really understanding how the ego works in the context of duality: self and other, higher and lower self, left brain vs right brain, etc... -
Here's a great distillation of Jung's Shadow - http://highexistence.com/carl-jung-shadow-guide-unconscious/ . With the climate of social media this is the perfect contrarian antidote to bring up against all of the carefully constructed houses of cards that are our online personas. Tear it down and see what you're really made of, ugly bits and all (as if this whole essay isn’t just that, me projecting an image of myself, heh). The goal of "shadow work" is facing and acknowledging your unconscious tendencies that you'd otherwise repress and avoid. I had this messed up notion though, that in order to "purify" myself I needed to pick apart each and every uncomfortable and negative aspect about myself. That I needed to fully immerse myself in my own baggage and completely understand it, and this really just ended up with me putting myself on trial and judging myself into oblivion. It ended up being like someone going along a path, squatting down and waddling backwards and picking apart their own piles of shit instead of standing up straight, looking forward and taking in what's in front of them. It's so much healthier to take your negative aspects as they come and simply face them and try to understand how or why they got there instead of actively seeking them out and trying to dissect them and judging yourself for them. To be in the present looking forward instead of dwelling on the past. Forget what just happened, what can I do right now in this moment, regardless of that isolated thing that just happened, to most effectively do what's best for myself. That's something I really struggle with.
Other's may be the exact opposite, thinking they're the shit and can do no wrong. The same thing still applies, looking at your reactions honestly and understanding where they come from. Does the core of your motivations come from somewhere secure or insecure?
Some more on Jung's interpretation of the four alchemical stages from wikipedia - "The three alchemical stages preceding rubedo were nigredo (blackness) which represented putrefaction and spiritual death, albedo (whiteness) which represented purification, and citrinitas (yellowness); the solar dawn or awakening.
In the framework of psychological development (especially with followers of Jungian psychology), these four alchemical steps are viewed as analogous to the process of attaining individuation. In an archetypal schema, rubedo represents the Self archetype, and is the culmination of the four stages, the merging of ego and Self.
The Self manifests itself in "wholeness," a point in which a person discovers their true nature."
The tattoo of the "Hero", the figure with the lightning bolts, dagger and owl, is from the album cover of Bölzer's Hero -
I just love this album and get a strong sense of spiritual power and creating from a very inspired place. I aspire to create my paintings with as much intervention of the divine muses. Here's an interview with the lead guy that's really interesting - http://www.bardomethodology.com/articles/2016/11/09/bolzer-interview/
Here's the lyrics, just very inspirational in general - http://www.metalstorm.net/bands/lyrics.php?album_id=89605&band_id=7974&bandname=B%26ouml%3Blzer
The "snitchblade" tattoo is mostly just badass and embodies the perfect vibe of the type of person in this painting, and it's one of my favorite songs -
Same with this dude…
Gummo - Marvelous Persona -
Here's the raw dump of brainstorming of the mythos in which this painting exists that I'd add to as associations popped up.
On the actual visual art side as opposed to the conceptual side, the aesthetic was heavily inspired by artists like Nathaniel Evans, Sid Watters, Phil Hale, and Justin Mortimer. All of which have works that are lit like a camera flash and have such a specific feel and look to them. I just wish I could be as loose and expressive and moody as them, their work is so SICK. Hopefully as I get more comfortable with oils I'll be able to play around more.
Here’s some more nice close ups of the final painting
So that’s about as coherent as I can get on the storm of ideas that was going through my head as I was making this. I really hope this was enjoyable to read despite there being about 20 hours of podcasts and videos. But these influences have transformed the way I see the world and how I make my art.
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