VISIONARY ART -AN INTRODUCTION.
(written by Jo Murphy, originally published in InJoy Mag)
What is Visionary Art?
Alex Grey, one of the most preeminent contemporary visionary artists, describes visionary art as artwork which encourages the development of inner sight; which embraces the spaces of the imagination, or the “visionary realm…we visit during dreams and altered or heightened states of consciousness”. He traces its lineage as far back as cave paintings of animal human hybrids, tracing it through early shamanic art, Christian mysticism in the Renaissance, and through to Frida Kahlo, surrealism, abstract art, fantastic realism and even Pop.
If we think of visionary art in this way, in theory, any artwork that includes elements of fantasy or imagination could be defined as visionary art; this is problematic, as (for example) while Mark Rothko’s paintings are incredibly spiritual and transcendent, the automation and unconscious movements of Abstract Expressionism seem to be at odds with the spiritual awareness and deliberate association with the mystic that we see in works that irrefutably fall into the category of visionary art. To clarify the field further, therefore, and cement its place as a unique form of art, we can look at some of its distinct formal attributes and the artists’ own categorisation of their work.
For the most part, though not exclusively, artist-identified visionary art contains certain formal elements. The first is repetition; repeated patterns swirling into each other, shadows and overlays repeating the concrete, full colour elements of the paintings. This feature is generally achieved through employment of mischtechnik, a layering technique involving semi-transparent paint; while time consuming, careful use of oil paints, resin and egg tempera emulsion allows the artist to create jewel-like colours as they slowly build up the layers. These visual reverberations help to invoke a sense that what we’re seeing in front of us is a vision, transcendent and intangible, rather than rooted in the physical world.
Notable contemporary visionary artists include (though are not limited to) Alex and Allyson Grey, Eric Fuchs, Amanda Sage, and Pablo Amaringo; they come from all over the globe, and each have distinctive traits.
Izzy Ivy has taken part in two of exhibitions at the Fairy Floss visionary art space, and is a regular on the Australian festival circuit; she’s pioneering new ways of bringing the visionary into fashion (beyond just prints on clothing) with her new bridal range. Ivy’s work shows a strong association with different shades of blue and purple, and her figurative work is reminiscent of creatures seen in the fantasy worlds of eighties and nineties American film and television (and perhaps even Japanese anime and manga); strong lines can be drawn between the big-eyed, winged figures seen in many of her works and the forms of Jim Henson’s creatures in the film The Dark Crystal.
Paulie Mann has been a driving force behind each of Fairy Floss’ exhibitions, a passionate collaborator as well as an artist. Working under the name Galactic Seed, Paulie’s work is strongly geometric, combining the strength of geometry with the luminous glow created by the layering techniques that are so popular amongst visionary artists. Where figures are introduced into the work, they often carry the illusion of three dimensionality – enabled by Paulie’s use of line, layering and transparent colour.
Autumn Skye brings together the layering and light that characterises visionary art, and combines it with an incredible talent for photorealistic portraiture (human and animal). Her works frequently feature a strong light source, coming from within her figures, or surrounding them; she fuses different elements together seamlessly, creating associations and ideas through juxtaposition (for example, having a temple transform into a woman builds the concept of the sacred feminine in a new and interesting way). As well as painting, Skye is a talented sculptor.
Daniel Mirante is an expert in mischtechnik, teaching this technique all over the world; his figures and landscapes are reminiscent of Classical, Ancient Egyptian and Renaissance sculpture and architecture, drawing the viewer back into a world that feels simultaneously ancient and timeless. This is underpinned by his frequent use of a limited palette, favouring earthy tones.
Adam Scott Miller blends photorealistic figures with sacred geometry and refracting colours and light, creating artwork that sits somewhere between photograph and painting, reality and magic. The bright colours and bold lines are reminiscent of a laser light show, electric and powerful, playing on our understanding and experience of the visual world in several different ways.
Fairy Floss’ Visionary Art Gallery
Late last year, the alcove space in Fairy Floss’ Jonson Street shop was transformed into a visionary art gallery, creating a permanent space where local and international visionary artists can showcase their work to the public. For established patrons and collectors, original works are available; for those who want to show their support but are just beginning their art collecting journey, prints and printed clothing items are available.
The gallery changes its featured artists and exhibit on a regular basis, and holds an opening where the public can meet the artists and learn more about this increasingly popular style. To keep up to date with what’s happening in the gallery, follow Fairy Floss Byron Bay on Facebook or come and visit them in the heart of beautiful Byron Bay.