Art can open windows and balconies to connect with society, its language heals wounds of the soul and brings that peace of mind we so desire. And yet there are those who see it as an exaggeration to speak of Art as a necessity.
A piece of art generates an encounter with the innermost self and with the “we” forming unity, bringing us in many cases closer to a state of meditation.
To talk to you about that healing art I bring you this Post Guest, where the artist Javier León Pérez (Seville, 1977) talks to us in first person.
The research he has carried out on different methodologies of meditation in drawing has gone beyond his artistic work. In his three-dimensional pieces, the textures created by the repetition of small elements, as if they were meditative rhythms, suggest landscapes and movement and, at the same time, calm and tranquillity. A balance difficult to achieve where he is a true master.
His production is exhibited in many national and international contemporary art galleries and his pieces are present in important collections of public institutions.
It is a pleasure to present this Post Guest by visual artist Javier León, in which he will talk about different meditative elements in drawing developed in his work.
To make an initial definition of what the Meditative Elements in the drawing are I will say that they are all meditative states of mind that occur while drawing and that they may or may not be sought. These meditative states are produced in a more or less autonomous way, but in no case are they directly provoked. They can be developed following two ways: the first one, manifesting in a spontaneous way, I have called it Meditation in Drawing or MD and the second way is where we have a certain attitude before drawing, incorporating some previous guidelines, which I have called Meditative Drawing or MD.
In both cases they give similar benefits to traditional meditation by providing body relaxation, calmness and mental focus. The MD, emerged after many years making drawings of different scales but mainly of medium and large scale, where I could observe that sometimes the altered states of perception and consciousness related to repetitive tasks during long days of work arose. The perception was sharpened and I was able to perceive nuances that at first I was unable to see. Consciousness became clearer as the flow of thoughts calmed down and this experience generated a very evident joy in me.
Realising this was not something that happened immediately, but rather something that was gradual, gradual and that in time I began to understand clearly that it was something much deeper than simply a state of enjoyment for drawing. Such drawings were not intended for meditation, rather meditative states emerged in their process without my wish. The KD can be found in any motif that we draw. When we are imbued with our drawing and feel a full enjoyment in what we are doing, a meditative state can arise additionally. In my view, this would be a less deep form of meditation. The point of focus would be outside our physical body, we are not attentive to our breathing, we would not follow a bodily rhythm of repetition with the stroke. At that moment we don’t notice fully consciously how we hold our pencil and what energy we let flow through our hand. This would not happen. We would only be concentrating on the forms we make with the lines.
The other way is called Meditative Drawing or MD, where we do become aware of our breathing, posture, the way we hold the pencil and the shape of the strokes as a whole. The DM I developed later, and unlike the previous one, it requires a previous attitude, a determined organization of the work space, a consciousness of the space that surrounds us and of the blank sheet of paper that we have in front of us, a determined and stable posture. Breathing exercises are incorporated in a determined way and specific exercises and drawing guidelines are carried out to achieve this end.
Among them is the one I call “Corporidas” where we draw in a loose and rhythmic way we become aware of our body and movements, or the exercise I call “Cieguidas” where we start drawing with our eyes closed, visualizing in our mind the lines we make on the paper.
The different processes are much more regulated, controlled and complex. It allows us to delve into a much deeper meditative state and the result of the drawing does not necessarily have an aesthetic purpose, although I am sometimes surprised by the great expressiveness of some results.
When we do MD, normally there is an intention to make art, to make a drawing with an artistic purpose and which we will keep for the enjoyment of the public, but when we do MD all the above is unimportant.
In the first place, MD is not done with an artistic intention, it is not intended to follow the parameters so it is understood that it should follow an artistic drawing. As Chantall Maillar would say “to follow a balance between what is told and the way it is told”. Nor would it necessarily be intended to be hung in an exhibition space for the enjoyment of a particular audience. That is not the intention.
The DM strips itself of all that, which is why it is an extremely austere manifestation of drawing. Although it may be interesting for an artist as a way of exploring other possibilities, it requires a stripping away of that identity as an artist, there would be no difference between a person who considers himself an artist and one who is not. It is true that after doing such DM exercises it can help me as a starting point for a later artistic work. It is well known the different techniques to make Meditative Drawing related to the mindfulness. They are playful formulas for relaxation and free expression. There are many books that teach you to do meditative drawing from this point of view. But I want to go one step further.
The DM delves into a manifestation of drawing that is recognized as artistic but is born without the intention of being so and that uses the minimum visual elements to make itself present.
Ecstatic hallucinations are mental states very much related to the mystical dimension, which for different factors, according to Ángel González García in his book “Painting without having a clue and other essays on art”, can be framed in two orders, one chemical and the other physical. Within the physical order are the detonating factors of a harmful nature, such as fasting, flagellation or bleeding, and the non-harmful ones such as meditation, self-hypnosis and rhythmic activity. I will focus on these latter factors as methods that generate “special” states of being in the world and perceiving it as they are closely related to MD and KD.
Some of the works I have been developing in my artistic processes have a lot of rhythmic repetition that involves the whole body together with the need of maximum precision in the execution, in painting, drawing or sculpture.
I demand maximum concentration to carry it out, and to be completely imbued which is ultimately to be very “present” in what one does. This is very similar to meditation. The automatic drawings that were so popular during the Surrealist period require a numbing of the consciousness to allow the unconsciousness to flow freely. They followed techniques very close to hypnosis or employed psychotropics. From them, particular processes (meditative, hypnotic and rhythmic) arise in a general way, which is expressed in a sort of ornamental forms based on small motifs. Some factors such as depth, for example, are not present, giving rise to planimetric works with a strong sense of “tapestry”. This type of work requires a repetitive, monotonous, very hard and demanding elaboration, they are equally exhausting as the dance or the humming of a shaman that induces ecstatic trance.
That’s why I consider my drawing work as the result of a process that is not developed by superposition, but by grouping and progression and that somehow relates to everything explained above.
My works become a “journey” sensation for me, a sensation that somehow revives the one who contemplates the result of the work. It is a process where the concept of “speed” does not exist and time acquires another value or is simply suspended.
The experience lived by the spectator in front of the work is of great importance to me. I am interested in the spectator’s ability to project himself, since almost inevitably, when experimenting with abstract and ambiguous forms, they create connections with reality or established signs and symbols. In this sense, my pieces act as a sounding board that allows the viewer to contemplate and listen to their own thoughts and to see themselves recognized and immersed in a sensory and meditative experience.
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