The Non-Duality of Self-Expression

By Trezevant, Ellen | PSYART, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Non-Duality of Self-Expression


Trezevant, Ellen, PSYART


abstract

This article explores the non-dual nature of the creative act in its essentially unitive or unifying aspect, based upon the revelations which can arise from an earnest self-inquiry. This unifying creative action then is viewed as a response of the self to the entire gamut of human experience, i.e., waking consciousness, dream-state consciousness and deep sleep or meditative consciousness. The visual vocabularies of realism, symbolism and abstraction - as self projective and self perceptive modalities - are compared and contrasted to the three dimensions of human consciousness. The denial of the absolute reality of external form which naturally arises from the progression towards abstraction, can't be refuted. Nevertheless, the essence of the spontaneously creative act reaffirms itself through its irreducible yet vibrantly unifying quality, continuing to manifest on varying levels of material existence.

Self-expression as unitive consciousness

I recently completed the translation of a piece of text based upon the drig-drishya-viveka from the Indian Advaita Vedanta tradition. The thrust of that classical text is that the fundamental unity of being-awareness, previous to all conditions, is discovered by continually stepping backwards through each level of phenomenal conditioning to always discover the unifying quality of being-awareness on a preceding level. Its non-dual premise got me thinking about painting - and all the arts for that matter - as experiential examples of that unitive quality of consciousness manifesting itself through transparent action on varying levels of material existence.

To flesh that statement out, I can try to clarify what I now understand to be a main aesthetic principle. What makes a piece of art - art - is its own vibrant inner unity as the expression of an idea, feeling, sensation, movement or combination thereof. It's not about - and never has been - a good, even excellent, depiction of some external reality. But rather it is about the consciousness-unity of the artist (subject) merging with his or her materials and subject matter (object) in such a way so as to reflect back a little piece of cohesive life to the consciousness-unity of his or her viewers. When it's good, it's magical. As viewer, or listener, we enter into the world of the artist and become transformed by the experience.

Additionally, and at this point in humanity's knowledge of itself, it's certainly not important that the final form of a piece of artwork be classically realistic. Most contemporary artists prefer at least some level of abstraction. But modality aside, what makes a work of art eloquent is the unity of the intent expressed through the materials on into the final form. Perfect, we say, form = function, function = form, in an aesthetic sense. Thus, the only rule is that a piece of art must be true to itself, whatever that self is. Looking at artistic creation from this point of view frees both the artist and his or her audience from any formal constraint, allowing modality, medium and message to coincide by simply remaining true to the original impulse.

Self-expression of the multi-dimensional Self

I'd guess that most artists in their creative act intend to hint at what they experience as ineffable. If they could say what they wanted to say with words, they would do it, but shapes and images, music or dance often speak more eloquently to and from a level that is non-verbal. For the artist, in the visceral interplay between sensation, perception and action, a creative discipline is chosen which resonates with their sensibilities, whatever they may be. Additionally, to the extent that artistic expression can be seen as a response to the interaction of self and world, that response must be recognized to arise from the whole gamut of human experience. Thus, there is a response of and to the self/world of waking state consciousness, of dream state consciousness and of deep sleep or meditative consciousness.

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