Transcendence as a foundational truth

Foundational Truths for studio artists.


In discussions of studio practice we hear our fellow-artists describe an unusual state that comes upon us as we work, in which we experience “being in the flow” or “in another world” or that time no longer seems to function properly as we become immersed in creativity. Our consciousness is altered as we become one with our actions when fully engaged in the making of art, whether music, sculpture, painting or any of the studio arts. We describe this state with pleasure and a sense of mystery, not fully understanding what it is we experience, but relishing it because it is in such moments that we can do no wrong.

This transcendence is found elsewhere; in yoga meditation achieves the same state of mind, a separation from  ordinary time and space that is marked by peace and serenity. We find a mystical unity with the universe. 

The transcendent state is not confined to the studio artists’ practice, for it appears to be transferrable to the viewers of great art. How often we hear people describing their experience of standing before the work of a master with words of almost religious devotion: the work has carried them away, or made them cry, bringing to them an intensity of emotion that lifts them out of the ordinary world into another state.

By reducing the practice of making art to conceptualism in this last hundred years we have found ourselves excluding the transcendence of technique, in which viewers of art find themselves so amazed by the mastery of the work demonstrated by the artist that they are carried into reverie. This is a transcendence that changes lives, as young people decide to follow in the footsteps of the masters and learn how to achieve such heights.

Among my students are people who are “naturally talented” or “touched by God”, or whose “genes naturally predispose them to art”; they have a fluidity to their work that seems instinctive and they produce astonishing work. There are also those who work hard, sometimes for many years to learn technique, by their labor achieving a sophistication that allows them to produce images that are truly beautiful. Nothing can stop them from the production of transcendent art because it is a truthful and natural state for studio artists.

In all cultures the narrative of our origins begins with the creation of the universe, the deity’s mystical shaping of the world with words and bringing all things into being. As imitators of the primal creative force of the universe artists work in unity with the divine creator to explore our world, to understand our relationship to it and by doing so expand our consciousness and better appreciate the mind of god. 

Ex Tenebris Lux

About pearce

Michael Pearce is an artist, writer, and professor of art. He is the author of "Art in the Age of Emergence."
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1 Response to Transcendence as a foundational truth

  1. deb says:

    I have always loved the passage in John, about the word, there is something deeply moving to me in the idea that breath formed word that drew all of creation out of the deep dark of the void. Its a dynamic yet peaceful feeling…

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