Magick and Transformation in Jupiter7’s ‘Strange Visions’ Paintings
Magick and Transformation in Jupiter7’s ‘Strange Visions’ Paintings
By Jacques Beauzot
Another post from critic Jacques Beauzot. (reprinted and translated from the elusive guerilla Parisian online art journal, Art Primitif.)
My recent fascination with Jupiter7 continues as I have had more opportunity to see the artist’s works in the original. I recently saw two paintings, “Gruoc” and “Village Life,” in the private viewing room of an ‘underground’ dealer in San Francisco, who occasionally manages to persuade the artist to release pictures for possible “impermanent lease” as Jupiter7 calls his conditions of sale. These pictures could hardly be more different from one another, even though you can easily connect their lineage to Jupiter7’s particular mental universe.
Gruoc plants the viewer firmly in a kind of dystopian dream state, where a large, bearded central figure stands with eyes closed, fingering a string of beads, in a kind of medieval stone courtyard. Much of the picture is filled with detailed stonework, which swirls the eye into a vortex of sheer pattern, before circling it back to one of the several figure elements. On the ground behind the figure lies the Gruoc, a toothless yellow-green proto-lizard creature of strangely ominous bearing. In the background is a crowd of people clustered around a figure contained in a wooden cage. What appears to be a flood cascades into the scene from both sides.
Village Life depicts a female figure seated at a sewing machine on the porch of a village house, a reference that appears to be derived from the artist’s frequent travels in the Himalayas. That’s where things get strange. A number of animals populate the scene- two monkeys (one of whom, on close inspection, is simultaneously scratching its ass with one hand and giving you the finger with the other), a large bird in a small cage, and a blue moose standing behind the ‘seamstress’ peering in suspicion and disdain at the viewer. The seamstress appears to be in the throes of an ecstatic experience, her golden-white hair exploding into a huge blonde afro, like from a giant electric charge. Village Life is at once startling, compelling and weirdly serene.
Both pictures give us keys to explore Jupiter7’s visual landscape and language brought to life in an act of unapologetic pictorial representation. This kind of painting requires contact with the symbolic in forms that undermine culture in its relationship to the human condition. In cases where intense emotional states and conflicts are given symbolic form to present them artistically, formal and theoretical analysis thrives on references to canonical influence or socio-political conditions that turn out to be a sterile means of achieving understanding. Artists have, alas, other than purely formal concerns within the core of their most primeval creativity. Their internal dialogue defines a creative lineage much as their need to extend reality beyond ordinary perception seeks transcendence in magick and ritual.
The internally consistent, but highly varied paintings of Jupiter7 that I have seen manifest a complete, interesting set of artistic contradictions as his impulse toward magical investigation and divine inspiration rejects all stylistic orthodoxies. Esoteric systems have always offered an independent viewpoint, and the mark of a visionary is his or her power to synthesize their own experience. The power to make new myths and new meanings requires psychic courage that cannot be undervalued, even though it is often placed below technical proficiency. Vision and creative inspiration have been the modus of artistic life since the beginning of time; this is as true of expression in our machine age as it will be in the future.
The term "magical" infers a conscious mind that is a kind of contractor for the subconscious, where one can explore a recomposition which enables "gesammtkunstwerk" in all mediums. These are the opposite of the stylistic concerns stemming from the prevalent neo-classicist attitude. Rather, they are an overt negation of cultural production. Every viewer feels or thinks different things within the scope of their belief systems, whether disturbing or contagious, intellectually quarantined or critically conscious. In Jupiter7’s so-called “Strange Visions” paintings, the impulse to subconscious expression continues to amplify itself in various forms and environments, whether the work is contagiously giddy and fun, or brooding and solitary. Many of his paintings he refers to as portraits; whatever you might call them, they exist seamlessly integrated in a kind of consciousness whose lingering physicality creates a meditation on the traditional Dutch master candle-lit self-portrait, with its emblematic internal definition.
Having visual access to a platform for solitary genius radically alters our understanding and distances us, the audience, from the action. Even where a painting projects a wonder-evoking narrative, the artist’s work simultaneously idealizes and ossifies a postmodern rejection of the physical in favor of unconfined natural personal influences, dreams and anxieties. But even these unconventional routes of influence and appropriation are rendered obsolete by significant disruptions in the temporal process that sometimes redirects the prevalent narrative from theatre to a whiff of apocalypse.
Everything simply is, isn’t it? Does the viewer need art critics or writers to really understand? A consciously outsider artist’s reaction against established distribution networks for fine art is also a platform to reject their forms. One can legitimately ask the question: Are those few high-profile artists that dominate the art market even artists in real life? The commercial art system can be seen as pure illusion, particularly where the work consists largely of theory and metaphysics, where information is suspended in a medium whose physical presence is basically indecipherable to the viewer. As Warhol proved, these days value derives from the economy of transmission, the economy of endless duplicates whose most tangible form of existence is as a concept.
The prevailing give-it-to-me-free mentality balks at the risk of incorporating a new model, usually translating this concept into a natural expression of its own aesthetics, the vision of hyperactive contemporary consumer culture where status and meaning are conferred in an equalizing space by images of luxury and banality that somehow coexist in gleeful harmony. This cultural leveling, however, can be read differently: hidden worlds with tendencies toward freedom and excess give way to a universal access that amply demonstrates the huge gradient between the everyday and something really expensive or even unobtainable.
In Jupiter7’s internal visionary space, there is no mixing of art and commerce; outside his world, you are surrounded by familiar commercial temptations mass-produced in a seemingly effortless, shitty highway through history. However, to determine his significance, one must reconsider his emphasis on the prominence of the unique experience. Viewers instinctively understand how they feel about his work, momentarily replacing their identity with a variety of possible personas. The challenge is to maintain a link to the physicality in the realized work that creates spaces and moods whose physical and “human” ideas and motivations are simultaneously existential and solipsistic.
In virtually every Jupiter7 painting, but very clearly in Gruoc, traces of the primitive spirit inform the boundaries between the unknown and the sources of creative inspiration in organic, regenerative nature. The post-minimalist, process-oriented concerns of repetition, mutation and metaphor are taken apart and reanimated in a challenge to convention whose lack of affect underscores a sharp disengagement with the art world. The artist’s conscious, yet emotionally serious strength and courage give insight to an introspective autobiography immortalizing the artist’s soma.
Even as traditional artistic narratives became obsolete and passé in their claustrophobic constraints that we experience as the all-encompassing meta-narratives of life, the works of Jupiter7 offer a collective symbolic home for transcendental narratives. At first you might think that the artist simply perverts his self-expression for his own enjoyment, but later one realizes that the intimate yet unnerving situations experienced in the paintings are inherently at odds with any symbolic representation descended from the work of conceptualists. These unsettling imagescould be seen as a counterforce to the constantly expanding mass-cultural platforms that have overtaken the romance of the unique object in favor of manufactured items that evoke familiarity as the most rewarding art experience.
The internally explicit expression of Jupiter7 is not a genre or a style issue, but rather a rejection of a dominant culture of disposable fashion-glazed irony, an evolving subset of modernity explicitly defined by its conscious rejection of the subconscious in favor of the embarrassingly superficial. By forcing us to embrace our own internal mystery, Jupiter7’s paintings stimulate an insight that at once includes and separates expression that began and ended with Futurist Theater, a time-based form of ephemeral creative processes.Existing outside contemporary time, much of the artist’s work is reference-free while still subtle with persona and character embedded in a free-form catalyst. These classifications are not pigeonholes but are intended to capture the messiness of the original psychic forces, with their free-floating, dense and non-confrontational presence.
Jupiter7’s pictures’ weirdly therapeutic relationship with the viewer complicates the symbolization process, generating a consciousness necessary to resist capitulation to the tyranny of unconscious suffering. With its bursts of chromatic intensity, the artist’s translations of a ruffled subjectivity into a visually objective language with no ready-made vocabulary is at once improvised and invented, an unsystematic ex-nihilo creation applied to a momentary, not to say Procrustean, artistic expression. Every image can be interpreted as de-intensified of objective feeling in favor of the purely subjective, using visual language that remains true to its dialectical spontaneity of feeling. Emotionally convincing art automatically contains the vicissitudes of the emotions, problematic, unfamiliar and in perpetual flux like a rushing underground stream of feeling that articulates inarticulate feeling in communicable form.
By interjecting a capacity for reflection, easily seen in Village Life, Jupiter7 demystifies his depth of feeling without deifying the viewer’s privileged access to experience. Many creative people provoke and mock emotional detachment, often succumbing to indecipherability to score artistic points. But mindful contemplation is essential to the efficient functioning of the psyche, seen in painting as aesthetic transmutation and reflective distance, with the most enigmatic imagery suggesting a perverse fantasy with little agreement about its collective meaning. Although the objectification of everyday experience can be comprehended and criticized through interpretive mirroring, reverential identification and universal resonance often define a truly idiosyncratic artistic vision. Jupiter7’s work stands in defiant opposition to the self-glorification of collaborative free-associational art, operating as it does in unconscious conformity with a ritualistic understanding of its base dynamics.
The regressive sensationalism of today’s art-culture linkage condemns a dazed, uncomprehending audience to misunderstand the potential of psychic harmony to attack and destroy psychic containment and its critical consciousness. Jupiter7’s willful undermining of the power to determine market value, although not artistic value, can be understood as a symptom of inner freedom. The artist’s use of a proto-prosthetic observing ego is cognitively convincing and capable of fabricating emotionally exciting art, proving that an artistic pathology that fails to satisfy the therapeutic needs of aesthetic sophistication can still function as a valid, exciting aesthetic experience.