In Quest of the Sublime: A Philosophical Odyssey Through Mixed Media Art Practice

Executive summary

The article mentions that the intersection between visual arts and philosophy is explored in the context of the artist’s mixed media art practice. The artist’s work is oriented towards exploring two seminal themes: Ecological Spirituality and Consciousness. The chosen motif for delineating ecological spirituality is the Cassowary, which is reincarnated into diverse forms using materials such as cement, fibreglass, and latex moulding. The artist’s artistic venture is driven by a quarter-century-long spiritual journey and a desire to externalize the inward, from thought to form. The article also mentions the artist’s engagement with digital platforms, which have shaped how art is conceptualized, disseminated, and engaged with the world. This intersection between visual arts and philosophy is seen as an ontological shift facilitated by digital platforms.

The artist explores themes of ecological spirituality and consciousness in their mixed media art practice by using the Cassowary as a motif to represent ecological spirituality. They combine different materials such as cement, fibreglass, and latex moulding to create diverse forms of Cassowaries. The artist also incorporates elements like glass, steel, fabric, and wood to create mixed media explorations. Through these artistic expressions, the artist aims to bridge negative existentialist paradigms with ecological conservationism and syncretic primordials, creating a dialogue between the material and the intangible, and exploring the interconnectedness of nature and consciousness.

In the context provided, the artist faces several challenges in the art world. One challenge is the subtle insistence on modes of social capital as a measure of legitimacy. This enables a niche skill set to thrive within a field of advocacy so enabling the artist to function as mentor and scaffold their identity as a public promoter of a lifestyle based on accrued social capital. Its a kind of social comparative merit implicit within a dominant discourse where the notion of insider/outsider artist finds its sociological functional methodology. This creates an inherent barrier for artists who have had a third cultural background and exhibition opportunities through lived experience and experimentation of individualistic predispositions rather than social comparative instincts. Another challenge is the pressure to maintain artistic integrity in an arena driven by likes, shares, and trending algorithms. The digital landscape, while offering alternative platforms for engagement, also poses questions about how to navigate a global yet fragmented audience. Additionally, the artist must negotiate the complexities of public opinion, viral potential, and self-censorship for wider acceptability. These challenges highlight the tension between artistic expression and the demands of the art world in the digital age.

In 2008, on the fringes of North Queensland Townsville Australia and identified as Wulgurukaba and Bindal Country too , a sanctuary took form—an art studio standing as a testament to a spiritual and creative quest that had begun years earlier with stone sculpture in the vivid landscapes of India and the wet tropics. This space emerged as an alchemic crucible, a sphere where materiality conversed with intangibility.

Evocative Representations: Balancing Ecology and Consciousness

My artistic venture was oriented towards exploring two seminal themes: Ecological Spirituality and Consciousness. Within this framework, the Cassowary became my chosen motif, my modus operandi for delineating ecological spirituality. Yet, the immaterial couldn’t be wholly captured in the material; marble alone was insufficient. I began to amalgamate cement, fibreglass, and the art of latex moulding to reincarnate marble Cassowaries into diverse forms.

The Existential Pathway: Unveiling Spiritual and Material Urgencies

Compelled by a quarter-century-long spiritual journey, I found myself faced with a sense of urgency—a desire to externalize the inward, from thought to form. Yet, the path was fraught with existentialist impediments. The yoga movement of the 1980s, once a community, no longer mirrored that fellowship in this new phase of material arts. The rules were different here; the art world subtly insists upon formal degrees and competitive exhibitions as rites of passage. Faced with a subtle but palpable resistance, my art-making turned inward. It evolved as a solitary practice, distanced from the communal guilds, akin to the stone sculptors of Mamallapuram, with whom I once communed.

Trans-locality and Political Paradigms

In the year 2014, the parameters of this existential pathway underwent a transformative shift. It was as if the narrow lanes of the traditional art world broadened into a sprawling digital highway. The emergence of digital platforms began to shape not only how art was created but also how it was conceptualized, disseminated, and most importantly, how it engaged with the world. As a political scientist might observe, the rise of platforms like YouTube heralded an era of democratization of information and decentralization of authority, even within the sanctified precincts of the art world.

Being a trans-local artist—an individual deeply rooted in the unique local textures of the dry tropics, yet aspirationally and imaginatively boundless—had never been more feasible or more profound. In years gone by, imagined communities were constructed through the narrative tapestry of travel writings and anthropological ethnographies. However, digital platforms enabled a more vivid, visceral form of engagement with global communities. It permitted the leap from the merely textual to the visually experiential. This wasn’t just a technological shift; it was an ontological one.

Though still grounded in the in a sense of place based on my academic training at the University of Queensland, and my lived experience of visiting the childhood residence once again in the Mission beach locale of the wet tropics, where my parents resided then, my art-making began to pivot. From a local, introspective focus, it expanded into a dialogic practice that was as much about the “self” as it was about the “other.” No longer was it confined by the hegemonic norms that subtly insisted upon formal degrees and competitive exhibitions as measures of legitimacy. The digital landscape offered not just an alternative platform but also an alternative ethos—one that enabled direct conversations with diverse communities, outside the traditional modes engagement in political community.

However, the digital realm also posed its own existential questions. How does one maintain artistic integrity in an arena often driven by likes, shares, and trending algorithms? How does one negotiate the complexities of a global yet fragmented audience? It seemed as if the very tools that broke down old barriers erected new, invisible ones—those of public opinion, viral potential, and even self-censorship for wider acceptability. However since I grew up prior to the age of social digital media these consideration that plagued current digital natives did not pose a threat to my identity as a research artist, given I also engaged in my roots as a horticultural practitioner in the region by tending to the tree and palm requirements of clients who needed assistance in maintaining a tropical garden by token of being artificially watered in the dry tropics.

Yet, these digital complexities could not overpower the underlying urgency—a perpetual quest to bring the internal, spiritual journey into external, tangible forms. In this newly expanded, democratically charged arena, the quest intensified rather than diminished. Like a political scientist who sees every crisis as an opportunity for systemic change, these digital challenges are but hurdles in the ongoing odyssey to merge the personal with the political, the local with the global, and the existential with the communal. The journey continues, but now it encompasses more roads, more landscapes, and more fellow travellers within the realm of virtual realism that unfolds incrementally from when I began the odyssey through my encounters in the sculpture village of Mahabalipuram, India in 2005 post tsunami 2004.

The Metamorphosis: An Alchemy of Materials

The marble artistry honed in the wet tropics experienced an existential transfiguration; it metamorphosed into mixed media explorations. The malleability of cement lent itself to integration with elements as disparate yet complementary as glass, steel, fabric, and wood. The transformation was possible through grinding the cement prototypes and adding various media so as to embellish and build a syncretic expression to the initial caste.

Toward the Primordial: Existential Negatives and Ecological Imperatives

And so, it was from rudimentary Cassowary forms that my chimeras sprang forth—entities echoing syncretic ecological vitality. This duality led me towards a more complex endeavour: to sculpt the Primordials. These forms would act as vessels of robust philosophical concepts, bridging the negative existentialist paradigms with ecological conservationism and into syncretic primordials.

Herein lies a somber, ongoing project—a solitary yet expansive quest as is matter is to dark matter in contemporary physics. It treads the lines of virtual realism and local tropical emersion, negotiating between the virtual worlds of digital renewal and the lived experience of local nativist impulses, always seeking, always questioning. My art is both a question and an answer, a dialectic in material form. The studio stands not just as a workspace but as a microcosm of this internal-external dialogue, a silent yet resonant testament to a perpetual odyssey.