Focus on Art

By Rob Mohr
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Falling or Diving: “Deep Play” with Antonio Lopez Vega


focus-may12-1“My goal is to discover unseen worlds - to explore rather than exploit as many artists do.”

Antonio’s comment reminded me of the challenge all artists face: “Do I paint to sell, or do I paint to reach new insights and understandings of what it means to be human, to push through the boundaries of current conventions and modes to expand awareness, as the significant artists of every age have done?”

Cutting edge art changes our perspective on culture. For example, the movie Ridicule (1996) artfully revealed social injustice fed by the decadent callousness of those in power in France in the years leading up to the French revolution. And Susan Philipsz, who won the coveted Turner Prize, singing “Lowlands Away” - a song about death - under bridges in London, revealed the cold absence of life in London’s “big brother is watching you” society.

In my discussions with Antonio, we considered what an artist’s break-through response to political issues in the Americas might be, and how artists might express realities beyond current understandings of life and culture.

Diane Ackerman, who teaches creativity at Cornell University, believes concentration on a single goal, closing down mental noise, being absorbed in the act of creation, and control of the medium are essential to enable an artist to get in the “flow” or into a state of “deep play,” in which the cognitive brain gives up control, freeing the whole person to experience a break-through creative moment.

Using Positron Emission Tomography (PET which measures body functions) researchers have discovered that in moments of deep play the brain functions decrease as the artist focuses on the creative act. The brain relaxes and ceases to function as the center of control. Artists in the flow move into psychological spaces where they are willing to take risks as critical analysis is suspended. Scientists are convinced that our heart and other organs, and perhaps our entire cellular structure, respond as a second brain that works beyond conscious thought.

Carl Jung, considering the creativity of an artist, wrote, “The schizophrenic and the artist are like two people going to the bottom of a river, one falling and the other diving.” Jung understood that a schizophrenic’s autonomic state mirrors the looseness essential to the creative artist.

Susan Perry, in Writing in Flow, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in Flow, believe that creative people go into a state of “super thinking” in which the whole body becomes the responsive agent, and in which originality becomes a matter of being one’s unique self rather than endeavoring to be original. The key is the artist’s emphatic vision based on their core awareness.

Artists are not double agents crossing between art and society, rather the artist’s agency presents society with alternative memories and histories. This means they take an indirect route when engaging important social issues. Caught up in an emotionally cathartic experience an artist may be unable to express transparently what they perceive. Instead they may revert to metaphor and analogy as the agents of their creative efforts.

In the “flow”, Antonio endeavors to incorporate both his state of being and his experience in his art.

“To expand my awareness, I explored a variety of 20th C entury movements including magic realism which incorporated symbols indigenous to Mexico. My wood rendition of MIchi-ci-uhalli (Lake-spirit) in the plaza of Ajijic is a clear example.”

Hungry to explore the world, Antonio fled Ajijic to study and teach in San Miguel. Later he worked with archeologists at Chi-Chen-Itza reassembling Maya stone sculptures. Mature, and back at Lakeside, Antonio now turns mystical stories into art while incorporating new techniques (such as combining Beeswax and linseed oil) to heighten luminosity in his paintings. (Photo)

Working at the cutting edge of art history, Antonio’s works are provocative and stimulate introspective consideration of the world we live in. Antonio’s paintings are on sale at Mi Mexico, Morelos #8, Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.


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