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Julie R. Amrany MFA Art Institute of Boston Faculty Advisor (Michael Newman Group 1) Research Paper October 24, 2011 Dreams, Fantasy, and the Ephemeral in Art The unforeseen and the metaphysical world lays hidden beneath the surface of our linear and predictable lives. This paper will investigate how an artist can best convey the metaphysical world in their art. Through the use of dream imagery, fantasy, and ephemeral symbols, an artist can deliver ideas of metaphysics, different states of consciousness and our interconnectedness with nature. Bill Viola, an American artist from New York, is a contemporary video artist. He utilizes video art to express the passage of time, ideas of birth, life, death, and rebirth. His screens are giant paintings, moving in slow motion. " ...they are sometimes more enveloping, more immersive of the viewer in a total image sound space"(Foster 655). His films express the idea of spiritual presence, and portray an altered state of consciousness. Through his work, he leads the viewer into a sense of anticipation, alienation, and mystery. There is a fine line between dream and reality. Viola often draws meaning from Zen Buddhism, Christian Mysticism, and Islamic Sufism. From one film to the next common themes express "...a meditation on states of consciousness and being in which dreams and reality are indistinguishable but where what lingers in the mind is an interstitial zone in which confusion reigns, in terms not only of what is seen but also of the registration of external data, states of vision,and states of mind are one and the same"(Morgan 132). Viola repeatedly uses images of water, fire, earth, and

air to demonstrate the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Commenting on his "Passing 1991" piece , he says the main question to be posed in art is Why. He asks why a figure moves from light and sinks into darkness? He reiterates how this question comes from the heart. He uses the image of a drowning figure over and over again to depict the constant struggle with life and death. Does our spirit continue on after we die? He wants the viewer to feel helpless, to sink into confusion and anticipation. " the fear that the self will disintegrate. It is a fear that usually remains unconscious, emerging into awareness only with some psychic disintegration"(Kuspit1). In a non-linear manner he continues to flash on the idea that "birth and death are intertwined" says Morgan. Viola's imagery pulls us back and forth between dream images and the stark realities of what life and death is, all the while caught in confusion. Remedios Varo paints dream images . Born in Spain 1908 Varo was a surrealist painter; she captures dreamlike fantasy in her art. Through the use of flying objects, spacial manipulation, and luminosity of paints she brings magic to her paintings. Octavio Paz was Mexican poet who was also connected with the surrealists, he comments that she employs "perhaps for the first time concepts associated with the power of dreams and the clairvoyance of surrealism. She recapitulated invisible violence, fantastic machinery, and mechanical fantasies, science, and levitation, shadows and clocks, time and eternity, the real and the unreal, a world of opposition upon which the visual world of Varo is constructed"(Lozano19). She was influenced by the philosophy of Western and those of ancient Eastern traditions, as well as C.G.Jung and George Gurdjieff. "She along with associated friends shared a passion for the mystical, the occult, and the

legend of the Holy Grail "( Varo captured images of metaphysical dimensions in her paintings. Her characters explore an inward search through explorations of mountains and dark waters. "They are untiring travelers who reach the miasma of the Orinocco River in search of the primordial origin of all oracles.These travelers often go into occult dimensions, using fantastic means of locomotion to traverse winding roads and Labryrinthian canals" (Lozano 45). Varo leads us into an unknown world of fantasy inspired by dreams and science. Many of her works take us into luminous interior settings. Nature always infiltrates the interior space through an arched window, doorway, or through a penetrable wall. Her images are lyrical and foreboding; but connect us to nature, to the spiritual world. Andy Goldsworthy a British environmental artist installs his artworks under open sky's. His medium is that of branches, leaves, flowers, stones, wood, and snow; his palette can be a vast range of hues of autumn leaves and his canvas is the outdoors. He is concerned with the process of life, and creates pieces that are ephemeral and transient. He finishes a piece, photographs it and often continues to document its decay. Goldsworthy comments that "Process and decay are implicit" in these pieces. As he declares in an interview " I have been aware of raw nature; it is in a state of change and how that change is the key to understanding"(1). " ...movement, change, light, growth, and decay are the lifeblood of nature, the energies that I try to tap through my work"(1). Goldsworthy was influenced by Taoism having spent time in Japan; he also places emphasis on balance, and balancing opposites. He states that he is always trying to look through the surface of things. Alluding to what lies beyond the physical. "

Inevitably, one way of getting beneath the surface is to introduce a hole. A window into what lies below."(Morning Earth 1). The hole could be symbolic for the void within us, our soul, or infinity. Because his pieces are transient and ephemeral, it makes us question what the immaterial world is. All three of these artists raise the questions regarding other dimensions, process, time, life and death. Viola, a film artist, draws us into his moments of time through the use of slow motion and dream imagery. In "Passages 1991", the question of existence and nonexistence or death occurs, he wants the viewer to ask why. Why in fact does he demonstrates these polar opposites? Will it change the way we see reality? One can clearly feel alive by facing the prospect of death. Returning to Varo, she unravels a multidimensional and metaphysical universe. By employing a more traditional media of oil painting, she reigns us into her 2D picture plane and engages us with her fantasy of otherworldliness. Her use of fantastical machines, flying objects,and figures, alchemy,and anthropomorphic figures display a foreign world, yet unconsciously familiar. Finally, Goldsworthy demonstrates the ephemeral through construction of his environmental works. His connection with nature is compelling and use of patterning, constructed voids portray poetry in motion, and transition. This void allows the mind to explore the depths of our imagination. For our world is multilayered and not only what one sees on the surface. By using dreams, fantasy, and ephemeral symbolism in art one can best convey ideas of different states of consciousness, the metaphysical world, and our

interconnectedness with nature. All three artists experimented in diverse materials to render the unseen. They share a commonality in their implication of the metaphysical realm, and teach us to look beyond the world as it appears to be.

Works Cited

Andy Goldsworthy http// 10/7/2011 Foster,Krauss,Bois, Buchloh, Art Since 1099Moderism ,Antimodernism,Postmodernism. Thames and Hudson Inc., New York 2004 Friedman, Terry. Wood. Harry N Abrams, Inc. Publishers 1996 New York Kuspit, Donald. Bill Viola: The Passing. 1993 ArtForum International. http// Lozano, Luis-Martin The Magic of Remedios Varo. National Museum of Women on the Arts, 2000 Washington, D.C. Morning Earth. Andy Goldsworthy. 1956. http// naturalists/ an-Goldsworthy.htm Morgan,Stuart and Francis Morris. Rites of Passage art for the End of the Century.

Tate Gallery Publishers 1995 print. Remedios Varo. http// 10/7/2011 Remedios Varo. http//