A Deeper Shade of Blue: What you know is what you see is what you get
I want to do paintings that give the same feeling to the viewer as a gaze upon an open landscape: to rest, to open the mind and the senses, to see, to feel/to fuel one's own life flow.I wrote the following text on the occasion of an exhibition in which I showed works from different work group. "Why do you work abstract?" is a common question that I find myself confronted with. Yes: why? Because abstract art inevitably opens our view onto the world... To illustrate my point it needs a little bit of an explanation...
Neural automatisms determine our actions and our perception
... and simultaneously are both, opportunity and crux
Our brain consists of approximately five billion neurons, ie nerve units, that are connected via synapses in order to transmit stimuli. This happens through amplifying and modulating neurotransmitters. Once a connection has proved to be useful and subsequently is being stimulated regularly the neural path will gradually develop into an information superhighway. From that moment on we will act or react automatically and in accordance with the predetermined pattern if provided with certain key stimuli (1).
It is noteworthy that only about one sixth of our brain actually is in contact with our environment and only a small part of what our senses perceive is classified relevant so that it actually reaches our consciousness. The largest part of our brain is concerned with filtering sensory stimuli and subsequently processing the approved ones according to its neural pathways.
All this helps us to better function in our world. But it must be viewed critically when it comes to loops of negative feedback, to automated behavioral patterns which no longer correspond to the actual situation or if painful emotional patterns have been embedded.
But not only neural circuits influence our behavior. Our emotions circulate in form of neuropeptides through our entire body, they dock at specific receptors and thus affect our perceptions and our decisions. Because of habituation processes within the receptors we are (unconsciously) looking for similar situations which trigger corresponding emotion and neuropeptides again and again.
Neural automatisms are "plastic", ie, our conditioning is only the starating point of our conscious existence
Yet it is possible to change our working model and establish new perspectives, patterns and behavior. Actually we are able to develop new nerve cells and synapses and establish new synaptic connections as long as we live (2).
Our conditioning is the starting point of our conscious existence - and we can modify it. Once we are aware of our neural patterns and emotional addictions we can dissolve dependencies through avoiding old loops and put our old assessment criteria into perspective because they belong to our past experiences and are just inadequate tools to meet new challenges.
Only if we are present here and now and with a positive attitude stop considering reality our enemy which we must either defeat or improve, we will be able to live happily and free and find fresh, creative responses to the challenges of our lives.
The initial condition of our conscious existence is thus that our brain is neuronally determined, frozen in trauma, culturally influenced and seduced by the media and that what we perceive as reality is nothing but the product of our whichever colored glasses. Where does the story we made up about the world a long time ago end and where does reality begin so that we can freely choose our actions?
If we give room to the autopilot we will move on circular pathways, endlessly, within entrenched neural and biochemical networks; we will perceive only what we already know - and it will be the same again and again: a distorted perception of reality, our own projection which overlays reality.
If we give room to the autopilot reality will disappoint us - or surprise us
I recently read a book, Die Sehnsucht nach der Südsee [Longing for the South Seas] (3). I was astonished that travelers to the Pacific were disappointed with what they found as it did not correspond with what they had expected: an idea of the South Seas nurtured by literature, an idea which exclusively existed in their minds...
At this point abstract art comes into play. Abstract art invites us to engage with the reality that unfolds before our eyes. Ideally, the viewer does not detect any (or at least: very little) familiar elements within an abstract painting. If he is strongly attached to its conditioned imagination, this will be the moment when he turns away in disappointment, just as the travelers to the Pacific did. If, however, he is open to the new and unknown, abstract art will open up new worlds for him and expand his consciousness (4).