“True art is characterised by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.” Albert Einstein
Fashion and fads are all about reaction and nothing about creativity. They are all about being in a moment, enjoying that moment, and quickly moving to the next. Fads are marketed as successive “revelations”, always one after another, and are destructive if seen as Truth. Fuelled attention, fads are a social dynamic, only coming to life when a substantial number of sheepish thinkers decide that this is the way forward. The chief method of ensuring this attention is money, and in an attention-based economy, fads are the most lucrative dynamic in the contemporary art world. Fads give the illusion of progress and genius, but are in truth, the anchors of progression and the antithesis of artistic freedom. Fads permeate the art world, as they do society as whole, in such a way that intelligent people can no longer see through them to find the true voice of art languishing in the distance. These attitudes have spread into business culture and the marketing of art, presenting each new young artist as the next “genius.”
Today’s age sees the importance of an individual artwork defined by its financial value. Cultural value is a fast declining metric of importance. As a result, today’s artists are more concerned with how many times their name appears in the Sunday newspapers, and how many followers they can amass on FaceBook, all of which overshadows their commitment to creating true art. Hype is winning over Concept. Fashion is winning over Truth. Clever design has replaced the rawness and difficulty of an artwork which challenges both its creator and its audience to consider the world differently. In turn, the majority of artists define the success of their output by how it performs in the salesroom. Truth is found in principles, and sadly these are few and far between in today’s artistic discourse, and almost non-existent in the work of our young “geniuses.” Principles challenge and force a considered and committed response. They are not social, and are in fact stronger as a single driving motivation within an individual mindset. When adopted by a community, a principle can become transformative. A principle is eternal, yet it ebbs and flows with the current of its time. Just as fads anchor you to a moment in time, principles free you from time entirely. Principles ring true not just about today, but about all time. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principles, stand like a rock.”
Art is more than its market value and the role of the artist is more than mere celebrity. Fashion should never dictate the true creative drive of the individual. The original place of Art was as a tool for self-reflection, awareness and subjectivity, and a way to define the human within the universe. It was a direct magical experience of the universe combining the method of science with the aim of religion. As in ancient times, the artist was the priest. They did not create to become rich, famous, powerful or adored. The history of early art can be found in Temple adornment, shamanic cave paintings, and protective sigils, all done as a self-less act for one’s community. When the artist discovers the true Will of the subject he wishes to capture, he is rising to the true role of the artist.
Carl Jung wrote that "the creative process, so far as we are able to follow it at all, consists in the unconscious activation of an archetypal image and elaborating and shaping the image into the finished work. By giving it shape, the artist translates it into the language of the present and so makes it possible for us to find our way back to the deepest springs of life.” Art has the ability to be transformative once the artist rejects all influences of fashion, capitalism, and celebrity. To achieve this state, they must work for the sake of self discovery alone, meditating on the inherent will of themselves as an artist, and the will of the subject they seek to manifest. There is a direct correlation to the religious techniques of yogic meditation and the state of the artist in deep creative process. The activities of the mind and the transcendence is identical, but is easily brought into weakness by focusing on the demands of the ego.
The same argument was made in 1891 in Paris with the staging of the Salon of the Rose Croix by curator and critic, Joseph Péladan. He set the stage for a battle against trend of his day:
“Spring will witness a manifestation of Art against the arts, of the beautiful against the ugly, of the dream against real, of the past against the infamous present, of tradition against the trifle.”
The theme of Péladan’s series of six Symbolist exhibitions was that spiritual ascension could be found through art, and that it was more than a tool for academia or fashion, as it was under the current Paris Salon. His central aim was the restoration of Art to its true glory and purpose as a path to the divine, and “to restore the cult of the Ideal with Tradition as its base and Beauty as its means.” The artist became a prophet, and the act of creating art became a religious vocation which automatically separated the artist from concerns of the ego. The French writer, Alphonse Germain described this approach to artistic creation as “the art of disengaging us all from its material envelope.”
These showings were the first major public displays of art created in line with an esoteric and pure aesthetic philosophy in Europe and Péladan would use this platform to openly challenge the established Paris Salon, which at the time was governed by realist and naturalist thought. The famous exhibition poster designed by Péladan’s friend, Carlos Schwabe was the first component of a very public manifesto for a new aesthetic age and a symbolic expression of his intent to “ruin Realism, reform Latin taste, and create a school of idealist art.” Peladan’s exhibitions ran in tandem with public lectures and religious masses held in the gallery.
“The Salon de la Rose Croix will be a Temple dedicated to the Art God, with masterpieces as its dogma and geniuses as its saints.”
Realism and logic are equally based on direct observation. To base art entirely on these principles restricts the artist to the belief that his eye is the sole arbiter of the universe, and that nothing lies beyond the screen of sight. Like the French school of Nabi, Paul Gauguin, William Blake, Aleister Crowley, Rosaleen Norton, Austin Spare, Andre Breton and our numerous forefathers, we see the Artist as Prophet charged with the discovery of Truth and Beauty. The Artist as Prophet is a revolutionary figure, intent on the continual challenge of established thought and relying on freedom of mind, body, and creative expression. Esoteric Art has become an expression of the original purpose of the creative life. In an age of increasing reliance on art to function as a commercial instrument, the esoteric genre reminds us that Art is Man’s oldest and most effective tool for transcendence and communion with the Divine.
”The artist is he who can discover Beauty in all things, for nothing is common or unclean; and by unvarying determination to discover beauty man comes to the heaven of the artist.”
Aleister Crowley, Liber CXXIV: Of Eden and the Sacred Oak