• Metaphysics & Mysticism

    • From the beginning of time, art has had a profoundly ritualistic, magical and religious sense, a character it continues to develop today.

    Reflections on witchery and art / 

    The history of art, and possibly that of religions, was first manifested pictorially. The myth and the ritual found their most basic expressions in the caves of the archetypal womb of the world. Human evolution during the Neolithic period manifested the profound complexity of the homo simbolicus. Our irrepressible allegorical and ritualistic need attributed the animal realm and the decipherable order of nature with wisdom, converging in what is now known as art. Cave paintings are the original mimetic act, the fluids that give life to the fruit, the tree and the body, natural pigments that strike the canvas of the earth.

    Art is a ritual of blood, a primarily symbolic spillage which seals the creative act: critical, conscious and beautiful. Throughout history, rituals have been made by human groups, with the purpose of capturing the fleeting and unavailable symbol through artistic expressions, the consecution of corporal gestures and sounds produced using a wide array of instruments. The causes, meanings, stories and needs that these impress on the ritual have justified a large part of the 'Pre-Artistic' period when images, dancing and music were conceived canonically, when the artist did not sign his work, and his main concerns were magic, mysticism and religious characters.

    During the era of gods, heroes, demons, necromancers, covens, and other creatures delegated to the oneiric realm, hand-crafted objects were endowed with supernatural powers. Carved, tainted with blood, joined with strands of hair and natural fibres, these creations were akin to the tales that justified their creation: all sorts of myths, stories and beliefs. The Night of Walpurgis, in Goethe's Faust, is one of the most awe striking journeys into the obscure rituals of living, creative and ludic witchcraft, where centaurs, homunculus and all sorts of ghastly creatures come together.

    Magic, witchcraft and shamanism articulate a poetry whose origin lies in the subconscious, following the purpose of obeying the will of the explorer of the world’s end, a place where the certainties of consensual reality are blurred. Empowered by his keys and supernatural companions, embodied by statuettes, necklaces and several substances, the navigator who possesses the required technique, embarks on the adventure that leads him through different planes that coincide with the axis which the wizard has synchronized with rituals.

    The work of the shaman is translated into a catharsis that frees him and the people he is fighting for in this cosmic duel. In turn, the works of the artist are canvasses that liberate himself and the spectator through catharsis. They both seek liberation from the laws of physics, reason and quotidian sickness, escaping the sacred space of ritualistic creation. It was in primitive art where modern expressions found the vein that would shape the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. In Europe, artists like Picasso articulated the marvels of African masks; Gauguin portrayed the life of Tahiti, manifesting the astonishing charm of the forbidden garden. And so, many authors entrusted their pens, brushes and chisels to the astonishment of aboriginal, pre-Columbian and Asian art.

    There are many examples of the ties of art and magic, witchcraft and the ritual in Latin America. Juan Francisco Elso is an eloquent example of the profound connections between art and witchcraft. He created different and odd objects using natural fibres, twigs, paper and animal blood. His pieces overflow with a profound and mysterious mysticism that transmutes the space of the gallery into a sacred place, pieces like El Rostro de Dios [The Face of God]La Mano Creadora [The Hand of God], and Por América [For America], have shocked viewers around the world, his body of work is locked within the mysteries of Santeria and Babalao, mixed with the artist's creative ideal. Ana Mendieta is another Cuban artist whose work was impressed by a ritualistic sense, the photographic records of her performances and other works evidence the importance of fertility rituals, the tree and the earth.

    In Mexico, the work by the contemporary painter Daniel Lezama delves deeply into Pre-Columbian cosmology, combining ancient rituals with everyday life in Mexico City. The deities that once plagued the imagery of ancient America are updated by pictorial magic. Before him, muralists like Jorge Gonzalez Camarena portrayed the duel of the spiritual conquest, the ancient drama that shocked Mexican roots.

    An important connection to the eternal and primal aspect of man lies in the ritualistic, religious and magic strain of art, a crucial trace that no-one should forget. Maybe, at the end of the day, art and magic share the same seed.

    Tagged: Metaphysics & Mysticism, witchery, witchery and art