Vision #10 Detail

Art as spiritual process

Spirituality and Buddhism have been an inspiration to me for my entire adult life. Early in my career, I had not awakened to the idea that art is a spiritual practice and, therefore, a spiritual revelation. Now I understand this relationship. In the process of painting, I have experienced the Buddhist concept of interdependence and that nothing exists on its own, and also how dependent the physical and spiritual are to the experience of creating art. 

Artists such as Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Mark Rothko, Mark Tobey among others, have created art that reflects the Buddhist concept of interdependence. I, for one, continuously experience the connectedness between the physical and the spiritual in the creative process especially in non-representational painting. There are other art forms, such as music particularly jazz, that exemplify this physical/spiritual connectedness. Jazz musicians get into the flow (the spiritual) when in deep improvisation, playing the technical/physical as second nature. The mature artist is more concerned with the spirituality (substance) of art, having obtained dominion over the technical/physical aspects of his/her craft. In my evolving work, I have left behind symbolism in favor of non-representational imagery. To me, this is more in keeping with the idea of the spiritual experience. In the East, especially in India, there was a group of abstract expressionist artists working with painting as a spiritual process. V. S. Gaitonde and Natvar Bhavsar are artists whose works are exquisite examples of painting in this style. They talk about their paintings as spiritual revelations. I believe this is the true meaning of the creative process.

Vasily Kandinsky's radical treatise Uber das Geistige in der Kunst (1911) was translated into English over one hundred years ago as The Art of Spiritual Harmony (now titled Concerning the Spiritual in Art). His profound influence on the germination and development of abstraction in the early decades of the twentieth century is well known. The Blaue Reiter artists wrote about their art in terms of a spiritual awakening. Kandinsky believed in the communion with the spiritual and that art was born within the artist, compelled by an inner necessity: ''A painter, who finds no satisfaction in mere representation, however artistic, in his/her longing to express his/her inner life, cannot but envy the ease with which music, the most non-material of the arts today, achieves this end. He/she naturally seeks to apply the methods of music to his/her own art. And from this results that modern desire for rhythm in painting, for mathematical, abstract construction, repeated notes of color, for setting color in motion.”

Tibetan Buddhists believe in rebirth. They believes that when you die your consciousness  goes through a state called the Bardo Thödol, also known as Liberation Through Hearing during the Intermediate State, and in the West as The Tibetan Book of the Dead. My new work titled Vision Series consists of abstract depictions of the Bardo Thödol state. These paintings, as in most “spiritual” art, are meant for meditation, reflection and introspection. My visions, or rather perceptions of the Bardo Thödol, are purely subjective visual ideas of an unmanifested  universe. 

After years of practice as a painter and as a Buddhist enthusiast, I am able to execute paintings that focus on visual expressions as visual improvisations. As in abstract expressionism I render visual improvisations that the viewer interprets based on their own life experiences. This is where the spiritual takes place, the flow as in jazz, that leads to the manifestations of these visual improvisations.


Alfredo Marín-Carle, May 21, 2021