Sacred Art, Aberglasney, Carmarthenshire, 29.4.16-5.5.16
Sacred Art has summoned a diverse and astounding group of artists from the other side of Grongar Hill and from across the world, all inspired to reveal what is Sacred to them.
Coming together are emerging and established fine artists, street, outsider and sacred artists. There are some artists who were born into sects of patriarchal religion, others have found it, rejected it or feel driven to explore it more philosophically and ask us exactly what is this dogmatic concept 'religion' that has been called at once ‘gospel’, ‘opium’ and ‘nonsense’. There are also artists whose work is spirit-infused, inspired and channeled. Such artists are beyond dogma and find their sacred away from religion; urging us to venture further outside and inside into nature and the non-ordinary realms; where smoke, drumbeat, firelight and darkness let our senses play; where the Mother of Art and inspiration craft alchemy.
The artist whose experience has brought them close to Death Greets Us Smiling; they respond in a way that is touched by the fragility of life and also the vital need to celebrate and enjoy every moment of it. What do we do with our bones? How do we mark them? With humour, with passion, with imprint, with silence and party, but above all else with life. There are monsters and miracles and they walk with us through our shapes and colours. In the form of the Mari Lwyd (the grey mare of local Welsh folklore), who is at once the counter of deeds and a motley collection of local wassailers dressed up with a horse’s skull, trick or treating the streets, art invites us to the play of paradox and poetry where more than one reality occurs simultaneously. How do we face who we are? Who decides how we live? Who are our guides, totems and lodestones?
Artists repeatedly talk about Magical Things like freezing time, emptying out, shape-shifting, time-travelling, allowing process to unfold without attachment to outcome. The practices that come from no-mind, whether through music and dance, meditation and dream, return again among artists. A number of the artists come to their art practice following physical, mental or emotional transformation. Something is now in another language and a movement towards visual and non-verbal form becomes overwhelming and compelling. In the case of an artist like Johnny, who has lived his life with the term ‘autistic’, his ability to vocalize what art means to him comes through the way it is a central joy to his days. Translation can be handy but isn’t necessary. Meaning is made when we make a space for meaning. ‘Sacred’ might be one word but what other words do we use to describe that which we can’t live without?
For many artists here, art itself, the creative process, is what is sacred. It is Dream. The artists intertwine, in states at once almost comatose and pin sharp, the political, cultural and spirit-real. There are artists whose work concerns our re-use and reclamation of the surfeit of waste that our human time as it currently is measured produces prolifically. Others who speak in their own tongues the wisdom of the ancestors. As well as those artists steeped in Eastern philosophy, the practices of Humanist artists exhibiting here reminds us of the grace to be found in compassion; for ourselves, our lives and work, and that which extends far beyond our individual frames. Often the artists are politically motivated by feminism, ecology, equality. They come to the defense of the vulnerable and voiceless, ready to remind us of images and ask where they were so and why they were forbidden. It is always a surprise to remember that the second commandment written down in the Old Testament, after the one banning other gods, should outlaw the making of sacred images. Here then are artists who return our attention to the female and feminine: women at their most large and unafraid; the Earth in her circularity, whole and home; our selves inseparable from the story telling itself all around us. At times of great change we are faced with unavoidable questions. What do we now burn? What do we bless? Does Sacred Art offer us clues for the next steps we take?
Whatever art is, whatever the sacred is, these artists have come together in the Now to offer up an insight into their worlds, the stories that shape them and the practices that sustain them. I hope you enjoy the journey with them.
Nick Taylor (co-curator)