EXPLOITS: Artist Bill Lewis and the Cosmic Unconsciousness

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Remodernist Painter and Poet Bill Lewis at a recent exhibit in the UK

But where does imagination end and reality begin?

-Dr Julian Karswell                                                    

Carl Jung was a visionary psychiatrist who understood religion, spirituality and mysticism as key elements of the human experience. In his work he developed the concept of synchronicity, the significant coincidence. It’s when things happen that seem meaningfully related, but which happen without any apparent cause. For Jung it was a demonstration of the collective unconscious in operation, a universal awareness that everyone shares. In my life experiences synchronicity is a common phenomenon.

I recently experienced an amazing moment of synchronicity. It involved artist and poet Bill Lewis. Bill is one of the original  British Stuckist artists, having been part of the seminal Medway Poets group even before the art movement began. Bill Lewis has continued his work as a Remodernist artist, and as I got involved with the international movement, I made his acquaintance through Facebook of all things. Since then we’ve exchanged books and our thoughts of the mysteries of art and life. It’s one of the wonders of this age, how we can connect with interesting people half a world away.

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Reading “The Book of Misplaced But Imperishable Names” by Bill Lewis at a Phoenix AZ poetry event

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Bill Lewis with The Secret Kingdom

Bill has had many intense moments of synchronicity, so his role in my recent experience is no surprise. One evening just before Christmas I was coming home from work, driving down a short cut through the alley behind our house, when one of the neighborhood feral cats ran in front of my car.

The cat was far ahead of me, it was in no peril. In the dark twilight all I saw was the indistinct bobbing of its mostly white body. The sight reminded me of a creepy passage from an old favorite story of mine, “Casting the Runes,” by M. R. James.

At the beginning of the story an evil warlock puts on a magic lantern show that traumatizes the local children. The images included “a horrible hopping creature in white.” The glimpse of the cat in motion triggered a memory of that description, although I haven’t read the story in ages.

When I got home moments later there was a package waiting for me that had arrived that day in the mail. It was an unexpected Christmas gift from Bill Lewis. I couldn’t wait until Xmas, I tore right into it. It was a DVD of the classic British horror movie, “Night of the Demon,” and the recut American version “Curse of the Demon.” This film is based on the story “Casting the Runes” by M. R. James.

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I was so moved by this experience I ended up creating a painting about it, featured in the current exhibit “BOOKED: Contemporary Literary Art.”

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Richard Bledsoe “A Horrible Hopping Creature in White” acrylic on canvas 16″ x 20″

The connotations of this event are very interesting to me. A key plot point of the story is how the attention of paranormal forces get passed along by means of a rune inscribed slip of paper delivered to an unsuspecting recipient. In an interview, Bill Lewis describes inspiration being passed along like a virus between carriers. I see a connection  in these models.

I don’t see the demonic content of this particular transmittal as an ominous thing. If anything, it’s a cautionary example, a call to examine my own motivations and actions.  The warlock in the story and movie abused his knowledge selfishly, evoking energy in an effort to build his own power, and he was destroyed by it. In this unexpected and meaningful gift, I saw not a demon, but a demonstration of wisdom. Thank you Bill!

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9 thoughts on “EXPLOITS: Artist Bill Lewis and the Cosmic Unconsciousness

  1. “In this unexpected and meaningful gift, I saw not a demon, but a demonstration of wisdom.”

    To me, the portrayal of supernatural characters and beliefs is an artistic device, a vehicle for transmitting a particular emotional or even philosophical reaction in the reader, not an endorsement of the occult. Metaphors with personalities make for a much more engaging and stimulating experience than a simple parade of abstractions.

  2. OK I am a bit worried. It seems to me that this material boarders on justifying the occult. Interestingly that was where a lot of modernism (particularly abstraction) started out. Abstraction’s origins in occultism is often underplayed but is easily accessed on the internet (Blavatsky etc). A very sympathetic hearing for this history can be found here: https://www.theosophical.org/publications/1405

    As a Christian very much in sympathy with the general arguments of this blog I would urge caution in seeing a way out of post-modernism and the pseudo intellectualism of the art establishment (those critiques you propose are good) through the gateway of Jung, occult thought and imagery.

  3. God is the only source of all truth and beauty. My painting imagery and my ideas on art are revealed to me in visionary glimpses. To communicate the intricacies of this fallen world and its redemption by grace requires imagery that touches deeply on all aspects of the human experience, motivated not from the occult practice of the pursuit of power, but by the mystical revelation of God’s love for us.

  4. Both JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis populated their heroic tales with monsters, witches, sorcerers, and demons. Both were conservative Christians. They were not endorsing the occult, but telling stories with purpose.

  5. Good observations. To invoke the fantastic in the service of communication heightens the intensity. And in my experience, real life is full of the fantastic as well, when you really contemplate it.

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