Before it was “discovered,” or at least codified, in the early the 20th century by nascent psychology, the human subconscious had been the hidden twin of our focused consciousness.
Ever hidden yet ever-present and innate, the subconscious and unconscious minds have been both guides and hindrances to our experience. The same region of our brain that chains us in repression liberates us through realizations and stream-of-consciousness inspiration. Concealed memories, impulses, desires, terrors–even commands–can be likened to some invisible artist drawing a shifting map we walk along through life’s field of constant attachments and aversions.
Subconsciousness, and its even-deeper sister of the unconscious mind, is arguably the original “brain storm”; while its whips of lighting may mentally incinerate some, others set their compass by trusting that very tempest.
Early on, the unpredictable arrival of artistic prowess, the images we create and the stories that we tell, were credited mainly some form of a higher power. Perhaps most famously, in ancient Greece the Muses were acknowledged, exalted, and worshipped; the devoted praying for the blessing of inspiration. If the wellspring of ancient Greek art is any indication, those prayers were answered.
While spirituality might be questioned by science and psychology, mystical visions are inherently not of “this place,” are the stories and images they offer us. They are not a destination but rather a source culminating in an arrival. Our higher self, where potential meets grace, could surely be forged in the deepest depths of our minds.
The Atman of Hinduism, the Daemon of the ancient Greeks, the Archangels of Christianity, and the Holy Guardian Angel of the occult all point to some being, a “luminous presence,” that is ultimately within us yet is one we must draw out to help us flip the switches. Whether that invocation taps into the beyond, or simply a parlor trick of a certain brain function neural- wired for revelations, remains to be seen. But what can be seen is how this unknowable, whether a psychological phenomena or divine intervention, can help in the creation of singular works of art in every possible form.
Located on the third floor of MOCA Jax, the new exhibit Micro–Macro: Andrew Sendor and Ali Banisadr, offers two divergent visions born of an apparent acknowledgement of the Other; While works by Sendor and Banisadr seem to in some ways share this idea, both of the New York City-based artists travel distinct and singular paths in making make Micro–Macro an engaging and thought-provoking visual art experience.
Sendor’s works offer a painstaking-level of remarkable photorealism. His meticulous process involves producing, casting, scripting, and directing live performances; these results are then used to create still-life images born from live-action works. Since childhood Banisadr has experienced the phenomenon of Synesthesia, a condition wherein one’s sensory stimulation can influence a wholly different sensorial pathway. Banisadr credits this condition in the form of chromesthesia: where sound is literally seen, for triggering the sight of colors and visuals he then translates to canvas.
The Banisadr painting, Coercion, (oil on linen, 48 x 60 inches; 2012) is a landscape in mid-revolt, exploding into a shrapnel of color, hazy forms, particulate textures, and furious motion; otherwise playful-appearing characters materialize and dissipate in an arcane landscape of flesh-like ribbons spiraling down from above, either quelling or encouraging the writhing action of color and flickering forms below.
For The Game of Taming (oil on linen; dimensions unknown; 2018) Banisadr displays the approach of a Classicist; albeit one who mixes chaos into his palette. Taming is the exhibit’s Golgotha, a gathering of unavoidable menace. Colors and beings retract and return in a vortex of movement. A shadowy form in the center right of the canvas reaches up towards a column of white. A mob assembles below: angry, laughing or cowering, obligated to maintain this formal lawlessness.
For all of his freeness of color and agitated, roiling movement, Banisadr’s stream of consciousness feels thought out. While he might not formally sketch out his ideas, he is surely honing them. Composition aside, his easiness balancing the abstract and the representational with only oils brushed and knife-bladed along the canvass is an undeniable asset.
Of the two artists, Banisadr’s work seems, if not more transgressive, then more anarchic. A heady mix of that is a logical lineage of Bacon and Bosch, all filtered through, for lack of a better word, a psychedelic syncretism that operates firmly in the early 21st century.
Sendor forgoes chaos for a quiet ethereality. The piece, Aranxa with Saturday’s proxy made by Raphael Gordo de Papel, Saturday, November 12th, (oil on panel in polished aluminum frame; 32 ¼ x 24 ¼ inches; 2016) is his most cryptic offering for the exhibit. Using his wholly impressive skills at photorealistic-meets-phantasmagoric painting, Sendor invokes a morbid, Pieta-like image of a dead girl, flowers resting on her chest, her face covered in a death mask, held in the arms of a woman who wears a sports jersey and a lanyard, her emotions are hid behind dark Ray-Bans. Sendor’s abilities at conveying this haunted scene in an-almost monochrome setting only add to the eeriness. His preference in using a fairly unconventional media of oil on Plexiglas enhances the impact of this odd union of tragic death and pop-sports culture.
Some of Sendor’s pieces, in particular a pair of horse portraits and that of a young girl, inhabit a realm of ghosts. The equine pieces–Portrait of Bhaya in the upper right of quadrant on the northwest wall of Saturday’s bedroom and Portrait of Bhaya in the lower left quadrant on the southwest wall of Saturday’s bedroom (both oil on matte white Plexiglas; 25 ¼ x 20 ¼ inches; 2017) offer color variations on the same source image. Each housed in custom frame of either aluminum or Purple Heart wood, one a diffused black-and-white, the other a supernatural light blue, the Bhaya pieces seem almost reluctantly tethered to naturalism, yet the figure of the horse keeps the work from crossing over fully into mystery.
The horse motif is emphasized yet altered in Portrait of Lafayette with Bhaya on the southwest wall of Saturday’s living room, (oil on matte white Plexiglas in white powder coated aluminum frame; 26 5/8 x 20 1/8 inches; 2017).
The young girl Lafayette sits atop Bhaya, her hands resting on the horn of his saddle. She wears oversize “dress up” gloves and a white organza dress and cape. Her black hair blows in the wind and her dark eyes stare straight ahead, deep in trance. Within the composition, the girl is then framed in a planetary swirl of blues, whites, and grays. Sendor has no intention of breaking the spell. His use of horses could be seen as an assurance that in Sendor’s world, people are in a stasis of departure. Lafayette is leaving for a journey; the girl in Aranxa has left the body.
Still in their early 40s, both boast impressive academic creds, global showings, and international acclaim. Yet Andrew Sendor and Ali Banisadr are both relatively young artists, arriving at an age for many that is a time of tempering scattershot youthful energies with experience, discernment and insight; all qualities evident while exploring Micro-Macro.
The stories in the works of both artists seem to amplify and alter their courses with additional viewing. Taking a second walk through the exhibit reinforced some initial reactions while deleting others. Maybe the girl in Sendor’s Aranxa is simply being playfully dramatic. The brutal mob scene of Banisadr’s Taming may very well be the ecstatic crowd surrounding a hero’s return.
Sendor and Banisadr freely offer latitude to the viewer with these stories. Nothing in their works, from Sendor’s staged-yet-unguarded portraits to Banisadr’s fever dreams of disorder and prismic beings, require or demand any type of psychological forensics to enjoy. The arrival, presence, or existence of any sympathetic muses has no bearing on the artists’ creation of free-floating narratives.
In removing that burden of the conscious mind needing to “get it,” they offer a greater gift to their audience. With Micro-Macro Sendor and Banisadr unlock the door to the universally unknown; a realm where the hidden now faintly glimmers. The pair hands us the key, and step back into the dark they just revealed.
Micro–Macro: Andrew Sendor and Ali Banisadr is on display through July 28 at Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, 333 N. Laura St., Downtown, (904) 366-6911, mocajacksonville.unf.edu.