written on May 4, 2008, revised on Dec. 13, 2008
Mr. Seekins presents us a magnificent work of art straight from his subconscious that holds mysterious yet discernible aspects which he describes briefly as follows:
"This piece is an interstice in time and relation. It speaks on many levels of the moments before manifestation, when much of the world of perception appears as a dream."
The painting guides us into a surreal world that Dali may have perceived as a result of his Paranoiac-Critical Method for depicting visions of the subconscious. The method serves to enhance artistic creativity, according to Dali by a "spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on the critical and systematic objectivity of the associations and interpretations of delirious phenomena." As this article will show, the painting well exemplifies Dali's psychological method while doing much more: telling us a tale of our own hidden inner self, a shocking one indeed that really should be no surprise to one for whom meditation upon one's psyche is a usual practice.
Let us begin our interpretation, by first clearing our minds, shutting down outside distractions, and looking at the picture as if anew, and becoming one with the untouchable essence and atmosphere it radiates. Instead of forcefully trying to sink our teeth in any certain part, and suck the meaning out of it, let us allow ourselves to soar along the sky of the world it creates within us. Let us look into the vista, and see it both as a whole, and as the sum of its parts.
The first thing we notice, is the beautiful landscape of the youth's tender body, a tribute to the sensuous legacy of Michelangelo and Caravaggio. We fly along its hills and valleys, exploring, marveling, feeling what the painter may have felt as he painted with great dedication and expertise the subject of his desires. Even if we don't quite share his attraction, we can feel and soar along with him. Then we may wander with our eyes, still oblivious to the true nature of the pleasant-looking sky, to the pillow his handsome face rests upon, and notice something unusual. Eyes of striking blue, frightening in their surreality, watching watching and watching endlessly, this peaceful Adonis. We may start feeling awkward or guilty, that we are watching along. Our wings may start to shake in our fright, not so sure anymore that we want to fly over this surreal vista. Yet we fly along, responding to the painter's hypnotic persuasion.
The sparkling quanta of light on his hair, lead us along their rays to a complex structure, likely representing the complexity of thoughts and feelings, with its foundation on the ragged surface of the mind. The structure is not nice and flowing, smoothly to unite in a complex yet clear logical mindset, but instead quite the opposite. It is a horrifying structure that can unite into equally complex yet evil thoughts, of the worst possible type: contagious and corruptive. What is its purpose, what is it about to corrupt? The most important question of all: whose mind is it? The painter's? Or is he luring us into a trap where his mirror will show our own corrupted self?
Then we notice the butterflies, dear friends of our innocent childhood, soaring towards us, raising the question "Why?". What is in the abyss which makes them fly in the opposite direction, towards us? Then we see some unusual ones, transformed into otherworldly creatures we don't recognize, further increasing our fright, which are transformed by tentacles reaching out of the structure of the mind. The wings of the untouched ones seem now like watching eyes, reminding us of our guilt, that we are watching too. Some others are transformed as if corrupted by some evil force. Butterflies, themselves a symbol of metamorphosis, from a pupa (chrysalis) into the most beautiful creations of the High Entity, are now further transforming, but this time not of their own natural will.
The boy himself represents transformation in his stage of adolescence. Will he be transformed any further by the evil force, as an analogy to the butterflies' metamorphosis? Will the evil force corrupt his soul? Will we transform alongside him, due to our flight over this strange vista? Or will we just recall something in us that has transformed us so deeply already? Is it all just a bad dream that will pass without any lasting effect, and we are just dreaming along with the sleeping boy?
Let us return to and concentrate on the abyss from which the butterflies emerge. It may very well represent the depth of our imagination, that can give birth to both the beautiful and the ugly, and the good and the evil. The progression of the butterflies is accompanied by a monster-train-like emerging vehicle. Transporting what? Resources for the mind's dark self from the abyss? The fish can barely get out of its way, while also being transformed by the evil spell. The watching one may once have been a shiny goldfish, the other we can no longer tell, the transformation is so complete. The monster is also watching along with us, its red eye pulsating, suggesting yet hiding its evil plans. Does it represent the infinite train that goes all the way to the bottom of the abyss, to bring forth resources to corrupt what the butterflies intend to make beautiful? The vehicle has separate but connected cells, like a train of thoughts or intentions, waiting for execution. All connected to the mind's surface, or our human nature. One by a DNA double-helix, the next by a simple weak rod or wire, as if one were programmed in our human nature and generated from it through the DNA, and the next is rather supported or implied by the cells before and after it, having just a weak connection to our programmed nature. The latter represents the implicative, the former the innate.
Lastly, we are left to wonder about the Pop art Lichtenstein-style depiction of the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington D.C. The depiction seems out of place, perhaps meant to shock. To scream in our face, from the summit of the hill-like drapery, and announce the victory of the dark side, that we have so far been left to hope not to occur. The flying black flag stops us in our own flight of exploration, ending our state of trance, forcing us to the ground, only to realize the painter's message. We are back to reality, with a very realistic message from a surreal world.
The composition can be considered elliptical, with its focal point in the abyss. Alternatively, it can be seen as vortical, with the abyss being the starting point of the elongated vortex, moving along the monster train and the structure, joining with the light rays, touching on the youth's face, moving along his curved posture, continuing in the flag on his knee, and further along the pointed canopy of darkness. I prefer the latter. It provides the painting with a classical type of baroque dynamism, that leads the eyes and holds the viewer's interest.
The realistic parts show a thorough understanding of anatomy and drapery, both in form and color. The variation of hues on the body, are ones which no photograph can capture. The drapery is masterfully laid along his leg in three colors, matching the red-yellow-white of the pop-explosion, yet contrasting its complex flowing forms to the ragged simplicity, showing a playfulness of the painter's visuality, making us smile when noticing this visual joke.
Most importantly, the conceptual nature of the work, and its great depiction, makes it a highly unique piece.
I feel that some of my more negative observations are worth mentioning as well, not to defame, but to point out what can be improved in future works of the painter, that will hopefully be numerous.
I find the face of the boy to be too shadowed compared to the rest of his body, which may very well just be a dark cloud passing over him, as suggested by the theme. Yet considering the ray of light, and the overly light left-side of his body, the shadow-scheme seems inconsistent.
Furthermore, I found it unfortunate to separate the right abstract structure from the darkness of the emerging abyss, so abruptly with the monster-train, without providing proper visual reason. However, the horns of the monster seem to support and carry the darkness as if a canopy above it. Nevertheless, I found this depiction somewhat unclear.
The style of abstraction is reminiscent of the horrifying dreamworld of Giger, perhaps even too much, but it is very appropriate for the painting's theme. I feel that Giger's visuality is best applied, if taken further, significantly altering it, even if founded upon it. The artist must attempt to disconnect even further from his major influences, in order to develop a style truly his own. The Dali-like crazy ingenuity however, is well enhanced with the artist's intelligence and logic. Meditating upon new ways of depiction in general, will likely bring the painter to a higher level, that may surpass his predecessors.
The artist decides once and for all our inner dilemma between what we should prefer in our imagination and why. Beauty is represented by the nude boy and the butterflies, holding the potential of transformation within. The weakness/tenderness/softness/fragility of beauty is contrasted with the strength/ugliness/harshness/eternity of the monster, carrying within itself the power to corrupt the former. It further shows us our own weakness in this subconscious dilemma, and our wicked attraction to both, deciding the undecidable.
The painting can be considered an excuse to depict an ignudo, in a conceptual and meaningful setting, telling us a very honest confession. Furthermore, the depiction can also be considered a mirror of our own mind. Imagine in place of the attractive youth, your own personification of desire, and you get a reflection of your nature in a similar atmosphere.
Regardless of any shortcomings, I believe this work is an exceptional masterpiece, and belongs to the hall of those select few.
I feel very fortunate to have found this painting two days ago, because it not only shed light on - or rather reminded me of - my human nature, but it also helped me decide what work should be the subject of this first critique article of mine. The fact that it recently received a Daily Deviation on DeviantArt, a questionable label, did not influence me the least, and in fact I honestly noticed it only after finishing the draft to this article. The purpose of the article is primarily not to promote the painter, but to provide a general discourse on conceptual visuality, that we may all benefit from, while giving an idea to the reader of what I think an art critique should look like, in this decadent age. For me, the painting was both an exciting endeavour, and a useful learning experience as well.