Visionary Artists andLight Painting A hallucination is “an experience involving the apparentperception of something not present”. It is sensation without stimulus, and caninvolve seeing, hearing or smelling something that is not present. Hallucinationsare most well known as symptoms of illnesses and through the use of mindaltering drugs. However, many people report to have hallucinated throughsensory deprivation.
Sensory deprivation is a process by which someone isdeprived of normal external stimuli such as sight and sound for an extendedperiod of time. When experienced over a short period of time it has been usedfor therapy to reduce anxiety and as a form of meditation. However, as the mindis put into this state of sensory deprivation for long periods of time, thebrain starts to search for stimuli and when none is found, creates its ownimages, sounds and smells.
This can result in extreme anxiety, hallucinations,bizarre thoughts and depression. Many artists haveused hallucinations or mystical experiences for inspiration for their work.William Blake was born on 28th November 1757.
He was an Englishpoet, painter and printmaker. Blake claimed to experience visions throughouthis life starting from as young as age four. His visions ranged from seeingpeople appear in his dreams, seeing trees formed of angels, to seeing London as”the holy city” which inspired him to write they hymn Jerusalem where hedescribes the new factories of the industrial revolutions as “dark satanicmills”. His visions were often associated with beautiful religious themes andimagery.
One of Blake’s famous drawings is a portrait of the man who taught himto paint. Blake reported visions of prophets and artists such as Raphaelappearing in his dreams and the portrait he drew is of this man who appeared tohim. The painting shows a man who appeared in his dreams who Blake claimed taught him to paint. Later in life Blake alsoclaimed that his poems were dictated to him through his visions. Blakewas interested in spirituality and studied Christianity, Egyptian religion,alchemy and science. He thought of his visions as supernatural inspiration.Other poets who knew Blake though that he was a genius but also that he wasinsane.
He didn’t become very successful until after his death when artistsand poets started to recognise his work. AlexGrey, born in Columbus, Ohio on November 29th, 1953 is anotherartist who uses visions as an inspiration for his work. He believes that “theorigin of all world religions and sacred art traditions is a mystic visionarystate”. He uses art to share and convey his hallucinations with others andsays, “the ability to transmit mystic states through art is why visionary artmatters”. Grey uses hallucinogenic, mind-altering drugs such as Psilocybin andDMT to create mystical experiences. Although this practice may be frowned uponby the majority of the population, he believes that they are “capable ofcatalysing a visionary mystical experience”.
He uses the term “catalysing” toemphasise his view that the drugs he uses simply help him to see his visions,not to create them. Grey has explained his visionary art process as “the space we visitduring dreams and altered or heightened states of consciousness.” Dean Chamberlain is an American light painting photographer who has alsobeen inspired by visions and his view that light should be the subject of hisphotographs. He has been called “the father of light painting in its present-dayform.” “Light is the source of all lifeso I have followed the light since I realized this simple truth in 1969 duringmy early vision quests, wink, wink, nod, nod.
I understood that God was inone’s mind and God is light, for me. I saw visions of eternity in the light,hence, my fascination with light.” In this interview, he suggeststhat he has used hallucinogenic drugs to inspire “vision quests” this is asimilar technique to Alex Grey and is reflected in his abstract, unique light paintings.He first experimented with light painting in 1977 and from 1979 onwards he movedaway from traditional photography and exclusively made light paintings. Light painting is a photography technique that usesvery long exposures and different light sources such as torches to “paint”light onto the chosen parts of the subject. This means that every photograph isunique and the results can be unpredictable. The technique gives thephotographer complete control over what to light and which areas will be leftdark.
It also allows the photographer to create images that are made up oflight patterns which they have created. The earliest lightpainting experiments were done in the early 20th Century by FrankGilbreth and Man Ray who was a famous experimental photographer. In 1949 GjonMili set up a shoot with Pablo Picasso. They created some of the mostwell-known light paintings with Picasso using a pen light instead of a brush.