Sunday, 17 March 2013

Every Colour but Grey

Back in 2009 an unusual artist's work caught my eye. I've never spent a lot of time browsing or studying artwork but every now and then I stumble across something that makes me really stop and think about it. Alex Grey's work is vibrant, full of life and energy, and invokes feelings of sublimity. Inspired by a series of profound psychedelic and spiritual experiences, and knowledge gained working with cadavers in the Harvard Medical School anatomy department, Grey channelled a unique style of representing multiple layers of reality.

Grey's work explores themes ranging from birth to death to rebirth and the afterlife - and everything inbetween: spirituality, religion, love, humanity, good and evil, the nature of reality, and artwork itself. His paintings often show detailed anatomical representations, typically blended with religious symbols and spiritual imagery. His pieces look deeper than the apparent surface reality of our world, and open the viewer's eyes to other realms.

Take a look at his work and decide for yourself. Most people either love it or hate it. Here are some of my favourite pieces, representing a cross-section of his 2D work:

The Seer
Vajra Brush
The Artist's Hand
Net of Being

Grey's work has been described as religious/spiritual/sacred artvisionary art, and postmodern art; however, the movement I associate most of his work with is psychedelic artPsychedelic is a term literally meaning soul-manifesting or mind-manifesting (from the Greek ψυχή / psyche, "soul"/"mind" and δηλοῦν / deloun, "to manifest"). It has also been described (here) as:

  • Of, characterized by, or generating hallucinations, distortions of perception, altered states of awareness, and occasionally states resembling psychosis
  • Relating to or denoting new or altered perceptions or sensory experiences, as through the use of hallucinogenic drugs
  • Having the vivid colours and complex patterns popularly associated with the visual effects of psychedelic states

Regardless of the definition, it's a very broad category with significant overlap with other fields (aside from those mentioned above, see surrealism, abstract art, art nouveau, Dada, pop art).

Following are a selection of my own drawings from 2009 inspired by Alex Grey and other psychedelic artists. You can read more about Alex Grey here.

The Birth of Life

Eager Eye

From Another World



Changing Perspective

In a society that tries to standardize thinking, individuality is not highly prized.

Alex Grey

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