Understanding The Ritual – A Journey Into The Artist’s World

“For at least twenty thousand years, shamans – the first of all artists – have been bridge builders between worlds, visionaries whose healing journeys deep into psyche have inspired others with a profound respect for and love of the living cosmos”: this phrase from the book Dreaming With Open Eyes by Michael Tucker, inspired artist and curator Pete Flowers to draw together the exhibition currently on show at The Gallery at The Storey, Lancaster, exploring the role of ritual and shamanism within contemporary art.

The exhibition showcases the work of thirteen artists, who all share a common belief in the power of art to transform our daily lives; inviting us to unpick our understanding of reality, drawing us into their worlds of imagination and revealing personal truths about the processes and rituals of making art.

Examining the diverse means that artists use to extract meaning from the found, the forgotten, the ignored, the imagined, the dreamed of and the painful experiences of life, Flowers, as curator presents a diverse range of artistic processes that he feels are directly connected to the healing and visionary pathway.

For over thirty years Flowers has explored the connections he finds between the art making process and the sacred, spiritual worlds he inhabits and explores whilst painting. He believes that the near transcendental state he enters when painting can connect with the spirit world, and the physical manifestations of these experiences – his paintings, can have a direct effect on our understanding of the world.

” For me the intrinsic importance of making art is deeply spiritual – it crosses religious, socio-political and geographical divides. It makes deeper connections with our sense of purpose, articulating visually the very essence of what it means to be human today” says Flowers.

Removing traditional text labels, he invites the onlooker into his world, suggesting that the very first act of importance in a gallery is to allow oneself the freedom to look, enabling a deeper and more spiritual connection with the work on show.

The themes of life, death and the unknown space in-between subsequently take on special significance; in her work ‘Slips’ (2015) Sally Slade-Payne brings a series of undergarment slips hoarded by her husband’s deceased grandmother to life in a respectfully creative fusion of printing, sewing and drawing; each piece as fragile as the transience of life and the very memory she works so hard to retain in the work.

American-born Kate Eggleston-Wirtz explores the narrative and rituals that take place within her new found world of Blackpool. Each object carefully selected, embedded with deeper meaning from a history and community she dips in and out of with ease. Her assemblage sculpture ‘Henny Penny’ (2013) juxtaposes bizarre objects – a hen dressed as a bride, pulling it’s own caravan across a seascape of two-penny pieces. Here she builds a unique outsider’s response to rich, hidden and sometimes  forgotten cultural histories, creating a cabinet of curiosities in response to the many contexts she finds herself living within.

Flowers’ own vibrantly coloured circular painting ‘Rider Of The Apocalypse’ (2012) with imagery taken from Mexican populist paper cuts becomes a central vortex to the gallery space, enabling the viewer to fall into an imaginative entrance to another more spiritually significant world.

This exhibition insists that the visual world is of greater importance than the written – suggesting an important shift in cultural entitlement – allowing the viewer a much needed opportunity – to begin to dream with open eyes.

Understanding The Ritual – exploring the role of shamanism in contemporary art was held at The Storey in Lancaster May- June 2015.


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