This is a blog to share thoughts, research and art-practice intended to take us deeper into questions and an understanding about who we are, and our connection to the natural world and the sacred. You would be interested in this if your art practice scratches the surface of an ordinary ego and expands into the soul and spirit.
Outside the days are short, dark and the earth is wet. Large Oak leaves are falling around my studio, and providing an incubation for rebirth. I am finishing a project I started on my Forest School practitioner course, four years ago. I’m using pyrography to burn the Ogham script, the Tree Alphabet into 20 individual sticks. I collected the sticks from some of the sacred places I have connected with in England. Heather from Edale, Gorse from Markham Main Colliery, Blackthorn from Kingly Vale and Yew from Old Winchester Hill.
For each stick I asked permission of the trees to forage or cut a stick, and as with the Yews in Kingly Vale, no meant no. I’m working on many levels, conducting rituals with each tree to energise each stick, connecting on a practical, physical, mental and spiritual level. Using divination to explore tree connections, manifest spiritual aspects of the green world, the Daghdha, the four elements, and to work their magic.
I’ve been re-reading Soulcraft by author Bill Plotkin. For the past three years since I last read the book I’ve worked much more on self-development, which has created a better understanding of ego, soul and spirit work. The chapters that have currently resonated with me are: signs and omens in nature, self-designed ceremony and symbolic artwork. I will be incorporating some of this research into my ACE funded project: Nothing ‘is’ Immediate.
I feel this poem by Derek Walcott sums up how I feel about the book:
“Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your-self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”
― Derek Walcott
My journey of self-awareness led me to undertake some fundamental groundwork on understanding the ego and personal-level authenticity. I came across the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator, explained in Robert Holden’s five week online training course Coaching Authentic Success. The Enneagram provides 9 distinctive yet interconnected personality patterns, which can be identified by their distinct strengths and challenges. The first three Personality types of a persons represent their distinctive values and behaviours.
My first personality was Type 9 The Peacemaker. The strengths of the Peacemaker include good mediation, diplomacy, building consensus, inclusion and keeping emotionally calm. My values are to create a space where all opinions are shared, heard and included, which includes my own. The first line I speak in my work Sermon – On the seventh beatitude is:
- Upon this pulpit I’m here to be seen. Yet my real challenge now in life is to lose my self-image
My challenges for this personality are that I require time to understand my emotions about something and to do this I requires a clear understanding and explanation before making a decision. I prefer to keep the peace, so therefore holding onto anger in the subconscious can manifest as an act of passive aggression.
The advice for this personality type os “Learn how to include yourself without waiting to be invited”. Explain to someone if there is something bothering you, before it builds up.
My second Type is 5 The Investigator which strengths include: Intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm for knowledge and ideas. The pitfalls to this can be “when I know enough then I can be successful”.
I’m exploring the philosophy and wisdom of the Enneagram within my art-work. It provides a map to who we are when we’re the most psychologically healthy. My aim is to create a more authentic dialogue which navigates the pitfalls of the ego, to support a way of living in harmony with ourselves, each other and the world.
Sermon – On the seventh beatitude a reconstructed pulpit normally associated with the performance of a philosophical or theological presentation, is used on this occasion as a platform, which invites the audience to individually ascend the spiral stairs and stand in view overlooking the space. At the top there is a set of headphones, so the participant can listen to an intimate recording of the artist reading the following: Sermon on the seventh beatitude.
In the work Spencer explores self-reflection, and the function of art as an initiation to contemplate and expand the psyche. The pulpit is designed as a ritual to lead the participant on a path of ascent, where they can surrender attachment to ego identification and soul identification and ultimately seeing through the illusion of separate self.
The text was inspired by Author Robert Holden and his insight into the Enneagram and a Satsangh (philosophical discussion) hosted by Sri Anish.
The work was exhibited at the exhibition # Flaunt It 2, The Arches, Southampton (Nov 2019), a co-curated exhibition by studio residents Tony Spencer and Peter McGinnis, with guest artist Jilly Evans.
Materials: Reclaimed pallet-wood, black mat paint, audio recording, headphones.
© Tony Spencer 2019
Flesh and Blood a kneeler reconstructed from reclaimed pallet wood, invites the audience to perform the act of kneeling in front of a mirror. From this position the participant confronts their own reflection and words of affirmation burnt in reverse into the wooden frame of the stool. The work was created for a CASArtist exhibition titled Let Us Dissent (2019).
In the work Spencer explores concepts of self-awareness, and the function of art as a form of dissenting from social constructs of ego, into our psyche and back to who we really are, with a genuinely altruistic loving ego.
Kneeling down to perform a physical ritual is designed to dissent form a religious submissive prostration into an act of self-led descent to soul embodiment.
Work inspired by Author Robert Holden, who posed the question “what would it be like not to judge yourself?”
Flesh and Blood was exhibited as part of a group show by CAS associate artists titled Let Us Dissent at Spudworks Gallery, Hampshire (Sep 2019).
“The world is a state of mind where we have an ego, a story etc. However, we have to know who we are? In my work ‘Flesh and Blood’ I invite you to contemplate your emotional presence and natural wisdom, by engaging with a sculpture which creates friction between a spiritual act and an existential return to self.” Artist Statement
Material: reclaimed wooden pallets, mirror, fabric and pyrography
© Tony Spencer 2019