To mark the recent passing of Robert Venosa, we present this RS Portfolio which was first published last year.
Interview with Michael Robinson, Creative Director of Reality Sandwich.
MR: What's your personal mantra?
RV: ‘Abwoon d'bwashmaya’, part of an Aramaic prayer, is something (a mantra?) that lately I find entering my thoughts when I’m in the meditative state that painting engenders, as well as when I myself enter prayer. I first came across this phrase in ‘Prayers of The Cosmos’, a wonderful little book, and it followed me around until it seated itself firmly in my consciousness. As most powerful, spirit-infused words do, they energetically vibrate and instill a sense of empowerment and peace. However, at the easel my mantra is ‘love, light and oil paint’!
MR: What does the role of Artist mean to you?
RV: It means belonging to a unique, exciting gang of outlaws. It will always be the explorers, artists, poets, curious intellectuals, musicians, and all the other existential samurai who are creatively courageous, who desire to advance their yearnings for higher truth, and who will take the leap of faith into the unknown. This jump can be inspired by many various techniques, including – and in the forefront – visionary art, which helps the observer to transcend base ideas, and enter a world of alternate possibilities. Just look around you - excepting nature, everything you see - the house, the car, the lamp, your computer, the websites, the pre-Colombian sculpture, everything - was first a creative thought, followed by a design, and then made manifest. This has always been the work of the visionary artist. Every artifact or ruin that archeology discovers is the work of some visionary. The art and architecture of every great, or minor, culture, was given its visual power through the artist, and, in fact, culture itself has always been defined through the artist's creativity. The artist has always been the catalyst for change. So the real question might be: What sort of world would we exist in if it weren't for the visionary? However, and in contrast, as long as the visionaries provide the slightest glow of enlightenment, the forces of darkness will be there to attempt to prevent and subdue this affront to their power…unless of course they figure out a way to make money from it, then they will co-opt the elements involved and, acting through lawyers, bankers, generals and politicians, make it government business, illegal or otherwise. Visionary art is subversive in its message to the world, and if the government truly had eyes to see and a brain to decipher, they would recognize the dangers inherent in an art that sheds light and inspiration, and I and my colleagues would be taken away in chains. And that’s exactly what will happen if fascism ever gained the upper hand in this society. Artists and intellectuals are always the first to go. Be that as it may, Visionary art has always been marginalized due to the fact that people only see what their consciousness allows them to see….and Visionary (or Fantastic) art has always manifested content that transcends the normal, plebian state of awareness. This assures that the inherent, somewhat cryptic message of the visionary’s creation will in most cases only be translated by the consciousness of those of higher intellect and spirit, attuned to more universal values, who in turn implement these values on the Earthly plane. The message, however, is also subversive in the sense that the common mind cannot entirely escape the subliminal force planted in the creation that will affect, superconsciously, whomever confronts the art. The form, color, imagery, energy and spirit in the work, contain the seeds of an awakening and, unbeknownst to the observer, the first stages of allowing experience to follow suit. And from experience comes knowledge, followed ultimately by wisdom.
And so the battle to shed the light goes on – through music, art and all the other universal creative energies – until it becomes a blinding force against the powers of darkness, and an uplifting, liberating source of inspiration to all truth-seekers. This is a powerful space to work from in any and all events…and it sure beats a day job.
MR: What is the driving force behind your creativity?
RV: Anything artistic has always been an allurement and inspirational force for me, starting with the early, great Disney classics, through the revolutionary psychedelic poster art of the ‘60’s, discovering Dali and the Fantastic/Visionary artists, but most of all, through LSD, which awakened my spirit to the dormant creative power that awaited within, allowing me the vision to see the higher levels of art and my potential for creating it as well. Anything that inspires of course creates the spark of motivation that leads to the creative act, and I have been inspired constantly throughout my life, in visits to studios, galleries, museums, theatres, concerts, Burning Man, et al; each one, at times and in their own way, becoming a driving force.
MR: What transformative experiences have influenced your life and how has that manifested in your work?
VR: Psychedelics have probably had the most profound influence on my life and creativity since the zygote selected my gender. They have catapulted me from the most banal of deep-sleep consciousness levels up to the authentic Sun King's hall of light, life and oil paint. After all these years and innumerable sacramental excursions, I believe I've figured out that my true purpose in the scheme of things is to act as a translator - in the language of form and color - of otherworldly, alien forms - architecturally and creature-like. It's a very joyous, empowering objective. The psychedelics, in their infinite wisdom and blessings, have gifted me with art and, in turn, have made my life an ongoing work of art.
There can be little doubt that altered states of consciousness have a profound effect on the creative quality and productive output of the artist. The inspirations are certainly individual and dependent on the artist's ability to retain, filter, and discern what is possible to exteriorize from the phantasmagoria presented by that which altered his consciousness. From my own experience, I would say that there is enough inspiration and visual material from any 1-minute segment of an entheogenic journey to last me a lifetime at the easel...and then I would still suffer frustration in not being able to capture what I really witnessed. In any event, with or without the entheogens, the artist, if he desires to be an architect of spirit-mind form, must ascend from the realm of subconscious symbolic representation, and open himself up to superconscious guidance and experimentation. In this free-fall leap of faith, the artist discovers that the paintbrush is the key that allows entry into the divine mysteries and the true nature of the creative gift.
The high mission of visionary art is, by its illusions, to foreshadow a higher universe reality, to transport the observer to transcendent realms of the imagination where form and color become a mystic language understood by that part of our Higher Self that is ever beckoning us onward to the sacred indescribable.
MR: How long does it take you on average to complete a piece of work, and do you ever do several pieces simultaneously?
VR: There isn’t any average time frame when it comes to completing a painting. For example, I have spent two solid years on one piece (Astral Circus), and just one day on paintings that I’ve done during some workshops. Most paintings take on a life of their own, and sometimes when you think you’re fast sailing on a beautiful sea of form and color, the painting suddenly presents you with an unforeseen challenge that demands evaluation and much more time and labor then you anticipated. There are no stop-watches next to the easel, and you have to allow the painting to let you know when it feels it’s done. One can go back and work forever on a painting. It’s said that it takes two to complete a painting: the artist, and someone with a baseball bat to stop him.
And I’ve learnt to do one painting at a time, and not scatter my energies attempting to work on a number of paintings simultaneously, as I used to do.
MR: Why should people check out your work?
RV: To get a peek at themselves! One of the magical purposes of a painting is that it acts like a transcendent mirror, reflecting parts of our inner being and subtly touching at our soul. Art, at relative levels, is an emotional experience, and, if it’s not extruding detritus from our subconscious, then, hopefully, it’s opening up the channel of our superconscious and letting in some of the cosmic light. Any powerful work of art will transmit the love, dedication and energies of the artist who created it, and will enter the viewer at a depth equal to that from whence it came. Be that as it may, as an artist, I paint to discover who I am.
MR: How does your work affect consciousness, and what are your views on the evolution of consciousness?
RV: I can only comment on the state of my own consciousness as it pertains to my work. As mentioned above, I consistently evaluate the state of my consciousness by the work that channels its way through me. Painting is a language of form and color that is translated through the relative consciousness of the viewer, and taps into a cosmic conduit of creative cognition that allows the artist, and the viewer, access to the infinite iconography of universal form and color, while at the same time, through the artist's level of consciousness and technical skill, provide us with imagery of potential states of the material and spiritual. It may seem profoundly futuristic and otherworldly to contemporary generations, but is most probably naive and novel to the higher elementals. However this works on our ever-laboring brain cells, I have no doubt that consciousness, personal and in general, in its search and struggle through the earthly morass, does indeed evolve, however slowly, however pain-stakingly.