by Andrej Tisma

Marina Abramovic, "Balkan Baroque", 1997Art is a result of inspiration, and inspiration has a spiritual nature. So art at its base is a spiritual activity. If we would like to define art, in short we could say that it is the communication of the human with the sense of existence, the discovery of deep secrets, penetrating to the source of things. The artist is, in this case, a mediator between that source and the receiver (viewer of the artist’s work).

The theme of the art work, technique, and style, are just the means for communication with the audience. The means have been changing throughout history from epoch to epoch, from artist to artist. The artist's only true problem through history was to choose the form of mediation, but most often that form, together with the content, was imposed by the society in which he lived. Since primitive society religion and its institutions dictated the form of the mediation, while from the l7th century, secular authorities with their philosophy of life and science came more and more to shape that form. But gradually the artist was increasing the space for implementation of his individuality into creation.

Yet, religion, as an eminently spiritual sphere, has made the deepest impact on art. From prehistoric times to the present, art and religion have been equally interwoven, mutually dominating the human conscience throughout most historical epochs.

In primitive society the two fields were unbreakably linked with everyday life, with the hunters' activities, agriculture, fertility, healing, etc. The functions of priest and artist were joined in the tribe-magician and had direct relations with natural forces and daily or seasonal events.

In the later epochs, from Ancient Egypt to the Renaissance, art has served as the visualization of ruling ideologies. In this pre-modern time, the artist was illustrating what the ruling class wanted to transmit to the rest of their society, through artwork whose themes and styles were determined and canonized. In that phase, the artist was communicating with nature and society always with some ruling ideology in mind. In that period art was treated mostly as a handicraft that should be learned for better service. The main characteristics of those artists were their modesty, anonymity and service to the system. The early cultures had temples in which they presented worshipped beings, and in the Middle Ages canonized religious themes.

Since the Renaissance, when painted images became independent from architecture, as objects in themselves, the artist gradually moved away from the state's ideologies and became more and more individualistic, something we can see appearing in Romanticism.

With Modern art in the 20th century, the artist is completely independent, and the artwork reaches such autonomy towards reality that it became an object for itself. Now the artist is not so much communicating with reality through the artwork, as he is communicating WITH his artwork, which is a sum of visual and other elements. The artist distances himself from reality, so we have movements such as abstract painting, enformel, constructivism, and concrete art. Modern art is characterized by formal and technological research, which makes the artwork a reality for itself; more complex and independent. In this historical period, spirituality was pushed to the background by formalism. The appearance of collage and assemblage techniques, where the trace of the human hand is irrelevant and everything is depersonalized is a typical art form for that time period.

Finally, we come to a new phase, to the so-called mental and spiritual art. In the 60s we witnessed the phase when the creative act prominently retires into the creator's mental sphere. The artist does not communicate with his own artwork, but is developing relations in the sphere of ideas. The so-called dematerialization of the art object occurs. Conceptual art has a prominent role, and its origin can be found in the beginning of the 20th century, in the art of Marcel Duchamp. The artist's idea becomes the focus, rather than its materialization, craft, or virtue. In that way, the very harmful commodity relation in the art market is also overcome. Mental art has initiated and sharpened the question of art's sense and place in the society.

In the mental art, where spirituality has a more significant place, the artist is communicating with his own concepts, and is expressing himself more often using schemes, texts, diagrams, or arranging found objects, ready-mades. Craftsmanship is completely neglected, all the more so because modern technology, computers, video systems, photography, and telecommunication enables easy expression by just pressing a button. What comes to the forefront is the human being; our mental structure, suggestiveness, and behavior affecting the environment. New art forms are coming into being which are neglecting aesthetics and are approaching ETHICS. They are more and more resembling the manifestations of everyday life, and they are transforming life into a form of art. Happenings, performances, body art, video art, mail art, and eco art are just a few forms of the mental art of our time. They are leading the viewer towards more complex and intensive experiences of their own existence, orienting them towards essential laws of existence, in a direct and vivid manner.

Since artistic inspiration, which we said in the beginning is the basis of every art work, has a spiritual nature, the ideal form of art is the direct transmission of inspiration or enlightenment into the viewer. By a mental resonance, the viewer is led to a state of fascination, the same as the artist, and he experience the same passion of unity with the source and essence of existence --- which is by definition the origin of art. Such experiences, where the artist is directly transmitting his inspiration, can rightfully be named spiritual art.

Spiritual art comes from ancient experiences of meditation, magic, telepathy--- which today's science is dealing with---, and is informed by discoveries in contemporary biology (the theory of morphogenetic fields) and physics (holographic paradigm). Spiritual art is performed by a spiritually purified person who functions as a mediator between the laws of existence and the recipient. The artwork is manifested in the spheres of spiritual interchange, of resonance between people. In this form of creativity, the artist is communicating with the collective unconscious, with the spiritual potential of the whole universe.

The artist is radiating inspiration to the surroundings, changing the state of mind of recipients, and the entire spiritual milieu. The spiritual artist is inspiring the sense of existence by his activities, changing everyday life into an unlimited and eternal work of art.

In this phase of the development of art and spirituality, these two fields are merging, enabling artist and priest to exist in one person again, as in prehistoric times. Humankind has made a huge circle thousands of years long and has approached an innocent state, when the genuine nature is given back to people, and when spirituality infuses every moment of existence.



[Andrej Tisma (Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, 1952) graduated from Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1976. From the early '70s Tisma was concerned with concrete poetry, mail-art, photography, xerox, and since '80s with performance art and video. He has had solo exhibitions beginning in 1972 in Novi Sad, Belgrade, New York, Milan, Seoul, Munich, Naples, and San Francisco. Since 1996 Tisma has been working in the field of digital graphics and web-art. He has been publishing art criticism and essays since 1976. Tisma lives in Novi Sad, Serbia and Montenegro working as an artist, art critic, and curator.]