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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Tantric Portraiture

Alright, I admit this one might sound strange to most artists. But one of the art forms I've developed I call "Tantric Portraiture". Most people think that the word tantric must have a connotation to sex. Tantric sex has been practiced for thousands of years as a form of bringing body and soul together in a merging. 

But the word "tantric" is Sanskrit and means "to weave energy". 

I first noticed it when working with my body models. I think its because of the close bond that I share with my models. I am building a piece of art from scratch through them. Whether I am body painting them, or just posing them to be photographed, they are stripped bare to me (literally and mentally). This often results in some very odd variations to the art. 

I first consciously noticed it with a model years ago who was facing charges for child pornography. I was aware of what he was facing, a legal battle, but at the time I knew very little of the circumstances. But he told me up front that he had a legal problem that might put him in jail for a long time. As I worked with him over the hours, we spoke quietly about his life as I was body painting and photographing him. Keep in mind this is a lengthy process. He was with me in studio for about 4 hours. 

He was careful not to go into details of his troubles, but afterwards and once the final work was completed for his session, I realized that I had on a very subconscious level worked those problems into the art. I knew something very bad was happening with him that surpassed a petty criminal problem. It was only later that I found out the details of his legal trouble. After that I lost touch with him. I can only assume he was sentenced and was in prison.

This image was just one of many taken that day. While he never voiced it to me, he was frightened to death. Looking back I wasn't even aware of the depth of that fear. But nonetheless it came out in the art. 

In the image above, note the look in those eyes. Note the burning piece of paper behind him. That is a suicide note, even though I didn't realize it when I placed it there. Note the red strip on his head which was paint, but in the final version becomes a bloody slash. Lastly, not the name of the piece. Perdition means "hell". Those eyes were looking at his personal hell. 

I realized then that I something more had been going on between the model and I. After that I began to watch for this. Time and time again I saw that my art was translating something within the model and it was emerging in the art. I saw it in a model who was losing his youth and fearing aging. When the art was completed, all the pieces involved death in some way.

In another I found an acceptance of death and later found that he was very sick and probably didn't have long to live.

The simple fact was that something was occurring during these sessions that I couldn't at first explain. Its taken me many years to really grasp it and refine it as an art form. But when I looked at it from an artists perspective, I knew that I needed to understand it better and I needed to work within my portrait work to refine the process. 

Earlier this year I began pulling these portraits into a more complete series. Rather than have them scattered throughout my portfolio. The result was the Phantasm Portraits series. It was after this that I named the process "Tantric Portraiture". It is a weaving or energy using the artistic process to explore more than what we just see on the surface. 

I truly believe that we as artists have the ability to cross over into something stranger and more amazing than we realize. Perhaps its our imaginations or our creative process, or our ability to look at the world differently. Whatever it is, for me its become a crucial part of my work that I rarely discuss. So if this article seems a little off, you understand that its not something simple or easy to explain. But it is important to share. 

Over the coming months I will be exploring this with other artists and hope that some of you will share your own stories of art that goes to another level. Your thoughts? 


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