Art as Magic
How is the creation of art a form of magic?
Magic, as defined by the Collins dictionary is: “the power to use supernatural forces to make impossible things happen such as make people disappear or controlling events in nature.”
However, this is a bit simplistic. The free dictionary goes into more detail. Accordingly, magic is: “the art or practice of using charms, spells or rituals to attempt to produce supernatural effects or control events in nature.” Also: “the art that, by use of spells supposedly invokes supernatural powers to influence events.”
Note that magic is an art. Conjuring involves great skill and dexterity, in hand and eye, not unlike that of an artist. But, in what way is art magic?
To further define the term, magic is considered to be: “the practice of using various techniques, as incantation, to exert control over the supernatural or the forces of nature.” And further: “power or influence exerted through this practice.” (free dictionary)
Therefore, we can see that magic involves the manipulation of nature (particularly, in order to make it super-natural). By using practices (art practices, such as drawing, painting or performance) artists manipulate matter (nature) in order to create the supernatural.
Considering the supernatural as not just ‘other than nature’ we can see that this is defined as: “of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe…departing from what is usual or normal” (Mirriam-Webster) Also: “not existing in nature or subject to explanation according to natural laws; not physical or material” (Vocabulary.com)
That which is not physical, or observable is the idea which an artist has, which is made manifest in the creation of the artwork.
This takes us that most infamous magician Aleister Crowley who defined magic (or Magick) as: “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.”
Therefore, magic is a science as well as an art. It involves precision and formulae. It needs exactitude.
I would like to point out that the marriage of science and art is not so far-fetched as it seems, in that the process of drawing can be used as a form of scientific enquiry (for example, consider Leonardo Da Vinci). Therefore, we can consider art as having an element of science to its process.
According to Crowley, Magic involves the transformation of the self (and eventually all of our social reality) through specific acts of magic that focus the imagination (and will) on change. Such acts include sex, meditation and creative performance. These acts, used by Crowley and his followers to invoke divine insight and enlightened states, can be considered rituals.
The process of making art is meditative and falls between the realms of relaxing and concentrating (the area known as flow). This, in itself, creates moments of enlightenment and insight.
One of the key aspects of magic (and particularly Magick) is transformation. Magic is the use of willpower to create change in the real world. This occurs through the manipulation of matter through occult (hidden) powers.
The transformation which occurs in the making of art, is a metamorphosis of chemical elements (science – the paint/pigment/wax/oil etc.) in combination with the hidden (occult/supernatural) ideas which form in the brain of the artist, to create the final artwork through a process of artistic techniques (rituals or formulae), in the process of applying the medium to the surface. There are numerous combinations of technique which can be worked, in various media, and no two artists will execute the same idea in the same way (or with the same materials, in the same style).
Particularly, it is the artist’s own unique style which defines an artwork. This can be seen as the eternal metamorphosis which occurs in the Self during the process of the creation of the artwork.
Crowley uses the analogy of writing:
“[If] it is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge. I therefore take “magickal weapons”, pen, ink, and paper I write “incantations”—these sentences—in the “magickal language” ie, that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct I call forth “spirits”, such as printers, publishers, booksellers and so forth and constrain them to convey my message to those people. The composition and distribution of this book is thus an act of Magick by which I cause Changes to take place in conformity with my Will.” (deliriumsrealm.com)
A painter will use the ‘magickal weapons’ of her paintbrush and paints. He or she will then call forth the spirits of artists down through the ages to act as inspiration and guidance, as well as the more material spirits of gallerists and buyers for the art. The ‘magickal language’ an artist speaks is the language of colour and light and tone.
The creation of art is the manifestation of reality based on one idea in a single artist’s brain. It occurs through sheer force of will and is the fruits of imaginative and creative metamorphosis. Through the creation of art, you can change the world. Every creative act is a work of magic. Keep creating. Let’s make the world a more magical place.