I had the pleasure of meeting fine artist Kyle Noble while his work was on exhibit at the Royal Scottish Academy in 2014. He was giving a talk about his work, which I enjoyed very much, but it was the question and answer session that I really got a kick out of. A conversation in a public space that covered shamanism, altered states of consciousness, Jungian psychology, aliens and self transforming elf machines. It made my day.
I was drawn to Kyle’s work regardless, I found the themes instantly recognisable but with a highly unique voice. Psychedelic or Visionary artwork has become something of a clichéd genre with many artists ending up, whether intentionally or not, being fairly derivative of the master: Alex Grey. I myself have fallen into this trap, simply because the imagery experienced in an altered state often has similar themes for many different participants. This is part of its mystery. There is also the fact that the aesthetic Grey (as well as other artist-shaman) has created feeds back into the experience, creating a kind of echo chamber effect on perception. In my own work on this subject using meditation as the main inspiration I am trying to find my own voice and distance myself from the usual formulas. So it was quite inspiring to see Kyle’s work and get a firsthand account of his processes, both in thought and technique.
I found his use of a fictitious world as the foundation for his work particularly captivating, as it provides a more socially palatable context for the ideas to be explored and conveyed to his audience, many of whom will likely be unfamiliar with such experiences and could dismiss anything outside of fiction on a variety of grounds. Much like in many sci-fi or fantasy novels, it gives certain ideas and imagery a way to be explored by minds otherwise likely to be unwilling to do so. In much the same way shaman will use sleight of hand and other tricks to put their audience into a more receptive state, producing the sleight of mind necessary for a true act of magic.