Visual artist Stuart Holland’s work focusses on viewing the world through different lenses. His perspective of the world is a mix of all the contexts in which he has viewed it throughout his lifetime; from rebelling against a religious upbringing to a spiritual and psychedelic mind frame. These contexts have enabled Stuart to use a “more fluid lens [which] suggests the world has far more mystery and endless possibility than is often immediately accessible to us.”
His latest body of work encompasses his desire to create a place that seems like it could exist in this dimension, in a higher dimension, or exist as an intermediate crossroads between the two – a place that exists between ‘Here’ and ‘There.’
Stuart Holland: Elsew(here)
Charcoal on Paper, 24″ x 18″
What first drew you to work with the concepts of self, consciousness, and the ultimate nature of reality?
My journey exploring these concepts gained substantial momentum about 8 years ago while I was undergoing a radical change in the lens through which I viewed the world. I had grown up as an atheist in a religious home and spent much of my early adolescence clinging to an angry and reactionary attitude in protest of the oppressive religious framework that I had grown up with. I was subsequently drawn to a lens of stark material reductionism and was strongly opposed to any kind of exploration of spirituality, transcendence, or the Divine. However, in my early twenties I found myself drawn to psychedelics and began to have some powerful experiences that deeply challenged some of the beliefs and perspectives that I had been so aggressively holding on to. These experiences not only revealed the existence of additional states of consciousness that exist beyond the default one that most of us experience every day, but they also proved these other modes of perceiving the world can provide great wisdom in living a life with greater beauty, purpose, and meaning.
The most poignant change occurred after I spent a week in the Peruvian Amazon participating in several transformative ayahuasca ceremonies, which cracked open my psyche in a way that I never thought possible and gave me an immense amount of insight into who I am and my relationship to Humanity and the rest of the Universe. I returned from that journey with a newfound love for my life and an undeniable vitality that fuelled my artistic vision. From that point on, I began to practice meditation, float in sensory deprivation tanks, and was inspired to seek out more information on what modern science is revealing about the fields of neuroscience and quantum physics. I became fascinated by how these new fields of scientific research could inform our most fundamental questions about the nature of consciousness and the nature of reality itself. This personal research has also been greatly informed by the work of various Buddhist teachers, psychedelic philosophers, and mystics from both Eastern and Western traditions. My work asks these same questions and seeks to explore the dichotomy of subjective experience and objective reality. I see this process as a reconciliation of my previous lens of rigid empiricism and a more fluid lens that suggests the world has far more mystery and endless possibility than is often immediately accessible to us. Ever since I adopted this new perspective, I continue to be inspired by the ways in which it edifies my life and teaches me to see the beauty that surrounds me.
Your bio says: “As these figures travel within these environments, they undergo transcendental growth, finding strength, solace, and absolution in their exploration.” You are depicting figures that are growing, developing, changing; do you think you have also developed and changed personally and professionally throughout your time focusing on these themes?
Absolutely. There’s no denying that making this work has a similar transformative impact on me and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any artist who was left unchanged by their artistic drive to create. Each work I create is a personal meditation on an existential concept that I’m grappling to understand in a fuller capacity. Many of works are either literal self-portraits, conceptual self-portraits, or both, and each is a lesson in me becoming a more patient, compassionate, and centered person as well as a lesson in articulating and sharing these concepts more successfully with others through my work.
I often refer to my relationship with art as my daemon, an entity that coexists with me and needs both constant exorcising and exercising. Making art is therapy for me; an undeniable energy that needs to flow through me, otherwise that energy becomes trapped, stagnant, and will begin to sabotage my ability to sustain my equanimity. Ask my family and friends and they will tell you that I quickly become irritable, impatient, and even more cynical when I go too long without being able to draw or paint or if I’m experiencing substantial resistance while working on a piece. It’s not unlike its own unique variety of demonic possession. Luckily after years of trial and error, I’m finally familiar enough with this pattern and the necessary exorcism is easy to perform once the opportunity arises. I deeply feel that art, in its greatest capacities, has the power to empower and heal on the micro and macro levels of humanity. Making art ‘saves my soul’ on a regular basis and I’m immensely grateful that it’s such an integral part of my life, and I truly hope that my work conveys a similar message of healing for others as well.
Your work suggests reality is not absolute but a malleable aspect of existence, and with an open mind, a discerning eye, and careful practice and understanding, we are able to become increasingly conscientious collaborators in the superstructure of reality. Is this your dream for society; to become conscientious collaborators in the superstructure of reality as a whole or is it more directed towards a personal reality?
Charcoal on Paper & White Gold on cold press, 32″ x 24″
What was the inspiration behind your ‘Elsew(here)’ exhibition?
Charcoal on Paper, 22″ x 28″
Watercolour, 24k Gold, 14″ Round
Charcoal on Paper & 12k White Gold on cold press, 16″ x 18″