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)

Opening Reception:
Friday May 3, 2019 | 6-10pm
Exhibition Dates:
May 3 – 25, 2019

Arch Enemy Arts

109 + 111 Arch Street in Philadelphia, PA
To request a collector’s preview, send an email to archenemyarts@gmail.com

“Egression”
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.

‘Elect’
Watercolour, 24k Gold, 14″ x 18″

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.

“Sunbather”
Charcoal on Paper, 18″ x 24″

 

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?

It is certainly a personal aspiration of mine and, ultimately, I believe that it’s one that would yield massively positive benefits if it was embraced on a global scale. I’m a devout believer that the only constant in life is change, and that all-encompassing process is transpiring whether we are aware of it or not. My favourite word in the English language is ‘sonder’, which is “the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as complex and vivid as your own.”
At this point in time, there are almost eight billion humans all over the globe going about their lives and inevitably impacting all those they come in contact with as well as the environment around them, and the vast majority of the time we are driving these changes in ways that we often don’t think about. This tendency towards a lack of mindfulness has some very detrimental outcomes and threatens our ability to see the ways in which we are hurting one another and harming the planet that sustains us. In short, we are each collectively building a world that is a reflection of both our inner selves and our collective identity. If we were to each open our hearts and minds and embrace practices of deeper mindfulness, I feel like our capacity to make sweeping positive changes across the world culturally, spiritually, and ecologically would increase exponentially. With the astounding diversity of human ingenuity that currently exists here on Earth, I can only imagine what we could collectively accomplish through envisioning a radically compassionate and conscientious communities. We’ve begun to see the merciless our recklessness and apathy, could a shift in mindfulness be our salvation?

“Voyager”
Charcoal on Paper & White Gold on cold press, 32″ x 24″

 

What was the inspiration behind your ‘Elsew(here)’ exhibition?

For the past several years, my work has been building this timeless, liminal realm that simultaneously feels both novel and achingly familiar. It’s this surreal stage that I use to create what I consider to be contemporary surrealist mythologies that explore transcendental themes. I recently was inspired to name this realm ‘Elsew(here)’ after having listened extensively to some lectures by Alan Watts as well as some books on Zen Buddhism that fit perfectly into my 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.’ I find it interesting to contemplate the possibility that the distance between ‘Here’ and ‘There’ is infinitely shorter than we might expect and that we can exist in either or both at any given time. This idea was largely inspired through my experiences where I found myself in a different state of consciousness where I felt I was inhabiting a different reality than the physical one, while still existing in the physical realm.  It’s within this intermediary space where I feel true magic happens and challenges our deepest held beliefs and preconceptions about consciousness and reality.
All of the pieces in this show have strong themes of balance, stillness, and tranquility accomplished through practices of mindfulness like meditation and self-reflection. These practices are depicted in my work as powerful tools that allow us to boldly embark on journeys of transcendental growth in search of greater understanding and establish a deeper connection to the world around us. Each image has strong foundation elements of balance and stillness, but they do so while simultaneously relying on a sense of tension that further highlights the delicate harmony needed to elicit and sustain these unique states of consciousness. Within the relationship between tension and balance in these works, there is a sense of a newly discovered frontier of mystery and novelty – where one finds themselves on the threshold of something great that beckons with a quiet, yet undeniable call from beyond the Unknown. Tension creates the invitation to delve deeper, to question everything and seek out what may have previously seemed unimaginable, while balance gives us the bravery to embark on the journey. The destination may remain unclear, but is it truly a destination that we seek?

“Arrival”
Charcoal on Paper, 22″ x 28″

“Outreach”
Watercolour, 24k Gold, 14″ Round

“Invocation”
Charcoal on Paper & 12k White Gold on cold press, 16″ x 18″

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