by Ron English in New Art on Monday 15 October 2012

When I hear about ‘visionary art’ I usually react with a cringe. Most of this genre is the product of under-talented, overdosed navel gazers. Many who are attracted to visionary arts are promised a retinal nirvana, a focused porthole into another dimension, a deeply conceptual experience that is a visual open door. But this artistic sojourn requires such an intense level of skill and endurance that only a blessed few are up for the task. I recently had the good fortune to spend an evening with three artists who have taken that difficult journey to its biblical mountaintop.

Mars 1 arrived at my studio with sculptor Brin Berliner after a weekend painting marathon with Alex Grey at his CoSM spiritual retreat. We talked art over a few glasses of wine. Mars described his approach to painting, which, considering the intricate level of detail, invention and atmosphere, must be painstakingly sketched out in advance. Well, sometimes it’s good to engage the artist himself and get an authentic insight into his process. It turns out Mars is an intuitive painter approaching a canvas the way the abject expressionists engaged their art, not as a scribes of an external reality but as their own force of nature creating standalone visions of pure human creativity. Later that night I drove Mars and Brin back to CoSM where we found Alex and Allison in their hilltop studio hard at work on their newest masterpieces. I would have hardly expected them to be doing anything else, as their work requires the deepest level of commitment. What did surprise me was their ease of conversation while they continued their painting. With Allison and Alex, small talk is short-lived and conversations quickly delve deep. CoSM has a steady flow of guest artists, scientists and musicians so there is always a stream of new ideas flowing through the 40 acre retreat that is in fact, the epicenter of a newly minted religion. How’s that for a conceptual art project?