"We often relate to ourselves as a puzzle from which many pieces have been removed. We gaze at a very distorted and confusing image we have constructed and are bewildered. We look at this puzzle of ourselves and notice only the fractures, only the surface mind of separation and partiality, and wonder, "who is this really that I am?" When we focus and identify with our fracturedness, we become afraid of ourselves. But as we allow ourselves to penetrate deeper, working to acknowledge these things, to let go of our partialness and hiding, the fractures no longer obscure the whole picture. It is like going beneath the surface of a wind-torn sea, to the stillness that is untouched by surface conditions."
This series is the byproduct of an intense period of realization and transformation I underwent in the past few years. It refers to the necessary work of putting the pieces of ourselves and our lives back together after periods of growth, upheaval, crisis, and tragedy; of forging our own meaning out of the wreckage of a ruined world; of creating our own stability in the midst of chaos. It is the artistic culmination of the past 2 years of my life.
Put into further perspective, it is the sequel to Surfacing, my previous large series of paintings completed in 2007. Surfacing explored the process of self-realization, of searching within to find our basic human goodness. Our highest potential of wisdom, strength, and love were symbolized as diamonds and jewels being brought to the skin’s surface, within the continual cycle of birth and death. Like the lessons from the phases of discovery in our lives that only become clear in hindsight, each painting contains portions of a larger diamond that becomes recognizable only when the 10 pieces are arranged together in the correct formation.
True to the concepts of that series, I realized an evolution that takes place after this surfacing, happening in my own life. It was embodied in the striving toward ideals, the building up and falling down, and the ultimate collapse of constructs after periods of expansion and growth. My struggle to overcome all obstacles, the will to live and to fight for my honest expression of life, to seek and know truth, had culminated in wreckage and loss. My own life imitating my own art, imitating my own life—the precious diamonds and the hidden demons inside me were exposed, vulnerable and raw. Some of my most cherished constructs of self-image were either collapsing slowly or imploding violently. I was left questioning the fabric of my reality, experiencing my consciousness from a new perspective, on jumpy nerve endings worn ragged from constant turmoil. I knew the only thing left I could do was to start to rebuild, and to document this presently unfolding process—an artistic sequel happening in real-time.
Plunging even deeper into myself, I mined disparate sources of inspiration, attempting, perhaps in vain, to distill the vast totality of life into the sharp focus of simple images and illusions. I turned to everything that’s shaped my consciousness, incorporating personal symbols of humanity, aggression and desire, penetrating insight, neurosis, birth, wisdom and truth, peace, love, delusion, suffering, and hope. These symbols were woven together by elements of modern psychology, postmodern thought, anarchist concepts, and interpretations of ancient Buddhist teachings. In another layer of symbolism, the titles of every painting, as well as of the series itself, were in homage to some of the music that’s shaped my mental landscape and given meaning to the simultaneous unfolding and rebuilding of my life. Each one is from a song lyric, song title, or album title by various hardcore punk bands that have been influential to the conception of this series.
In hindsight, I can see this undertaking that began mostly as encouragement to myself and others, at some point became also my unwavering support, a knowing shoulder to lean on. It subtly became a loving embrace where there wasn’t a real one, and somehow the images guided me through the most intense self-exploration I never intended to undertake. These images turned into an emotional cleansing, a mourning of loss, a therapy, a desperate mission to transcend suffering, to understand the nebulous changes I could feel taking place in my mind. Accidental, perhaps—but also perhaps exactly as it was supposed to be.
It made clear a notion I’d begun to sense since the Surfacing series, but didn’t have the perspective to fully articulate—that my art comes from, and speaks to, a place in me where meaning itself is created, where experience itself is conceived. It made clear that my art was a fundamentally spiritual undertaking—in defiance of everything I’d previously thought of as spiritual: limiting belief systems so stained and co-opted by culture and history. Yet with each creation it’s become clearer that this is indeed my own strangely spiritual quest. Translated through my own unique visual language, drawing from many sources, and free from the bonds of religion or other clichés of predetermined spirituality that form such an incomplete and imperfect definition. It is simply put, a quest to reveal truth, the most fundamental of universal truths, through a language more profound than words and speech. Raw, bloody, real, unglamorous, imperfect, beautiful, quiet truth revealed in pictures; a transformation, and nothing short of total transformation…of self, of perception, of the collective reality, of the limited and unsatisfactory world as we know it.
Yet any project with a goal so lofty may be doomed, inevitably, to failure. So it must be, then, that the ultimate value and triumph is in the moments of doing, in the beauty of the experience itself, manifested by the sincerity of good intention. So even now, even now, with acid burning in my gut, inside of a body slowly decaying, overseen by a weary, worn mind, living a life that defies conclusion, exists this, another momentary culmination of failure and triumph. A phase of my life both exalted and put to rest. Born from a consciousness experiencing itself unfolding, an indefinable spirit documenting the journey in pictures, a depth of feeling transcending constructs of knowledge and ego—surfacing, breaking, bleeding, healing, growing, simultaneously falling apart and rebuilding, eternally.
This artwork is for the seekers and explorers, pioneers of the emotional frontier, the outsiders and misfits with sincere hearts, confronting their restless longings within minefields of suffering and alienation, staying true to the goodness that lies within, tending the fire inside, at any cost, until death: May these works inspire and fortify your own process of rebuilding, transformation and realization. May any goodwill generated be shared with all beings.
Nick Baxter, December 2009