Ventral is Golden is a hue-man, a Leo and Virgo rising, a collage artist, a graphic designer, former art & design tutor, self-proclaimed dilettante mystic and aspiring tarot card maker from the north of Britain, originally from the Sirius star system.
He is currently trying to piece together fragments of the world’s ancient civilisations through symbols and archetypes, in the hope of finding answers to some of hue-manity’s collective mysteries. His paper collages and illustration works touch upon themes of magic realism and sacred geometry, often blending aspects of science and religion. His personal approach to art making can be held within the notion that every word is an image that contains the fossil of a myth.
Over the last decade he has participated in a variety of personal and community led projects in the UK and Europe, working as a resident artist for a charity focusing on sensory and therapeutic learning environments to self initiating a series of travelling libraries in his spare time, dedicated to distributing educational and fictional booklets through free-form, pop-up workshops (Tiny Library)
He now predominantly works as a freelance artist / researcher on a range of projects, creating for publications such as Mama Xanadu’s Wild Alchemy Journal and album art for record labels such as: Oath, Levitation Sessions, Kinship, ZZK, Sounds and Colours, Wonderwheel, Random Collective, Nomade, YNFND, Pingipung, Earthly Measures, Slumberland and others…
You seem to have a deep connection with Nature, is it true?
The elements and forces of nature do have an impact upon my psychology and ultimately the things I’m drawing or collaging that’s for sure. I’d like to think that I have a connection with nature, either on a philosophical level or just a basic physical level like with what kinds of food I’m eating for example. I spent some years working as a seasonal fruit and vegetable picker in Europe also, which helped to place my mind or sense of self into a natural cycle of time. I’m sure this helped in the process of connecting the whole mind/body interface into a natural system, which is something I always felt that the pressures of modern societies stressed in unnatural ways.
I don’t think I truly have a clear idea of what nature is though. It’s a relatively new word in the west, from about the 14th century or so, and it covers so much surface area, from metaphysics to morality to the whirling of an atom in our bodies to the accelerating expansion of the universe. Within those scales, any connection that we can make to our sense of self and the outside world can be called ’nature’ – if its repeatable. So nature itself is a kind of connection to process – in the ancient sense of the word ‘physis’ – ‘to bring forth’, ‘to be born’.
Still, I’m not sure if this adequately sums it up or answers the question. It can be difficult to grasp personal and social habits in any kind of natural or unnatural way. I’ve definitely felt myself trying to unravel this idea in relation to my own habits and how society’s tend to marginalise abstract or fringe thinking, especially of a spiritual kind, but at the same time relies on this kind of curiosity for the invention of all of it’s technological advancements (in both public, medicinal or military contexts).
So I feel myself connected to nature in the sense that I try to slow my physical actions down to a minimum, and by doing this I can connect to archetypal forces within nature that I believe were the initial forces that drove societies and cultures into existence. They were originally non-material though, so there’s an internal conflict with trying to reconcile this connection into a social view that favours material production at almost any cost.
If, like Aristotle thought, nature itself contains its own source of energy and motion, and art (technē or intention) is the utilisation of that motion, then we should probably think about where that energy goes and what this intention brings into the world. Its always good to pay your respects and attention to the source of all things, even the idea of nature.
Is spirituality part of your art only or also your life?
Art is a huge part of my life and I derive a lot of my inspiration from spiritual ideas and ancient philosophies, in the sense that inspiration originally meant ‘to breathe in’ a divine force. I like this idea because it sublimates the artist in the process of the work and makes the process a kind of living entity.
I came across two ancient definitions that describe what I mean – the first was an ancient Egyptian definition of a symbol as “knowledge replicates action”. This was in a book authored by a researcher in comparative cosmologies called Laird Scranton, and he, like many other researchers into ancient Egypt stated that the symbol or hieroglyph contained within it the physical processes that it represented. So for example the letters that I’m using to write this have no meaning in the natural world.
Although this isn’t strictly true because nothing evolves in isolation. Even the modern roman alphabet can be traced back to Proto-Sinaitic and Aramaic (2500 BC) and phonetically to Sanskrit and so carries a faint echo of cultural diffusion.
Nevertheless, we experience the alphabet as a self contained system that’s completely abstract, whereas hieroglyphs, or Medu-Neter as the Egyptians called them, were “words of nature” or “words of god”, and were a much more dynamic system that could describe aspects of cosmology or farming depending on the context of the person using them.
For example, the hieroglyph of the outstretched arms (below) is pronounced Ka, and can be read as the God of Magic and Medicine (Heka), or as an aspect of the soul (spirit), as a physical embrace between people, or as an embrace between light and matter (a duality – part of the cosmological sequence of matter coming into existence).
According to Laird Scranton, based on the initial work of Wallis Budge, the word Ka also contains the Egyptian word for ‘sleep’ and we find this symbol enshrined on the carved pillars of Gobekli Tepe (a place widely considered as ‘the first temple’). He suggests that Gobekli is a modern rendering of an ancient word for Cappadocia (‘Getpetkai’) a region of Turkey. A modern pronunciation of this glyph can be sounded as ‘Het Pet Ka Yah’, meaning ‘temple of space embracing light’ – the same essential meaning of the Egyptian word for ‘sleep’, or ‘duality’. Likewise, we know in the book of Genesis, the first documented act of the Hebrew god Yah, while hovering over the face of the waters, was to turn night into day, comparable to what a person experiences as he or she wakes up.
This idea may also be extended to such modern sounds and letters such as ‘H’ and ‘E’. The original Egyptian and Semitic sign for the ‘H’ sound that later became the ‘E’ in the Roman alphabet is shown as a person with outstretched arms (as in Heka, God of Magic), meaning either to ‘reveal’, to ’sigh’ or to ‘behold’ an image with joy.
If you start to look at modern letters, its possible to see certain concepts hidden inside them. The ‘H’ being a bridge between two worlds, or turned on its side becomes an ‘I’, as in the idea of ‘self’ being a bridge between the ground and the sky.
The second example is closer to our time and comes from the ancient Greeks but also via the Egyptians and is called Logos, which means “the word”, “the opinion”, “proportion”, “ground”, “speech” and so on. In Neoplatonism (which is essentially all the best spiritual ideas from predynastic Egypt exported by the Greeks) the logos refers to a divine reason that is imminent in nature and can be expressed through symbol or sound. It’s a kind of interface between mind and body – or Hypostasis as they called it.
Both examples give me the impression of a sensitive and more nuanced system of communication which is maybe lost in the speed by which we communicate these days. Reminds me of something Rilke said, “All who seek you test you, and those who find you bind you to image and gesture. I would rather sense you as the earth senses you”. So anyway, once I started meditating on this idea and following the thread, it became pretty clear to see that sound and image are the foundations of divinity and just as importantly they’re ever present in how we communicate and co-operate with each other.
It didn’t take much to follow this line of thought into the Bījās (the seed syllables for seed sounds of Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism). These sounds are the symbols at the centre of each chakra and they denote the seven stages of matter coming into existence through vibration or frequency (basically through use of the voice or the symbol containing sound). The seed sounds are as follows: LUM, VUM, RUM, YUM, HUM, OM, OM (this last one is internally spoken in silence). You can listen to the Bija Mantra by renowned musician and Yogi, Russil Paul here.
So I found spirituality not really by choice but as a kind of inevitability through the reverence I had for the complex philosophies of ancient religious cultures. They weren’t dogmatic but more poetic renditions of natural science, and this poetry I had a deep respect for.
I found it surprising at first because we tend to think of these ideas as far off and exotic, or as if they’re only accessible to certain cultures. In someways this might be true, especially for cultures who needed to protect themselves against more aggressive ones (the Dogon tribes refusal to assimilate into Islam is a good example), but in another sense many of the world’s cultures share a common origin in their cosmologies, philosophies of time, written languages and so on.
We’re all literally enfolded into a matrix of spiritual space-time. Something as simple as how we divide time into weekdays can bring you really quickly into a spiritual frame of mind where planets, gods and goddess are a prominent feature. To deny their existence is to deny thousands of years of shared cultural insight, ancient knowledge of advanced astrology and the weekdays you use everyday to keep track of your life.
Right now, when I get a little time to research, I’m trying to look into the migration of the serpent as an early spiritual symbol from the Indus valley, Egypt, across central Europe and into Ireland and how this also spread from China and ended up in Meso-America as the gods, Quetzalcoatl and Gucumatz, etc. The end of the last Ice Age seems to be a very interesting and very weird time with spiritual ideas and inventions like written language migrating to different parts of the world at a time when it was thought cultures didn’t or couldn’t communicate philosophically with one another and there was no such thing as civilisation. I really feel that deep history opens up the worlds of spirituality, the evolution of mind, forgotten technologies and breaks down any kind of nationalist identities we might have formed through either dominator, materialist or reductionist societies.
One thing I recently found to be super interesting is the proposed common origin of ancient Irish and Celtic cultures with the Vedic traditions of India and the Indus Valley. You can trace the links in the mythical chronicles of Ireland for example, as well as in river names like Don, found in Russia, Scotland, North England and France. Don being the same root as the Sanskrit ‘Dannu’, meaning Mother Goddess’ or ‘water’, and the mythical inhabitants of Ireland being called the Children of Dannu.
Could you tell us about your creative process?
Because I’ve never had my own studio or a regular place to work, my creative urges can be pretty spontaneous, so I try to keep things as simple as possible. Generally I don’t have any prescriptive approach to making, I just need a floor to spread out my collage materials or pieces of wood I’d like to paint or whatever it is and I’m good.
Before starting anything though I like to try to enter into another state of consciousness, either by reciting mantras or listening to music, something to slow down my heart rate.
Because I believe that the written word is the guide of the image into the subconscious, I sometimes write or make collage poems (word salads) to make the task of drawing something meaningful a little lighter.
I’m usually creating on my own, but I also enjoy the times I get to make artwork amongst friends and collaborators. Fellow time traveller into the subtle dimensions of deep history is Russian artist, Dima Rabik of Amateur Exotic. He is a constant collaborator on visual or creative writing projects through his label Amateur Exotic. We also have a free-form project called Axis Mundi together with Japanese DIY screen printer and illustrator Chill Mountain of Chill Mountain Records .
I was also working with friends of a multi outer-national, spectral jazz ensemble called Spiritczualic Enhancement Center (www.enhancement.center) that infuses all of these syncretic ideas into temporary soundscapes. They record their albums live within these spaces and most recently I was making live microscopic liquid light visuals with my collages, Dima’s illustrations and natural objects like plants, flowers and gemstones during their live performances.
When did you decide you wanted to be a visual artist?
I never really knew at the time and probably still don’t. But as I got older I started to see culture as a kind of liquid, similar to a culture that you would put organisms inside of to help them grow.
The more I thought about this idea the more I felt that the culture I grew up in didn’t really accept or support the things I was interested in. I’m sure a lot of people feel this more than I did, especially in relation to a cultural medium like a language for example, maybe one they inherit and feel isn’t the best way to express their ideas. But whether its a language system, educational system, belief system or whatever, my point is that culture is almost always experienced as if it’s uncreated and we can hardly see what we’re swimming in.
So I thought the visual arts might be a good way to see through this cultural medium, out of the polluted mainstream so to speak.
Music helps you create?
Poems are rough notations for the music we are, and art is the dream of the music we want others to feel. I play collage. I let the actual musicians do their thing.
Music definitely helps me though, no doubt. Sometimes the atmosphere of live music can help for different projects than recorded music does. But generally there’s always some kind of melody in the process, this is for sure.
My musical interests are so weird sometimes, but I have a really deep respect for people who can create good energies through sound and fortunately I’ve had the opportunity to make artworks for some great musicians, like Spiritczualic Enhancement Centre, Nicola Cruz, Ghost-Note, Hidden Spheres, Moomin, Nomade Collective, Andi Otto, Nillo, M.RUX, Maugli….and so many other amazing people. So their styles vary from Jazz to Deep House to Folklorica and all invoke a particular mood or direction in the collages I make. (You can see the record covers here)
Recently, whilst I’ve been researching ancient symbols and turning more to illustration I’ve been listening to more ambient and jazz artists like Amelia Cuni, Alio Die, Al Gromer Khan, Russil Paul, Sons of Kemet, The Heliocentrics… I actually made my first ever mix on Amateur Exotic too, maybe this shows you a little where my mind can be when I’m drawing or collaging.
What’s your opinion on our post-modern lives?
The short version is that our task should be not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within ourselves that we’ve built against it. But something went wrong I guess. Maybe we were too quick to speak and too slow to pick up an instrument.
The long version is that opinions can be a dangerous luxury when they’re substituted for insights and I definitely don’t have any answers. It could be though, that the requirements to sustain modern living standards (or the “reality as usual” model) seem to be destructive to both communities and ecologies and have been for some time now.
This is nothing new, but it is towards the origin of cultural creation that we find universality of expression and our identity in relation to the forces of nature – the very forces we use to perpetuate our modern societies (the current force being the element of fire). Beneath the politics of distinct cultural expressions, these ancient symbols coalesce and unify into a common cosmology that demonstrates knowledge from the quantum level up to the astronomical scale, but we’re quick to ridicule this idea that the ancient mind could grasp complex ideas such as cosmology.
We scoff at their mud brick houses with their intricate decorations that tell stories of the birth of the universe and how humanity was formed from the fish people who descended from the stars to teach us how to align ourselves and our societies within the galaxy.
Ironically it will be these stories and these houses that persist through the centuries, as the tallest skyscrapers crumble into meaningless obscurity.
Another thought is that these changes in our interpretation of the past (and therefore our future) could be, for example, trauma responses not only to aggressive societies but to geological events such as asteroid impacts and climate changes that happened during the last Ice Age. Once populations were able to regroup after such events, their belief systems and identities were presumably fragmented. Any remaining symbology was then either transformed into a type of conservative religion centred on preservation of identity or remained in its original form as a mystery school or esoteric tradition (look at Göbekli Tepe for an example of a deliberately preserved school of symbolism).
The forces of nature that are either demonised or crystallised in the forms of gods and goddesses in these processes, provide a map not only of psychological but also of geological changes over time – as the two are obviously linked in our imaging of the world. It might be nice if the image of ourselves changed along with it.
We can’t step in the same river twice, as Heraclitus put it, but we can definitely pollute it more than once.
Gatē, Gatē, Para Gatē,
Parasam Gatē, Bodhi Savha
Thanks for reading.
VENTRAL IS GOLDEN