The Revolution of Abstraction


Art, science and spirituality, anciently one entity, seem to be making a convergence in these disparate times.

The revolution of abstraction that was experienced in art by the likes of Mondrian was mirrored by quantum physics in science. The ‘established law’ of reality was turned on its head not only by art and spirituality, but now by science, that aegis of precision. In the quantum theory the way that we observe reality determines what we see, and just as quantum physicists discovered a ‘trap door’ in reality, so art cuts through our perceived notions of existence and explores other planes, in a shamanic vein.

The mathematics of quantum theory, as described by quantum physicist, David Bohm, describes something akin to spirituality. He was dissatisfied with the findings of quantum physicists who only appeared able to discuss what was absorbed and measured, and by that count unable to explain reality. For him, reality meant something existing independently of being known; he arrived at what he called the implicate order, giving the example of a hologram as a visual analogy.

‘In an ordinary photograph, made by a lens, you have a point to point correspondence. Each point in the object corresponds to a point in the image, more or less. Now in a hologram, the entire object is contained in each region of the hologram, enfolded in a pattern of waves, which can then be unfolded by shining light through it. The suggestion is that if you look at the mathematics of the quantum theory it describes a movement of just this nature, a movement of waves that unfold and enfold throughout the whole of space. You could therefore say that everything is enfolded in this whole, or even in each part, and that it then unfolds. I call this the implicate order, the enfolded order, and this unfolds into an explicate order. The implicate is the enfolded order. It unfolds into the explicate order in which everything is separated.’

(Bohm, David, Interview London 1990)

The implicate order would then intimate mutual participation of everyone and everything, since no thing will be complete in itself and its totality will only come into being through participation. If we are internally connected to the whole, in such a way as Bohm suggested, then our consciousness is also linked, which would mean that our actions are partially effected by the whole. Spiritual teachers, ancient and contemporary, have reiterated the need for peace to come from within if it is to have a lasting effect in the world.

The creative process begs the question of how to create a quality of wholeness from a splintered sense of the world or of the process itself. Cezanne is self evident, imparting wholeness that he perceived in a multitudinous landscape, which is then experienced by the onlooker. It is equally there in the abstract paintings of Helen Frankenthaler, for one. The loss of distinction through long exposure blends subject matter and element in photography and film. In House, I used overlapping, blending interior, exterior and inhabitant to express a number of experiences and perceptions of being.