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Pixel Mandala 001 by Joaquim Mutim

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted:  April 11, 2021

Artist Description: N/A

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Joaquim Mutim is the symbol maker. Not symbols that we can readily decipher, but mandalas in the absolutest sense of the word. And that word’s essence is central to how Mutim defines his artwork, writing in his Opensea bio that he “is exploring digital creations with art and electronic music since the end of the 90s with one of the recurring themes being the kaleidoscopic mandalas. The result is a trip to psychedelic worlds of colors and sounds, uncovering deeper meanings behind the beauties that we see with our inner eyes.” Mandalas remain quite interesting to me. Not just because they’re beautiful and hypnotic, but because there’s a universality in how human beings are enchanted by them. Perhaps it’s a bit crackpot, but I’ve felt the same thing about the sea: Humans are en masse enchanted by it, and even folks who don’t exactly have the richest internal lives can still sit for hours watching waves crash on a beach, so I’ve always therefore thought of this as “proof” that humanity evolved from ocean-dwelling creatures. To obsess over it is in our DNA. Which begs the question, “Well, Max, if this is what you believe about the sea, and if Mandalas of the kind Mutim creates have a similar effect, then what does that expound about the nature of human history?” Alas, I’ve no real lens into the collective unconscious. I pick up sometimes on things it may see but never what those things mean. The “psychedelic worlds” of Mutim’s creation are beyond my own ability to comprehend, but his images evoke similar feelings of curious recognition as acid trips and meditation do. Throughout his works, Mutim creates these mandalas in a wide variety of styles, bestowing some with movement, some with 3D depth, and most, with Pixel Mandala 001 a prime example, with intense color. The fascinating thing is that they all speak to the same part of us, a place that isn’t quite recognizing Mutim’s artworks, but also won’t quite let them fall to the realm of the abstract. There is, in Mutim’s works, the revelation that we are somehow connected to these symbols, even if the exact manners and mechanisms remain as alien to us as the divinities they suggest. 

I know it’s being somewhat overly definitive linking Mutim’s mandalas to divinity, but though I have no specific cultural capital with which to back up that link (besides maybe the DMT-addled perspective of the main character in Gaspar Noe’s film Enter the Void) there’s just this underlying sense I get when looking at such mandalas that their color, combined with their interlocking shapes, combined with their overall circular construction, all of it points to that strange psychological realm wherein Eastern religion and psychedelics seem to mix. Pixel Mandala 001 is an interesting exploration of the limits to which that natural connection between such symbols and religiosity stretches. The pixelated compositional style is incongruous to any of the aforementioned deep-seated connections, pixels themselves being an invention most of us came to know in the 1980’s at the earliest; not exactly integral to human development. When I see pixelated art of any kind, I’m always brought back to my childhood Gameboy (with the bendy backlight attachment), playing Nintendo games and watching graphics slowly upgrade year over year from 8 to 16 to 32 bits. So now, viewing Pixel Mandala 001, I’m situated back in my childhood. And the mandala itself could be any hard-won medal of valor achieved after some lengthy in-game quest, all gilded and multicolored, as much a badge of recreational honor as it is a symbol from on-high. It’s hard to describe Mutim’s mandalas in words just because of how variously colorful and filled with shapes they are. That said, we can see Pixel Mandala 001’s composition is the result of the larger frame’s four quadrants all being flipped facsimiles of that which is beside it, almost like a four-paneled cardboard boardgame being unfurled onto a table. Blue boxes filled with red x’s, Mitres made of mahogany and turquoise and golden hues, Wire-like lines of digitized color —turquoise, royal blue, black, yellow, and orange— which emerge from the image’s edges and affix themselves to the central mandala like tubes bringing nutrients to an invalid. 

A mandala’s power again comes not from its unique composition but from its resemblance to all the other mandalas which float in our collective unconscious, and all the subliminal associations they pique in us. However, I am not a Jungian, and I do not know from whence these symbols draw their meaning. Perhaps it’s as simple as that we human beings are still monkey-like, and we like color, we like symmetry, we like pretty shapes. Mutim’s mandala’s have these in droves, of course. But still, it feels like there’s something greater happening within these symbols, that they access some deeper part of us, some abstract brainstem that we hardly know exists. And through that universal recognition, we are connected to each other as well, just a couple of cool cats wondering why this Pixel Mandala is causing us to feel closer to something more, and knowing, as we turn our heads, that our neighbors are may be feeling the same thing. 

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