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Spectrum of the Living Soul

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Date Minted: July 24, 2019

Artist Description: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” ―Pablo Picasso

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Conniedigital wasn’t always an abstract artist. Working initially with identifiable shapes and objects, Connie at some point find’s his way towards complete formlessness, beginning a long and varied exploration of core artistic concepts: shape, line, light, reflection. But nothing seems to fascinate Connie more than color. There is a fascination with it that pervades nearly all of his works, from the starker grey-scale pieces to those like this, Spectrum of the Living Soul, a piece so obsessed with observing color that it leaves color mostly to its own devices, removing from it the scaffolding of form. Spectrum is Connie capturing color at its most capricious and internal. Turned here from an adjective into an active verb, color is set loose to shift and drip and change and wisp and ripple out across the length of this piece, and across the width of it too. I’ll be honest, it’s difficult looking at a piece like this one, which is deliberately without any superfluous identifiable patterns or objects, and glean meaning. But maybe that’s just what were supposed to be doing here. Maybe Spectrum of the Living Soul is like some kind of visual ko-an, a bit of beautiful nonsense designed to poke our brain, pique our spiritual attention, and then, once (as an old Buddhist teacher once called it) our internal computer begins to process the information in the background of our mind, we may come to the greater realization Connie was leading us too all along. 

This is something that happens to me often in my writing life. I pore for hours over a problem, a troubling paragraph, a phrase that won’t quite remove its stockings, so to speak, but it’s only when I put it down for awhile, let my subconscious have a go at it, that the answer appears to me clear as day. The idea of the ko-an (or kong-an) is similar. You probably know some, these Zen Buddhist riddles like “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” which don’t necessarily have a rational answer. The idea is to get your mind to move past rationality into a realm of experientialism and mindfulness of the present.

So let’s apply that to Spectrum of the Living Soul, which seems to have both the substance and the title of just such a riddle. Let’s start with the title. What does it mean? Spectrum of the Living Soul. Feel it in your mouth. Chew it over. It’s vague, yet it conjures spiritual images, though none I can definitively put my finger on. What is a “living soul?” How does it differ from the conceptualized soul I envision? And “spectrum” as the action word, does it apply to the spectrum of a single living soul, i.e. THE living soul, or is this a royal “the”, where it stands in for every living soul like “Hair of the dog” or “Turn of the screw.”

And the actual image itself. Psychadelia unleashed. An almost inexpressible sequence of shifting, acid-trip colors oozing outward towards the edges of the image, seeming to come from the center of the piece and yet from nowhere at all. Such bright, highly-artificial neon hues. The way they change, are forever unquantifiable. The piece glows with reds and oranges and yellows and dark, Mariana Trench blues, but it’s hard to identify them at any point in any specific spot. They’re just kind of all there and all at the same time. It is the opposite of superposition. It is only when we observe them that they disappear, become transient and ephemeral. Should we allow the piece to wash over itself unabated, the color scheme begins to become clear. Anyways, it’s quite hypnotic, and it’s quite beautiful, and it’s absolutely as much a riddle as its title. This is ambiguity anthropormorphized into art. It is simply a sequence of colors appearing from nowhere, seeming to thin out into indescribable and changeling forms, and then vanishing into nowhere, only to be replaced by iridescent facsimiles. 

You cannot appreciate Spectrum of the Living Soul rationally. If you do, I fear it runs the risk of seeming too much like some light fixture or UV poster you’d find in your local head-shop. You have to give yourself over to it, allow the logical side of you to melt away, to try and confront this color not from the perspective of the interrogator, but from the role of inquisitor. A child’s curiosity is what’s needed here, the kind of thoughtless appreciation for ceaseless change that allows a piece of this nature to make good on its nature. Which, I’d argue, it does. Spectrum of the Living Soul: Whether talking about my living soul, your living soul, or all living souls, the piece’s title invokes the word “spectrum” which I take to mean connected multitudes, and it doesn’t matter whose life or how many lives and souls are being mentioned here, they all contain too much to quantify and understand. The true spectrum of the living soul is beyond our capacity to comprehend. Any which way, it’s an unstable concept that feeble human brains cannot face frontward, but can only shudder and shut eyes tight and feel, as one feels the hair stand up on the back of the neck. 

But let go, and allow Spectrum to be what it appears to be: too much to understand without nearly enough to grasp onto. And then think about your own personal definition of what a living soul is. Is it too much to understand? Are you without nearly enough to grasp onto? Are you like me? I simply see an outline, the suggestion of things I can recognize but which I ultimately fail to, and in lieu of understanding, I’m left only to watch —pretty colors, ripples on a pond, the endless, unceasing sequence of waves breaking on beach, and I understand my own petty inabilities to comprehend the world. So why even try?

Like the successful ko-ans, Spectrum leaves me empty, receptive, observant. Not that it cares. It wants only one thing, and that’s to continue on, unabated, in perpetuity. And it does. 




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