4AM letter to myself on how to keep being an artist

Wakeful, was angsting about impending opening of Dreamspace gallery, so many competing options values visions materials styles messages as an artist, now opening a WHAT??… Now just getting out of my own way and just DOING IT…

So for this blog, the invitation, should you be nearby:

Dreamspace opening postcard copy.jpg



A vision for conceptual art

These two trials of the embossed copper lettering got me thinking… about the beauty of truth and meaning and all that I explored in those years studying philosophy. (The roses are from our garden here at Appletree Haven; the vase is an English Doulton Willow pattern I got for 10c because it was cracked. Like me – cracked but still useful for something, and going for a song! The table is on the Art Deck, which I recently closed in with a big old window -free- from an old school.)
I think i can – and should – do works that express the rationality of belief in the mystical, or a transcendental order, or God, or the Absolute, or the IS – and a meaning to life beyond the physical aspect of it. On my side is Godel – or I’m on his side! Godel is the generally acknowledged greatest logician of the twentieth or perhaps any century, who believed implicitly and explicitly in the reality of this order. An art portraying something of the vision of this order is perhaps the most immediate thing i can do for the cause of a renaissance of the True West. Our culture is founded on a belief in a rational order beyond the physical, on which the physical universe is contingent. Mathematics is the language in which it is all written…
So, these works would be ‘conceptual’ art as they call it, but with the exact opposite message from the usual ironic, nihilistic and anti-meaning, anti-beauty stuff which has dominated the galleries and museums of contemporary art for far too long, poisoning the wells of imagination as modern philosophy has poisoned the wells of the intellect.
The particular idea that came to me in a quiet moment (I must make more of these in my life!) is for a gateway, or porch, like a cathedral porch, with a double? door the viewer can go through. It will be a ‘threshold’ sculpture with solid wooden posts and lintel and lavers for handwashing, candleholders and copper or silver lettering around the doors. It could stand near a wall but with clearance so you can walk through; or in front of an actual door. The lettering would include the title: ‘There is the Mystical’ – a quote from Wittgenstein’s iconic Tractatus Logico-philosophicus. And also from the Tractatus: ‘Logic is transcendental’ and ‘ethics is transcendental’. The famous expression of the mystic’s belief that words can get in the way is also there, in his final Proposition, no.7: ‘That of which we cannot speak we must pass over in silence.’ But the whole of the Tractatus was a kind of logical attempt at a ‘negative theology’, which sought to outline the exact boundaries of that of which we CAN speak, so that what remains (the Mystical reality) may stand out in majestic, eloquently silent contrast.
i think the mystical beauty of an art depicting these logical meditations would shine through any obscurity as to the philosophical reasonings enshrined therein. ie, the viewer/reader won’t have to be a philosopher to appreciate it.
Of course to market such a positive conceptual art vision will take a small miracle, as it is diametrically opposed in its message to the prevailing nihilism of the ‘high’ art world. But the art could be an experiential affirmation for good folk who do still believe in a meaning to life and in Truth, Beauty and all the Platonic Forms. It can provide altars to affirm meaning and beauty in homes or places of noble enterprise.
There can also be much smaller versions, little iconic altars of art, and maybe jewellery, eg pendants of sacred labyrinths and silver doors…
Part of what has galvanised me is the reminders I’ve had of what mordern/contemporary art has been doing against all the most sacred values of Western culture. First I read the book ‘The $12 Million Stuffed Shark – the curious economics of Contemporary Art’ by Don Thompson. This really sickened me, and was a shock of cold water in the face for any illusions I might have had of being accepted by the high art establishment as it is.  Then our son Daniel got us to watch this  video by a british philosopher Roger Scruton on Beauty and modern art: https://vimeo.com/112655231 I noted the ugly twistedness of the face of the woman who did the conceptual ‘artwork’ titled ‘my bed’ which consisted of just her bed, unmade with empty bottles and personal mess around it. A study in moral ugliness and squalor pretending to like itself. She told Roger that of course she thought it was beautiful or she wouldn’t have exhibited it. Her face, however, betrayed it – Liar was written all over it.
Overall though it was an inspiring documentary, arguing well for his positive vision of the place of Beauty in civilised life. I would add, the place of Truth can also be argued for. The degenerates do not have the best arguments – in fact, they have no arguments at all, just acts of barbarity and ugliness. But we who believe in beauty and truth have never denied the existence of their opposites. It’s just that we have not bowed down to them as the ultimate ‘truth’ of the universe – or even the ultimate reality of life as we experience it.
‘Two men looked through prison bars
One saw mud, the other, stars’
I hope I can do some art which inspires people to look up again and see that the stars have not disappeared while we were looking at the mud.

The church of mad art-in-progress – the Three Metamorphoses of the Spirit

What is worse than mad art? Bad art I suppose? Or philosophical art with words? I feel ambivalent about this work in progress which I have returned to for a calm frenzy of activity this morning. Presuming to depict the evolution of the spirit – and its scariest undertaking : to deny what it once held to be truth, and to seize the right to new values, a new form of life. I was up early and just tipped into it – I had been going to work on my latest ebook – working title ‘A Meditation on a Stone – How a Platonist made peace with Matter.’ This is ‘The Three Metamorphoses of the Spirit’, first draft of all three triptychs… Apologies to C.S. Lewis and his wardrobe. So, here is a sort of eight-foot-high crazy wardrobe of philosophy, part of my loosely titled series ‘Zarathustra’s Blackboard.’ It stands on legs (only partly visible).

first metam websized
this was an experiment with chalk pastels – I got a hangover from the fixative, which also dimmed it down a lot. I went over it though, and got (I think) another hangover. I suffer for my arts!

second metam websizedsecond metam fully open websized

third metam part open websized  copy

third metam fully open websized

TO BE CONTINUED…. I may depict the Child and probably the ‘self-propelling wheel’; any suggestions? This last phase of the spirit when the Child is described, always moves me, sometimes to tears, as I commented today on the channel of a tattooed young philosopher reading the whole chapter in Thus Spoke Zarathustra entitled ‘The Three Metamorphoses of the Spirit.’ See her reading it here:

or the link:


A bandsaw of brothers

This is a little photo story about a coveted bandsaw, a brother named Big John (currently making a FILM called Every Little Thing – see http://everylittlethingfilm.com/) who bought a painting sight unseen, thereby making it possible for me to buy it, and me and the doglets going to get it from Tolaga Bay. The pit stop for doglets at one of the lovely beaches, then them hemmed in by the bandsaw and some beachcombed wood on the way home; then cutting some driftwood of unknown species; and a shot of the bandsaw. Main purpose is to saw up icon panels and frames for true altars of art… My prrrecious…:)

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How to make a hammer into an adze and carve a hollow log

Well the storm in Gisborne washed up a huge lot of wooden treasure onto the downtown beach:


spot the doglet in mid jump:


so we got beachcombing and picked up wood for compost bins, hunks of firewood, and pieces like this:

085 086 087 So, the hollow needed cleaning out and exposing the heart rimu. I needed a gouging adze! Looked online and found some forging fanatics who did a great job hammering redhot car springs etc on anvils then tempering etc, and I thought – too long, better not get into blacksmithing just now… so I came up with the idea of using the angle grinder to make a hollow in an old ball peine hammer. It took about 20 minutes – and it works pretty well:

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fine tuning: will get a round abrasive bit and smooth the hollow perfectly round and a bit more acute. But it already does a fair job at least for the roughing out.

Don’t know what the log piece will be, but there’s this oval in it which could be carved into A baby/tiki? An elf?

In Arcadia

This is a medium-resolution photo of the large (4 by 3 foot) third painting I did in Gisborne, not entirely done but at present I’m calling it finished, through practical exhaustion and general awareness of mortality…

g3 cutout bit dark 11 09 15 copy

It is a personal/mystical/dream view of Kaiwaka, the scene of so much of my struggle for so long to realize Eutopia, a Good Place of more than ordinary Love, Beauty, Truth and Freedom. The Seagull/white dove wall I built last year for the visionary dressmaker Jenny Lynn Walker, who came to live in the ark building and hall. She felt exposed there on the main road, and we agreed on a white dove to go with the Dove Dress she was going to create. Things still didn’t go as well as she had hoped and she moved on, sadly. The dove remains, and while we were in Europe, inspired by Chagall’s museum in Nice I had the vision of painting a mural on the inside of the Dove Wall. However, the new grandson in Gisborne needed to be seen, and the Appletree cottage settled, so I restrained myself/was restrained by big brother! and have instead painted a picture of me painting that possible mural. Perhaps I will get back up there to paint it; perhaps not. But the Painting, which I am calling Arcadia, remains…

The embossed caption around the frame reads:


I can explain some of that, if you like. 🙂 The Ark, or Arc, in Kaiwaka just over the river from Eutopia, was a second try at a place of Eutopian endeavours after we sold Cafe Eutopia. Arcadia is

‘A mountainous district in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. In poetic fantasy it represents a pastoral paradise and in Greek mythology it is the home of Pan.’ – http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/Arcadia

Eutopia is my version of Utopia – a ‘Good Place’ in Greek as opposed to the perfect but non-existent country of Utopia – literally ‘Not-a-place’. Cafe Eutopia in Kaiwaka was my attempt to manifest some of the qualities of such a place in my vision at least…

The Battle of Evermore is a reference to the song of that name by Led Zeppelin, about the battle between good and evil, mentioning Avalon and the Apples of the valley being ripe. It refers synchronistically (for me) to the fantasy epic The Apples of Aeden. Hence ‘the Apples of Aeden ripen’ – we hope the epic will be read more!

The Threshold of a Dream is the title of a wonderful mystical song, and album, by the Moody Blues which inspired my building of Eutopia back in 2000. The verse ‘Live hand in hand, and together we’ll stand on the threshold of a Dream’ was my inspiration all these years. But we mostly managed no more than to stand on the threshold, and were never able to really go through it…

The White Dove is from Dylan’s song ‘Blowing in the Wind’, and the white dove Noah sent out looking for land; and the Dove of Aphrodite. She does rest, there on the main road of Kaiwaka… Yet nothing specifically Eutopian, or Arcadian, or Aphroditean is now happening behind her walls – the Ark is rented by the room and the visionary Dressmaker has departed. We stood for a while on the threshold of a dream again there, but never broke through, or found the key to the door.

Yet, in hope on the subtle level the ‘Endless River’ Pink Floyd nostalgically sing of  (in ‘High Hopes’) IS rising in this time, as people learn and grow wiser and open to the real magic of the Universe.

The White Lady is the Divine Feminine so denied in our culture, and the Diamond represents Her lost clarity and wisdom as Sophia. She is also in the Apples of Aeden epic as Ainenia, the Lady of Aeden. And finally, she was what the Dressmaker wanted to see triumphant in Kaiwaka and the Ark. The Diamond of Waro  is (in short) a reference to a strange and wonderful mystical quest involving the limestone chasms of Waro, Hikurangi, in Northland. That story is not yet finished – if any story of that nature ever is – the circles just keep widening.

The blue wolf refers to the Dressmaker’s Husky dog, which was a handful, and more than once bit the hand that fed it. Blue – it just seemed right. Perhaps to stress its mystic nature underlying the doggy one. And Peter and the Wolf have some kind of connection. At least, the wolf has certainly been at my door often enough! And in Tolkien Carcharoth the wolf (like Fenris in the Norse mythology) bites off the hand of Beren, still holding the diamond-like Silmaril. There’s a fateful hand thing going on in my life. My mother used to say to me ‘You’re good with your hands, Peter – why don’t you make a living making things and selling them?’ She was afraid of my mind and where it might lead me (astray from the faith!). And the fortress of Eutopia and the Ark was my Orthanc. My shadow is perhaps Saruman, with his mind of wheels and machinery, and his sign the white Hand… I heard Gandalf say to me (really – I did!) one day, ‘Get out of Orthanc’ and I knew it was time for me to let go and move on. Sigh… A wizard gets too attached to his works at the peril of his soul.

I won’t try to detail all the scenes and their meanings so far as I understand them myself. But I will mention in honour the defender battling the gorgon-valkyrie up on the head of the Dove. He is a friend and encourager, and on one memorable occasion a literal defender from a great threat. He knows who he is. Though he doesn’t claim it, from time to time he does or says magic. For example: the difficult task of naming of the epic Apples of Aeden was finally completed when he told me he believed I’d dream the title. I scoffed at the notion, but then a few nights later I did! We were away at the time, and returning we went straight to cafe Eutopia. This friend happened to come in himself. He was holding a paper bag, a gift he said for me, a spur of the moment purchase from an op shop. Looking inside I was amazed to see two red apple-shaped candles. He had not known that the night before I had been given (by the Lady in my dream) the title of the epic!

So, the mystical is, Faery is all around us, the Endless River does rise, and we must just come down from our Orthancs and go with the Flow.

Whew! Email me if you are fascinated and want to buy a copy 🙂

Ps: the girl in the back of the Car is of course reading the Apples of Aeden. 🙂 You can get the first volume, The Girl and the Guardian, as an ebook free here: The Girl and the Guardian or for 99 cents on Amazon Kindle: The Girl and the Guardian.

Enthorned They Dream

So, this is my brand new blog – yet another! But this art is  what I’m mainly doing now, when not planning or building hobbit havens… This is a new painting framed in the new style which I call ‘Altars of Art’. Hence the blog name. I hope you like it.

enthorned they dream copy

Description and prices:

Enthorned They Dream
Peter Harris, August 2015
24″ by 36″
Original $5,550, limited edition signed prints full size stretched canvas unframed $333, framed with the silver lettering in ‘altar’ style $555.
Acrylic on canvas, framed by the artist with an ‘altar’ frame with explanatory inscription in etched aluminium around the perimeter. Sacred art depicting two ‘enthorned’ heroes of the epic Apples of Aeden (by Peter Harris) as they dream the transformation of Aeden and secretly guide that land towards a new age.
email me peter@eutopia.co.nz to order or inquire. Thanks!