bruce riley

︎Artist, Painting, Abstract
︎ Ventral Is Golden

“What an abyss of uncertainty whenever the mind feels that some part of it has strayed beyond its own borders; when it, the seeker, is at once the dark region through which it must go seeking.” - Marcel Proust.

The philosophies of the Sceptics, the Naturalists and the Existentialists (of which the Western traditions of post-modernism are largely based) all seem to derive their view of reality through the primacy of the human experience. They teach that through empiricism that the knowledge of the world can become knowable through the narrow limitations of the senses.
From David Hume, to Nietzsche, Sarte and Camus, the human condition also seemed to be a tortured one, a struggle for meaning in an essentially meaningless universe, where over the last few centuries, since the dawn of the industrial revolution, vestigial elements of this idea can be found, for example, in our physical understanding of the world to how we model pedagogical approaches, models that seem to curtail the human spirit by condemning it to a symptomatic condition of an overarching dogma, a dogma that has become fused with a reality measured only against contemporary ideas of material value. It suggests that the only world to exist begins behind our eyes, whilst negating all the fundamental strangeness of the quantum realms that make up the mundane, physical experience.

In his text ‘Of the Rise and Progress of the Arts and Science’, 18th century philospher David Hume wrote that, "In vain should I strain my faculties, and endeavour to receive pleasure from an object, which is not fitted by nature to affect my organs with delight. I may give myself pain by my fruitless endeavours; but shall never reach any pleasure."

What I think he was referring to here was essentially a distinction between 'the art of humans' and 'the art of nature', and insofar as we create artefacts of beauty they can never rival the apprehension of awe within a natural occurrence. I partly agree, but this depends largely upon the question of if art is even created at all, or if there is a verb that could be applied from outside the lexicon of production and ownership that has been inherited through the psychology of industrialised languages.

Chicago based psychedelic resin artist, Bruce Riley produces large-scale artworks that depict a quantum culture, often utilising spontaneity through the emergence of each piece. This spontaneity, through which flows an invisible essence, a kind of animate force that binds the nature of a substance to its environment, could once be ascribed to a person who had become lost in the process of being. 'Inspired' in the original sense of the word, from the Latin, ‘spirare’, is where we derive the concept of ‘inhalation’ - to breathe in. This was often thought of as a divine breath which quickened the soul or stimulated a state of mind. It is the same root as the more negativley associated words 'conspire', which gives us ‘conspiracy’, and essentially means 'to breath together'.  
In a similar sense, Bruce Riley's creations are indicative of this process, simultaneously involving premeditated and spontaneous actions that create fluid fractals and fragmented mandalas, resembling cross sections of an allusive, self-generative, quantum material.

“Art may make a suite of clothes, but nature must produce a man.“ - David Hume.

In Riley’s resin paintings, he evokes the idea of the ‘Peak Experience’; a kind of teleological encounter with spontaneity that was initially coinded by educational theorist Abraham Maslow.
Teleology, an ancient greek term loosely relating to 'distant purpose', or in other words 'intrinsic intelligence', was also an idea that Charles Darwin, looking to move away from the oppressive dogmas of the Church (albeit whilst still being a Christian) discounted in favour of an economically inspired 'survival of the fittest' model of natural selection, whilst co-creator of the theory of natural selection, the lesser known Alfred Russell Wallace, could not ascribe natural selection alone to account for the evolution of ideas, art, mathematics, taste, aesthetics, spiritual experiences, and so on, that were associated with the higher faculties of the human mind. Wallace instead thought that there was a purpose to evolution, an attractor, pulling humanity out of the monkey body and toward something else, something similar to that which inspired Maslow’s ‘peak experience’, and similarly caused Marcel Proust's transcendental experience that occured whilst eating a madeleine cake dipped in tea.
For Marcel Proust, this mundane artefact provoked a liminal experience, a kind of time-slip as he recounted in his text ‘Remembrance of Things Past‘.

The experience came when his mother offered him a cup of tea and a Petite Madeline cake. He wrote that "...a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory".
He contextualised his experience within a framework of Celtic animism, where the soul was held captive inside an object until its presence had been recognised.
He goes on to write “and so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us).”

For Maslow, these feelings were intimately connected to the 'self actualisation' of his ‘peak experience’ that he thought could be emulated within a task, wherby the doer is able to surpass the intention of the outcome and apply a personal and intuitive context as the sense of accomplishment touched upon a spiritual dimension of experience that existed outside the ordinary realms of time and the intellect.

“Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced.”

For Hume, Maslow and Proust, the peak experience was the phenomena of experiencing exhilaration, magic, deeply resounding and sometimes unexplained feelings of heightened emotion, often mystical in nature, that bestowed upon the person or an object a sense of truth and harmony.  

Here, David Hume's quote on the hierarchy of man made art compared with natural art becomes almost negligible, and what we see in the pieces of Riley is the idea that the artwork emerges from the outside in, from a personal attraction or affinity with the entire medium as an environment.
Musical composer, Ned Rorem, once remarked that inspiration is inhaling the memory of an act never experienced and this could explain why very often we can never quite put our finger on where our inspiration comes from, and the same is true for our moments of despair. But there is a kind of teleology to our experiences and our feelings when we view them as environments, as a nebulous intelligence that generates within us the capacity, not necessarily to create, but to reveal the forms already contained within the invisible medium we move through from day to day.

Further Reading ︎
Images sourced from Bored Panda, Interview
Bruce Riley, Website
Artist Flickr page
'Remembrance of Past Things', by Marcel Proust
Of the Delicacy of Taste and Passion’, by David Hume