For sales, commissions and to send comments to the artist click here
from the Collective Unconscious
Kris Manalien’s art inspires lust. Not sex but shopping. It calls out “Take me! Own me! Carry me off to your palace or hovel, and ravish me with your eyes and all your senses!” It is the stuff that spills out from an Aladdin’s cave of the unconscious. It emerges from a hidden source of alchemical symbols, mediæval wizardry, myths, cultures far off in space and time. It plunders our dreams, our inner reflections of nature, and clothes them in the most beautiful textures that the physical world offers, at least those which are inert and can be fashioned with tools. It might make us yearn also for the sheen of skin in candle-light, but let’s talk only of art. Its use of natural materials such as nacre, wood, crystals, precious stones and metals, with a sensitive respect for their properties, ensures it is grounded. In this respect, his abstract and figurative art is superior to works executed in the “dream media” of oils or watercolour, where the earth’s textures are merely represented, and may not be grounded in the physical. His works bridge the gap between spirit and matter, by clothing the one in the other. You may say that this is the function of all art. It should be so, but his art is not that of the Post-Renaissance tradition. It would be understood in the courts of Byzantium and Carolus Magnus and by the hordes of Goths and Huns and Magyars and Vandals, who pillaged their way through the Dark Ages. It would be understood by the ancient Egyptians, whose images it often borrows, or any culture in which Shamans practise healing arts.
In today’s blasé world, it would be all too easy to dismiss Manalien’s work as “dungeons-and-dragons kitsch”, or anything to deny its status as art. It’s part of a pre-European tradition which links all the primitive art-objects in the world, where craft, adornment, fetish and totem are not separate. It is to the content of art galleries what the World Music genre is to the classical music of the concert-hall.
When I first encountered it, I loved the shells and pearls and turquoises for themselves, but resisted the seemingly sentimental butterfly and fish shapes into which they had been fashioned. I don’t like the lily to be gilded. I don’t think roses should be painted red. My refined quibbles were soon over-ruled by the primal resonance of these pieces. The fishes and scarabs he has fashioned are not from this world, but the one of dreams.
His Angel heads—haunting presences carved from crystal with big eyes like aliens who visit to enchant or abduct—remind us of familiar beings from a different dimension, that our waking consciousness usually blanks out. He uses crystals not just for their visual light-plays, but also their play with invisible waves and corpuscles that affect the human aura.
It is clear from one of his essays that “magick wands” have a special place in his art. He reinvests this word “art” with its more ancient meaning, associated with occult power rather than the fashioning of beautiful things; but it is the hallmark of Manalien’s art to achieve both simultaneously. His wands can be illuminated from within, like the light sabres in Star Wars. But they are not toys. Forget the wish-fulfilment fantasies of children’s stories. These wands are to facilitate real magic, that is to focus the energies in matter and make them “the instruments of the practitioner’s will”.
His work belongs in that realm where the mythical meets the real, where magic rules. The nautilus, mermaid, scarab, unicorn, dragonfly, the sun-god Sol all flourish there, though we would call some real and some imaginary. The artist-magician is a Shaman, able to roam in other worlds beyond the Terra of common experience. Perhaps everyone could learn to navigate the doors and staircases which lead to those worlds, but they can do it vicariously too, not via psychotropics but via magical objects. The great psychoanalyst C G Jung, seeking to reconcile the recurrent symbols of diverse cultures with modern psychology, coined the term “Collective Unconscious”. Manalien, an artist and Seer, half Man, half Alien, native to this earth yet perennially alert to its wondrousness, invokes these symbols in works which move us strangely.
The urge to possess and accumulate beautiful objects is common to all humanity and even some species of birds. Jewels, precious metals and finely-worked artefacts have value and meaning in every realm, including, it must be said, the financial. They may increase in value as the years pass. Jewellers and goldsmiths in all eras strive to produce works to tempt a king or a princess, or, as we would say today, “a gift for the person who has everything”. If I could wave my magic wand—one crafted by Manalien, obviously—and miraculously afford some of the most beautiful objects in the world to lay at my beloved’s feet, as a token of adoration, from where would I plunder them? Tiffany’s? The tomb of Tutankhamun? The Crown Jewels in the Tower of London? No, I would consider them to be vulgar displays, bankrupt of living creativity. I would seek out a living artist, one whose imagination is constantly replenished by visions “out of this world”. I would go to a certain primitive artist in Bournemouth, whose art is to reveal the inner beauty of his materials, turning them into the ultimate eye-candy, yet also objects of mystical resonance perceptible to the pure and sensitive soul. His works will interact with something deep in the heart of their possessor, or even their casual admirer.
“I want! I want!”