(copied and adapted from the old closed Occult Forums)
It requires the viewer to have understanding!
In 2005 I coined a new definition of the phrase Occult Art, as being a distinct and unique catagory of art that seeks to visually describe the metaphysical, particularly the mysteries of the metaphysical, in ways both analytical and objective. To my knowledge no attempt had been made up until that point to coin *Occult Art* as a definite and distinctive art form. The term was only pejoratively used to point at sinister “Black Arts” practiced by ooey sorcerers and evil witches. Most genuine Occultists would just say “The Occult” when describing their praxis, if they did not choose a more specific category. Although the term has not caught on broadly in the visual arts, I have attempted to at least open the door for other artists who are working in my same vein to adopt this categorization, by making posts like this that explain the term. I also describe myself to other people as an Occult Artist. To me there is no better term to describe my style, which necessitated the invention of the category.
I am not a Fantasy Artist, as my art seeks to identify and reveal real, not imaginary things. By my definition, an Occult Artist can be any one of a much larger sphere of types. For example, m1thr0s 729 is a minimalist, but not just this – his art could certainly be termed Alchemical Art.
He is not just a style-copy-cat however, in fact he very rarely attempts to mimic old woodcuts in any way, and this is generally the accepted pattern for “Alchemical Art” in our time, exclusive of all other styles. Sometimes the images are merely a mimic of the old style, and have no esoteric, no real meaning. This is not as it should be. Spiritual Alchemy must never allow itself to be lead by consensus or fashion. Although the old Alchemical woodcuts are attractive, it cannot represent Alchemy today. Broadly I believe the proper umbrella term for Alchemical Art, Tibetan Thangkas, Religious and Deity Art (Pagan and Monotheistic alike), Metaphysical Art, Qabbalah and Hermetic Art is in fact *Occult Art*. Although some shrink away from the terms sinister connotations, and prefer *Visionary Art* I found that much of the Visionary Arts movement shuns analytical works, and leaned more towards Mystic and Fantasy styles than the Alchemists of Old would have. As well as this, so-called “Visionary Art” is merely a re-naming of the old “magischer Realismus” coined in 1924 by Franz Roh. Oxford English Dictionary has so-called Visionary Art under this heading:
“magic realism Art and Lit. [tr. G. magischer Realismus (coined in 1924 by Franz Roh and used in 1925 in the subtitle of his book Nach-Expressionismus)], orig. a style of painting which depicts fantastic or bizarre images in a precise representationalist manner (first used in German to describe the work of members of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement); transf., any artistic or esp. literary style in which realistic techniques such as naturalistic detail, narrative, etc., are similarly combined with surreal or dreamlike elements.”
- Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, 1989
While some might argue Visionary Art is derived from visions under the effect of hallucinogens, not all “Visionary Artists” adopted the term without carefully analyzing what it meant, and they do not partake in entheogens. Either way, realistic depiction of a hallucination still falls under the definition of “Magic Realism.” Revisionism is the bane of syncretism. Yet Occult Art differs from magic realism, in that it does not need to use a precise representationalist manner, but any such realistic image need also include more than just fantasy and bizarre subjects, it must also include secrets of the occult embedded within it, whether from Hermetic Qabbalah, Gnosticism or whatever else the artist finds worthy of enshrining in their work.
By my definition, Occult Art is a broad and loosely defined art genre. It is not restricted to a specific school of artists, geographical location or historical period. While sometimes incorporationg fantasic elements, it is unique from Fantasy Art in that it embraces analytical study and the meaning of reality. Frequently knowledge and understanding are necessary to appreciate the full meaning and elegance of the work, such as the case with works incorporating The Tree of Life or various unicursal stars, word formulas and animal attributions. While it is not defined by aesthetic appeal, it is often beautiful, even without knowledge and understanding of its symbols. It is different from Surrealism in that the meaning of the symbols are concretely defined and constitute a metalanguage of Occult study known amongst practitioners and students of the Occult. To classify as Occult Art these symbols should be identifiable by a good occultist, by a well read student of syncretic religious studies or even a knowledgeable scientist or engineer. Sometimes even the color scale has meaning and especially in Tarot art, which is a big category of Occult Art, it does.
Its subject matter deals with metaphysical experience, and often metaphysical and scientific experience, such as in the case of Physical and Spiritual Alchemy woodcuts. Many artists have produced art which classifies as Occult Art, including A. Durer, Aleister Crowley, H.R. Giger, M.C. Escher, Eliphas Levi, Araniko, Gustav Klimt and more. It is important to note that not all of their works classify as Occult Art.
Now that you know the short history of this term, you’ll probably understand why people give you odd looks if you explain to them you are an *Occult Artist*. Together we can all help the term catch on so it becomes easier for us to identify ourselves. This will help create community ties and open doors for Occult Artists to be able to find acceptance in the art world.
All images used with permission