Manfred Krautschneider (aka Man Fred) and Synthesism

GO TO Synthesist Manifesto

GO TO Resume

Copyright reserved, M. J. Krautschneider, Man Fred, 2001-6

About the Artist

Man Fred was born in Austria, educated in Australia, and now lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. He turned from a science/technology career to artistic expression in 2001 after a period of deep disenchantment. His emergence as an artist arose out of a need to investigate and express the profoundly personal and common experiences of human frailty, and the quest for understanding how we come to be as we are.

"My works reflect the dynamics of psychological processes in our relationship to self and society. My initial motivation was to expurgate the demons of my upbringing, past relationships, and of experience, but evolved to an interest in recurring contemporary issues, and images that resonate with unspoken truths.

We oscillate between our existential life in the moment, the memories of our past, and our expectations of the future, but our feelings are at their most sublime in dreams. In rare cases of presence, all four sources illuminate an understanding, experience, or vision simultaneously. The resulting inspiration should not be dismissed lightly, but expressed and investigated. It is for this reason I am attracted to the surreal as perceived in the real."

Below the specific exhibition details that follow, you will find the “Synthesist” manifesto, and a long section headed “Psychosynthesism – a philosophy of art” in which I propose a personal view, arguing the merits of this art movement.

PAINTINGS

Advancing the spirit of the surrealists, my aim is to engage the viewer in an inquiry about personal, social and psychological reality, and it’s relation to dreams and ideas.

I do this through little dramas that go to the heart of problems in our relationship to the world and each other. I hope to pose significant questions and to generate a slight shock of discomfort to lead the viewer to engage in the inquiry.

Reflections on lost innocence

Is loss of innocence an inevitable consequence of experience?

“The long road”  “The inexplicable attraction of dick-heads”
  

Illuminated by dreams, experiences and observation, the works in this exhibition are essentially personal or psychological landscapes and narratives, communicating my own struggle toward understanding. They are hopefully exciting and unsettling, and speak of the unacknowledged. Fluid, as caught in the act of awakening, they occupy the space between the symbolic and the reality signified. I accept the surreal, the presence of opposites, and the need for synthesis.

I paint to communicate: significant events in my life; knowledge and doubt; fragments of memory and dream; the darkness of experience and joy of understanding. Here I am. Self-conscious, playing games, obvious, hiding, subverting pain, finding meaning, going on.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

"Where are all the good men?"

Nightingala

In exploring contemporary men’s issues, especially the disengagement of the middle aged post-feminist generation, society’s double standards and confused expectations regarding gender roles are tackled by examining their psychological impact.

Each work reflects impediments to my struggle for honest and free communication.

Through a fairly direct blend of figurative expressionism and surrealism, the paintings convey pent up emotions, as they touch on psychological problems arising from developmental and sexual issues, and comment on gender issues raised by the changes of the last forty years. They experiment with superficially attractive color and style to disarm the viewer and hopefully allow the ideas to surface before the punch is noticed.

Liminal

   

     The landscape, transformed by fear, is another example of the link of the real to our subconscious. Can we trust this source of life, or is it dangerous, or even poisonous?

 

 

 

PHOTOGRAPHS

Reflections

                                           

“And how’s the kids?”   “Dance macabre”

Some reflections are not mere mirrors but transform reality. They reveal a corresponding transformation in our perception and become surreal, eliciting feelings that are on the tip of the tongue but remain unspoken. Their meaning remains fluid, but their impact is indisputable. We are surrounded by them in our daily urban lives, but choose to ignore them lest they speak to us of the unknown or unacknowledged. Reality is modified to suggest the surreal quality of the dream. The content is ambiguous or transformed.

 

 

 


“Reflecting on war”                                                                               “Refueling”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The techniques used are straightforward: Superimposed images, Multiple exposure (via reflections or otherwise), Manipulated viewpoint, focus and brightness as a cue to involvement of the subconscious dream, Transformation via darkroom techniques such as modified contrast, degrading of the image, solarisation, and photomontage.

 

 

“Sentinel”

 

Ambiguous reflections, Public nakedness, Stormy skies, Inaccessible or inescapable spaces, and immobility are all used to suggest: helplessness, fear, anger, depression, loss, confusion, illusion, and transcendence.

 

Photonic Dissonance – the fear project 2004

“Fear rage”

The unique photographic and digital works in this exhibition are psychologically and politically charged, expressing our struggle to understand these times of conflict. They are overwrought and unsettling. Their expression, takes its cue from impressionist and expressionist painters, while their subject matter or narrative is in the spirit of the surrealists.

                                                                                       “Sound of war”

This body of work also celebrates the soon to be extinct era of analogue television, consigned to history by digital technology. Never again will the lucky fringe reception viewers see the wonderful color storms flash across their screen as the signal breaks up due to weather and interference.

Inspired by the expressive possibilities of this phenomenon, I have deliberately interfered with images exported to my TV set, to produce this series of degraded photographs. To complete the cycle, I digitally modified some of these to a saturated polish, reflecting an ethic of clean perfection. Progress has its ironies.

The Fear Project The images chosen for the above experiment explore the role of fear in personal and societal conflict. Extreme positions and reactions are sure signs of the operation of this powerful motivator. Drawing on current debates over transgression, and protection, I am moved to gently confront some of the vectors of our fears.

 

 

 

 

 

DIGITAL PRINTS               

Transfixed by suffering

This body of work is selected for its comments on issues of sexuality. More particularly, personal reactions to disenchantment are explored.

Psychologically, the works can be seen as exploring some triggers for relationship stress that can cause anxiety and lead to a breakup. This exhibition was part two of “The fear project”.

“Your pleasure, my pain”

 

 

DRAWINGS

“Recall”

                                                                                                           

These 10 drawings assembled from imagination, experience and dreams are internal, personal or psychological landscapes. I intend them to communicate my own understanding of struggle toward self and discomfort in society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Influences Dada, Social engineering, Feminism, Print and film media, Advertising, Philosophy of Bentham, Milne, Psychology of Jung and Karen Horney.


THE synthesist Manifesto

Or psychosynthesism

Dr. Manfred Krautschneider, Man Fred

(all uses of “his” are to be read as non gender specific)

Ours is a movement without beginning or end. By putting the irrational in service of the quest for self knowledge, each individual, time and place invents its own art and contributes to the growth in human understanding.  We oscillate between our existential life in the moment, the memories of our past, and our expectations of the future, but our feelings are at their most sublime in dreams. In rare cases of presence, all four sources illuminate an understanding, experience, or vision simultaneously. The resulting inspiration, or synthesis of modes of experience, should not be dismissed lightly, but expressed and investigated.

We value: honesty above fidelity; self reflection above action; meaning above games or decoration; the question above conditioned or facile answers; the direct above the semantic; the form above the formal; the expression above the means; enlightened freedom above self interest; the struggle above complacency.

We abhor censorship. In the quest for understanding no subject can be forbidden, for without the test of expression, discussion, and analysis of the human psyche, there can be no progress. Expression of psychological reality is the role of the artist. Let those who do not seek the truth, shut their eyes and minds. But do not shackle the brave. Forgive their adventures. Allow those who seek understanding to get on with their brave endeavors.

If we expose a nerve, it is through an internal necessity to make sense of our experiences, to solve our mysteries, to lay bare our inner reality and our fears. If  disturbed, examine your heart for the source and see what can be learnt. Art is open to many possible interpretations and to appreciate the complexity of the intended and subconscious implications requires an open mind.

 

“psychosynthesism” - A philosphy of art

on ART:

In as much as art is a communication produced by an individual, it bears the burden of his psychological state. This can be influenced by the external world both sociopolitical and natural. The influences can be direct, as in the formation of belief structures through reflection on experience and education, as well as indirect, via osmosis from the cultural milieu.

Art is a mode of expression. The subject is human experience. Visual and performance art avoids the traps of the closed linguistic system, but suffers from a greater potential for ambiguity. It is an imprecise language. At its most original, it rises above, or at least stands outside convention, so as to communicate what is “on the tip of the tongue” but can not quite be said. In this sense it transcends conventional limits to knowledge and expression.

How does an artist’s work communicate to the audience? The viewer will no doubt bring his social baggage with him. For this reason the artist may wish to remove conventional triggers from the work (eg abstraction) or challenge interpretation by deliberately juxtaposing opposite or unrelated ideas (eg surrealism). The viewer responds to psychological cues not always evident in the subject itself. This can be attributed to the action of the subconscious on elements of the image (Freud), and to the operation of archetypes (Jung). The more obvious pictorial elements will also refer to the conventions, mores and norms of the society in which it is viewed. This gives the artist the power to challenge or at least cause reflection on those mores.

Given the complexity of this form of expression, it is not unusual for the artist to be unaware consciously of the full range of statements being made, or that can be read into his work. Therein lies the power of the work. It can be transformative, not just for the audience but also for the artist.

What is good art?

What makes a work timeless? Clearly, since context and understanding change it can only be universality. Not necessarily ideals, but psychological truths. Goya’s images of death in war hold our attention not only because atrocity is always near, but because given certain preconditions, we are all personally capable of being it’s victim or perpetrator. Jeffrey Smart’s images of isolation through his use of a lean realism tinged with the surreal, and solitary figures in the contemporary streetscape has it’s impact not because of any reflection of a modern malaise, but because essentially we are alone in this world, if only because of the singularity of our experience and the poverty of means of communicating our feelings or essence. Rick Amor’s paintings and prints of oceans overwhelming cities or dwarfing figures are striking because they express our psychological as well as physical vulnerability. Bill Henson’s photographs of the young in forests, wrecks and on tips are described by Christopher Allen as vaguely but not explicitly sexual and violent. They affect us because in our fears if not reality we, or our loved ones are the potential victim or perpetrator.

What is good art? In the words of Yenawine: “The thoughts and emotions it provokes are either new or different from the way I considered them before; they may tap into something I only suspected or maybe did not know I knew. Most important, good art sustains my interest over time, perhaps for its original appeal, perhaps for reasons that are new each time I see it.”

art is Self conscious

Jaques Lacan’s psychoanalytic notion of the ‘mirror stage’  ... indicated that the formative stages of human identity, involve the dawn of a self consciousness in which the subject experiences itself as ‘other’ ...(weakening) the idea of a unified core to subjectivity." David Hopkins goes on to argue that this approach destabilizes the idea of an essentially unchanging human nature. This was held by many to imply the ‘death of the author’ as god, but empowers the reader as interpreter, and heralds postmodernism.

Although not very familiar with these writings, I see a virtue even in their superficial aspects. Art is not only a mirror stage, but a psychically distorted (transformed) one. At it’s best, it holds up the issues confronting the artist as he grapples with their resolution. The exhibition of such dramas invites the audience to the same journey.

A good example is Eric Fischl who said in 1982 “central to my work is the feeling of awkwardness and self consciousness that one experiences in the face of profound emotional events in one’s own life....such as death, loss, or sexuality. ..... Each new event .... is a confrontation that fills us with much the same anxiety that we feel, when in a dream, we discover ourselves naked in public.”2

For most of our adult lives relationship traumas can be found just below the surface of our being. Subject to hormonal and primal urges, we sometimes struggle to fit our social and personal expectations. A simple outing with our partner, the joy of our life, can become a subconscious minefield as procreative urges play out a complex social game, which flits in and out of consciousness. The more we overcome the straight jacket of expectations, and the more we open ourselves to the messages of the unconscious, the greater the discomfort as we struggle to interpret human gestures and behavior.

Dealing with the impact of such forces is the subject of some of our strongest neo-expressionist outpourings. In Jon Cattapan's early works on view in the Tilt collection, this anxiety, ever present in the human condition, is confronted with an expressive force rarely encountered in the history of post-modern art.

Skepticism or nihilism?

“Structural linguistics ...  had variously emphasized the inescapability of the system of language; the undecidability of meaning; (and) abolishes the privileged ‘outside viewpoint’. ...(This) introduced a universal relativism and skepticism” 3

Bertrand Russell spoke of skepticism as the true path to knowledge, basically because in science we need proof and must resist jumping to conclusions. He would not have anticipated that in this age, due to our disappointments with social progress, we no longer hold strong allegiances to singular movements or truths and skepticism abounds. Now he would no doubt caution that, without synthesis of the truths that do emerge, we are lead to nihilism. It is therefore the artists responsibility to experiment with synthesis and engage in a quest for understanding.

nature of reality – limits of empiricism

Out of frustration with the limited scope and human (as distinct from technological) achievements of the scientific method, and because of the above tendencies to relativism, many are abandoning the quest for objectivity in favor of asserting the supremacy of personal or social perceptions of reality. This has done art no harm, as it gives the artist greater scope to experiment. But it also devalues the lessons so learnt as it obviates any need for synthesis.

 

THE PROBLEM WITH ART MOVEMENTS

Art movements can be the result of a common psychology resulting either consciously or sub consciously from common influences on the artists. However, as human diversity is far greater in range than the few common dominant world views at any given time in history, it is likely that art movements are merely a construct imposed by the privileged few who are published on this question. They are the critics and art historians who see it as their role to impose order on what is in fact an eclectic mix of human expressions. To achieve this they simply ignore the diversity of work produced by any given generation, and feed their analysis solely with the filtered selection of work. The history of art often reads more like a history of ideas about art, that is, a history of criticism. Since critics are generally educated people, it must occur to them that the air they breathe is a little attenuated. So how do they justify their narrow focus? Well, it is probably their “expression” of their own “art” . Their analysis is likely to serve a socio-political rather than personal psychological purpose, and probably quite consciously constructed. In other words, art movements are likely to be depicted in sociological or political terms, thereby filtering out the personal psychological contexts and meanings, and ignoring works that don’t serve the critic or historian’s purpose.

Evidence of this is available in the clutching at straws that occurs as critics try to come to terms with the “post-modern” environment. Suddenly the diversity of art can no longer be ignored as a result of the far more democratic environment in which artists operate; namely the explosion of gallery numbers as general wealth enables purely commercial galleries to survive and show the range of works which exist (and can find a market). The internet revolution further exacerbates this.

To see the bias inherent in what I will call the sociopolitical view of art we need to ask: Why does a person choose to be an artist rather than a journalist, historian, philosopher, scientist etc.? The answer lies in their operational mode. Invariably they seek to directly express their personal experiences or feelings. In reaction to a social issue, the conventional tools of party discussion, letter to editor or political action are usually ignored in favor of a mode of expression which can avoid the traps of a closed (eg linguistic) system.. Art is primarily about the transcendence of conventional limits to understanding and expression. If the subject is human experience and psychology, it need never even have a sociopolitical setting of any significance. Hence the ubiquitous idea of artist as the outsider, and art for art’s sake.

 

LESSONS

The recent history of thought, and art in particular, shows a deplorable neglect of synthesis, understanding, and balance, in favor of the knee jerk reaction, fashion and easy sensation. What is needed is attention to the important balances that make us human, and a willingness to see the value in simultaneously conflicting viewpoints or tendencies where they arise. Here is a list of some of my favorites balancing acts. They are not really opposites as they can be present simultaneously:

Reason versus emotion, conscious versus subconscious, descriptive versus evocative, spontaneous versus contrived, reflex versus reflection, freedom versus responsibility, the outsider versus the social animal, sensual versus conceptual, openness versus analysis

Social Context

Social Psychology tells us that “behavior ... is influenced by the actual or implied presence of others” 1. This is partly achieved through internalization of perceived and expressed norms, roles, status and notions of deviance. Sociology assumes “that the conduct of the person ... (is) to be understood as a product of group life”2.

However, in a pluralistic society such as Australia of the late 20th century, the norms and roles are routinely challenged or ignored except where codified into law, and sometimes even then. For example in the proposed Victorian racial vilification act, artists and intellectuals are exempt for the purpose of debate and in acknowledgement of the need for free expression. Concepts of freedom and liberty mitigate the mindless adoption of mores. John Stuart Mill (On Liberty) rightly pointed out that creative freedom and the attendant experimentation is a fertile ground for discovery and progress. Without free expression, we stifle not only the human heart and spirit but limit the diversity of views from amongst which the next generation of fruitful ideas arise.

It is often the friction between individual freedom and impulse, and the efforts of social engineering and the rule of conformity that produce significant artistic expression. The alienation which results from elements of social structure that do not fit the personal psychology, aspiration, and development of individuals or groups may well lead to deviant behavior, but also leads to creative expression which may well change the norms as they stand at any one time. The young and the disenfranchised often bear the brunt of such friction.  The uncritical acceptance of role and norm lead to conformism and are anathema to creative endeavor, and constructive social change.

Social expectations, and imposed values, far from being useful are therefore potentially destructive forces. It may well be that they serve as much to define individuals by opposition as they do to enhance social cohesion. Any efforts to impose values on people, disenfranchises free thinkers and leads to the formation of sub-cultures who are then left to evolve in unpredictable fashion, leading to yet greater fragmentation of the social fabric.

The assignment of overt social status to favored groups and individuals is likewise fraught with danger. However, in this at least the “outsider” can find solace in his or her sub group and reject the dominant culture. However, this is not possible with legally enforced notions of deviance, and consequently all forms of censorship, or legal imposition of values should be treated with the utmost concern.

People generally, and artists in particular need to be allowed the greatest degree of freedom of expression consistent with the mitigation of actual bodily harm to others.

CENSORSHIP

If art can influence people’s perception of reality, it has the power to subvert or support the dominant culture. The extent of this power is limited by several factors:

Its intent. That is the degree of the artists’ engagement with issues which may threaten a given culture.

Its power. That is, the ability of the artist to convey his desired message with sufficient emotional force.

Its accessibility. That is, the size and nature of the audience the artist can reach.

Guardians of cultures which are not open to change, whether self appointed “moralists”,  institutions, and even national governments and international organizations at times, can and do fear the influence of artists and endeavor to control their activity. This is a fairly paranoid reaction as the three factors above all need to be present for any significant impact to be made. Further, one could argue that the people will likely only take on board messages they have already been led to by their own reflections, and it is therefore likely that these messages will already be out there in the community. If they call for change, it will eventually come about and artists are really only the signposts to the “zeitgeist”.

None the less, when leaders attempt to control a population, either to increase their own power and ego, or for fear of anarchic tendencies in a society, they have to face the artistic and cultural output of their peoples and often seek to harness it’s power.

A central issue then, in the relationship between art, culture and reality is the question of the control of information generally, and artistic output in particular. This has exercised the minds of politicians and religious leaders throughout the ages. Each culture and nation has evolved its own ways of accomplishing this control, and the degree to which personal freedom of expression is tolerated or even encouraged rather than controlled is a fair measure of the success of the society, because it implies the need for control is absent, implying the “authorities” do not fear what is in their peoples hearts or minds, and vice versa.

The usual form taken by repression of artistic endeavor is censorship. This can be by public proclamation, or by using related laws such as obscenity, indecency, vilification, public affront to moral standards, charges of subversion, etc. It is remarkable that the 1969 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica makes no mention of censorship at all, except in the middle ages religious context. Nor could I find any reference to classic Russian Literature! This brings me to more subtle forms of censorship. The omission of significant work from establishment accounts of history, and culture. The failure to find places for dissident voices in academia, or the mass media. The active promotion of works that uphold the values of the dominant culture. Some of these are clearly acts of omission by virtue of subconscious selection. However, if reinforced by occasional public or institutional proscription, we have cause to worry.

The American constitution guarantees free speech, though many legal fights have had to be fought to uphold that right. In Australia we have no such guarantee, and public decency laws of one kind or another are regularly used to deny us freedom of expression. Witness the closure of the “Piss Christ” exhibition, The banning of D.H. Lawrence’s “ Lady Chatterly’s Lover” until the mid 60’s, The rating system for some non violent erotica which makes their sale illegal in all states (while allowing the most appalling violence). The latter has also resulted in cuts to many films and the banning of many to this day.

The feeling one has is that democracies generally fare well on the index of freedoms. However, in practice, the ruling party is often hostage to significant pressure groups, and without a constitutional “bill of rights” may be forced to act as censor to appease one or another group.

PROBLEMS WITH PHOTOGRAPHY

Photography suffers limitations in its visual language and communication not inherent in painting or other visual art forms. They are:

The viewers' habit of interpreting the subject as a "real" object merely being depicted or described, rather than read into. It's a photograph so it most be of something real. This causes the "what is it?" response when faced with an abstract or surreal image which would pass the scrutiny of the conscious, allowing the action of the emotive center, or subconscious, were it a painting.

The photographer inherits conceptions about content and structure which have not evolved as rapidly as has painting through the dialectic of styles and art movements of last century. Although there are suggestions of the surreal in the post modern photography of Bill Henson or Patricia Piccinini, and there have been some post modern games with deconstruction, appropriation, etc, (Cindy Sherman) the bulk of work still seems to be socio-political commentary. Perhaps that is because this has been its great strength through the years. Who can forget the image of a naked child with napalm burns running through the streets in Vietnam?

Photographic and filmic images are so abundant in popular culture and commerce, they saturate our appetite. This devalues their impact when we are next exposed, and escalates the 'noise' through which communication must pass. Our filters are well and truly in place to limit the visual information we face. I have seen even art students look over a set of photographs with fractions of a second per print.

Color, or lack of it. Black and white photography severely restricts the artists ability to suggest ranges of mood, especially within the one work. Whereas the color work can suffer from accidental references if the color is not tightly controlled.

Some thought process in some early Man Fred paintings
Second (small) nude : “Reciprocal dreams”Dreams create their own reality, and shape or limit our perceptions. Dreamers bask in the reciprocity of their dreams.In the realm of ideas, above the nude, individuation and integration are straight forward and comfortable.Division of mind from body or spirit from reality brings into question the reality and completeness of understanding of the self or others.The painting can be seen as a schizoid vision of the other sex.

The reclining figure is divided by a vertical line left to right and divides space above from below introducing tension to an otherwise comfortable color field painting. Are the male figures below in the dream of the woman, or is she in their dream? The lines paralleling the nude carry one to the more comfortable space on high and flow above her to suggest transcendence. The lone figure bottom right takes the viewer out of the picture, and back to reality, making him or her complicit as a tangential voyeur.

“Awakening”  oil, abstract in 8 panels each 18x20 inches

      My first work, based on color and feelings when waking from tumultuous sleep to a bright calm day. Can also be read as “Genesis” and “Birth” as during production the work evolved conceptually as a progression to joy from a dark underworld, and later as the birth of ideas. Each of these alternatives is inherent in awakening from sleep.

“Dissociation” oil, formal symbolic abstract roughly 40x60 cm.

      An uncomfortable painting representing the “bound up” male who keeps his limited expressive selves at a distance in a vase. All perception is deadened by the formality of control and a fear of expression.

“Ephemera” oil, expressionist nude 60x80 cm.

As with the breath of a breeze, so too beauty, youth, warmth, love are ephemeral. As art is about perception, it is good for the viewer to be given a chance to exercise theirs. The work is visually incomplete, allowing the viewer to “discover” the image.

References

1         David Hopkins, “After Modern Art”, 2000, Oxford University Press

2        Edward Lucie-Smith, “Movements in art since 1945 – issues and

concepts”, 1995, Thames and Hudson Ltd, London

3        Christopher Allen, Art in Australia – from Colonization to Postmodernism,

Thames and Hudson, 1997

Copyright reserved, Manfred Krautschneider, 2001-6

 

TILT

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19 Green St, Morwell, Vic 3840, Australia

Ph (03) 5134 3010 International +61 3 5134 3010 Mobile 0402 250 274

email manfred@tilt.com.au

Copyright 2003-15, Dr. Manfred Krautschneider

 

email manfred@tilt.com.au