ART AND SPIRITUALITY
Elias Rubenstein in dialogue with Sofia Cruz
Elias Rubenstein: What role does spirituality play in your work as an artist?
Sofia Cruz: In my view, it is man’s task to elevate what is around him. Every person does this in different areas, forms and levels. For me, the art is the medium how I can elevate what surrounds me. The elevation is a form of spirituality and related to evolution. Considering the evolution of humanity, in what direction do you think contemporary art should
Elias Rubenstein: There are different movements in art that accompany the spiritual development of man. It seems to me sometimes, as some modernist art resemble the style of cave paintings. The question arises spontaneously to me, how far today's human being has really progressed in comparison to the human being at that time.
The greatest challenge for contemporary art is probably to take on a new role compared to the purposes in another epoch. What role does aesthetics play for you?
Mira Schendel’s, from Spray Series, Cave paintings, Argenitna Museu de Ciencies
Source Art Observed Naturals de Valencia. Photo by Joanbanjo
Sofia Cruz: If we look at art history, we find periods in which aesthetics were extremely significant. Over the course of the centuries, aesthetics has become less important in fine arts - up to the other extreme positions, where the value in the artworks lies just in their “interior”. I mean the conceptualization of the artworks. For me an artwork is alive in itself, it exists as an independent entity from the artist who produced it. This entity should be entirely valuable and meaningful: in the exterior -aesthetics- as in the interior -conceptualization-. A balance should be struck. There are not many artists who choose purely mystical teachings as a concept for their work, why did you choose Kabbalah?
Elias Rubenstein: Through the abstract representation and symbols a level of reality can be hinted at, which cannot be expressed by words alone. The Kabbala offers a rich treasure to explore the beauty of creation. This absolute beauty cannot be fully represented by art, but it can open up a dimension that would not be possible to experience without the Kabbala. Such an artistic creation seems to me to be a tightrope walk between philosophy and the architectural plan of an architect. What challenges do you encounter in your artistic work?
Elias Rubenstein. "231 Tore der Einweihung". Fine Art print. Via Eliasrubenstein
Sofia Cruz: I am interested in the artworks that can create more than an aesthetic experience, an entire experience. This means an intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience (1). For this reason, I consider the most important challenge of my work the development of an authentic artistic language, that allows me to transmit “entire” experiences to the viewer. Do you think that spiritual art will position itself as part of the art history of this century?
Sofia Cruz. "The multiplicity of the One". Detail installation view. Zona Maco Art Fair with Guadalajara90210. Via Dedicatemagazine (2).
Elias Rubenstein: When we look at the beginnings of art, we can see that its origins lie in spirituality, religiousness, and cult. The paintings in the Stone Age caves, in Egyptian pyramids or in sacred places of worship, they thematised a form of spirituality. Many historical rulers, who regarded themselves as the masters of a cult, also recognized artistic creation as a welcome tool for setting themselves and their cult a long-term monument. Only in recent history did art take a recognizable secularization. This decoupling has opened up a new perspective on the craft, but it is often lacking in orientation. In my opinion, there is no need for spirituality to establish itself as a sub-area of art history, for it is deeply rooted in the entire history of art and cannot be removed from it. Do the fine arts, as we know them, have a future from your point of view or will they be replaced by new media?
Sofia Cruz: There is a strong direction that focuses on new media but on the other hand, the “love for traditional media” in art is still strong. New trends dominate the present, but I can’t imagine a future without painting, for example. Traditional media constantly transform, but I don’t think they will disappear. Do you think there a hierarchy in the different art forms, such as fine arts, music, film, theatre, etc.?
Bill Viola, at “Electronic Renaissance” solo show, Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence.
Viola has been vital in establishing video as a crucial contemporary art form while expanding its scope in terms of content, style, technology and historical reference. With his interests in Eastern and Western art and spiritual traditions—Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism and Christian mysticism—Viola’s work focuses on the life cycle and sensory perception.
Elias Rubenstein: For artists, craftsmanship is just as essential as intellectual skills. The medium used, is secondary. An artwork is not vital for human survival but distinguishes it from the animal kingdom. The man has the ability to think about art, to let it influence himself and to exchange impressions with other people. For me, the quality of art is, therefore less in the medium than in the artist’s intention. To this end, it can be helpful to study the “free” arts, grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy in order to extend your worldview step by step.
Anselm Kiefer (3) ~ “Schechina” (“Gottliche Anwesenheit”). Divine Presence “five plaster dress sculptures from the series “Women of Antiquity”: “Sapho” with books instead of the head, “Phryne” with bricks and the “Divinity” with the numbering system of the Kabbalah. Source dpa DPA / Sara Lemel
Alexandre Seon, Portrait of Josephin Peladan, c. 1892. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon. Detail.
Some major influences on Peladan were Arthurian legends, Italian Renaissance ideals and styles, the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Baudelaire, and the music of Richard Wagner. Source e-flux
Sofia Cruz: You describe in an article “The Seven Free Arts “ (4) that the seven disciplines mentioned above are necessary for a higher understanding of art. Do you know artists who mastered all these disciplines?
Elias Rubenstein: For me, Leonardo da Vinci is one of the universal scholars and connoisseurs of these disciplines. From the Modern art Joséphin Péladan (5) comes to my mind spontaneously with the show of the “Salon de la Rose-Croix”.
Senator h. c. Dr. Dr. h. c. Elias Rubenstein, born 1974, lives in Vienna, is an entrepreneur, author, lecturer and artist. His works deal with the concepts of hermeticism and kabbalah.
Sofia Cruz (1989, Mexico City) based in Vienna. Is one of the most interesting artists in the last generation, not only for her authenticity of making artworks but also for her capacity to relate them with spiritual, mental and emotional layers. Her research is based on the roots of Mysticism, metaphysics and Hermetic Philosophy. Cruz won the FONCA fellowship for young artist in 2013 to develop the project "Afecciones, a house as a walkable installation" one of her most important projects. Her work has been exhibited mostly in central and eastern Europe, Mexico and Latin America.
(2). See more about Sofia Cruz
(5). See about Péladan: Joséphin Péladan: A Proto-Curator?, Beti Žerovc, e-flux, 2015