Art, Memory, and Identity

This AI transcription/summary was created on @November 25, 2023. Listen to the original recording here.


Navigating aphantasia, a condition that hinders visualization and vivid memory recall, has significantly impacted life, memory, and art creation. It necessitates extra effort in memory development and establishing routines, requiring meticulous planning and review. In art, this journey has shifted from arbitrariness to seeking absolute truths, with a focus on transcendent luminosity and audience co-creation, profoundly supporting the creative process.

(daily creation - the images included in each post are taken from the day’s work. Maybe a theme or format will emerge, but for now I am just including snapshots of any results from my main work or learning tracks)
(daily creation - the images included in each post are taken from the day’s work. Maybe a theme or format will emerge, but for now I am just including snapshots of any results from my main work or learning tracks)


I want to quickly address what these paintings evoke for me and why they can feel a bit anachronistic, I think. I only recently looked deeper into this feeling that I've had my entire life, that something is wrong with my visual, visual capacity, or let's say my capacity to visualize in my mind's eye. I remember when I was a kid, maybe like nine or something, my mom had bought a glass painting kit and my sibling and I were at the kitchen table painting these cups and Kasia painted something really cute, some kind of face creature, a creature with a face, a cute creature with a face, and I was just staring blankly at this cup, looking around at what I could possibly reference to paint on the cup, and I think I picked a plant, a house plant, and I painted this plant, which is such a not compelling image for a mug, especially when you're painting with this kind of translucent stained glass, but jellified color. Anyway, it was such an insignificant moment, I think, for everyone else, but for me it stayed there because over and over and over again I've been confronted with just a really, really hard time imagining anything on the spot, and it doesn't just, it's not just visual, it's, I have it around like everything, like I, this is why I spend so much time kind of working on memory and why I think these days I actually am probably really good compared to a lot of people with specific memory because I've had such a hard time remembering anything.

I, if I don't meditate, if I don't, if I don't review my day, if I don't plan my day, then all of the kinds of momentums that I've been developing could just fall away in a day. I, for me, that the rule of 20 days or even 60 days doesn't work when it comes to developing habits. I don't really develop habits. I, meditation has become somewhat automatic for me, and I shouldn't say that because meditation should never be automatic, but the sense of, like, compulsion to sit down every morning only really started after a thousand days of meditating, of doing that, of forcing myself to do that every single day without a break.

Only after a thousand did I start to do it naturally, whereas before there was, like, alarm bells and messages and, you know, like a whole, a whole scaffolding to kind of bring me back to that place and that time. So, it's really hard for me to form habits, and the habit of self has never really been consistent. The habit of, oh, these are my friends, or this is what I'm interested in, or this is what I'm doing. It's been this kind of emergent thing over, over 30 plus years of exploring and touching everything, and finally taking that time to reflect and to feel into, like, what is not self and what is self.

And this notion has become extremely important to me because it's very clear, in retrospect, what was a waste of time. And I do believe that at the time I have always done the best that I possibly could. It's just taken me a long time to reach a place where I know what I'm doing where I know what I can and cannot trust in terms of my own memory and impulses and focus and resonance. There are certain things that are not trustworthy in me, and I'm okay with that.

So, anyway, back to this kind of hazy, blurry geometry that has very much been the reason that I came back to painting, and the pivot that has happened pretty quickly in the past couple of months where it's, like, extremely clear what I need to be painting. It's because I, as a person with aphantasia, the inability to visualize, I feel I feel really comfortable and at peace in blurriness. Like, when things are blurry and it isn't forcing me to focus on something, it totally calms my nervous system. I feel comfortable with the potential of the space, and I don't feel forced to make anything of it.

There's a kind of non-subjectivity to the spaces of potential that have just enough information to kind of hint at a theme or a direction, but they don't outline anything. They're just fields of color, and there's a poetry to playing around in those fields and dreaming up whatever you want to dream. But at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is kind of close off that space of possibility by introducing a subject again, or I should say an object again, which then infers a subject. That's how I would describe these paintings that I'm doing right now, and I don't really see them in the world, because even though there's a lot of similarity to other artists, I mean, especially like later Rothko's, obviously there's a big correlation with some of what I'm doing.

I think that where I differ, though, is the presence of brushstrokes, where I am purposely eschewing all signs of brushstrokes, because something that I really don't identify with from that modern Expressionism era, and the general canon of like Western white male artists, is that prevalence or pronunciation of the I, of like, I painted this, these are my brushstrokes, this is my signature. I'm much more aligned with the trans, with the transcendent, the luminous approach of like, as soon as I remove that need to declare that I did this, it suddenly becomes a space that's open for everyone to feel like co-creative within it. And again, that biological signal of like, when I've finally hidden all the brushstrokes, and suddenly the whole thing awakens, and the whole thing comes alive, like that to me is a sure sign that it's the right decision for me to do that. And I just love, I love this chapter of my life where arbitrariness and relativity are like, gone.

Like I spent so long in that space, and it was such a healing space in a way, because I think there was a lot of imposed conditioning that really painted out certain things. It really limited my vision, because I came in with, or let's say in my early life, I was burdened with so much conditioning that I had to go through a state of total relativity, where nothing really mattered, and everything was justifiable, and kind of mutable. And now I'm in this space of, okay, now I'm looking for absolute again, and I'm looking for truth, and I'm looking for, what can I rely on? What is not always moving?

Because I do believe that that's, I'm not alone in that, and that's kind of where, you know, there's definitely a thread through my life of transcending a lot of the kind of chaos of endless relativity. And that's an interesting visual juxtaposition where my paintings now are really blurry, but to me that's almost more absolute, because there's a sort of falsity with all of the small clarity, small-esque clarity that we have today around all these stories, all these people, all these things, but actually they're all the same story, and they're evoking something that the collective somehow needs to move through. And I want to, I want to offer something different to that. I want to offer a space where you come as you are, and then whatever isn't you just shakes off, because this space is so resonant with clarity, clarity through blurriness.

It's so interesting. I'll probably have to parse that out some more.


Main Points

  • The speaker has aphantasia, which affects their capacity to visualize in their mind's eye.
  • This condition has made it difficult for them to form habits and to remember things without intense effort.
  • They have practiced meditation for over a thousand days to form a habit of it.
  • Their artwork lacks brushstrokes which serves to remove the artist's ego and invites co-creation.
  • They find comfort in the blurriness and potentiality of spaces within their paintings.
  • Their creative process has shifted rapidly in the last couple of months towards clarity through blurriness.
  • The speaker reflects on transcending the chaos of endless relativity towards searching for absolutes and truth.
  • They differ from artists like Rothko by eschewing signs of brushstrokes, steering away from personal pronouncements.
  • The clarity they seek in art stems from an internal resonance with luminescence over personal signature.
  • The reflection ends with the notion that certain clarity lies in blurriness, indicating a sense of discovery and ongoing exploration.

Stories and Examples

  • When the speaker was nine, they had difficulty creating an image on a glass painting compared to their sibling, which left a lasting impression.
  • They discuss the crucial routine of reflecting on their day to maintain momentum and habit.
  • The speaker describes their journey towards finding self-hood over 30 years through exploration and reflection.
  • They talk about their creative pivot to paintings that embody blurriness and the absence of brushstrokes.
  • Reflecting on their own art, they speak to the distinction between their approach and traditional modern Expressionism.

References and Citations

  • The speaker mentions aphantasia, which is a condition that affects one's ability to visualize mentally.
  • The modern Expressionism art movement and artists like Rothko are referenced as a point of contrast to their own artistic approach.
  • They refer to personal practices including meditation, and the process of routine building as being significant to their life.
  • The speaker alludes to Western art traditions and their focus on the self, which they purposefully move away from in their work.
  • The concept of clarity through blurriness is positioned as a novel feature in the speaker's art, contrasting with societal focus on detailed narratives.


Potential Action Items

Continue the daily practice of meditation to maintain the routine established over the past thousand days (2023-11-26T05:44:03.449Z).
Explore and refine the technique of eliminating brushstrokes in paintings.
Further articulate the concept of 'clarity through blurriness' and how it resonates personally and creatively.
Identify and record what is perceived as absolute and truthful in creative work.
Seek feedback from others on the artwork to understand if the intended co-creative space is being experienced by the audience.

Follow-Up Questions

  • What specific methods do you use to cope with the difficulties posed by aphantasia?
  • How have your views on habit formation and memory retention evolved over time?
  • In what ways do you think your approach to painting invites co-creation?
  • Can you elaborate on the 'absolute truths' you are seeking in your art and life?
  • How do you measure the success of your artwork in terms of resonance and clarity?

Arguments and Areas for Improvement

These are potential arguments and rebuttals that other people may bring up in response to the transcript. Like every other part of this summary document, factual accuracy is not guaranteed.

  • Some might argue that brushstrokes are essential to the character and authenticity of a painting.
  • Critics might suggest that the drive towards blurriness could lead to a lack of concrete meaning in art.
  • There is a potential argument against the utility of aphantasia as an influence in art, suggesting it may impose limitations.
  • One could disagree with the speaker's dismissal of habit-formation theories, proposing alternative perspectives on establishing routines.
  • The notion of seeking absolutes could be contested, with an argument favoring the acceptance of subjectivity and relativity in art and life.

Alt Text

Related Topics

  • abstract art and the conveyance of clarity through non-traditional forms
  • aphantasia and its impact on creativity
  • cultural conditioning and its influence on the perception of self and art
  • mindfulness practices, including meditation, as tools for self-improvement
  • modern expressionism and its influence on contemporary art
  • the process of habit formation and the challenge with routine establishment
  • the relationship between memory work and artistic expression
  • the role of the artist's ego in the creative process
  • the search for absolutes in an often relativistic society
  • transcending personal narrative to achieve a universal creative language


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