“I am an electric fish that swims between the cold current of art and the hot current of science. When raw and sparkling new ideas appear I electrocute them then eat them. My historic mission is to provide hallucinatory and liquid images straight from the digital renaissance, with the magical power of Artificial Neural Networks. It is time for clear-headed and gleaming art based on the sublime breakthroughs of AI and Neuroscience,” writes Paul Meillon, a Montréal-based painter who calls himself a “techno-mystical” artist.
Paul’s colourful psychedelic artwork explores self-transcendence, an expansion of consciousness and the connectedness of all things. He says, “I try to imagine art at the end of time, ignoring the historical moment, in order to provide imagery that opens and broadens the mind. To do this, I imagine I am granted the “cosmic eye” by Krishna, that can peer into the planetary connectedness of humanity. In the Mahabharata, Arjuna has to lead his troops into battle, and losing his nerve to fight asks Krishna for the ‘cosmic eye’ to be able to see his duty, and the inner workings of the universe. His wish is granted, and he has what we could call a psychotic break: he sees gods, celestial bodies, and the infinity of time and space, and is completely overwhelmed. He has goose bumps, and is disoriented and cannot describe or even understand the wonders he is beholding. ‘Things never seen before I have seen, and ecstatic in my joy, yet fear and trembling perturb my mind.’ He prostrates himself before Krishna and asks for forbearance, and hears his lord’s command: ‘Do works for Me, make Me your highest goal, by loyal-in-love to Me, cut off all other attachments.'”
It is the same awe to which Paul wishes to ascribe a visual vocabulary. He uses a radiant, multi-hued language wherein shapes flow and merge into each other. “I try to capture the light of the mystery of being, where the liquid and globular visions metaphorically represent human interconnectedness,” he explains, “which leads to an opening and broadening of the mind. I use bright, salient colors, similar to those found in the Canadian landscape, or a buffet of fruits, probably because unconsciously I want to eat my art. The base images can seen as ordinary or routine, a face or a couple, and are transformed into a profound revelation, where causal connections of seemingly remote causes can suddenly be precipitated.”
On his intention and objective, he comments: “If I can trigger feelings of admiration and elevation, to expand just for a nanosecond someone’s scope and attention in the moment, then maybe I can help restore a more benevolent vision of the world.” Adding: “Marcel Duchamp once said that the objective of art is to make the viewer drop dead. I, on the other hand, being for life and the uplifting power of art, strongly disagree with him. I think the best art should make the viewer ‘drop fainted’ in that particular illness called Stendhal Syndrome, where the overwhelming significance of the art makes the unfortunate person pass out.”
Stendahl Syndrome is named after the French writer Stendahl, born Marie-Henri Beyle (1783-1842), who was overwhelmed when he visited the Basilica of Santa Croce (where Niccolò Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Galileo Galilei are buried) in Florence in 1817. In his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio, he described the emotion that had filled him upon seeing the frescoes of the painter Giotto for the first time:
I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence, close to the great men whose tombs I had seen. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty… I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations… Everything spoke so vividly to my soul. Ah, if I could only forget. I had palpitations of the heart, what in Berlin they call ‘nerves.’ Life was drained from me. I walked with the fear of falling.