Inner Visions, Reflections on the Tao

BY Millard Arnold, February 24 2016

The Photographic Art of Millard Arnold

We are surrounded by the beauty and complexity of nature in the simplest of things we see to the hidden geometry rich in vivid detail and color to which we often do not see.

In its seemingly random symmetry, nature offers a panoply of ideas, concepts, truths and emotions. It pulsates with rhythm and energy; a majestic vitality from which consciousness is drawn and from which life itself is manifested in a multitude of expression.

It is therefore through nature that we begin to comprehend the tranquility found in the Tao, the ancient philosophical thought of the Chinese. In his book the Tao Te Ching, Lao-Tzu writes: “Let go of all your assumptions and the world will make perfect sense.” It is a perception echoed by the great thinkers of our time. “Look deep into nature,” Albert Einstein has written, “and then you will understand everything better.”

The essence of Taoism is contained in the 81 chapters of the book and provides one of the major underlying influences in Chinese thought and culture. The Tao is the way humanity interacts with the natural course of the natural world. At its core, the Tao is about accepting “what is” — and accepting “what is”, is the lesson that nature so aptly teaches us as well.

And it is indeed, looking into nature which inspired this work: captured moments of reflection on the deeply extraordinary textures, shapes, dimensions and minutiae of the commonest of things around us. It is really about the Tao, whose principles we discover in the flow patterns of nature which is echoed in Inner Visions. The work itself is composed of 81 images which mirrors the 81 chapters of the Tao Te Ching with each image named to evidence a particular insight of the Tao and a particular perception of nature.

The challenge, of course, is how we perceive nature’s beauty. How we see and what we see are the consequence of well-established and unchallenged convention, a necessary convention born out of immediacy that ties us to the familiar, ties us to the what is. However, as John Jacques Croseau points out, “The world of reality has its limits, the world of imagination is boundless.” Equally as poignant, William Hazlitt notes, “We do not see nature with our eyes but with our understanding and our hearts” This work — “Inner Visions” — seeks to alter our perceptions of what we see and know by allowing mundane and ordinary subjects to become extraordinary with an imaginative shift in perspective. It flows from the heart and in so doing, transcends and releases a range of hidden ambiguities. If Ralph Waldo Emerson is correct in his assertion that “nature and books belong to the eyes that see them,” then “Inner Visions” showcases the tapestry of nature and its communication of the intangible. Commenting on the works, Rob Harris, author and renowned film publicist, found “Inner Visions” to be “about the fabric of the world around us, the hidden textures in nature. It’s about beauty in all its complexity…”

Just as nature expresses itself in a myriad of ways, so too does art. “Inner Visions” is photographic subjectivism. It is creatively complex, reflecting intellectual depth and emotional intensity. It is highly idiosyncratic but offers artistic and perhaps even endless interpretations of that which surrounds us. It seeks to harness creative efforts to a reliance on, and harmony with, nature. The visual rhythm of the work draws its inspiration from the environment transforming the vocabulary of how to define reality. Its aesthetic value changes the dynamics of one’s perspective by altering the obvious and revealing the infinite possibilities that lie beneath. The consequential effect is incredibly boundless in creative translation– it then becomes not what you see; but how you see it. Or as Einstein has more aptly stated, “the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

Although the work itself is firmly grounded in the school of abstract expressionism pioneered by the likes of Jackson Pollock, Mark Tobey and James Brooks, it nonetheless is radically different in that it seeks to blur the distinct between photography and abstract painting by marrying the clinical technology of photography with the emotionally spontaneity of painting. It seeks to find beauty in the quintessential elements such as line, shape, color, texture and composition. This focus on abstraction is of critical concern, because abstraction is the essence of substance.

Although it is about form, there is as well, a degree of lyrical abstraction in the interplay between the visual rendition of an image and the mental conceptualization necessary to transform the image into art. It is the poetry of movement caught in a cadence of rhythm and fluidity, and suspended by photography in time and space.

Nothing is more manifest than the hidden; nothing is more obvious than the unseen. Until the unseen, the unquestioned, is as obvious as the seen, only then can the fullness of what surrounds us be truly appreciated. As the Tao reminds us, the known and unknown; the seen and the unseen are but one and the same and only when their underlying oneness is understood is there balance, and through balance only then can there be inner harmony.

When we free ourselves of the mental constructs of reality, discard conventional thinking and liberate our own consciousness, the blinding kaleidoscope of a new and altogether exhilarating universe opens before us. In other words, as in the teachings of the Tao, if you let go of all of your assumptions, the world will make perfect sense…