Lucid: John Inglis

A lucid state is the awareness of a subjective experience, often associated with dreams. In a lucid dream-state a person has both an awareness of being in a dream, and of the dream environment. This awareness allows the dreamer to manipulate the dream through memory, comprehension, focus and decision-making. The subjective state of a dreamer stems from a single point-of-view. This singular perspective implies a cognitive closure confined to the dreamer’s mind and the individual’s mental and physical state. The findings of cognitive closure hypothesizes that cognitive limitations prevent us from solving perennial philosophical problems of which we possess an intrinsic lucid awareness.

What are humanities perennial philosophical problems? They are the questions each and every one of us has pondered at some point in our lives. They are questions pertaining to why we exist, the meaning of life, free will, knowledge, and body/mind interaction. 

John N. Inglis, Ontario College of Art (OCA) alumnus and retired faculty member has explored one perennial problem over a career span of 62 years. He has pursued a quest for meaning in a postmodern world of radical cultural change. His book, In Quest of a Countenance: A Search for Meaning in a world in Transition(2010) gives testimony to this quest.

Without any knowledge of Inglis’ transpersonal search, there is an a priori understanding of the spiritual essence that permeates each painting in the book. It is translated through the vibrating spectral auras and organic curves that give a feeling of motion to images that function as metaphors illustrating an internal, subjective journey. 

Central to each scene is a diminutive figure that Inglis calls “Little Face.” This genderless minute figure is described as: “…an embryonic thought-form that gathers sustenance from dreams of the natural environment …,” while awaiting a fundamentally new form of visionary synthesis that resolves the transitory contemporary cultural milieu in its unresolved relativistic aspect.

Water in its various forms can be found in many of Inglis’ paintings. Whether it is depicted as a lake, a river, clouds, or ice crystals, it serves as a signifier for primordial origins, and a setting for deep psychic diving. In the natural order, it is one of the essential prerequisites for life on planet earth. When it is employed as a symbol in a work of art, it is malleable to many references. 

A bridge or a vessel of transportation such as a canoe, is often present in his compositions. The provision of these transversing mediums for Little Face is a symbolic indicator for movement, passage and connectivity. In other paintings, a sunrise celebrates a new day of enlightenment. Freedom soars on the wings of awareness. Fish flash as wondrous denizens of the deep, and fireflies echo the Milky Way in a renewed declaration of the hermetic theme “As Above, So Below.” Punctuating many of Inglis’ pictorial environments include stylized cedar or cypress trees which stand as towering sentinels on the path of internal journeying.  

Inglis has provided a catalogue titled: Postcards from the Psyche: Images from an Interior Source for his 2014 solo exhibition of 20 watercolours at the Yellow House Gallery. As individual pieces, these paintings may indeed be referred to as postcards from Little Face’s life-long journey. In each postcard, Little Face follows a path, usually a clearly defined one at that. This path may take place across a meadow, through a forest, or among the stars. But there is always a feeling of acquiescent destiny. 

After spending time among this body of work, a question presents itself. As a collective whole, is each figurative turn in the path part of a labyrinth? A labyrinth is a single yet elaborate path with many twists and turns that, if the way through it is found, can take one to the centre. In spiritual terms, a labyrinth is a symbol of the Sacredness of all Life. The entrance is birth and in the centre an encounter with the Great Face of God can take place. If one attains the centre, one would be cleansed of the dust from the journey’s road and born anew, nourished by an infinity of possibilities.

The fact that we find ourselves amidst infinite reflection when we recall the source of these postcards, we realize that it resides in John Inglis himself. Over half a century, Inglis has meticulously fashioned his expert style and unique form of expression. Through experimentation and practice of time intensive layering, the use of masking fluid and airbrush, he has achieved hyper spectrum worlds. It is this technique in combination with transpersonal themes that defines his paintings as fine art and makes him a lucid traveller. 

When I met John Inglis, I was instantly attracted to his fresh vitality. His verve was mysteriously compelling. It left me wanting to know his secret. Now I realize it never was much of a secret at all. Hiding in plain sight among his postcards he tells us. He has been well nourished by his subjective attunement with the natural environment.    

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