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An Integral Art Practice: Abstraction as Carnation

In 2008 Finnish artist and hypnotherapist Vesa Kivinen “developed a form of mixed media art called Artevo (Art Evolving) which involves body‐painting, traditional painting, photography and image manipulation…. The Artevo process also involves a potentially cathartic process for the model through NLP practices, which blended with philosophy absorbed from inspirational thinkers to then become the final pieces of art” (from Artist’s Biography). On the integral pragmatics of these works of art, especially the recent Artevo / Veena Malik project (which was viewed by as many as a 300 million people), as well as the discussion by the artist himself in the adjacent Artist Statement. Here we shall focus on the integral semiotics of these artworks in pointing to their stunning integral brilliance (for integral pragmatics and integral semiotics of artworks, see Looking at the Overlooked).

Kivinen’s art is amongst the most integrally advanced in the history of Western abstraction – no small claim, but one backed up by the works themselves. Complex multi-dimensional spaces (which are post-cubist hence second tier or higher in altitude in their modeling of perspective complexity); dynamic open orders (that dance, sing, and play); a glorious chaordic fecundity (that sense of creativity-in-reserve in the more of becoming); the micro, meso and macro structuring of forms (as holarchical nests and nomadic flights of exuberance); endlessly inventive painterly marks, brushwork, and surface textures (renewing the singularities of attentive aesthetic perception); varying color chords (ranging from an earthy-sobriety to the ecstatic) —  are all elements within his oeuvre that are re-configured each time anew, generating through various media strategies glorious worlds of integral art.

Rather than abstraction as a fleeing from life, his works are a diving into the incarnate mystery of human being — direct celebrations of the fullness of Life. Some works incorporate pictorial bodies wider abstract symphonies; others, as with the Artevo / Veena Malik project, incorporate actual bodies (in this case, a world-famous Bollywood star) into the multi-media project directly. According to the artist (as shared during a rich email exchange), the process is pretty much as follows:

  1. I get to know the person and understand what kind of challenges and views on the world they have
  2. I feel how that reflects on me personally and the things influencing me at that time
  3. When we start the process its about getting the person to feel what we have planned to do with space for the spontaneous to happen
  4. I body-paint the model and photograph the process. While we do it Neuro Linguistic Programming is a part of the process to achieve what we set out to do holistically
  5. I oil paint and photograph the process (this can happen before and/or after the session with the model)
  6. Usually using photos of the model, paintings, nature photography etc I then put it all together in photoshop
  7. The finished piece/pieces are then high end printed on to around 150x100cm proofs, which are signed and numbered. Each sold consecutive print is slightly different from the last.
  8. They are then sold under an innovative pricing system described here:
  9. When working with famous people like Veena, a large part of the income is then donated to a good cause. In Veena’s case 20% goes to global this clear water project:”

These are remarkable and singular instances of integral art — and especially of an innovative integral art practice — celebrating the gift of incarnation (gross and subtle), abstraction the potent and primary means of artistic expression.

Michael Schwartz
March 2014

From the artist:

In addition to the selection presented here I want to call attention to my most recent project.

Especially after some recent events, nothing makes me more thrilled than to be able to present my latest project and some prior works to the integral community. In August 2013, for the first time my work received much more than a national audience. A cautious estimate by a journalist was at least 300 million people worldwide saw the Artevo / Veena Malik project. This feels quite dizzying to a person who comes from a country of 5 million people. It had just the right collaborator, a well known Pakistani born Muslim Bollywood actress, who agreed to wear nothing but paint for our joint venture and was willing to drop more than her clothes. She dropped her safely guarded public personality and really allowed a view to who she was as an unshielded human. She already had two Fatwas and had felt as if she had been crucified by her own people due to an Indian Big Brother appearance and a TV interview that followed it. She was being criticised by millions of people for her so called bad behaviour of kissing someone. Pakistan does not hold the most prestige for women’s rights in the eyes of the international community so it was an interesting starting point for us. All this was very fertile ground for me to bring forward her personal story, as well as connecting my artistic point of view to the works of Ken Wilber, David Deida, John Anthony West and Alan Watts. There are many others who were of influence for this project but these four in particular deserve mentioning and have my deepest gratitude. The 2-year intense research period for this project, as well as thousands of hours of recorded material, included travelling to Egypt, Mexico and NY for a couple of months. My search was to find the substance to be able to melt together in an artistic effort the idea of the potential common origin of all religion. For the longest time it had been my biggest frustration, that seemingly from an outsiders perspective, much of our world religions are at war with each other and their own supporters, about which one of them is more peaceful. Out of the incalculable things that seem upside down here, this was ground zero for me. Turns out that irritation and good guidance can be a very effective combination as a creative force.

The main piece “A Flower of Life” holds within the coming together of the scientific and spiritual experience through a symbol, which has been discovered all over the globe in ancient structures, our four major patriarchal religions as well as the older earth religions. It holds the symbol of the feminine inside the symbol of the masculine, which will be presented inside a pyramid shaped structure in the final installation. More than anything though, it holds in expression a kind of rebellion to the compulsive compartmentalisation of the mind, which can only originate from the heart. Its that something that happens, when a human feels the fear and does what they feel is right anyway. Much like the first images of the earth from space, this piece is asking for a view of our world to be absorbed holistically, so that despite the tradition the viewer is born and educated in, the viewer would attempt to incorporate, instead of exclude the other points of view; Even if it is for a moment. It is a simple fact that each of those views and attitudes are here for a reason and all of them have something to contribute. This work is an effort to make something that blends together our shared traditional symbols & ideology into an inspirational visual map. It is not the territory but it has the levels, lines and quadrants working seamlessly together. It feels like a personal success as my ground zero has been transformed to a sense of belonging. In case you would like a more in depth analysis as to what the piece witholds and the other works, please listen to the LuvAsia radio interview on the Veena Malik project page.

The whole thing was a true underdog project from the start. My prior 9 months before contacting Veena were spent with a dislocated disk in my back that led, through a freak accident, to severe pneumonia to my lungs and a 3-week trip to the intensive care and recovery. At that time I was taking 5 different types of pain medication and a doctor said I had 3 hours of breathing time left before coming to the hospital. After coming out of the hospital I sent an email to Veena’s management suggesting a collaboration and then flew to London discuss details with her from Helsinki and then back to the hospital to get my back operated on. My entrepreneurial funds had depleted to the minus due to being ill and there was no official support for the project. Putting the details together into a working combo required some leaps of faith from all involved. We both also feared for our lives before we published the works as, despite our good intentions, we had no idea how people were going to react to them. Veena had already survived an attempt on her life in Pakistan with two oil trucks that appeared out of nowhere on a highway and had been exiled for a year and a half before we even met so the danger felt very real. Good vibes were on our side and our core trust was not misplaced in people feeling that this project was made out of respect and a deep felt wish for global common ground.

What makes it particularly exciting to present this now to the integral community is that excluding one UK based radio station, not a single newspaper, art critic, TV station or web based media presented nor analyzed the actual substance of these art pieces although it was readily available. Despite the works being almost unilaterally liked for their aesthetics and mood, those are the mere surface of what this whole project is really about. Makes me wonder how many stories like this twerking drowns a year. However it feels to me, as if it is going round a full circle now returning to be viewed by the people of the institute, from which a large part of the concept was drawn from. We had a press conference in London in August 2013 but are yet to hold an actual exhibition for them. We are hoping to secure the resources needed soon in order to travel to India and first have a show here in Helsinki. It really is a global project so we hope to be travelling with the works all over and bring the message across. Co-existence has been what people have called utopia for a very long time. Our project is about that potentially insignificant but possibly substantial something individuals can contribute to the cause of peace no matter what the circumstances are.

Vesa Kivinen

Vesa Kivinen

About Vesa Kivinen

Vesa Kivinen, born 1978, started his career as a filmmaker and a photographer in 1999. He got educated as a director in the UK and has been working with both disciplines internationally since through his own company. In 2008 he developed a form of mixed media art called Artevo (Art Evolving) which involves body-painting, traditional painting, photography and im