Art intersecting with spirituality

Fu Rong
To Ariel Fabian Lijtmaer, the practice of meditation didn't feel real until he accidentally had an experience in nature on a bridge.
Fu Rong

Podcast EP15

Art intersecting with spirituality
Ti Gong

Spring Awakening

To Ariel Fabian Lijtmaer, the practice of meditation didn't feel real until he accidentally had an experience in nature on a bridge.

"I felt myself becoming a note of vibration in time, and feeling my body melt away. That was a really powerful experience for me. That made me think meditation is a real tool," Lijtmaer said in a Zoom interview with Shanghai Daily.

He was just a beginner at the time.

"My first 10 times I was sitting there, trying to breath a little bit and nothing happened," he said. "But this time, I think being in nature and feeling like I'm sitting on a river made the whole situation different. Something happened internally, and that really woke me up to the power of meditation."

Lijtmaer was born in New York City in 1974 to Jewish parents from Argentina. He's curious about everything, especially the creative and spiritual path that made him what he is today: an artist, a story teller, a producer and an educator based in Los Angeles. From the snowy peaks of Nepal to the majestic coral reefs of northern Indonesia, he has traveled to more than 40 countries to widen his sphere of knowledge and enrich his understanding of the human spirit, helping him build systems of sustainability, creativity and wellness.

He started painting at the age of 8, and has a traditional painting background creating figurative art. For many years, he saw art as a way to create a safe space for himself. But as time passed, he started feeling trapped, always trying to create something specific.

"About 12 or 13 years ago, I started painting in a way to express my inner feelings, and I wasn't trying to create something specific anymore," Lijtmaer said. "I was just trying to make colors and movement – whatever felt right. And I started getting very interested in combining the breath, the movement of the breath with my brush stroke, and became more conscious of that."

It was during that time he fell in love with martial arts because of Bruce Lee.

"The movement of a sword and the movement of a brush are very connected," he said. "In the West, I think a man with a sword is often hard and straight. But in the East, there's generally a balance between, 'I'm a swordsman, I can focus energy that way, and I can also use that same energy to create,' which is really beautiful."

"Then my martial arts path, my meditation path and my art path all began to fuse together," he added.

Lijtmaer's artworks usually feature strong colors and movements. "My paintings are soul gateways in a style I call 'spiritual abstract expressionism'."

Art intersecting with spirituality

Ariel Fabian Lijtmaer in the flow of painting.

Q: How do you interpret the healing power of art for yourself and the general public?

A: As I mentioned, one of my goals is to use creativity in imagination as a platform to transform, evolve and heal. I feel like the arts have tremendous healing power. And I think everyone, even if you're not an amazing artist, anyone, just from playing with color and line, can explore some things that are happening internally that you can't access through other means. Art and music go beyond the conscious and tap into the subconscious mind. We can have an opportunity to evolve the subconscious and to heal a lot of things through the artistic creative process.

Q: What do you want the audience to get from your paintings?

A: I would love my audience to use each painting as a portal, as a doorway to step into their own soul, explore their own soul and subconscious. I try to create universal artwork, so anyone from any culture hopefully can look at my pieces and feel something immediately.

Most of my pieces have high energy, a lot of color and movement. Some of them are also very dark pieces that help us look into ancestral trauma.

Q: I think people have assumptions about spirituality. I would like to know what this means to you and how you use it in your work.

A: Spirituality for me is the exploration and evolution of the soul. I think it's the sensitivity and awareness that we all have, but there's something more out there, and maybe we don't understand it. But we're trying to tap into it in some way.

Spirituality and curiosity are linked, actually. Life can be very difficult, flat and dull if we don't have the right eyes with the right ears. But if we can become curious and get more and more curious about things, suddenly everything becomes much more interesting.

Q: Is it very difficult to cultivate relationships that you cannot see.

A: I think it's really important for us to build a practice, a morning practice. So usually, I need my morning practice to become fully awake, present and ready to greet the day – to move into the day with a spiritual consciousness and a spiritual shield. Also, I think movement is very important. Life is movement, life is alive.

And from the general lens, I think one way to do it is to go out in nature. Nature is also a bridge to higher consciousness. Nature is a such a gift that we often don't take advantage of.

Q: What are the benefits or the meaning of people living in this physical world in search of connections outside of ourselves?

A: I'll be really honest with this. There are some people who really are not interested in connecting to the spiritual world. They're also leading meaningful, very happy lives.

So I think for all the people who are dreaming and searching and looking, I think the spiritual path can provide a lot of energy and a reason to live. I think that provides a lifestyle that's more energetic, more curious and really invites more connection.

Art intersecting with spirituality

Mending Broken Vessels

Q: Why did you name your workshop Unbound Pictures?

A: Unbound means not limited by this reality. Unbound is another word for freedom. Unbound is infinite. Not stuck in the constraints of this world. Also the first U and P come together, it's UP.

This is the first part of our talk, if you like Lijtmaer's artworks, check his website:

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