link can be made between Stanley’s art and aspects of continental
of his time, such as that promoted by Heidegger and by the contemporary
philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941.) Although there seems no record
read their writings, the parallelism in so much of their creative
thinking suggests a close indirect influence, perhaps through the
general literary dissemination of their ideas in his day and its
effect from Stanley's conversations with friends.
In our movie - our expressed stream of consciousness - each frame must be relevant to the whole. Its attributes have to be accurately determined to begin with, and thereafter must remain unalterable. This is the source of Stanley's insistence that each of his concepts needed to be imaged accurately on canvas, and once formed, to remain unchanged - eternal. The recognition and gradual assembly of such eternal concepts into some kind of personal framework, however dimly glimpsed or expressed, becomes a further function of our intuitive thought and forms the fundamentals of metaphysical or spiritual or religious or artistic endeavour.
This accords well with the substance of Stanley’s visionary art in which, this website has argued, each painting was constructed to express a concept or 'message' but which, when assembled progressively with its followers (his 'pilgrimage'). would eventually lead him to understand the 'true' nature of reality (his 'Holy Grail') as represented by his church-house.
Since we are all confined within the limits of our experience, difficulty arises when we try to enter into the 'movies' of others, or to engage, as Stanley put it, in our prison-wall tapping. We are aware that we can never achieve understanding of the totality of someone-else's stream-of-consciousness, but if we are to take the first steps towards it (the beginning of love in Stanley's meaning) we need to glimpse at least something of the order of his or her 'movie' frames. To view a single 'frame' standing alone can offer only a muted comprehension, in the way a still picture from a movie gives only a glimpse of the whole. Artists through the centuries have devised what ways they can to make their 'movies' clear to the rest of us, but this website has drawn attention to Stanley's remarkable use of counterpoint in imagery (see fugue)
It is argued that in employing the device Stanley was not merely joining two frames together to increase their effectiveness, but was setting them together in such a way that from their conjoining a new concept emerged adumbrating the 'storyline' - the eternal theme - of his stream-of-consciousness. When we grasp a meaning to it we find satisfying, then we feel we are beginning to comprehend the whole he is trying to convey to us. Facing one of his pictures, we find ourselves as though temporarily in a cinema where he is the permanent projectionist, and as we watch the excerpt he happens to be screening, the 'unreality' of his projected imagery turns us inside out and becomes a moment of 'real' experience for us - 'truth'. We emerge from his cinema (pass on from his picture) into the real ('unreal') world of our own lives in a state of catharsis in which we are still in the unreal ('real') world of his 'movie'. He has temporarily 'taken us out of ourselves'. Of course, for most of us the moment of catharsis passes, although we can retain memories of its impact. But for Stanley it persisted as his 'up-in-heaven' - a vivid 'eternal'.
The other proposition in which Stanley's thinking seems to match Bergson’s was that if intuition were the discoverer of ‘truth‘, then it must play a significant part in the sphere of human creativity. In the Darwinian theory that all forms of life are motivated to adapt to existence in the most favourable way they can (their striving for perfection) Bergson saw intuition as a response specific to our human species. He labelled it the élan vital (translatable as ‘the creative impulse’) in days before the discovery of the structure of DNA opened up our knowledge of genetics and of the specific genes which facilitate the activity of our memes, the imitative processes which are being recognised as spurring the evolution of our species.
Bergson was perspicacious in concluding that the 'creative impulse' operated the expansion of our ability to form concepts faster than that of other creatures. All species are ingenious in their instinct for survival, and increasingly we are recognising the often unusual forms of awareness they use to achieve it. But only our own appears to have acquired the ability to filter creature instincts through the fine mental sieves of reason, experience and memory, permitting us to conceptualise beyond mere survival impulses. The ability certainly seems to have provided the 'switch' by which Stanley was able to lift himself from down-to-earth to up-in-heaven.If the impulse can be said to power our personal concepts, then it must also power our general concepts, seeing that personal concepts are shaped into general concepts when associated with those of our fellows with whose concepts we agree. The process provides our world-view, our life-frame. The new concepts become super-personal, and in need of a language to describe their global impact. Of the many terminologies invented to cope with the process - philosophy, psychology, neurology and so on - Stanley favoured the more abstract 'spiritual' language of religion or metaphysics, intuitive languages in which an individual heaven could transform into a Heaven, and a personal love into Love. In concentrating on the Christian form from early familiarity, he did not exclude the sympathetic concepts of the many other forms he came across in later life. But in his art, its familiarity served as a paradigm for him.
Perhaps an answer lies in the words of Graham Greene
: The truth is there is no
truth, but the mind persistently demands in a
story something it can recognise as the truth. Stanley's art, in
particular and in toto, is ultimately the telling of a story (a 'comfort-myth'
perhaps, most of us seem to need one) but one which in his case turns
reality as we think we
perceive it inside out, so that a 'down-to-earth' becomes an 'up
If we too can manage to turn our conventional concept of reality
then any 'funniness' we might think we see in Stanley's art disappears.
No longer does it smack of randomness, but on the contrary, in its accuracy it touches the deep
well-springs of our experience.