123 art magazine interview with Mathias Sager
(mathias sager – Psychology & Art)
Hello Mathias! Tell us a few words about yourself. What does a typical day look like? Do you do art, or is art just part of the picture?
Hello! Thank you very much for having me! I call myself an artist, although I’m a psychologist too. I’ve decided to work part-time to dedicate sufficient time to art, painting, and related writing. During my job in a youth home as a work/learning coach, I also enjoy introducing and motivating young people to the unlimited possibilities of art, insight, and experience that I consider essential for personal development. In everyday life in my residential studio, I can’t wait to get up and immerse myself in the inspiring environment of finished and works in progress, their forms, colors, and meaning. This doesn’t necessarily mean early mornings, as I often paint deep into the night, following intuition and inspiration as they come and flow. That way, art is always present in my daily life as a means of self-expression and empowering others.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?
Yes. The pivotal point was when I was driving by a little homeless girl in the streets of Mumbai, India, during a business trip. The girl was about the same age as my daughter. As we looked each other in the eyes, I could no longer stand my relatively ignorant and wasteful lifestyle as a businessman. Instead, I felt to have to dedicate my life to more meaningful activities. A bit later, I lost my daughter through gatekeeping and parental alienation, representing a loss that couldn’t be worse. This cemented my pursuit of creating (painting and writing) for a more just and peaceful world. I could later travel to India again as a psychologist and artist on a social mission. Art is a means to stay connected with my beloved daughter, the street girl in Mumbai, and all humanity. I feel satisfyingly obliged to do what I do, I see meaning in it, and it makes me happy that art always offers new opportunities to learn and teach. In this sense, it was not a decision in the sense of a career decision to become a painter but a logical and constantly evolving consequence of cultivating the belief in the necessity and possibility of visualizing the invisible and being able to manifest positive changes. After more than seven years of consistent and dedicated work, I think a professional artist’s identity has started to crystallize in a way that hopefully helps my mission going forward too.
Tell us about your artwork, medium, style, subject matter, etc.
The outer world can be photographed; I have to paint the inner world. I’m capturing inner pictures and dream- and vision-like forms and ambiances that often seem to lack precision, although they are worked out into details just enough to hint at what could be meant. Acrylic paints are my medium of choice, allowing me to overpaint and layer quicker to get rough surfaces and create structures. I like to use brushes and press, scratch, grind, and polish with objects like sticks, sculpting toys, sponges, and whatever I find in my atelier. Harmonic expression through appealing forms, their distribution, and intense coloring is essential to me, as is the choice of diverse formats to capture this aesthetic. Human contours often appear in my art, sometimes even emerging unexpectedly during the process. This isn’t surprising, though, as my psychology and art always revolve around developing human potential.
You’ve lived in Tokyo and also in Pune/India. How much do travel and different cultures influence your art?
After permanently leaving my home country for so many years, I had consciously and unconsciously forgotten my social identity. I recognized the random and relative nature of the particular cultures we were born into. A more global mindset than ever has certainly contributed to a diversity of my thinking and, consequently, to subjects and painting styles. From a technical point of view, learning to write Japanese characters has influenced my love for characters and shapes. Since Kanjis are often pictographic representations of objects and meanings, they have further inspired and trained my sense of symbolism. From India, I deeply love earthy and bright colors; I think spices, textiles, and landscapes.
You say psychology and art belong together. Tell me more about that connection and your process of making an artwork.
For me, art situates between science and intuition, intellect and emotion. Mostly, my creations start with thought patterns that arise from (self-)reflection. I visually process these into a piece of art, and eventually, I become the work’s emotionally reacting and revising spectator. The purpose of my psychology is less the pursuit of a conventional notion of happiness than the one of a more profound sense of meaning. That is why the fascination of ingenuity beyond mere “decorative” beauty is important to me. Art helps me clarify and imagine a meaningfully courageous world of social criticism and renewal to find the true self, unconditional love, and connection with humanity. I hope to inspire many more by combining psycho-philosophical texts with paintings for individual well-being and the common good.
Which artist of the past would you most like to meet, and why?
I enjoy the works and admire the lives of many past and present artists, but I refuse to be influenced by others; it would be contradictory to the unlearning of social conditioning that I promote. I want to show my true self, not my educated self. I want to be universally human and not a disciple of any particular doctrine. Many artists I’d be most interested in possibly didn’t become famous enough to be discoverable. At the same time, I’m not sure if it is always a good sign for famous artists to have been selected to fit into the history books of wars, humanitarian crises, and ongoing environmental degradation. While I’m optimistic regarding human potential, it often appears that the world hasn’t become healthier, happier, and more peaceful. I’d like to meet future artists who contribute to a revamp of capitalism and increase awareness of true humanism. Nevertheless, if I could go back and meet an artist of the past, I would meet somebody like the young artist Adolf Hitler and try to help him through the difficult times of his ruined dream to become a professional artist as he saw it after repeated rejection by modern art institutions. As a result, he lived in frustration and self-doubt out of the need to survive as an artist in cheap apartments and even homeless shelters. Suppose he had felt worthy, accepted, and capable despite the rejection of others. In that case, he may have continued to paint Mother Mary with the Holy Child, quiet houses on lakes with mountains, and seek peaceful creativity instead of following destructive external power and confirmation as the dictator of the Nazi regime.
Share some interesting facts about your art with us.
FOR EXAMPLE, as I do with Zen Shiatsu massages, energy is put into the work. That’s why the originality of every piece is important to me. Every painting contains a spirit. Interestingly, people who acquired my paintings often stay in contact with me, and as they travel, the artworks travel with them, and the positive energy expands too.
Could you expand on your concept of ‘Awareness Intelligence’?
Today’s scientific and popular notion of social intelligence is still limited to “me” and “we.” As I published in my psychology dissertation, I’ve systematically added the extra-personal level of ‘they, all humanity’ to a coherent framework combining all social/human connectedness levels to all modes of time (the past, present, and future). The socio-temporal spot(s) our thinking mostly orients towards creating our worldview with significant psychological and behavioral implications. Most of today’s problems stem from a lack of awareness about the extra-future, i.e., the consistent thinking about how we connect to all humanity and the future. This may sound logical and easy; however, truly making the extra-personal future into one’s purposeful identity requires the ability to abandon much of the desire for (material) security, give up the need for approval from others, and radically accept our very own mortality, respectively, our true essence that is the soul. More detailed explanations and illustrations about the concept, applications, and benefits of Awareness Intelligence can be found on my blog, www.mathias-sager.com.
Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about?
Art is inherent to the services I offer as a psychologist and vice versa. I always welcome people in my atelier for self-reflection and painting experiences. In terms of shows and projects, I’m currently preparing for a contribution to the book ‘Artists Anthology. Contemporary Art 2021: Madrid Edition.’ which will be presented at the Fine Arts Circle in Madrid to clients, artists, art galleries, and cultural institutions on October 15th, 2021. Copies of the ISBN-registered book will be deposited in the National Library of Spain. Also, I got invited to exhibit chosen works at the ‘M.A.D.S. contemporary physical gallery’ in Milano in February/March (on the topic of ‘Gaia’), including a multimedia setup, digital channels, live streaming, and reportage with critical reviews and catalog of the exhibition.
Do you see your art as serving a purpose beyond art?
Absolutely, as it hopefully became evident from my previous answers. Art is the most serious thing in the world, albeit business is often seen as such. As I understand it, art is about finding the true meaning of life and a deeper sense of existence, exploring nature’s true and visible beauty, uncovering hidden potential, and imagining ill-considered possibilities. Suddenly, not the overarching relevance of art but the ‘scarce resources’ game of (commercial) institutions appears to be trivial. It was never organizations that really started to change the world for the better, but rather individuals who bravely and artfully came forward to question the current state of affairs.
What are you currently working on, and what is next for you?
I’m working on becoming stronger, more self-sufficient, and radiating the change I want to see as a role model myself. On that journey, I’ve experienced that inspiration never fails to show up precisely at the right moment. Therefore, I haven’t planned anything other than staying dedicated, listening/watching, and expressing what’s showing up inside my art. I know exactly my direction towards making a significant difference for a healthier and more peaceful world (individually and collectively), but not the exact path leading there. I trust that the dots will connect at some point going forward, be it during or after my lifetime.