Spirituality In Paint: Cryptik On Scope Miami Beach and the Art of Sacred Science
"Creating art is my way of making the invisible visible."
All images courtesy of Inner State and 1xRUN
Cryptik creates from a palette of wonder, where all science, math, and true art spring from equal mystery. His is a clear-eyed art practice of more questions asked than answered. The Southern Californian creative’s intricate, almost trance-inducing works—be they on mammoth walls, slap stickers, or hanging in galleries—find voice in images of spiritual universality. By his hand, Eastern philosophical thought and mantras hypnotically merge with the black letter bombing of cholo writing. The ancient and the sacred marry in a modern quest—through art—for conscious awakening and awareness.
Straying far from the pitfalls of the cult of personality, preferring that the focus be kept on the work and his public ‘Cryptik Movement’ aimed at prompting a greater global shift in mindfulness, Cryptik finds himself, for the second year running, among the hubbub of Art Week Miami. He will return again to Wynwood Walls to share his mediative vision, but will also have a new collection on view with Inner State at Scope’s Miami Beach Art Fair; his cosmic diagrams Mantradalas will be showing at the Detroit gallery’s booth alongside work by the legendary Doze Green.
We shared a recent chat with the Los Angeles-based calligrapher and muralist to learn more. Ever on the humble, Cryptik talked how he tunes out to truly tune in and why every brushstroke is a mediation in itself.
Mass Appeal: In the excess and tumult of Art Week Miami and 24-hour caviar delivery services, how do you stay in tune with truth and purpose and tune out the overwhelming spectacle of it all?
Cryptik: I’m not too concerned with the spectacle of it all since I don’t really get involved. For me, it’s about having the opportunity to share my work with so many people that I would never be able to reach otherwise. I just try to create work that’s honest, and hopefully people can feel that.
What have you learned from your previous experiences there?
As you said, it is quite a spectacle and can definitely be overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to paint a wall, so I’m just going to try my best to tune out all the madness and focus on finishing my wall. It’s also amazing to meet so many people from all over the world who are genuinely excited to see art, which gives me more of a reason to give it my all.
Likely, you’ll be a rare bird as someone taking part who doesn’t get drunk on self promotion.
I think it works for some people, but I would prefer to let the art speak for itself, without the need to attach a personality to it. Because my work can be viewed as ‘spiritual’ in nature, it would defeat the whole purpose if I were to let my ego run wild. Besides, it’s just not in me. I don’t even enjoy celebrating my own birthday, so you can see how uncomfortable that type of attention would make me. The most important thing for me is to get my message across, and I just don’t want to get in the way of that.
What are you looking forward to most about being in Miami?
I’m actually excited to see a lot of my international pals, who I rarely get to see, so it’ll be a little reunion of sorts. I’m also looking forward to meeting some cats that I’m a big fan of and seeing all the new work that goes up.
How stoked are you to show with Doze Green?
I’m pretty speechless. Doze is a LEGEND and I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time, so it’s beyond an honor for me to have this opportunity. His generation really paved the way for artists like myself today, not to mention his B-boy influence, so i’m just grateful that he would be kind enough to share some of his light.
Can you share details of the work that you will have on view with Inner State Gallery at Scope Miami Beach?
The collection of works that I’ll be sharing with Inner State is titled Mantradalas, which is an exploration of how art can be used as a tool for meditation, introspection, and trance induction. Each piece has been adorned with sacred mantras and prayers in hopes of bringing blessings and positive karma to all who view it. Simply, the Mantradalas are cosmic diagrams that remind us of our relation to the infinite and serves as a gateway to a world that extends beyond our material reality. Inspired by the ‘Sacred Science’ of the ancient Egyptians, as well as the practice and creation of Tibetan sand mandalas, this collection hopes to reflect the long forgotten wisdom of our ancestors.
How and when did you come to your own awakening? What prompted you to then manifest and share it as a public movement?
It’s hard to say when or how I actually began my journey of awakening, but I know that it wasn’t any one particular moment or event that’s lead me down this path. For me, it’s been a continual process of learning from my mistakes and trying to be a better human being each day, so I’m far from being “enlightened.” Also, I think I’ve always just been a curious person, never satisfied with the answers I received about how the world works. My intuition has been my guide, and it has taken me on an amazing journey so far. The ‘Cryptik Movement’ gave me the opportunity to tell this story and to create something bigger than myself. It’s a refuge for wisdom seekers and astral travelers, and people who are simply searching for answers to the same kinds of questions that I’ve been asking my whole life.
Which came first for you, art or spirituality? Is there any distinction between the two for you?
I would say that art definitely came first, but nowadays it’s hard to make any distinction between the two with the type of work that I’m doing. Creating art is my way of making the invisible visible. Words don’t exist to describe the worlds that exist in our own minds. But art, music, and math seem to come closest to describing the ineffable nature of God.
What are the roots of your signature calligraphy? It’s like this dope mashup of the ancient with almost flecks of cholo writing. Have you formally study ancient scripts?
You nailed it. It’s a combination of the most ancient scripts including Sanskrit, Hebrew, Arabic, and Devanagari, combined with gangster handstyles—my first love. I realized that many of these ancient scripts shared similarities in form, so it made me wonder if they could have all come from the same source; perhaps if language was handed down to man. I’m trying to imagine what this language, ‘the Script of the Gods,’ might have looked like.
Does your art practice and the very act of creation itself support and inform your continuing exploration of different philosophies and teachings?
Definitely, but a lot of it comes from trying to stay mindful while painting 16 hours a day. Each piece has really become a meditation in itself, and I’m constantly challenging myself and growing slowly with each new painting. It’s important for me that I’m in the right head-space when creating a piece because I think people can feel it in the work if it’s created without the right intentions in mind. I’m always looking for new ways and techniques to help me get to that place where I can reach my fullest potential.
I often think of that Alan Watts quote when experiencing your work: “Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.” In the same sense, with the work, by creating the work, you’re just peeling potatoes.
That’s exactly it. I would have to say that my philosophy on art is much like that of Tibetan Thangka painters, where the power lies in the art, not the artist. The artist merely serves as a vessel in the creation of the Sacred works, which is how I’ve always felt. I have no attachment to the work that I do after it’s completed, but hope that it can help others in some way.
When you see, hear, experience strife and inhumanity in the world, does it only reconfirm your mission to serve as a catalyst for a shift in consciousness on a global scale? Does the movement’s aim grow even more intense in light of current world events?
It most certainly does, but it’s important for people to realize that real change can only come from within. It’s not about participating in the spectacle of society or playing the role that’s expected of you. In the famous words of Alfred Korzybski, “The map is not the territory,” which is to say that we shouldn’t confuse the map or model of reality with reality itself. We have the power to envision a world that views all life on this planet as sacred and intimately connected. When you see through the illusion of separation, you see everything as God—people, plants, animals, the mountains, the sun, etc. There has to be a balancing of heart and mind, spirituality and science, knowledge and intuition when thinking about the challenges we face in modern times. We’re at a very critical juncture in our evolution, so there’s obviously a sense of urgency for everyone on this planet.
Where would you guide someone who has become newly interested in expanding their spiritual consciousness to begin?
I’m no guru or teacher by any means, but the only advice I can give is what I’ve learned through my own experience, which is to follow your intuition. Your higher-self is your best teacher, you just have to learn how to listen. Spirituality isn’t something esoteric where you have to renounce all worldly possessions in order to gain some sort of higher power. It’s something you put into practice every moment of your life, to be a better person than you were the day before. Personally, I’ve found meditation to be a very powerful tool for understanding the nature of the mind, which is the root of all human suffering. It is something that anyone can benefit from, regardless of their faith, and definitely a great place to start.
Art Week Miami runs from December 1-6, 2015. Inner State Gallery’s Scope Exhibition is located at Booth C03 (801 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach).