What follows is an excerpt of an article by Gareth Jenkins, published in the very first issue of ‘Elsewhere – The International Journal of Self-Taught and Outsider Art‘, featuring the work of Anthony Mannix and focusing on the notions of the erotic in his drawings.
“Anthony Mannix (b. 1953) is one of Australia’s best known Outsider Artists. Since the early 1980s he has created paintings, drawings, sculptures, sound recordings, artist’s books and an eclectic range of Outsider writing. Centrally his work is shaped and fuelled by his repeated experience of psychotic episodes2; a state that he believes affords him access to the ‘places’ of his unconscious. Mannix’s psychotic episodes are often highly erotic in nature and the unconscious landscapes he explores are dominated by occult erotic happenings and images.
This article focuses primarily on works within his artist’s books, discussing the manner in which they express textually and pictorially the artist’s notions of the erotic.
For Mannix, erotic physicality, particularly during psychosis, is a conduit to mystical states of unconscious eroticism. In such a formulation metaphorical erotic states materialise for him, becoming places and landscapes through which he can travel. It is within these lived metaphorical landscapes (lived-metaphors)3 that Mannix feels able to access shamanic, alchemical and occult powers:
Its a strange game Romance – you play and gamble with gold coin of the most valu able kind, and of magical nature. Its that love-making will eventually change and become the wildest shaminism. The erotic is the place where things are done. If there is any such thing as alchemy then it lies here. Some places defy also description. I remember having the door to my room kicked in with an untoward violence; eroticism is like this with one thing, amidst the brokenness is an aura of pleasure that is solid and when one notices further a beast of every other colour made up of every other beast stands at the threshold with mercurial and sulphuresent eyes. The room SEEMS to be exploding with ignited phosphorus.
In Mannix’s worldview, eroticism offers power, but it is also a powerful autonomous force in its own right. For him, it conflates pleasure, violence and violation in an act that moves beyond the rational into an alchemical zone of unconscious construction. He describes this act of creating places in the unconscious as “the art of schizophrenia”, or “mental sculpture”, thus linking the practice to artistic creation.
Extending the analogy with art-making Mannix describes the unconscious as a medium with which to build, possessing its own inherent challenges, as would the artistic media of wood, oil paint or bronze. He writes:
Since 1989 i have been in a fanatical study of chaos. sexuality and the esoteric so much so that i colonised part of the unconscious and built there. it is a strange medium to work in this unconscious
for changes there mean remarkable change and alteration in your day to day conscious your action and ultimately your being.
The building that occurs within the unconscious also affects consciousness and the experience of daily life; so too the art-making conducted by Mannix can be harnessed to generate change within the psychic realm – the physical and mental becoming synonymous in lived-metaphor. The practice of Mannix’s art, then, both documents and constructs the erotic landscapes of the unconscious through which he travels. The central link between documentary art making, the erotic and the unconscious is made explicit in the following: “After almost twenty years of exploring the Unconscious and ten documenting it in what is currently known as Art Brut, i have come to the conclusion that we live an erotic life in our unconscious”. Mannix channels the energies of the body’s eroticism into his artwork, in part, to actually access and construct those erotic realms of the unconscious that he is simultaneously exploring. In this way the erotic energy of the body impacts on the material of his craft to facilitate the birth of a libidinal lived-metaphor that the artist comes to inhabit.”
pages 40 to 65. continue reading here