My art has always been figurative.
For the most part It has concerned itself with
the extremes of the human condition
and its heightened emotional states;
fear, anxiety, despair ...awe, wonderment!

View Paintings

of my pre-digital period of 1975-95

Angst Art Arena
Virtual Gallery of intense iconography.
On-line since January 1997.

From the primordial slime to the abyss of cyber space
... and beyond.

Digital creations by:
David Stoeckel

Adelaide, South Australia.

David Stoeckel

Many of us have theorised about art; speculated about its origins, pondered its nature, and marvelled over its evolution and diversity. The following articles articulate aspects of art that I see as significant.

"How wonder works".
by Jesse Prinz
Professor of philosophy at the City University of New York.
21 June 2013

Extracts from his article:

Wonder is sometimes said to be a childish emotion, one that we grow out of. But that is surely wrong. As adults, we might experience it when gaping at grand vistas. I was dumbstruck when I first saw a sunset over the Serengeti. … But why? What purpose could this wide-eyed, slack-jawed feeling serve? It’s difficult to determine the biological function of any affect, but whatever it evolved for, wonder might be humanity’s most important emotion.

My favourite definition of wonder comes from the 18th-century Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith. He wrote that wonder arises "when something quite new and singular is presented… [and] memory cannot, from all its stores, cast up any image that nearly resembles this strange appearance’. Smith associated this quality of experience with a distinctive bodily feeling — "that staring, and sometimes that rolling of the eyes, that suspension of the breath, and that swelling of the heart’.

These bodily symptoms point to three dimensions that might in fact be essential components of wonder. The first is sensory: wondrous things engage our senses — we stare and widen our eyes. The second is cognitive: such things are perplexing because we cannot rely on past experience to comprehend them. This leads to a suspension of breath, akin to the freezing response that kicks in when we are startled: we gasp and say "Wow!’ Finally, wonder has a dimension that can be described as spiritual: we look upwards in veneration; hence Smith’s invocation of the swelling heart.

English contains many words related to this multifarious emotion. At the mild end of the spectrum, we talk about things being marvellous. More intense episodes might be described as stunning or astonishing. At the extreme, we find experiences of awe and the sublime. These terms seem to refer to the same affect at different levels of intensity, just as anger progresses from mild irritation to violent fury, and sadness ranges from wistfulness to abject despair.

Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, has found that awe, an intense form of wonder, makes people feel physically smaller than they are. It is no accident that places of worship often exaggerate these feelings. Temples have grand, looming columns, dazzling stained glass windows, vaulting ceilings, and intricately decorated surfaces. Rituals use song, dance, smell, and elaborate costumes to engage our senses in ways that are bewildering, overwhelming, and transcendent.

Wonder, then, unites science and religion, two of the greatest human institutions. Let’s bring in a third. Religion is the first context in which we find art. The Venus of Willendorf appears to be an idol, and animals on the walls of the Chauvet, Altamira and Lascaux caves are thought to have been used in shamanic rites, with participants travelling to imaginative netherworlds in trance-like states under the hypnotic flicker of torchlight. Up through the Renaissance, art primarily appeared in churches.
Atheist that I am, it took some time for me to realise that I am a spiritual person. I regularly go to museums to stand in mute reverence before the artworks that I admire. Recently, I have been conducting psychological studies with Angelika Seidel, my collaborator at the City University of New York (CUNY), to explore this kind of emotional spell.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke proclaimed: "beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror’. This link between art and fear relates to the spiritual dimension of wonder. Just as people report fear of God, great art can be overwhelming. It stops us in our tracks and demands worshipful attention.

Art, science and religion are inventions for feeding the appetite that wonder excites in us. Each engages our senses, elicits curiosity and instils reverence. They also become sources of wonder in their own right, generating epicycles of boundless creativity and enduring inquiry.

Awe, wonder, beauty ...and the sublime?
Found this 1757 treatise on aesthetics interesting ...
A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful ( 1757 ) by Edmund Burke.

To Burke, the beautiful and the sublime were mutually exclusive. The appreciation of a beautiful object inspires "sentiments of tenderness and affection'' ; it is a reasoned aesthetic response, characterised by "joy and pleasure'' . Conversely, to encounter the sublime is to lose all reason, and all joy. It is instead to experience "astonishment — that state of the soul in which the mind is so entirely filled with its object that it cannot entertain any other'' . An aesthetic response is effectively impossible, since the sublime is a source of such obliterating light or darkness that the object itself is removed, and we are moved instead to awed astonishment. #

# A sublime contagion
The Gothic is more than vampires and flying buttresses, burgundy lips and black lace: it is the thrill of transgression
by Sarah Perry

The sublime has a causal structure that is unlike that of beauty. Its formal cause is the passion of fear (especially the fear of death); the material cause is aspects of certain objects such as vastness, infinity, magnificence, etc.