Michael's commentary from the "Layering Mystery" feature on Integral Life Art Galleries 2012

"As an art form, painting has the potential to engage both artist and audience on multiple levels at once. I think a great painting is one that goes beyond the ordinary in each of these layers. With apologies to deconstructionists and abstractionists everywhere, for me this is particularly true of representational painting. The simple reason being that it contains within it more layers than abstraction. Everything that is "in" an abstract painting is present within a representational piece, but not vice-versa.

The first and often most powerful level that lights up in the viewer is what you might call the "WOW" factor. The immediate aesthetic apprehension of the piece that arrests the attention. It is the part that transcends words and analysis. Really, if you don't hit this one...what's the point?

The next layer that impresses itself upon the viewer is usually the "meaning" of the piece. This depends on the ability of the painter to convey his concept or idea effectively so that it resonates broadly in the minds of viewers. It's the "Hey, that's clever" moment.

The next level of depth that may reveal itself to the viewer is the skill with which the painter manipulates the physical materials themselves. Mastery of this level can range from the sublime handling of colour and light of Caravaggio to the sumptuous gobs of Van Gogh's frenetic expression frozen forever in time and colour. It's the "I can't believe someone can do that"-ness of a painting. It can be alienating to many people when this level is so often dismissed by a post-modern art elite who emphasize concept or expression sometimes to the exclusion of skill or technique.

In general, I would say these are the layers that are present in a great painting. From "WOW" to "we get it" to "how did he do that?". I think this aligns rather nicely with the "I", "We"and "It" domains of the Integral map. The painter is like a juggler of depth - striving to keep every ball in the air at once with each new canvas. All for the delight and wonder of the crowd".