Our religious beliefs evolve along with society to match contemporary ideals and knowledge about the universe and mankind. The beliefs of previous civilisations are generally considered obsolete, with materialism taking the place of religion in many people’s lives. However, some thinkers have argued that no period of materialism can last for long, as it will always be replaced by a new religious order. Our society is living in between; having rejected the old religions, there are no clear replacements waiting on the horizon.
This liminal state of existence is explored through Mikhail Batrak’s series Nagual, a series of photographic manipulations that further the artist’s extensive exploration of freedom and unity. The photographic material that forms the basis of these digital collages was taken by the artist in various locations throughout 2016 and 2017, including museums, studios, beaches, streets and other public places. Mikhail began the digital post-production process at the end of 2016.
The series is influenced by Mikhail’s study of Raja Yoga and the work of Carlos Castaneda, who wrote about his search for freedom, partly through his experiences of being taught by the shaman Don Juan. Castaneda explores the concept of the nagual, a name for the unknown, or that which cannot be directly understood by the human mind. The nagual is positioned in contrast to the tonal; that which can be perceived by the human senses or comprehended by the mind.
Don Juan described the tonal as a small island surrounded by the darkness of nagual. Mikhail’s series probes this darkness, using a deliberately limited palette of black and white with muted colour tints. Nagual explores ideas of transformation and the unknown through the artist’s surreal images, many of which refer to transformation, evolution and states of metamorphosis.
“We are men and our lot is to learn and to be hurled into inconceivable new worlds. Seeing is for impeccable men. Temper your spirit now, become a warrior, learn to see, and then you’ll know that there is no end to the new worlds for our vision”
- Carlos Castaneda, A Separate Reality.