In Chapter 3 (“Mathematical Discovery”) of his book, Science and Method, the early 20th century French mathematician, Henri Poincare, describes the mental processes and experiences he encountered during the act of discovering new mathematical forms and of thinking creatively in mathematics. He talks about the work of the unconscious mind and the existence of the subliminal ego and the mechanism of interaction between the unconscious mind and said subliminal ego whereby elements of the realm of the former might be brought forward through the mediation of the latter into the realm of the concrete as a solution to a problem or as an innovative, creative development in a given discipline. The painting, “Sub)liminal,” arose in relationship to these thoughts and to my exploration of them.
I found that the notion of the subliminal is rooted in the idea of the liminal—from the Latin word “limen,” meaning threshold. The realm of the threshold, a realm signifying the transition of crossing from here to there or of being on the way from one place to another while being in neither place, is a realm ruled by the god, Hermes. Hermes, as the messenger between gods and men, rules these zones of transition, boundary or marginality. Because of this domain the act of discovering the hidden realm of significance or meaning in texts or, in general, in reality is a domain governed by Hermes and, as a result, carries his name—hermeneutics.
In “Sub)liminal,” the comic character Flash, who by his attributes of speed and fluid mobility and by his costume characterized by winged boots and headgear, becomes the pop iteration of Hermes. He moves across the painting by navigating the spaces between the lines of the text submerged in the background. This hidden text is the same text as in the comic excerpt depicted in the painting, the very same one inhabited by the Flash himself. He moves through his own world both on the unconscious level and on the conscious level. He traverses the margin separating the two while inhabiting both as well. He functions in both realms with equal assurance, and so can bring the unconscious forward into the concretely conscious realm and can, likewise, add dimension to the concretely conscious by navigating its byways at the unconscious level.