Like religion, Cryptik‘s message can seem paradoxical to those unfamiliar – and more often than not, leads to more questions asked than answered. Religion, or lack thereof, is part of the driving force behind the work of this Southern California creative, who prefers to keep a low profile, but prefers to keep impact on a higher – and deeper scale. Like his name, the thought process behind his work is visually stimulating, yet perplexing, leaving plenty of room for questions, especially after unearthing this gem from the artist’s about page:
The Cryptik Movement is a public art campaign dedicated to helping humanity evolve towards greater awareness and understanding through the use of compelling, iconic imagery that demands both scrutiny and reverie. The purpose of this organization is to facilitate the development of a deeper, more meaningful philosophy of life. Our main objective is to challenge people to think of other possibilities and to see a different reality; one that encompasses many ideologies, philosophies, and belief systems in order to help us better understand our place in the universe. The organization is entirely free of any religious or political agendas and, therefore, serves only to provoke wonder and inspire thought. The goal of this organization is to serve as a catalyst for a change in consciousness on a global scale. At this very critical juncture in human history, either we evolve or DIE!! Join the Movement! The “Great Awakening” is upon us.
As we sat in his studio, I began sharing a story about my uncle’s haunting encounter with an ancient Mayan spirit in a Guatemalan burial ground. Cryptik’s eyes light up, and while his attention was seemingly set on finishing a custom Fender guitar for an upcoming show, his mind was firmly planted on the words coming out of my mouth. Over the course of a few minutes, I finished my tale and gained a better perspective of what drives him both creatively and personally. I asked, “What inspires you?” to which he answered: “Anything that challenges the perception of reality.” With that I began my questionnaire, digging a little deeper into the mind of a deservingly hyped artist who’s seen his stock increase at a rapid pace in recent years, including large-scale commissioned works and his own brand of signature product.
Cryptik at his home studio in Pasadena, California
What makes the use of metallics so essential to you?
Where I grew up there weren’t many [large scale graffiti] pieces – nothing colorful, nothing big, just black and blue graffiti, gang graffiti. That stuff was beautiful. I’ve never really been into poppy colors, although I can appreciate them. There’s just something about the golds, the metallics that kind of feel sacred – especially on black. Most holy books you look at, they have gold foil on black. It just has this real holy vibe that I like.
Does religion inspire your work?
Yea, most definitely. There’s only one god; different names. I want to show people the beauty in all religions. It’s really whats wrong with this world right now. Everyone thinks they’re right and that their god is the only god. My work is about my own journey, trying to figure that out myself and telling the story through imagery. Nobody knows, we’re all just humans.
As a kid I wasn’t religious, but I knew that Sundays we’d go to church. My parents started to go to Catholic church when they came here [to America] so we were automatically, kinda catholic. Growing up it’s cool, you meet a lot of good people, things seem great, but I used to get into arguments in junior high with my mom about how “this stuff is bullshit” and I wanted her to justify certain things, but she didn’t have the answers. [Religion] just didn’t answer my questions anymore, so I started looking elsewhere.
Religion works until a certain age, you know? What it teaches is all good, but there comes a point when you really have to be rational about some things and dig deeper into how you see the world.
What do you practice?
I don’t necessarily practice anything, other than meditation, and its totally secular. I’m intrigued by the most ancient teachings I can find from Tibet, India, and Nepal. I feel like the further you go back, the closer you get to the source, you know? It’s just been about learning as much as I can. With Buddhism, it’s not really a religion, so for me I’m able to understand the concepts a little bit more, a little better on a more practical level, it’s not so esoteric or far out. It’s about the mind and the study of the mind, it’s all that inner technology that Buddhist monks figured out like 4,000 years ago and now quantum physicists are saying the exact same thing, which is a trip, so there’s something to be learned, from all religions. As far as Buddhism and Hinduism goes, there’s a lot of science and stuff that I don’t know that I appreciate, it’s not so theoretical, it’s not like parable.
I’m definitely into ancient civilizations, all these greater mysteries… Mayans definitely play a big part in that. Just the fact that 2012 was coming and they put all their astrology on the map and really got people into it… but I think beyond that we’ll never know what really happened to them and where they got their knowledge from, because it was so deep. We’ll probably get there eventually [laughs]. It’s one of those things where you just have to hope that people stay with you. It just makes you question things, so much.
Tell me about your recent retreat.
I guess you could call it a Buddhist thing, but its really a non-denominational, completely sectarian thing. Anyone can go, people from all faiths can practice it, there’s no deep philosophies involved, it’s more like a practical type of meditation, but you go to the retreat center where its basically silent meditation for 10 days, so there’s no communication, verbal or non-verbal, you don’t bring a pencil with you, books, nothing. Just complete focus on meditation and the technique. It’s basically the direct teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, which have been preserved for thousands of years. It’s one of those things that I’ve been wanting to try and test myself with. I feel blessed to have had that whole experience and definitely recommend it to anyone. I met a cat out there who was in Iraq in 2004. He’d seen some things, done some things, came back with PTSD, got addicted to meth, all sorts of stuff. This was his second time there and he said it was like 6 months worth of psychotherapy for him, but it was just 10 days, by himself with his own mind. It’s just important to really understand the root of everything, it all happens in the mind so it’s about understanding that all the sensations you feel are just temporary.
Outside of Eastern Philosophy, what’s something you’d like to explore in the future?
One of the main schools of thought that I’d love to get into would be the Egyptian mystery schools. To learn about all the sacred sciences of the pharaohs. They held so much knowledge of sacred geometry and conscienous. It’s so mysterious, even to this day, their whole civilization, how the pyramids were built, stuff like that. So for me, it’s just an obvious place to go. Hopefully I get an opportunity to visit Egypt at some point. I have to tell my story in stages so people can stick with me, I don’t want to lose folks, but it’s definitely one of those things I’ve been wanting to explore.
Adding final touches to a one-off Fender stratocaster for it’s 60th anniversary
Does your work always carry a particular message?
There’s always a message. Most of my work incorporates Buddhist and Hindu mantras. Sometimes I’ll use a poem or lyrics from a song. Just like the recent pool I did for Ryan Hurley, those were lyrics from a Bob Marley song, which was something that was personal to Ryan. There’s aways something, it’s definitely not design, or symbols, or something abstract. Nothing like that.
Mahatma Gandhi is a recurring source of inspiration in what you do. What makes his legacy so special?
He’s a universal figure for peace. There’s always controversy surrounding anyone, but when people think of Ghandi, they think of nonviolence and peace. I think today, more than ever, that’s so needed. It’s not about trying to deify, saying he’s a god or anything like that, but he’s become as much of a symbol as Buddha or Ganesha, which is probably the reason I chose him as well as the Dalai Lama; they’re just universal symbols that anyone can recognize and understand the message behind, without getting too political about anything.
Cryptik will be showing new work on October 11, 2014 at thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles as part of a group show titled FRESH.
thinkspace Art Gallery
6009 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232