In Search of Universal Concepts: What lies behind Spirituality and Mysticism

Thought forms from a book

Born in 1979 in Athens, Panos Tsagaris is a painter who lives and works in New York. His artistic journey began when he left Greece after high school to avoid compulsory military service. This set him on a trajectory that took him to various major cities including London, Vancouver, Los Angeles and, finally, his spiritual home, New York. 

After completing a BA in fine arts at Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 2004, Tsagaris was offered an internship in the studio of the painter Peter Halley in New York. The artist describes this pivotal moment as “falling in love with the city and experiencing a profound sense of belonging”. Shortly after completing his internship, he moved to the city permanently. 

The core of Tsagaris’s artistic exploration – incorporating acrylic paint, goldleaf, inkjet prints and photography – revolves around themes of spirituality and religion. His fascination with the commonalities shared by various religious and spiritual traditions began during his college years. 

Panos Tsagaris, 'Waves of Eternity', 2022, gold leaf, acrylic, ink and silkscreen on canvas. Courtesy of the artist
Panos Tsagaris, 'Always in motion, always unchangeable, like the rain drops under Your eyes', 2023, gold leaf, acrylic and silkscreen on canvas. Courtesy of the artist

A key aspect of Tsagaris’s artistic process is his extensive research. He has built a personal collection of antique mystical and spiritual books dating from the late 19th century to the 1930s. He believes these works contain an energy and essence from their era, influencing and inspiring his work in complex ways. Many of the same texts influenced early abstract painters in the 20th century, particularly within the Symbolist and Theosophical movements.

Rather than being bound to a specific religious or spiritual tradition, Tsagaris’s focus lies in illuminating archetypal ideas and powers that transcend all religions. He endeavours to visually express these universal concepts in a manner relevant to now, aiming to guide viewers to rediscover and reconnect with the powers inherent within themselves.

Panos Tsagaris, 'Germinating Soul', 2022, gold leaf and ink on archival inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist

In trying to depict the mechanics behind spiritual transformation, Tsagaris’s visual language often takes the form of maps or guides. His works take viewers on a journey from the physical to the metaphysical, and from lower to higher levels of consciousness, employing colours, shapes and symbols that invite contemplation and reflection. 

Tsagaris’s work finds further dimension through the study of ‘thought forms’, a theory first expounded in a Theosophical book published in 1905 that associates colours with human emotions. This theory forms the basis of his particular use of colour, which, combined with his intuition, brings depth and meaning to his creations.

Tsagaris considers his studio not just a workspace but a sanctuary. Upon completing a new work, he engages in a few minutes of meditation in which he seeks to approach a state of peace, unity and completion. Tsagaris channels this energy towards the artwork, aspiring to encapsulate it within the piece and share it later with viewers. This ritual has similarities with the Tantric art tradition, where the infusion of spiritual energy is an integral aspect of the artistic process.