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The Role of Artistry in Complexity Sciences is looking for answers and art is looking for questions.

Marc Quinn

British contemporary visual artist 

The purpose of this page is to offer 'artistry' (vs. art or craft as objects) as a core human capacity that serves our navigation of the most urgent and challenging social issues of our time.

This page is therefore both a manifesto and continuing research project, in how complexity agents, from consultants to thought-leaders to politicians, can draw from the principles of "artistry".

Artistry is profound philosophical distinction developed by authors such as D C Schindler and Esther Lightcap Meek (see literature references section below), that offers a re-enchantement of what is real for the human condition. It is a term that is based on a rigorous examination of the underlying assumptions of modernity (e.g. linear accumulation of information as knowledge - and knowledge as our gateway to the real), and provides us with clear principles for engaging with the exponential complexity of human systems, at local, organisational and global levels.

I define "artistry" here therefore well beyond the creative arts, and more in terms of a specific quality of our consciousness which can touch every aspect of our everyday lives. Further details on this definition of artistry, the levels of consciousness and the spectrum of spectrum of practices can be found here.  

There is firstly a very practical and pragmatic purpose to my project, in terms of offering a distillation of the attitudes, orientations and "sensing" capacities that creatives describe, that can be directly applied by decision-makers, leaders and complexity agents. 

And secondly, 'Artistry' offers a rallying call for us to engage with and  manifest our values (walking the talk) that contribute to the "Good Life" - in other words, living out a life of meaning.


This is a major distinction in contrast to the more recent trends in focusing on 'happiness', by putting meaning at the forefront of the human condition. This offers a countervailing stance to run-away technological and economic development, not to mention how this is manifesting in the ambitions of Artificial Intelligence - explored in detail at the bottom of this page.

Quinn’s quote above echoes John Vervaeke's evoking an awakening from the meaning crisis, and call for how we need to seek meaning 'in' (vs. 'of') our post-modern material lives.

Lastly, in acknowledgement that the term the "Good Life" Is a divergent property of infinite interpretation across the generations and cultures on our planet, I am fascinated by the relationship between morals as cognitive structures, compared to ethics as a divergent and highly contextual aesthetics. I feel that Artistry can speak to the latter, as described by authors such as Webb Keane (Ethical Life), and that we can begin to weave together the Transcendentals (the Good, True and Beautiful; religion/faith, the sciences, the arts), as a whole.

And to be clear, this is far from being an 'anti-scientific' vision...indeed, my quest to capture and distil the inner landscapes of the creative experience, draws on scientific principles of experimentation (incl with my own art projects), investigation (filming artists and change agents) and analysis.  My personal interpretation on Artistry allows us to hold Science in context, as part of a greater whole. Such that it can be a movement between the three necessarily competing lenses of the Transcendentals, as an 'élan vitale' or essential vector of energy. 

Photo: Autoportrait by Tyler / John Oliver

Qu'est-ce que les artistes peuvent apporter au domaine de la complexité sociale humaine, de donner un sens dans notre monde en constante évolution avec le développement technologique exponentiel, à la transformation des conflits sociaux, aux questions plus existentielles de notre objectif ?

Les artistes sont des experts pour naviguer dans le paradoxe, joindre des fragments brisés dans de nouvelles formes et remarquer ce qui est nécessaire pour rendre les choses entières . Leur travail génère des conversations et des questions. Cela ouvre des possibilités de connexions et de relations qui étaient auparavant inédites.

Les artistes incarnent la créativité et l'espoir, même au milieu d'un conflit, d'une tragédie ou d'un déclin.

Mon propre parcours personnel ayant travaillé dans des domaines qui croisaient la technologie (par exemple le développement à l'étranger) au développement organisationnel et à la culture, a créé une passion pour l'intégration des sciences aux sciences humaines (anthropologie, sociologie), le développement le plus récent a été pour moi d'étendre cette enquête avec une pratique artistique, qui oppose mon sens analytique de la perception, à une intégration syncrétique des disciplines et à la capacité de sentir ou ressentir le 'tout'.

Il existe bien sûr un vaste paysage de pratiques artistiques et créatives, allant du théâtre d'improvisation aux installations d'art conceptuel, en passant par les arts thérapeutiques communautaires. De cette diversité, il peut cependant y avoir des qualités essentielles des changements de conscience qui se produisent pour ceux qui participent au processus créatif - une qualité de conscience qui peut ajouter des capacités significatives pour ceux qui travaillent avec la complexité.  

Vous trouverez ci-dessous une liste évolutive des qualités clés qu'une pratique artistique peut apporter au domaine des sciences appliquées de la complexité - c'est-à-dire dans la création de sens social, le changement et les théories du développement (par exemple dans la psychologie du développement individuelle et collective).  

Artistry as not just


Self-expression, creativity, innovation...

but 'liquid philosophy'*, engaging with the real beyond information and knowledge.

*Esther Lightcap Meek


"We are technium" Painting by Tyler.World

My Journey In The Pursuit of Artistry

My own personal journey having worked in diverse sectors across technology (e.g. aerospace and satellite communications), overseas development aid, and organisational development, has inspired a passion for integrating the sciences with the humanities (anthropology, sociology), The most recent development has been for me to extend that inquiry within an artistic practice, that contrasts my academic interests and analytical education, to a syncretic integration of disciplines and capacity to sense or feel the 'whole'.

I see this as my developmental edge as I cross the age threshold into my 50s, and explicitly connect my artist experiments with my spiritual inquiry over the past 30 years (e.g. attending a religious schools until 16 years old, then learning mediation at 18 from my ordained Buddhist brother and continued exploration of the Eastern wisdom traditions), 

There is of course a vast landscape of artistic and creative practices, ranging from improvisation theatre to conceptual art installations, to community therapeutic arts. From this diversity, there can however be essential qualities of the shifts in consciousness that occur for those participating with the creative process - a quality of consciousness that can add significant capacities for those working with complexity. 

Having established a first phase of contrasting artistic practices (in video, painting, sculpture) since 2019, I am now passionately drawn to how as an artist I can engage in the application of the artistic principles to individual, organisational and societal development, and connecting the arts to my professional experience in Sensemaking.

"Facilitators of change are complexity artists - in the terms of Artistry,

engaging with the "whole" and sensing the "interiors" of the system.

Below is an evolving list of the key qualities that an artistic practice can bring to the field of applied complexity sciences - speaking to a conviction of mine that:

Films de John Oliver dans les arts et les sciences de la complexité

Having worked in narratives since being the co-founder of the Organisational Development brand Human-Equity Ltd in 2009, I have been focusing since 2019 on a particular corner of the narratives spectrum, based on the 'unconditional witnessing' filming practice pioneered by Nic Askew (Soul Biographies). My quest has been to film both artists and complexity agents (leaders, consultants, facilitators). The latter group in particular from my communities of narratives sensemaking and developmental psychology.  Many complexity agents are already integrating 'artistry' practices with their consulting, facilitation and educational work - with Dr Steve Marshall here below, as one example with whom I've had the privilege of regular contact and editing footage from a peer practice group in witnessing (filmed remotely by Steve):  

Dr Steve Marshall
John Oliver -

Dr Steve Marshall

Les arts dans la création de sens : signification des récits, interprétation et action d'information 

La méthode du sensemaking a un positionnement révolutionnaire, grâce à son ensemble de principes clairs sur la façon dont nous pouvons comprendre les systèmes humains ou les écologies complexes. Vous trouverez ci-dessous un extrait de certains des principes. Avec ses origines dans le développement organisationnel, les sciences sociales et anthropologiques, il existe désormais une large base de recherche et de littérature des 50 dernières années de son émergence. Vous trouverez ci-dessous des références à certaines publications clés en matière de création de sens. 


Les artistes vivent à la frontière entre l'expertise et la non-expertise... pratiquant "l'esprit du débutant" tout au long de


L'art défie nos perspectives - invitant à une pensée transgressive et contrefactuelle


L'acte créatif, les œuvres d'art jouent avec notre sens du temps.

Jouer avec la mémoire, la projection et l'interprétation


Les artistes font l'expérience d'un processus de changement de perspective entre zoom avant et zoom arrière, embrassant les différences de paradigme à chaque niveau 


Arc herméneutique entre expert et non-expert

L'arc de zoom avant et arrière


TRANS-CONTEXTUAL: Art offers us powerful ways of observing systems in context - by shifting and experimenting contextual representations. 


RENEWAL: Artists often are the first to work with the broken, the disenchanted, the marginalised. We tend to run towards the burning edifices (as do journalists, activists etc.), than run away. Evoking the phoenix from the ashes.


L'acte créatif, les œuvres d'art jouent avec notre sens du temps.

Jouer avec la mémoire, la projection et l'interprétation


Le but évolutif de l'art réside dans son pouvoir de créer de nouvelles couches d'abstraction


Jouer avec les polarités, les tensions, les dynamiques


L'artiste est particulièrement bien placé pour intégrer des connaissances interdisciplinaires


L'art naît d'une profonde curiosité et d'un questionnement... Et si ?


6th SENSE: Artists a deeper sense of knowing, beyond the verbal - towards a pre-cognitive sensing. Beyond the mind-body dualism.


SENSING THE WHOLE: Complex systems can't be understood by analysing the parts and then reassembling. Art helps us capture the 'syncretic' sense of the whole.


MANIFESTING THE UNCONSCIOUS: Research in consciousness challenges the fundamentals of how we understand our world and all living matter. Art is a powerful domain in which to access the 'pre-cognitive' consciousness, and bring our non-verbal senses and intelligence into our rational reflective domain - creating new conversations..

Capturing the "particular" (personal narratives), to bring to life the "universal" (common constructs) 

My narratives sensemaking work (based on frameworks such as Cynefin), led me to the portrait filming work to included a wide ranging list of complexity agents and artists, to allow me to build the balance of the 'particular' and the 'universal'; that is holding the infinite variety of individual experiences, with the mapping of the common traits and constructs.

See below my video channel playlists of both artists and complexity agents. The portraits with artists has been a way for me to dive deep into the frontiers between creativity and spirituality, and bring to life the already extensive (if not mainstream) writings on the universal principles behind creative practices (from Julia Cameron to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) .