"Do you want to learn what your self is? Disconnect. Withdraw to your inside. You’ll learn by yourself what’s crucial for you… "
Self-exploration is a constant quest in Henri Michaux’s creative practice, and one he engaged in throughout his life. An important part of this search focused on finding ways to establish a connection with his subconscious, in an attempt to free himself from self-control and to experiment with the artistic creativity that such introspection can lead to.
To that end, Michaux experimented with a variety of techniques, such as meditation and guided daydreams, which allowed him to reach altered states of consciousness. He also engaged occasionally in a controlled consumption of substances such as mescaline, in collaboration with professionals in the field of psychiatry, and notably doctor Julian de Ajuriaguerra, whom he befriended in Paris in the 1950s. His Mescaline Drawings, created between 1955 and 1959–60 and on view in gallery 307, are of an abstract nature and are examples of the works he created from his experience with this kind of substance. Michaux did not paint directly under their influence; the speed and dynamism of the visions he experienced made such an attempt difficult. He was, however, able to jot down some notes that only he could understand, and would paint once the effects had become minimal or had subsided, as a memory and testimony of the experience.