Saturday, May 24, 2014

Making Paintings in the Studio

This is the fourth of the three posts
presenting and developing my recent
slide talk Contemporary Art as Buddhist Practice

In the last post, I described the practice of painting the landscape
directly in the open air and how that can be brought into 
a practice not unlike the meditation called
Mindfulness of Phenomena (1)


 The other path is followed in the studio mostly,   
where I construct paintings from diverse materials. 

I employ chance operations,   some disciplined,   and  some free.  
Within the open exploration of form lies a memory (a dream) of
 sky,   water,   mountain,   wind,   desert,   rock,   and shore.

   I move the forms toward a new order that, with luck,  becomes 
something simple,  
a new wholeness, though ringing with complex relations. 

This is true whether or not the initial motif remains intelligible.

Meaning is found where mind,  subject   and material   come together.
The materials have no inherent meaning   and neither have any of my usual landscape subjects.  
But in my mind,   I find them meaningful,  and when present with an appearance of a  lake   or a hillside of trees,  I am often struck still and dumb  with a sense of significance.

   John Berger   is a special writer, sensitive and clear.  He described such a moment this way:
“At the moment of revelation   when appearance and meaning become identical,   the space of physics and the seer’s inner space coincide:  momentarily and exceptionally   the seer achieves an equality with the visible.  To lose all sense of exclusion;  to be at the centre.”

We tend to understand things metaphorically.    Art uses this tendency effectively. 
Buddhist teaching,   and Buddhist art  through the centuries,  have used metaphor effectively.

The specific landscape motifs all function metaphorically in Asian landscape painting,
which developed for close to 2,000 yrs in relation to Buddhist   and Daoist insight into the nature of mind   and the forces of the world around.

Repetitions in my work refer to
the returning again   and again   and again  to awareness.  Presence. 
I’ll use text, or the appearance of text,   as a reference to mantra or prayer,   
or to a spontaneous utterance.

Currently, I am working toward simplicity and restraint.
I suspect that  analogies are still  a layer between what I think and feel    and what just is.
the just-as-it-is-ness    carries presence 
So simple  ;  yet not so easy to pull off.
I’ll close with a stanza from the Aspiration Prayer for Mahamudra:

Look at objects and there is no object: one sees mind;

Look at mind and there is no mind: it is empty of nature;

Look at both of these and dualistic clinging subsides on its own.

May I know sheer clarity, the way mind is.

Thank You


(1) The fourth in the four Foundations of Mindfulness, the others being
Mindfulness of Body, Mindfulness of Feelings and Mindfulness of Mind.

1 comment:

  1. Jef,
    I continue to receive encouragement from your works, both painting and writing, to persevere. Thank you for sharing your works. Jer