Thursday, February 13, 2014

Art as Buddhist Practice

In a couple of weeks, on March 1, the Northwest Dharma Association will present 
The Arts as Buddhist Practice
 at the First Congregational Church 
1126 SW Park Ave
 Portland, Oregon 97206

Free to the Public

I will be one of six presenters at this gathering. My subject is the possibility of contemporary artists making studio art as an art practice of spiritual insight.

Preparing this slide lecture has required me to look again into my own art making process and to hone its description to 12 minutes. Here in the blog I can present some of the outtakes.

Before we explore Modern artists who shared this motivation, we can look at a few paintings from the long history of art as meditation in the monasteries and art studios of China and Japan of past centuries.

 Hong Ren 1610 - 1663
[He] protested the fall of the Ming dynasty by becoming a monk. Hong Ren's style has been said to "[represent] the world in a dematerialized, cleansed version ... revealing his personal peace through the liberating form of geometric abstraction."[2] (James Cahill)

 Mi Yujen

Consider the possibility that thoughts and emotions are not mind, 
but only occur in the space of the mind. 

Things reveal space.

Thoughts reveal mind.

If I remember rightly, this painting illustrates a Zen parable about
trying to catch a fish with a gourd.

Where is mind?

15th century priest and tea master.
First to introduce calligraphy in the tea ceremony.

What color is mind?

 Sesshu Toyo
16th century Japanese monk

Where is the end of mind?

 Liang Kai - 13th century
Buddha descending the mountain.
He's coming out from behind a rock or a large form.
Liang Kai's drawing makes even the rock seem translucent.

My mind is in this painting as I regard it.
Liang Kai's mind is also still here.
The paper maker is here, and the ink maker, and the inventors of the internet. Ben Franklin in a lighting storm and the developers of electronics, my second grade teacher who taught me to read. Everyone is here in this painting on this computer screen.
The Buddha is in it. Were his teaching not inspiring peace and happiness across 25 centuries, this artist and many others would not have been moved to paint of it, 
nor I to "read" it.

Mu Qi
Six Persimmons
A composition repeated in many books on design and composition.
Is there an allegory here, or just 6 persimmons?
Each object is arranged lightly, painted lightly,
and just so.