Monday, 30 December 2013

when art practice = spiritual practice

My computer desktop, e-mail inbox and studio have never been emptier. Since submitting my thesis, having the exhibition and doing my artist's talk there is nothing driving me. I don't start back at my 'job' (paid work) for another couple of weeks so I've been telling myself to relax, do nothing, have a rest. Truth is I have little motivation or energy anyway. 

I have been throwing myself in the ocean to surf each morning and lying around watching old movies in the afternoon. Occasionally I wander aimlessly in my now sparsely furnished studio after reorganising it when the big paintings were loaded on the truck for Perth. I still don't know what I am going to do with them when they come back - I like my new spacious studio the way it is.

It's all very well taking a break from 'work', except for me my 'art practice' is also my 'spiritual practice'. It has been this way for a very long time - no wonder I am feeling a little bereft.

There are things I discovered along the way that I want to explore now that I am free to do so, so I don't need to reinvent myself - the process is ongoing. Throughout my study I never lost sight of the reasons I make images in the first place. However, as part of this re-evaluation, I do feel the need to go back to the core of what my art is about and why I do it. The very significant insights I have had into the role of images in human consciousness will no doubt influence what I do next, and it is this I want to pursue. 

The study and research will continue - it is what I do, it is why I am here on the planet. I am on a mission and that won't change until I have reached a point of wisdom where I don't feel the need to pursue anything. Only then will I be able to truly rest.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

exhibition images

If anyone is interested I have just put all of the images exhibited for my PhD at John Curtin Gallery in November 2013 on my website. I actuallly did some work in the studio yesterday and have been indulging myself in some digital drawing.

This is a screen shot of a work in progress - my digital drawing (on right) from the reference photograph on the left (courtesy of G. Robertson, Antarctica Division) It might be in the PIAF exhibition in Albany in 2014, but I haven't settled on an idea yet.

I am just loving the digital drawing.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

a hard act to follow

I was prompted to post this because of Sarah Toa's latest offeringIn fact I could have written it, from a slightly different perspective of course - but I have the same shit going on in my head: 'Maybe this is it. Maybe I have pulled off one good....(book) body of work....and this is it'. I think I know just how Sarah is feeling.

It's been a dizzying few weeks: the exhibition opening at JCG 3 weeks ago and all the wonderful feedback; back up to Perth last weekend for my artist's talk. It's been difficult to debrief. Now I need to wrap everything up - retrieve the work from the gallery, finish off the year. I am in a strange nothing sort of space, which, after 7 years of intense study and hard work, is inevitable. I like my down time - I am looking forward to having a break and going surfing a lot. I am also getting mixed up in some new projects for next year and interested in returning to a more public life after hiding out for such a long time. Everything is feeling rather strange. 

Last Sunday after the talk I took one last, long look at the exhibition and said out loud: 'I'll never top this'. I think the gallery director may have heard me.

People around me are asking: What's next? And I just give them a blank confused look. I have some ideas, but will need some space to let things settle.

To top it all off I still haven't heard from the examiners, so this 'success' could be an illusion.

I have to remind myself that the journey doesn't end here. It will be a little different but life goes on. I am in the business of evolving and I need to find my centre again. I will start feeling more like myself when I get back to my own art practice and further (private) study. And that is where I will start the climb up the next mountain.

image: Voidone of the works in the exhibition. Digital animation over photograph of The Gap at dusk.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

'the wide plain of death'

'I placed one foot on the 
wide plain of death,
 and some grand immensity 
sounded on the emptiness.

I have felt nothing ever
like the wild wonder 
of that moment.'

(from 'Birdsong', versions of Rumi by Coleman Barks)

Thursday, 22 August 2013

plato's cave 2

'A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive'. 

Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, 1954


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

digital cube completed

I'm just loving this digital drawing. Can't wait to get free of my thesis so I can devote more time to developing the next phase of my work.

This cube will appear in a couple of different works.

note: Because of all the plagiarism that happens on the internet, the poor quality of this image is deliberate.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

loving the dark

Fear and death have been and remain a big part of my life. Many people think this is a weakness, and I would have agreed with them once. I have been obsessed with death since I was a child - it lives on my left shoulder. I have a habit of imagining disastrous scenarios right in the middle of life affirming experiences. I always attributed this to a rocky childhood and subsequent lack of emotional resilience. Now I think there is much more to it. The sort of fear I am talking about arises from the knowledge that I am always one breath away from death. Paradoxically there is real comfort in that knowledge, but I don't deny it is often difficult to live with.

Much of my life occurs in the realm of 'consensual reality' - constant activity, other people, egos, things, stuff and so much trivial nonsense. After spending a bit of time in this realm I feel quite mad, insane mad, not angry. I've stopped beating myself up because I don't fit into this world, because I am now absolutely convinced it is an illusion. Of course I am not the first to say this. I think instinctually I have always known it, but I have tried hard to fit in because nobody wants to be completely alienated.

After a lifetime of study and grappling with this issue, I no longer feel bad for deliberately seeking out the darkness. In fact I feel quite vindicated because there is much evidence to support my love of it. Here is one example (of many) I found recently, but first a bit of background information.

In 1932, Jung met Heinrich Zimmer, 'professor of Sanskrit at Heidelberg University'. Zimmer became one of Jung’s few close male friends and helped him to more fully understand Eastern spirituality. 'Through Zimmer....Jung became acquainted with Ramana’s life story and....spiritual teachings'. (Stein, 66) This is an excerpt from one of those stories:

'During the immense interlude after the destruction of the universe, when the potential for a new creation exists only within Vishnu’s dream, there is a remarkable event. A holy man by the name of Markendaya wanders around inside the body of the god, gazing over the peaceful earth....One day, in his aimless meander....he inadvertently falls out of the mouth of the sleeping god. “Vishnu is sleeping with his lips open a little, breathing with a deep, sonorous, rhythmical sound, in the immense silence of the night . . . And the astonished saint, falling from the sleeper’s giant lip, plunges headlong into the cosmic sea”. 

Landing in the black waters of nonexistence, Markendaya sees only the utter darkness of an endless ocean. Fearing for his life, he splashes in the Void until he begins to question whether this experience is a dream, but then he wonders whether the comfortable world of his normal existence is the real illusion. While pondering the true nature of reality, his eyes adjust to the darkness, and he sees the sleeping god, whose giant body resembles a mountain range. “The saint swam nearer, to study the presence and . . . to ask who this was, when the giant seized him, summarily swallowed him, and he was again in the familiar landscape of the interior” 

Startled and puzzled by the experience, Markendaya gradually resumes his holy pilgrimage, enjoying the beauty of earthly life for another hundred years. But then again, he slips from the mouth of Vishnu and falls into the pitch black sea. This time he sees the god as a small child, cheerfully at play in the vast dark ocean. Vishnu once again reveals his true nature as the Lord of the Universe, and the sage prays to him. “Let me know the secret of your Maya, the secret of your apparition now as child, lying and playing in the infinite sea.” In response, Vishnu teaches the identity of opposites:

The secret of Maya is the identity of opposites. Maya is simultaneous and successive manifestation of energies that are at variance with each other, processes contradicting and annihilating each other: creation and destruction, evolution and dissolution, the dream-idyll of the inward vision of the god and the desolate nought, the terror of the void, the dreadful infinite. This “and,” uniting incompatibles, expresses the fundamental character of the Highest Being....Opposites are fundamentally of the one essence, two aspects of the one Vishnu. 

For a second time, the god swallows the holy sage who vanishes into his body. Rather than trying to judge which experience is true, Markendaya meditates on the teaching that his earthly existence and the Void are one. (Stein, 67)

This is what I have learnt. I know this to be true - but I regularly forget as I busy myself with my worldy life. After a while though, as has just happened again recently, I go in search of the Void. There was terror in confronting this reality for the first time - real terror - and that terror may come again. However, avoiding the terror by taking anti-depressants, alcohol, drugs or chasing constant worldy distractions just delays the inevitable. If you don't love the darkness, integrate the opposites, acknowledge and face the 'negative' energy that is an equal part of the universe, it is not possible to know what reality is.

Having said that, I accept, but I don't really understand, that many people have no interest in knowing what reality is anyway.

Maya: The power by which the universe becomes manifest.
Markandeya is an ancient Hindu sage. He is celebrated as a devotee of both Shiva and Vishnu and is mentioned in a number of Hindu stories.

Richard Stein, "Snapshots from the Void: Reflections on Jung's Relationship to Indian Yoga" Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Spring 2010), pp. 62-84, University of California Press