Can art serve to help the world, and, if so, what does that require of the artist? It is our belief that there are certain practices for the artist that help address this question, such as contemplation, meditation, retreat, listening, and discipline. As a result, we are providing a context for artists to investigate those elements on their own and within community.
We believe that art has the capacity to genuinely help our world, to instill it with sanity, awareness, joy, and beauty. This does not mean that art has to look a certain way or achieve a standard aesthetic or tone, nor is it an endorsement of a “love and light” approach to art. It does mean that art needs to be tethered to truth, according to the logic of the process undertaken or the piece being created.
How does one cultivate this tether to truth? Our inspiration has been through slowing down, making friends with oneself through meditation and contemplation, spending the time to develop one’s craft, know one’s materials, and fine-tune the senses as tools for communication. Most of all, we are interested in supporting artists in genuinely finding their way.
– Text and graphic sourced from the Hemera Foundation website
The Hemera Contemplative Fellowship programs were created to make the unique benefits of contemplative practice in a retreat context more widely available. Find more information on this page:
The precision of naming takes away
from the uniqueness of seeing.
- Pierre Bonnard
… a short excerpt from Rupert Spira‘s book, Presence, Vol 1, with paintings by the artists he mentions …
- – -
An artist tries to represent, that is, to re-present, to present again a vision of experience that evokes its reality, to make something that has the power within it to draw the viewer into its own reality.
That is what the French painter, Pierre Bonnard, was trying to capture: the timeless moment of perception before thinking has divided the world into a perceiving subject and a perceived object and then further sub-divided the object into ‘ten thousand things.’
And what did that vision look like in Bonnard’s view? It was a world brimming with colour, intensity, harmony and dancing with vitality. It was world in which the edge of the bath or an old wooden floorboard were given the same attention, the same love, as were the curve of a cheek or the gesture of a hand.
It was the same moment that William Blake wanted to evoke. He was once questioned, “When you see the sun rise do you not see a round disc of fire somewhat like a guinea?” And he replied, “Oh no, no! I see an innumerable company of the heavenly host crying ‘Glory, Glory, Glory is the Lord God Almighty.’”
Likewise, William Turner who is reported to have been returning home from Hampstead Heath with a painting under his arm late one evening, when a local resident stopped him and asked to see the painting. After looking at it for some time the resident remarked, “Mr. Turner, I have never seen a sun set over Hampstead Heath like that,” to which Turner replied, “No, but don’t you wish you could.”
The body and mind of the artist is the medium through which nature interprets itself to itself. It is the medium through which nature explores and realises its own identity. As Cézanne said, “I become the subjective consciousness of the landscape and my painting becomes its objective consciousness.”
Links to related pages and posts on this site:
I’m delighted too. Imagine my joy at meeting a painter and artisan whose practice is driven by the desire to express “that which is innate within us all” in an offering of beauty – right here in my little hometown, Mullumbimby, NSW, Australia.
Welcome to the artisans’ gallery, Melinda Blair Paterson (drum roll!)
From Melinda’s page:
At the moment my art is an exploration of colour and movement within the simplicity of a circle, starting and finishing with my first love – white. Keeping it slow and simple is how goes these days, for it is that which is innate within us all that has my full attention, and the seeming ‘stopping’ that catches a glimpse.
Melinda Blair Paterson, Sahaja Earth, 1200×1200, acrylic on canvas, 2014
The paint is poured onto the canvas, then moved in tandem with the body, like a Sufi dancer spinning into stillness. The paint finds its own path across the surface, delighting the Seeing whichever way it goes. Layers upon layers are created until a maze of colour sits reflecting the viewer. Then for reasons that are never understood, it is time for white, which is poured to cover and reveal a new form. And the Seeing is yet again exponentially delighted.
Visit Melinda’s page to view more examples of her work
and read the entire text:
He and fellow poet Allan Burns have created their first annual of fine haiku and art. It’s a compilation that aims to “encourage the development of high-quality nature-oriented haiku in English”. The poets featured express – each in their own unique voice – their wonderment, curiosity and compassion regarding the natural world, and the accompanying images bring an added depth of contemplation and beauty to the words.
“muttering thunder is an annual of nature-focused haiku and art that will be published each November as an ebook, available for free online viewing and download from this page. The first annual, dedicated to the memory of Martin Lucas, presents approximately 100 previously unpublished haiku by almost 60 premier English-language haiku poets from around the world.
It also includes a reprint of a classic essay by Robert Spiess – Specific Objects in Haiku, and a wide-ranging interview with leading haiku and lyric poet Wally Swist.”
If you are a lover of haiku and appreciate sensuous and sensitive nature photography, I know you’ll be as delighted as I am at the launch of muttering thunder. The annual is a feast for the eyes and the heart – a fine companion for one’s contemplation of the sheer wonder of nature, and of our seamless intimacy with the fabric of the world.
You might also be interested in these pages on haiku and haiga:
The contemplation of things as they are,
without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture,
is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.
- Francis Bacon, 16-17th century English philosopher
Robert Spellman – Two Cups, acrylic on canvas
On his MoonBlog, painter Robert Spellman speaks of the challenge of contemplating “things as they are”. He points out that Bacon’s words above are a “good description of what meditators sometimes call “non-fabrication”, seeing things without opinion or subjective conceptual overlay”. Yet as all meditators know, this is easier said than done. Spellman observes:
It is one of the maddening things of artistic practice to not know what you are doing. It’s easy enough to come up with a scheme and easy enough to draw conclusions about what has been done, but clarity in the moment of doing is elusive. This, by the way, is why mindfulness practice holds my interest: it turns out to be quite difficult to steady the mind; it’s always on its way elsewhere. I suspect that this flitting quality of the mind is why artistic practice is both useful and surprisingly demanding.
Elsewhere he mentions in more detail how engagement in an art practice is not only useful for taming the monkey-mind, but also that it can lead to a sense of contented completeness:
… artistic practice of the most ordinary sort can lead to a recognition of wholeness, completeness. If you feel complete, you don’t consume so much. If you feel whole it seems natural to be curious about people and things and not so much about your self. This is no small thing if you multiply it by the billions of us on the earth right now. Our needy habits are neither fulfilling nor necessary, and are proving to be catastrophically expensive.
Recently I’ve been revisiting one of my favourite writers – Marion Milner – and I continue to be in awe of her persistent experiments with the processes of her thinking and perceiving. In A Life of One’s Own she sets out to grapple with the question “What do I really want from life?” and discovers that certain ways of attending, of looking, of moving, can bring surprising joy and contentment. Her professional background was in science rather than the arts, although she was a serious painter. To my knowledge she wasn’t a formal meditator, but I think that she and Robert Spellman are riding the same moonbeam when it comes to their diversely gained insights into the workings of perception.
One of her ongoing experiments involved simply sitting with a mundane object – for “it was obvious that I had so often failed to get the most out of whatever I did because my attention was always wandering to something else. So I began to try, and the result was a sense of new possibilities in richness of thought.” She turned her attention to a lump of coal on her hearth:
From having been aware of it simply as something to burn I began to feel its blackness as a quite new sensation, to feel its ‘thingness’ and the thrust of its shape, to feel after its past in forests of giant vegetation, in upheavings of the land passing to eons of stillness, and then the little men tunnelling, the silence and cleanness of forests going to make up London’s noisy filth.
Then I chose a small tin mug. It was an ugly object. Nevertheless I tried to keep my thoughts fixed upon it for fifteen minutes. This time I did not become concerned with its origin but simply let its form imprint itself upon my mind. Slowly I became aware of a quite new knowledge. I seemed to sense what I can only call the ‘physics’ of that mug. Instead of merely seeing its shape and colour I felt what I described to myself as its ‘stresses and strains’, the pressures of its roundness and solidity and the table holding it up. This sense did not come at once and I suppose it might never have come if I had not sat still and waited. But from this few minutes’ exercise on a tin mug I had found a clue which eventually led me to understand what was the significance of many pictures, buildings, statues, which had before been meaningless.
By a simple self-chosen act of keeping my thoughts on one things instead of dozens, I had found a window opening out across a new country of wide horizons and unexplored delights.
She expands this view with a beautiful account of the way her senses were restored from fragmentation to wholeness, bringing deep contentment:
I sat motionless, draining sensation to its depths, wave after wave of delight flowing through every cell in my body. My attention flickered from one delight to the next like a butterfly, effortless, following its pleasure; sometimes it rested on a thought, a verbal comment, but these no longer made a chattering barrier between me and what I saw, they were woven into the texture of my seeing. I no longer strove to be doing something, I was deeply content with what was. At other times my senses had often been in conflict, so that I could either look or listen but not both at once. Now hearing and sight and sense of space were all fused into one whole.
– Marion Milner, A Life of One’s Own
Have you ever sat with a mundane object – even something you would normally consider “ugly” – for fifteen minutes, with a mind totally empty of narrative? With no interest in its value, its history or its future? With what some meditators call “beginner’s mind”?
If yes – were you surprised at what revealed itself?
If no – please have a go… you wouldn’t want to miss out on those “wide horizons and unexplored delights” would you?
Robert Spellman and Marion Milner are both featured on this site:
You might also be interested in
The links below feature a selection of pages and posts on this site.
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Thank you for visiting!
fellowships for contemplative artists
- the Hemera Foundation's retreat program for 2015
how painting can help to save the world, actually
- an essay by jordan wolfson
The purpose of art is to take the senses on a journey back to the source of perception, which is pure Awareness.
- Rupert Spira
In order to understand the true meaning of Abstract Art, we have to conceive of ourselves as a reflex (reflection) of reality. This means we have to see ourselves as a mirror in which reality reflects itself.
- Piet Mondrian
The body is a sensing instrument of consciousness. Without the body and the mind, the trees couldn't see themselves. Usually we think that we are looking at a tree, but the tree is looking at itself through us. Without this instrument, the tree doesn't get to see itself. We are the sensing instruments of the Divine.
Art is a form of supremely delicate awareness ... meaning at-oneness, the state of being at one with the object.
- D H Lawrence
The heart of creativity is an experience of the mystical union; the heart of the mystical union is an experience of creativity.
- Julia Cameron
I am Not,
but the Universe is my Self.
- Shih T'ou, AD 700 - 790
It is [the] flash of realization of not-two-ness, that is both the center and the endpoint of our human experience.
- Frederick Franck
I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas.
I’m frightened of the old ones.
- John Cage
God created the giraffe, the cat, the elephant ...
He has no real style, he just keeps trying things.
- Pablo Picasso
Slow motion opens the mind.
Smooth motion opens the heart.
Slow smooth motion
the inexplicable delight.
- Paul Reps
Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.
- Renee Magritte
- arts and consciousness
- contemplative education
- dharma art courses
- dialogue in consciousness
- education for wholeness
- fellowships for contemplative artists
- non-dualistic pedagogy
- science and nonduality conferences
- the art of learning
- the course in consciousness
- visual arts at naropa
- yoga art
- zen arts
The basic project of art is ... to close the gap between you and everything that is not you.
- Robert Hughes