Gentle Voice – the online newsletter of Siddharthas Intent, is shining its focus on art in the current issue: ‘Art Unlimited’. Highly recommended for an absolute feast of art-related articles and images – many from artisans who will be familiar to readers here.
This issue of Gentle Voice is titled ‘Art Unlimited’ and there are a multitude of different forms of art: drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, computer generated art, digital graphics, pop art, minimal art, performance art, street art, indigenous art, architecture, music, dance, film, photography, the art of conversation, the art of seduction and so on…! Types of art are as varied as media, subject matter and technology allow.
Quoted text and calligraphy by by Ani Lodro Palmo, and sourced from Gentle Voice.
How does one define meditative process or practice? In the context of this website, meditative artisanship (drawing, painting, crafting, sculpting etc) is taken to mean working in way that stills the mind and disappears the self. The artisan-identity melts into a creative rhythm referred to as ‘flow‘.
For some, this occurs almost automatically when they begin work – in this case it would seem that they are creating from an already-still mind. For other artisans however, intention and application are required, hence the term ‘practice’.
For some artisans their work/practice becomes obsessive and addictive – with or without negative implications. (Yayoi Kusama, for example.) For others ‘flow’ is quickly recognized as one’s natural state – the “way things are meant to be,” to quote Rollo May.
Meditative process and engagement with ‘flow’ is a common experience among artisans, although they might not refer to the experience in those terms. Yet many artists who practice meditation proceed to create ‘visionary’ or ‘mystical’ artworks – creating illustrations of something experienced, known, rather than expressions from the unknown. In the context of this site these artists are not included. The reason for this is simple: true meditation is a journey which leaves the self, its thoughts, ideas and opinions behind. The ego-self doesn’t like this at first, and when anthropomorphic images arise in the imagination, it very quickly recognizes them and is comforted. The next step is an incredibly subtle projection of one’s identity into the image.
This is where the meditative artisan’s practice departs quite radically from that of the visionary artist – they don’t settle for the infinite array of images the brain is capable of generating. They wait for the end of thought. They wait for the silent mind. It takes a certain complex combination of personal experience and disposition – coupled with curiosity and courage – to enter into this ‘no-thing-ness’ and await the clarity of action that inevitably emerges. Action, not idea or design.
This is not to say that all meditative art will be non-figurative or entirely abstract. (Still Life can open a window onto the infinite: see Amanda Robins.) What it does imply is that there will seldom be an accompanying narrative. The meditative artist doesn’t have things to say. He or she simply has things to make – things that are exquisitely capable of speaking for themselves.
– From the introduction to the artisans page
slow art | flow
When you take photographs, just before you click the shutter, your mind is empty and open, just seeing without words.
When you stand in front of a blank sheet of paper, about to make a painting or a calligraphy, you have no idea what you will do. Maybe you have some plan for a painting, or you know what symbol you want to calligraph, but you don’t actually know what will appear when you put brush to paper.
What you do out of trust in open mind will be fresh and spontaneous.
Opening to first thought is the way to begin any action properly.
– Jeremy Hayward
Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. IV, #3
let your subject find you
seeing without shadows
The arts of Zen are not intended for utilitarian purposes, or for purely aesthetic enjoyment,
but are meant to train the mind, indeed, to bring it into contact with ultimate reality.
– D.T. Suzuki
The Artless Arts of Zen: Zen Aesthetic and Your Everyday Life
A retreat at Zen Mountain Monastery with John Stevens: July 10-12
The creative process, like a spiritual journey, is intuitive, non-linear, and experiential. It points us towards our essential nature, which is a reflection of the boundless creativity of the universe. Zen Buddhism and, particularly, the Zen arts are a rich source of teachings to help us understand and cultivate our creativity. They contain a treasure house of techniques and insight into the creative process. And they point to a way of living that is simple, spontaneous, and vital.
Although Zen mind is expressed in many art forms, the primary vehicle for manifesting the Zen spirit is calligraphy and painting. There are few teachers in the West more capable in transmitting the spirit of this artless art of Zen than John Stevens. The main themes of Zen calligraphy and painting will be discussed and we will have a look at numerous examples of Zen art, past and present. The afternoon sessions will be hands on. We will brush most of the “one-word barriers” central to the Zen tradition: ichi (one), mu (no!), do (way), ku (empty), shin (heart), and others. The characters themselves are simple to learn — most of them belong to the group of kanji taught to Japanese first graders — but profound in meaning from the Zen perspective. There will also be a chance to practice brushing enso (Zen circles), paintings of Mount Fuji, and creating portraits of Bodhidharma. At the conclusion of the retreat, each participant will brush a subject of his or her choosing on clean white paper to serve as an object of personal reflection — even a single brushwork perfectly reflects one’s state of mind.
From the Zen Mountain Monastery website.