Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Yield To Be Whole "Tao Te Ching" Verse 22 for Artists

Verse 22*

Yield and remain whole
Bend and remain straight
Be low and become filled
Be worn out and become renewed
Have little and receive
Have much and be confused
Therefore the sages hold to the one as an example for the world
Without flaunting themselves – and so are seen clearly
Without presuming themselves – and so are distinguished
Without praising themselves – and so have merit
Without boasting about themselves – and so are lasting
Because they do not contend, the world cannot contend with them
What the ancients called "the one who yields and remains whole"
Were they speaking empty words?
Sincerity becoming whole, and returning to oneself

What are the qualities of the human being that will help them be whole, strong and connected to the universal..... to be one with the natural...the Tao.
Another reminder from Lao Tzu to let go of our selfish tendencies, tendencies that very often are influenced and encouraged by the “system” of modern living , although not very modern if applied to the people of 6th century BC..... I guess to the tendencies of the human mind, when it cannot see beyond the self.

So what to be aware of in our creative lives to achieve the feeling of the unity with our authentic self? Lao Tzu's advice makes so much sense in theory. The practical application is the work...a very rewarding endeavour though. It is through this that we notice how are we controlling the events around us for our own "gain", that is how our mind is controlling us.

The questions to ask ourselves are;

1) How accepting we are of the other forms of expression?

2) How flexible are we to new ideas, direction?

3) Are we content with our work and the fruits it brings, or we are always hungry for more? 

4) Are we so busily promoting ourselves that we see no other?
…....Many more questions and yet again it comes to the same. We all know how to be authentic. Let me rephrase it, we all know how it feels to be authentic. It just feels so effortless, so right. All we have to do is to catch ourselves when we are feeling uneasy, and question as to what is it that we are resisting ....what is holding us from being One..... “returning to” ourselves?

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Artist's Mission.... Just a thought

Internet has given us incredible advantages for learning, social interactions, entertainment and especially for creative people, a way of showing, reaching with their work to a far larger audience than they ever could. This is only a small portion of it's applications in our lives.

As in Eastern philosophies, for which I am a student , there cannot be gain without sacrifice..... yang without yin.... I am sure a whole book can be written about this. Besides, there is no absolute good or bad anyway....

In my Artist's statement a couple of years ago, I was talking about the ”tumultuous” world we were living in. Now things have become even more hectic. The information is coming and going in almost light speed, in and out of people's computers, tablets and phones....Our already short attention span is shrinking rapidly.

I think this is having a big impact on Art. Increasingly, the Internet galleries are becoming the way of exposing the artwork. Digital images, that show only a few aspects of the original (and can be manipulated), don't always do justice to the artwork. The definition of art is becoming very vague....

So how can one's art be noticed (and be bought) when people are jumping from from one image to another, one thought to another....? I have been noticing that images of art (or so called art ) that get most attention are the ones that have some sort of shocking, surprising element to them.

Can a quiet art like Sumi-e survive this trend? I think as the chaos grows and the further away people shift from their true self, the more they feel deprived of the inner connection and peace. Artwork that is created from the quiet and boundless place can bring, even for very short time , some serenity in people's lives, helping  them find peace in this hustling world.

Maybe it is our, the mindful artist's mission to bring balance into this frantic life on this planet.... Hmm.....interesting thought....I like it :)......what do you think?

Visit my website to experience...

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Beyond the Appearances "Tao Te Ching" Verse 21 for Artists

Verse 21*
The appearance of great virtue
Follows only the Tao
The Tao, as a thing
Seems indistinct, seems unclear
So unclear, so indistinct
Within it there is image
So indistinct, so unclear
Within it there is substance
So deep, so profound
Within it there is essence
Its essence is supremely real
Within it there is faith
From ancient times to the present
Its name never departs
To observe the source of all things
How do I know the nature of the source?
With this

Here is another guidance towards becoming virtuous, which in Lao Tzu's view is only achieved by following Tao.....But what is Tao? So many thoughts, interpretations, and still very vague....Why do we want to understand Tao ourselves? I think it is because we know, deep inside, that despite it's obscurity, there is something essential and concrete about it. To grasp that, we don't need words or explanations, as a matter of fact, the words (the mind) will hinder the discernment.

This verse alone is to live and create by. It applies to really, truly seeing things for what they are, but not what they appear to be. Not to rely only on the outwards, mental explanation/description of things, but experience the core essence of them....Sooo appropriate to the  Sumi-e way of creating. Of course, it applies to any kind of art, but in Sumi-e, if you don't see the true spirit of things, then you have nothing else to paint. It is through connecting, becoming intimate with the subject, while letting go of the preconceived notions of it, that one can create sumi-e painting.

In other kind of art forms,  still, if the artist doesn't show or understand the spirit of his/her subject matter in his/her  artwork, then the outcome remains as just a description, a statement and often lifeless.

This verse points to us once again, that our mind, as useful as it is for our survival, is far inferior to be able to really grasp the beautiful profundity of life.

Sharing with you the images of my Sumi-e paintings, as expressions of my attempt to see beyond the appearances.

* Translation by Derek Lin

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Do You Remember Creating?

I have posted my Sumi-e painting above on Instagram, as I do periodically. Among many “like”s there was a comment; “Did you paint this? The question surprised me.....”Who else?”, was going to be my reply. With my awakened ego,  I hurried to check who this person was, that was questioning the authenticity of my painting....The answer to my curiosity was that he works in the field of child psychology... There was no surprise any more for me. I was actually flattered.

I talk often in my blog posts about the quiet place within, where we are connected to the source, from where the creativity comes from. This is where we've come from ourselves, as ultimate creations of the universe. Children are without inhibitions and conditioning. All their actions come from play and imagination; definite ingredients of creativity. Most of the time they are not even aware of what they are doing (the awareness comes from the mind). In fact, when someone asked of my friend's 5 year son if he could paint a painting similar to the masterpiece (literally) he had created earlier, he replied “I don't know, I don't remember”. This is the reason why children's art is so pure and innocent.

A question to all....When you look at one of your creations that you are pleased with, and find successful, do you remember what was going on in your head while you were creating it? To speak for myself, I don't. All I know is that when I paint/create, it feels as if I am an instrument for something bigger than I that creates through me. It allows me to enjoy my artwork afterwards without any possessiveness.

As adults, to be able to create sincerely, we have to by-pass the mind in an attempt to undo the damage of becoming a conscious adult. I find this letting go is the biggest challenge for all, including  my students at the Sumi-e classes, but the reward from even slightly going beyond the mind is magnificent.

So, do you remember creating? Share your experiences please.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Alone, Yet Content "Tao Te Ching" Verse 20 for Artists

Verse 20*
Cease learning, no more worries
Respectful response and scornful response
How much is the difference?
Goodness and evil
How much do they differ?
What the people fear, I cannot be unafraid
So desolate! How limitless it is!
The people are excited
As if enjoying a great feast
As if climbing up to the terrace in spring
I alone am quiet and uninvolved
Like an infant not yet smiling
So weary, like having no place to return
The people all have surplus
While I alone seem lacking
I have the heart of a fool indeed – so ignorant!
Ordinary people are bright
I alone am muddled
Ordinary people are scrutinizing
I alone am obtuse
Such tranquility, like the ocean
Such high wind, as if without limits
The people all have goals
And I alone am stubborn and lowly
I alone am different from them
And value the nourishing mother

This verse I find to be very different from the previous ones. In the previous chapters the tone was more educational, like Lao Tzu was teaching/showing us the way.

This one is more like the author's inwards pondering, reflections through understanding the shortcomings of the common human state. With this inner dialogue he compares the outside world which is filled with fear and desire, excitement and disappointment, loneliness and despair, to his own world. He feels different from the common, as he is simple, tranquil, selfless, free like the wind... without attachments. He attributes this to his “nourishing mother” the Tao, a life in harmony with the natural order.

As Artists, we are all human and we live through these “common” feelings, but privileged because we know where this source of liberty that Lao Tzu is getting his nourishment from is. We are there when we are deep into our creative state; totally submerged into it, one with our true self. Only if we could carry this into our everyday life.... Just try it, remember this place for a second or two in the middle of an inner turmoil.... suddenly nothing matters....there is a vast space within and without...

I remind my students of this at my Sumi-e classes; to carry the feeling into the day. One can't be in one's studio, or with a brush/pencil in hand creating, but one can imagine, feel that space periodically, where everything is connected and with Tao.

* I am using  Translation by Derek Lin as examples of verses, but there are many other translations with different nuances and sensibilities of the translator.  

To see my artwork which is inspired by these/Eastern wisdom, please visit my website.   
If you enjoyed this blog post, do follow it and you will receive my interpretations of the following chapters, as I publish them. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

My Thoughts On Art, Links

Did cavemen ask what art is? I doubt it. I would imagine though that it was their natural means self expression and I assume it a had purpose...communication. Aren't we, artists doing the same thing, communicating?

The modern human mind is very complex. Everything that we see, we tend to analyse, judge, approve or reject. But art in my understanding (or better, I prefer seeing it as) a way of getting in touch with our senses, feelings, emotions and sharing that with others. It is how genuinely the artist expresses her/his emotions and how effectively the message comes across, that decides the success of it's accomplishment.

I get puzzled sometimes with some of the expression that is called art these days. In attempt to understand and find some clarity in my perception, I question those thoughts in some of my blog posts. So far I seem to find great support in exploring this in the Eastern philosophies. Despite it's difference in aesthetic expression, when it comes to understanding the human state of being, it is universal and timeless. It is from there that the artist creates.

Sumi-e painting, Japanese brush painting is one of my means of communication. Like in Sumi-e painting, with very few strokes,  here in my blog post "Why Do I Create Art", with very few sentences I explain the reasons for my aspiration to create.

Below are the links to my previous blogs of my thoughts, insights on what art and creating is about....of course under the influence of Eastern philosophies :)  It is in chronological order, from old to newer ones and I will be adding links as they appear...

Just Thinking (1)

Just Thinking (2)

A Thought on Composition

The Centre

Art or Craft?


Who Creates Art?

Life's Painting

Without Words

Music and Sumi-e

Drawing the Line

Thoughts on Originality

A Dilemma

Sharing your Soul


No Answer

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Simplicity "Tao Te Ching" verse 19 for Artists

Verse 19*

End sagacity; abandon knowledge
The people benefit a hundred times
End benevolence; abandon righteousness
The people return to piety and charity
End cunning; discard profit
Bandits and thieves no longer exist
These three things are superficial and insufficient
Thus this teaching has its place:
Show plainness; hold simplicity
Reduce selfishness; decrease desires

This verse seems like many other verses, especially the previous one, but yet different. Different, maybe because we may have forgotten what we have learned from the previous one(s). Something that is easy, very easy to do, when you live in a society that promotes opposite values. It talks to us deep inside though, as these values resonate with our authentic self.....our natural, selfless, simple self.

One sees again how Lao Tzu seems to dislike knowledge (something totally contrary to the Western mentality) but does he really? I feel his advice is to know how to use it properly. It is the cunning intelligence, the exploitation of circumstances for self advancement, judgemental thinking that the author is warning us against.

When I paint  sumi-e, just through the act of painting I get reminded how much the knowledge gets in the way, when we try to be sincere, to bring out the pure energy  in our artwork.  The painting and the act of painting come alive, when we abandon the intelligence and embrace the effortless, simple centered state..... no complications of the mind...

As artists, how much are we true to ourselves? How much do we use our intelligence for our gain? Is there a way around it? When is it too much? I think if we listen, truly listen to our pure self, we will know it, as we will feel no resistance from within.

* I am using  Translation by Derek Lin as examples of verses, but there are many different translations with different nuances and sensibilities of the translators.