Thursday, 22 January 2015

Self Promotion "Tao Te Ching" verse 24 for Artists

Verse 24
Those who are on tiptoes cannot stand
Those who straddle cannot walk
Those who flaunt themselves are not clear
Those who presume themselves are not distinguished
Those who praise themselves have no merit
Those who boast about themselves do not last
Those with the Tao call such things leftover food or tumors
They despise them
Thus, those who possesses the Tao do not engage in them

Analyzing this verse is a challenge for me, not the understanding of it. It is quite straight forward.... but easy? Just like meditation, the Tao, the Natural Way, sounds indeed simple; very natural, but applying it is  challenging, as it is a state, where the ego (the self) has no place.

In this Internet driven world, where boasting and self promotion is a common place, how can an artist remain genuine? We know very well and we have been taught as children the “right” and “wrong” behaviours. We are taught to be patient, modest, considerate and humble. We know all this, but do we practice it?

Modern life, including the structure of the social media, is based on self promotion. Google's definition of it is; “the action of promoting or publicizing oneself or one's activities, especially in a forceful way”....That doesn't sound natural and not what we know as proper. From my experience, the boasting, self promoting artist's recognition doesn't last long... I am sure you have observed this as well.

If there is anything that should speak for us, it is one's art. As a matter of fact, it is the quality of our art that should do the promoting. This way we can keep one's honour and integrity. The result of this behaviour, I believe, will outlast everything else.

We do have to make a point to consult texts like this. They help us notice our ego driven actions and bring us back to our true selves.... they keep us on our toes :)

All of my sumi-e paintings and classes are inspired by Tao and Zen philosophies.... please visit  them... and leave comments if you wish.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Computer Sumi-e, or Can Love Be Programmed?

The computers are integral part of our lives in practically all facets. And now, when more and more imagery is being produced by them, should we consider them as Art? I am an artist, who aims to work mainly by using nature's contrasting forces  (yin and yang) to create a balanced and harmonious work, through my sumi-e paintings or drawings. I often wonder if the computers can produce images with the intricate aesthetic expression, that it is expected from a fine artwork . Could a  computer create....... a sumi-e painting?

It brings us back to trying to define Art, something that I don't believe can be truly done. Maybe it is possible to give some description, or a thoughts towards a way of understanding it, but truly defining it?...

One would need to understand what contributes to creating art maybe. We have to realize that if there were no humans, then there would  be no art. It is the humans that consider/label anything as Art, no matter how, or by whom it is created, including the computer generated images. That sense of aesthetics is unique only to us, humans.

I think that the computer is another tool for an artist's expression, like a brush or a canvas. There is always a human/programmer behind the computer, feeding it with some parameters, to comply with human sensibilities. Besides, computers are made by using the brain as a model. There is more to being human though, than the brain, don't you agree?

I believe that art appreciation comes from somewhere beyond the mind. The more we try to use our logic in understanding it, the more we lose it. There is an ingredient in being human that is beyond rational, therefore beyond the computers, and it is that ingredient that decides what Art and for that matter... Love is...

Can Love be programmed?....
Well, this is one way of looking at it. In my next post, I will try to see from the opposite side...After all, I must have learned something from Tao Te Ching :)

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Know When It Is Enough "Tao Te Ching" verse 23 for Artists

Verse 23*
Sparse speech is natural
Thus strong wind does not last all morning
Sudden rain does not last all day
What makes this so? Heaven and Earth
Even Heaven and Earth cannot make it last
How can humans?
Thus those who follow the Tao are with the Tao
Those who follow virtue are with virtue
Those who follow loss are with loss
Those who are with the Tao, the Tao is also pleased to have them
Those who are with virtue, virtue is also pleased to have them
Those who are with loss, loss is also please to have them
Those who do not trust sufficiently, others have no trust in them 

I find in the first half of the verse, Lao Tzu is showing us the absurdity of human loudness... incessant chatter...and busybody-ness. One thinks, that by all that noise, one will be more effective, but as the author points out...  “..strong wind does not last all morning, and  sudden rain does not last all day...”.

We see this often in everyday life and in the art world as well. The artist wants to be noticed, and often in this self-promoting culture, overdoes it.

So how much is right? Or is there a right amount? Again (as in verse 9),  moderation is the answer. It is applying more self awareness, observing ourselves, sensing the strain that our actions bring from within, and if one acts naturally, the outward expression of self will be that right amount.

Zen arts like sumi-e, shodo, the tea ceremony, haiku poetry are all based on self-awareness. Practicing these arts, with complete presence, the artist understands (senses) when enough has been shown, executed or said.... something that can be so valuable in our everyday life.

In the second half of the verse, the advice is to make sure to notice what we are mostly paying attention to, what we are practising, as we tend to attract ourselves to the same.

The Western mind likes to separate itself from others, and think that it is what is controlling the events and the outcome, but if one gets out of one's own way, one will soon discover that things do flow in a natural order. That is what Lao Tzu calls “following Tao”.

 * Translation by Derek Lin

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Sumi-e of Life....Harmony

Another year has passed. Same time last year, I had published my blog post titled “New Year, Old Wisdom”.

This previous year brought with it seven revelations..Have I applied them? Initially, the revelations  touch us in  a very profound way. But do we truly understand them? And what is understanding anyway? If we understand mentally, do we really? 

I know that ancients didn't have access to as much information as we do. They had just one teaching/book at hand. They would read each sentence/teaching over and over again and the understanding would constantly change, become deeper. I can relate to this with my Sumi-e  and Tai Chi practice. Same moves, strokes, over and over again, day after day, and each stroke/move, each time bringing deeper understanding and connection. Can I say that I know Sumi-e  or Tai Chi now, after so many years of practice?

Right after that post, I made a decision to interpret 600 BC Chinese philosopher and poet  Lao Tzu's  “Tao Te Ching” from an artist's point of view. In its obscure, yet fascinating philosophies, I am finding  more understanding of the life process and myself. It comes to me more experientially, which makes the writing even more challenging. This is when the intelligence doesn't serve but hinders the understanding.

What am I taking with me into the next year?

1) To, as they say, “go with the flow”, be flexible.

2) To accept everything that comes my way (without labeling).

3) To try not to understand everything... things are clearer without the understanding....when the mind is empty.

4) To trust my own feelings, as they are much more intelligent than my mind ….

5) There is much more in nothingness, than one can imagine.

6) The less has more....the simple is rich.

7) We  come to this world with all the real knowledge, which we lose in the process of “growing  up”, with supervision from those who have forgotten as remember.

Just like in Sumi-e painting, by working with contrasts, I am trying to create harmony on the paper of  my life.....

Old Wisdom ...indeed.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Sumi-e of Life....The Circle

I have decided to do an Enso painting for this blog as I thought it was most appropriate for this time of the year as it is approaching the end. Also, because I find comfort in  its symbolic power during these hectic times of the holidays.

As Enso is a relatively foreign concept for most, I will summarize it in a couple of sentences, but you can find it in greater detail on the net. Actually, it is impossible  to truly define Enso as Tao or Life for that matter. I think it is to be understood experientially while painting, looking and contemplating  it.

Enso is a Japanese word meaning circle. It is the most common character/symbol in Japanese calligraphy. It is strongly associated with one of the defining aspects of Zen Buddhism - no-mind. It symbolizes enlightenment, strength of mind, elegance, the Universe.....and Mu (the void) that holds all that there is.

Enso is painted with one breath total concentration...not on the painting, but on the inner awareness, mind is free....Just one continuous round stroke closed, or open slightly...whatever the moment brings.

 So it is the end of the year, we say.....the end of this circle and another one ahead. Not the same two Ensos are the same. If we look at life in general or into our everyday life, we see many seemingly repetitive beginnings and ends.....but is there an end to the circle?....Maybe the circle is only a part of the continuous wave of life.....

Lots to time.....we have to get ready for the celebrations :). As we lose the connection with our inner awareness, as our minds get scattered in all directions, nice to know that we can always come back to our own circle, to our true self.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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...