Friday, September 18, 2009

More conversation with Binky Walker

Here is the second installment of my conversation with Binky Walker, whose graphite drawings are on view at Cullom Gallery through October 31, 2009 in the exhibit, ukio-e: pictures of the floating world. Her words are darker, mine are lighter. One more installment will follow tomorrow. And a reminder that Binky will be speaking at the gallery tomorrow, Saturday, September 19th, at 3:00 pm. Please join us and bring a friend. Cullom Gallery, 313 Occidental Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104. 206.919.8278. map.

At a certain point in my work I left narrative, emotions, and even representation and became interested in series, meditation, and looking more deeply at what is here. The discipline necessary to accomplish a project like the clouds is in fact a years-long meditation. Working in this way opens my mind to enter other levels of consciousness, other ways of knowing what is here. I like to be here because it is a very peaceful place and also seems a more truthful experience of existence. My hope is that someone looking at the work can enter that same realm from the other side, through the act of surrendering their attention.

My artistic trajectory prompted an exploration into Buddhism and the mystical branches of other religions. The truth explained in these readings often reflects similar observations I make during the course of my drawing meditations. Japanese Buddhism, its focus on enlightenment as coming through nature and the natural world, closely resembles my experiences as an artist. I do not consider myself a religious person, however I am a very spiritual artist. I also read a lot in science, which I find in its deepest sense to be grappling with issues of spirituality.

I had to chuckle at the literal pun that comes to mind when I consider your personal process along side the century's-old turn-of-phrase that came to define much of woodblock print making and the zeitgeist that predominated in the major Japanese cities from the 17th century to the turn of the 20th century, that is ukiyo, or 'the floating world' and ukiyo-e, the popular 'pictures of the floating world' that were born out of (some world say the twisting of) this phrase.

The floating or sorrowful world . . . the singularly human recognition of my own transience here and the fear I feel face-to-face with the prospect of (imminent) death. Death itself having no more permanence than winter summer spring fall, another season of an existence I am forever part of, as I disperse from this bodily form into other forms. Like clouds, I have no discrete moments. To hold this in awareness: being here sublimely beautiful, and supremely cruel. Ukiyo as you explain it encompassing the whole of these seeming contradictions, existence one sorrowful beauty. More sorrowful for being beautiful, more beautiful in the sorrow that the death of each moment brings.

"Ukiyo in early Japanese poetry is the floating, transient, idle world. As originally used in Chinese poetry, the term is resonant with the pessimism and melancholy of Buddhist philosophy." – taken from a text on ukiyo-e.

Only our human minds – not the conscious universe – find the death of the body more real than death of a moment. The discrete divisions of past, present, and future are human constructs upon which to rest a continuously changing present. The definition of time as the ancient Jewish mystics saw it: the measure of difference as perceived from our human eyes. The truth is, we are eternity: perpetual motion of form to form, with no end to a transformation we are forever part of. Seen in this light - the Buddhist light - transience is permanence, optimism in this beautiful sorrow. The clouds taught me this.

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