September 21, 2016

In search of bodhicitta and a learning from art school all those years ago in SA

About yesterday's drawing. 

Following on my little chat about art as expression of self [light side, dark side, in between, both... depending ], a few more musings...

This drawing is from yesterday. It sort of comes out of some delicious words and ideas I am reading, on and off, at the moment, by Pema Chodron, a Bhudist nun. Lots on youtube so added bonus you get to  feel as if someone is talking to you!

Pema speaks about the Bhudist concept of Bodhicitta, which is, well, I won't explain it now, It's better to listen here:,LISTEN - BODHICITTA 


And then.. somehow some threads from that take me 'back' to Durban South Africa .  
I was at Art School there for 4 years.

I was incredibly fortunate to have been taught by some of the top artists of the day, active political edgy established artists of South Africa, eg
Bronwen Findlay
Anthony Starkey
John Room
Lola Frost
Andrew Verster  [Andrew was not one of our tutors as such, but he often came to do critiques of our work, so he experience of being in his presence was amazing. He is an astounding artist]
Jeremy Wafer
Andries Botha  [Andries, also knows as BOET, which means Brother in Afrikaans, even purchased 2 of my paintings!]
Virginia McKenna  [not to be confused with Virginia McKenna, also from Durban who was the actress in the amazing film - from the book - BORN FREE -  a lovely topic  in itself for another post ]

it was an amazing time to be involved in the arts. We were on the cusp of the demise of Apartheid, involved to some extent using the arts, in expressing and exploring the social psychi at the time, and also in the euforia of its demise.

Many of these artists were brave brave active voices in the struggle, over many years. To be taught by them was an absolute privelage. Worth every cent of student loan and nights of waitressing!

Getting to the point... a very simple but profound lesson I learned in art school, among many many many things, was that if you are stuck with a painting or a drawing or an image.. turn it upside down and look at it, or turn it sideways. Move it into a different space with different light.

Often, I used to do that, and end up rebuilding the image using the 'turned over' view, or cutting it up and using the bits that I liked and worked. Or just finding some gap or light in the paint or the image to save and grow or give more of a voice to. There is always something!

So a few things happen there... 1. you entertain the idea that the image as it is, must change. It might not be working as it is, on that path.
2. by turning it over, you already start the thought process of, potentially, radical change, so what happens there?
You suddenly become less attached to your image, and less protective. You kind of migrate from static, to movement and curiosity. That's the big thing - you need to be curious, and you need to be thinking: I wonder what would happen if... and THEN taking the risk to make that change, and see what happens.

So the process although seemingly quick and intuitive at the time, if you break it down, becomes quite important, you sort of mix things up and let go of your control, but without becoming entirely passive and a spectator only.

So it's interesting... you are kind of looking for the bodhicitta in a way. 

I guess that might be what I was doing with this image, in a very simple way. I'm still not entirely satisfied with it. But it is great to enter into the process again. Ok, its 'just a picture' but pictures are notorious for turning into a talisman, without you even realising it, whether you 'like' the picure or not!

And finally, my last thought that came to me on the topic of art school, is the importance of a flock.
When I went to art school, I think it was the first time in my life where i really felt as if I belonged somewhere and is if I was with my kin. I felt more grounded and solid [not always but a lot] I was able to work through a lot and take a lot of risks, some worked some didnt but had I not had that flock, I dont know if I would have done what I did, and felt what I did. I also learned what an emotional vocabulary was and the nuances of feelings. Feelings do not consist of HATE vs LOVE. There is a LOT inbetween, and that's just one...  You need that for art.  to make pictures that speak and have depth and play with metaphor and ambivalence and all those crunchy things that help us, as humans, find identification with the other, through art.

So belonging... I suppose having moved countries twice and with trying so hard, twice, to make a home and feel safe and  have a reflection of myself around me, so that I feel as if I exist properly and have a place, ... but at the same time, 
to be  curious and excited about life, and so it goes on.... : 
There are the two sides:  Belonging, which implies a search for permanence and security, and then the bodhicitta where we are encouraged to stay in groundlessness and movement and change and not consider ourselves seperate from the whole, but part of this ever changing egoless space, for want of a better explanation.
Better to listen to Pema... ! or read..

I am trying to respect both parts of myself, and turn them around a bit, gently, and be curious and see what happens..

I am book marking my ideas again.

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