Monday, 25 May 2015 10:16

The Colors of God

Every two years, Misereor, a German Catholic development agency, sponsors and sells a "Lenten Veil" produced by an artist from a non-Western country. The Veil it promotes in 2015-2016 has been painted by the Chinese artist Dao Zi. Benoit Vermander comments here on the theological meaning of the artwork.

For more information on the Veil: http://www.misereor.de/service/service-gemeinden/misereor-hungertuch.html

When confronted by an artwork, the viewer may legitimately "feel' and "read' it in a way that is different from the one suggested by its creator. Inspiring artworks open up a space of possibilities and interpretations that go beyond the intentions of the one who created it – like the life children that go far beyond the projects and wishes of their parents. I feel entitled to read Dao Zi's Lent Veil by starting from directions and insights that differ from the ones he had explicitly in mind. And such "deviant reading" is after all a way to pay homage to the depth and evocative power of a most intriguing work.

In the gold and ink that predominate in the Veil, I perceive the colors of God... The golden color speaks to me of the Godhead, of the eternal surge of the divinity out of his own self, of his explosion and yet of his perpetual gathering into One. Gold sings the source of life and light at her most original and at her purest. To put it another way, the island of golden light that stands at the center of this painting speaks to me of an inexhaustible treasure: the heart of the Father from whom the Word always flows and to which He also comes back. This explosion of light - that yet remains united and compact - tells me of "one thing that God has said, and two that I have heard" (Psalm 62:12): the Father gives everything to His Son, and, in His Son, God gives everything to us; at the same time (and this is the second thing that I hear out of the single Word that God eternally offers), God remains One in the loving embrace of the divine persons.

And yet, dots of gold are scattered around the original island of light... These dots tell me that God makes a dwelling within our very being, that when we obey the Word we are visited and invested by the Spirit who unites the Father and the Son. Each of the dots of gold shares in the Source of Light. Apparently, each dot is separated from the Source, but in truth it exists only within the Source and thanks to her. "God un ich sind dann eins – God and I are one then" (Meister Eckhart)

I can glance at the shape of the central glittering of gold for a long time... As I said, I see first an island of light standing in the darkness, something that speaks of an eternal beginning, a star maybe - or the sun in the morning. But in this shape I can also distinguish a head: the face of God as revealed suddenly on the cross. Sometimes, I see it also as a nail, as an opening in the flesh from which the ultimate mystery is revealed and hidden again. And at other moments it irresistibly suggests to me the cutting edge of the godhead: nothing and nobody can define the Source of all things but she ineffably penetrates all reality.

And now... the black or dark blue of the ink... I do not truly "see" it – I rather "feel" it. I feel a flux in it, the perpetual movement of a river, something that cannot be stopped, because it is the rhythm of life. It tells me that no analogy can adequately grasp the mystery of God, not even the one provided by the word "Light." God is the ultimate secret that one just cannot penetrate. God is the secret hidden behind time, behind space, behind all beginnings. God has no name, no face, no shape, no color, no time, God has no form out of which we could fathom an idea or an image. And it is only when we have meditated upon this radical "cloud of unknowing" that we can hear in truth the words whispered by John: "No one has ever seen God. The unique God, who is close to the Father's side, has revealed him." (John 1:18)

For sure, in this painting black and gold taken together are drawing the shape of a cross. It does speak of the cross of Christ that both hides God and ultimately reveals God's secret. Black and golden, the cross stands over the grisaille of our world and illuminates it. And the tears, blood and water that flow from the suffering flesh of Christ are changed into these seven dots of pure, radiant light. But I also see this crossing of lines as a sign meant to forbid us to enclose God in a representation, a concept or a definition. It speaks of the meeting of opposites: God is light and yet is hidden in the deepest darkness; God is both love and justice; God speaks to us through gold and black. God is beyond all time and space, and is revealed in the frailty of our history, the evanescence of our memories.

Also, I see in the crossing of these black and golden shapes the search of a balance between immobility and movement. Again, the dark flux of the horizontal line speaks to me of water, of a divine secret working throughout times and spaces like the river carves its bed. Earth and mountains glitter over the waters, stable as an immutable heart. God is an inexhaustible dynamism and an eternal quiescence. And Christ on the cross is both passively offered to human violence and actively accomplishes the loving will of the Father. This painting does not offer to the viewer a cross to contemplate from a distance. It rather invites us to enter into its movement and its rhythm, so that the Spirit may dispel our certainties and mental images. The cross that this painting draws is not a place to stay. It is an opening and a threshold.

And it is in the "mobility" of the work that I can sense the cultural background of the artist. The seals used by Dao Zi are mostly adorned by the characters for "One" and for "Three." Besides the obvious references to the Triune God and also to the nails of the cross, the paintings and the seals reminded me immediately of the chapter 42 of the Daodejing – the seminal Classic of the Daoist School:

"The Way begets the one
The one begets the two
The two beget the three
The three beget the myriad beings.
The myriad beings carry the shadow and embrace the light,
Blending their breaths into harmony."


The cosmology suggested by this famous mystical text speaks of a process of birth and generation that operates through gift and loss: the unfathomable Way – the Principle that is before all forms and things. It lets itself be numbered and divided. The Principle, once it is manifested as Triune, gives life to all beings. And life sustains itself through the balance of light and obscurity in which breathings are blended and harmonized. In such a perspective, the cross of Christ accomplishes the process through which God gives to the world not only some measure of life, but also the very principle of life, the essence of life and light that God is. And this gift is manifested in a blending of light and darkness: God exhausts the light that He is throughout the radiant breath He communicates to His Son and, through His Son, to all of us. God shares the fullness of His breath with His Son and receives it anew from His Son. The myriad beings blend their breaths into divine life as they originate themselves from such inexpressible exchange.

Coming again at the painting, I then read it as a meditation on the chapter 14 of the Daodejing:

"Looked at, but cannot be seen -That is called the Invisible.
Listened to, but cannot be heard -That is called the Inaudible.
Grasped at, but cannot be touched -That is called the Intangible.
These three elude our inquiries - And hence blend and become One."

And this makes me also listen differently to the question that goes with the artwork: " Wie viel is genug? How much is enough?"

Is such question merely about our needs, about how much "gold" we truly need in our life? For sure, assessing our real needs in the light of Jesus' teaching as well as of current world challenges is a discernment to be made – to be made at all cost one may say. But I also hear the question as being asked about God: how much is enough for God? And the implied answer would be: God never tires of giving Himself, of losing, sharing, exhausting His very being, God never gives enough of His breath and His light, He gives the whole of Himself to His Son, and then, by surrendering His Son to us, He exhausts and communicates everything He has and He is. When it comes to giving, there is never a "genug" – enough - for God. The question asked by the painting becomes the dynamic though which we surrender ourselves to God and our brothers and sisters. By both veiling and unveiling God's ultimate mystery, Dao Zi's painting open us the space where God's life and our daily life blend into the one and the same circulation of light, breathing and love.

(Edited by Michael Kelly)


Monday, 29 September 2014 00:00

Entre ville et mont (見山‧畫城)

Exposition Benoît VERMANDER (peintures) – LIANG Zhun (photographies) 

Le musée municipal Xuhui, Shanghai, accueille du 24 octobre au 10 novembre 2014 une exposition de Benoît Vermander (France) et Liang Zhun (Chine), intitulée « Entre ville et mont (見山‧畫城) ». Le dialogue entre les peintures de Benoît Vermander et les photographies de Liang Zhun – les unes et les autres confrontant condition urbaines et populations montagnardes du sud-ouest de la Chine - ouvrent sur d'autres confrontations : celle entre la « tradition » chinoise, et des modernités éclatées ; celles entre un regard ancré dans les grandes terres du sud-ouest et une esthétique du passage, de la fluidité ; celle entre l'instant photographique et le trait calligraphique.

Juste avant l'inauguration de l'exposition, une table ronde réunit au musée Xuhui des professeurs du département de philosophie de Fudan et des artistes de différentes nationalité habitant à Shanghai autour du thème : « L'œil et le trait. Qu'est-ce qu'une esthétique inter-culturelle ? » L'apport d'auteurs tels que Merleau-Ponty et Henri Michaux fera l'objet d'une attention spéciale.

Inauguration: Vendredi 24 octobre 2014, 16h
DATES : 24 octobre 2014 – 10 novembre 2014
Lieu : Xuhui Art Museum, Shanghai 1411 Huaihai Middle Rd, Xuhui, Shanghai, Chine

BV-expo-Xuhui-oct2014

Published in
Events

Monday, 13 September 2010 00:00

The San Ignazio frescoes

These two short videos take you to a guided discovery of the San Ignazio frescoes.

"The light of the Trinity inflames the heart of saint Ignatius then spreads to the entire world through the grace of many mediators ; such is the theme of the ceilings of the San Ignazio church in Rome.

Brother Andrea Pozzo completed the paintings in 1685, in accordance with the requirements of the Council of Trent: artists were asked to guard against the excessive influence of ancient mythology and to exalt the truth of Incarnation with an art capable of demonstrating the vanities of the visible world. : pictures are nothing by themselves and it would be unwise to rely on them."

"The second sequence highlights the spiritual struggle of mission : The fire of the Gospel and its action are confronted with the infinite perversity of passions and all kinds of violence and idolatry. The ogres and monsters painted by Pozzo do indeed illustrate the diverse heresies of the Reform but we can interpret them today as images of a spiritual struggle that takes place essentially in the innermost being of every believer. Once again, the huge frescoes of this vaulted ceiling tell first of the magnificent way the Word of fire enters the hearts of men, spreading into different cultures, a Word that penetrates all that is really human, joyfully transfiguring the body of believers. Divine love begins to speak to the hearts of the pagans who knew nothing of it and it renews the courage of all those who stumble along the path of faith."

 

 


Monday, 21 November 2011 00:00

Between the Horror and the Sublime

Daniel Arroyo is 29 years old and he is a Spanish painter. He studied Fine Arts at Barcelona University and Ecole National Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris. He has been living in Taipei for 7 months where he is currently learning the Chinese language and where he hopes to exhibit his work soon. He is very interested in seeing how his work will evolve in contact with Asian culture and Asia's approach to the sacred and the everyday, the dialogue between these two being a major driver of his artistic creation.


Wednesday, 09 November 2011 11:51

Breathing and Painting

"What I try to paint is the very breathing that makes me paint." This is the way Benoit Vermander introduced his works during the opening of his exhibit at DPARK, Shanghai (November 5-30). The seventy ink and oil paintings gathered in this beautiful location were mainly organized around three topics: faces, birds and forest. But each time, explained Benoit, the underlying element was the breeze - the inner breeze that makes the face change and come anew to the light of the day; the breeze that supports the flight of the bird; the breeze that makes the forest palpitate and become the place where one wishes to wander and lose oneself.

Chinese paintings and oil paintings seemed to be melting into one, as the one and the same breath guides the hand that painted them, beyond differences in techniques and cultural undertones. The breath of the painter became the one inhaled by the visitors who had come to take new strength and inspiration in a show made even more poetic by the large windows of the main exhibit room, opening up on a landscape of high-rise buildings and slowly balancing bamboos....

bendu_shanghai_dpark_02

bendu_shanghai_dpark_03

bendu_shanghai_dpark_04

 


Tuesday, 30 December 2008 00:10

Chinese Painting Today

Chinese painting is a special and pervasive feature of China’s social and cultural theater. In this respect, it has to be acknowledged that Chinese painting often functions as an assertion of national pride and uniqueness, which results in endless repetitive motifs. This should not overshadow the remarkable achievements in Chinese painting in the last decades. Actually, when all is said and done, future generations might recognize the 20th century as one of the most creative periods in the history of the venerable artistic tradition called "Chinese painting." Names such as Huang Binhong (1865-1955), Qi Baishi 1863-1957), Li Keran (1907-1989), Shi Lu ( 1919-1982), Lin Fengmian ( 1900-1991) already stand among the best artists of our time, not only in China but worldwide, even if Western knowledge of Chinese art remains very poor indeed.

But what is "Chinese painting" (guohua) anyway? One must first note that guohua can also be translated as "national painting" if one does not simply consider it as an abbreviation of zhongguohua, i.e., "Chinese painting" stricto sensu. The distinction is important for the intent it conveys, if not for the reality to which it refers. "Guohua and zhongguohua commonly refer to works painted with traditional Chinese pigments on a ground of traditional paper or silk. The terms thus describe the medium and ground of the painting rather than the style."

Some critics plead for a much broader definition of “national painting.” Art historian Lin Mu (born 1949) writes:
“Ink work, rice paper and free-hand techniques came into being only during the last few centuries. Painting styles in China also include folk painting, various fresco styles, silk paintings, stone intaglios, from which much is to be learned. As for the traditional ink and wash painting, which takes the Chan school as its spiritual kernel, this simple, elegant and leisurely style may have difficulty surviving in our changing world, where the closed and stagnant agricultural society from which the tradition emerged is being rapidly swept into the past.... Modern society has good reason to demand of Chinese painting a totally new look.”

Like other historians, Lin Mu argues that Chinese tradition is much more diverse and heterogeneous than often acknowledged, and that different schools, materials, techniques and religious faiths generated various styles of painting. It is only in contradistinction to Western art that the literati school came to bear the label of "Chinese painting" and was set into a canon. The limitations in technique and materials proper to this school have long been recognized, by prominent Chinese artists as Pan Tianshou (1897-1971) and Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). To do "Chinese painting" today is to retrieve the diversity of China’s artistic traditions, with particular attention to religious art and the traditions of ethnic minorities. Lin Mu celebrates the "vagueness" (mohuqing) of contemporary Chinese painting—a vagueness he finds far preferable to the insistence upon any one standard or dominant tradition.

The views summarized above are not mere repetitions of the criticisms Chinese painting has endured over the last 40-some years, but may prove to be even more challenging. The history of Chinese painting since 1949 is a tormented one. Traditional painting was first omitted from the curricula of Art academies. Subsequently, Chinese painting was mobilized for a short period in order to celebrate the successes of the new regime. From 1963 on, artists like Shi Lu, Li Keran, Lin Fengmian or Pan Tianshou fell victim (the last posthumously) to violent criticisms aimed at the "wild, weird, chaotic and black" nature of their works, which could not but betray an essentially counter-revolutionary spirit. The re-emergence of the guohua tradition following the Cultural Revolution has been long and difficult. Although the renewed nationalist fervor has helped its rehabilitation, its artistic development has remained under the control of the cultural bureaucracy. In the past two decades, other media have been deemed to better express the spirit of adventure and protest that art can convey. The underlying question is whether "national art" brings with it a predetermined meaning or might conversely be able to express the diversity, contradictions and various pursuits of the whole nation at a given moment in its history.

The debate about Chinese painting is thus a debate about the essence of Chinese identity. A strongly-worded article by Huo Chunyang, responding to positions voiced by Lin Mu and others, says much about what is here at stake. Chinese painting, Huo argues, is a "(spiritual) universe" (jingjie)—an expression derived from the yijing concept, i.e., the "density" or "quality of soul" that one can find in a painting. In its essence, he argues, Chinese painting manifests the spiritual energy gathered by the man who relates to the universe, and, as such, is the pure emanation of ancient Chinese philosophy. "Although the Chinese people received the shock brought by cultures of other people, they have never changed the spirit of their own culture. On the contrary, they have eagerly welcomed, digested and transformed the cultures coming from outside." The aspiration to cosmic unity embodied in this original Chinese culture cannot be found in Western tradition, Huo Chunyang asserts. Nowadays, artists unfaithful to the original spirit of Chinese culture change their style in order to please the foreigners, thus showing a lack of self-respect and self-confidence.

Huo Chunyang’s position reminds one of what is sometimes called "new conservatism" in art history, by which ink and brushwork become symbols of ethnic identity. Although such a position is quite widespread, it is generally not accepted without reservation. A good number of artists and critics hold a middle-of-the-road position, regarding ink and brush as the best medium through which to connect with their own tradition, while experimentation with other techniques they see as a means of engaging with contemporary art worldwide. This has been the case for instance with abstract or semi-abstract ink painting.

The debate on identity just summarized has been intensified by the internationalization of Chinese painting. "Internationalization" here refers to two concurrent phenomena: (1) even the most traditional style of Chinese painting has been deeply influenced by 20th-century Western art; (2) Chinese painting is no longer about China. A growing number of Chinese painters have opportunities to go abroad. As such, nowadays, the ranges of mountains that spill from their brushes sometimes do not evoke the image of Huashan, Huangshan or Emeishan, but rather remind one of landscapes encountered in the Northwest of the US, Western Canada, France’s Brittany or Australia’s South Wales. The first phenomenon is not new. Huang Binhong, who knew Chinese tradition better than anyone else, also learned a great deal from Matisse and Van Gogh. But the trend has taken on new dimensions, as many artists, while remaining faithful to the literati technique, apply it to a whole new range of subjects, or who, like Lin Fengmian, make extensive use of Western colors while maintaining the characteristic calligrapher’s line.

The second phenomenon is even more interesting. It separates the "identity" problem from its "territory" dimension, addressing in much more down-to-earth terms the question of the "Chineseness" of Chinese art. In addition, it gives people firmly rooted in tradition a new sense of universality. The cosmopolitan outlook of Chinese painting might have started among exiles, the most famous of them being of course Zhang Daqian, but others soon followed, sent on official missions. Li Keran’s paintings of East Germany in 1957 are testaments to the new horizons discovered by Chinese artists. Nowadays, the State is not the sole institution able to send Chinese painters abroad. Foreign universities or businesses are also inviting painters to give a Chinese flavor to American, Australian or European landscapes. The special relationship of artist Wu Guanzhong (born 1919) with France, where he has held several exhibitions, is a good example of this developing trend.

The trend towards globalization in Chinese painting should not mask enduring divisions among regional schools of painting—divisions sometimes accompanied by various rivalries and affiliation networks. Differences among regional schools are a pervasive fact of China’s art history. Back in 1961, the continuation of regional emulation was encouraged by Zhou Enlai, whose praise of the Jiangsu school of painting ensured its artists a privileged place for the following two decades. The Jiangsu school might indeed be the best example of a regional school of painting, with its history of several centuries and a distinctive style that nourishes but also sometimes confines the inspiration of local painters. Shaanxi artists offer another example of strong provincial affiliation. The Shaanxi school plays an important role in the cultural history of the post-1949 regime. Its founder, Zhao Wangyun (1906-1977), was an initiator of the new guohua, depicting scenes of contemporary life. After Zhao’s purging during the Anti-rightist campaign, Shi Lu became, for a time, the leader of the young, ebullient school. Here, indeed, artistic creativity and revolutionary fervor, if only briefly, were not seen as contradictory.

Regional differentiation can also have a great impact on the content of the works produced. The above-quoted art historian Lin Mu, for instance, is from the Southwest, and his views may indeed be seen to reflect the fact that most painters from the Southwest seek inspiration outside the mainstream Chan school-literati tradition, (many showing a special liking for the Taoist tradition, Tibetan Buddhism and southwest ethnic minorities’ “primitive” forms of art). The Chinese cultural stock is lived and interpreted in different ways by various schools of Chinese painting, a factor which may be even truer today than was the case 30 years ago.

Chinese painting is not only faced with the realities and opportunities of a market economy, but must also define itself in a global cultural environment. Values fostered by this environment can either render painting even more irrelevant to today’s Chinese society or can help it further to change and modernize its artistic language, giving it new impetus and appeal. Liu Chengji, who lectures at Zhengzhou University, offers an analysis of the aesthetic tendencies at work in the 1990s—an aesthetics that takes into account the dominant trends shaping secular society. Materialism is the first trend to be noticed, which Liu Chengji sees as the principal consequence of the consumerism encouraged by state policies. This stands in sharp contrast against the "humanist" view of culture and society advanced in the 80s. The primacy given to "feelings" is directly linked to the dominant materialism. "I feel, therefore I am" could be the motto of present-day China, and such a trend heavily influences the aesthetic criteria of the general public. A new "post-romanticism" derives from this trend and is best exemplified by the MTV culture. It is called "post-romanticism" because its characteristic "loss of innocence" distinguishes it from previous aesthetics. In the post-romantic (non)ethics, feelings are consciously produced and manipulated. Finally, "ethnicism" has been fuelled by political tensions with the US and Taiwan during the second half of the 90s. According to Liu Chengji, however, this trend is too much determined by political factors to enjoy a sustainable future. A look at the tendencies at work during the first decade of the XXIst century does not fundamentally challenge the description of these trends. One just have to notice that non-Chinese forms of art have taken even more importance, due to the globalization of the market where Chinese artists exhibit and sell their work. However, a stroll throughout the galleries gathered in the famous Moganshan road in Shanghai reveals the continuing and happy coexistence of Chinese painting with oil painting, video installations and other artistic media.

The painter Hu Mingzhe (born 1953), who specializes in popular romantic figure paintings, testifies to the aspirations often expressed by younger artists. She writes: "My soul aspires towards purity, liberation.... Art is a kind of religion, when you believe in it with your entire body and soul, when you fully associate with it, it seems that you are able to hear the voice of God, to feel the call of God.... Art wants to represent life, not social life, but rather spiritual life...." Another woman artist, Zhou Minghui (born 1954) paints motifs inspired by the daily lives of Tibetans living in Aba autonomous prefecture, Sichuan. This place, she says, "appears as a condensing point of human culture, philosophy, religion and history. It is the holy land where all life returns to nature.... What I paint seems to have been purified as well. My mind is serene and my thoughts enlightened.... The decayed is discarded and the original soul is retained.... Ultimately, culture and art will reach the other shore." Similar discourses and examples abound, which shows how a kind of religiosity pervades art. This religiosity has strong links with the dominant culture, in that it heavily relies on "feelings" and uses language and motifs also found in other contexts. At the same time, it expresses aspirations for new modes of life, which somehow transforms it into an indirect form of counter-culture. Not only has Chinese painting a future, but many of its features resonate with the aspirations of the post-modern mind... Through this medium also, China is entering and shaping cultural globalization.


Paintings by Li Jinyuan

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Wednesday, 10 September 2008 00:00

"Half-blind in the forest" - Bendu's exhibition

On the highlands or in a temple, on a peak or in the plain, sometimes far away and sometimes just nearby, but still always at the place where he has presently to be in the course of his pilgrimage, here comes the traveler – the one you meet on the road, Bendu… or yourself…
 
Since his awakening, he does not know where he is standing; he feels actually like being everywhere. Inside his paintings are the tears, the suffering, the rest that comes after the storm, the confusion, the ray of light within the nightmare. Between the spirit and the flesh, just between the opening and the closing of the door, between harmony and disharmony, Bendu paints the ever-changing appearances of a free heart – with the travail, the wait, the stops and the mere impossibility to stop, all that which goes along with the quest.

Bendu is the painter’s and poet’s pseudonym of Benoit Vermander, chief-editor of “Renlai monthly.” But it is not easy to reconcile Bendu with Benoit. The texts of Benoit Vermander come from his public persona, they are rational and analytical, universal in scope, aiming at providing people with norms and criteria for the decisions that they have to take. Meanwhile, the works of Bendu evoke a cat hidden into a hole; they bring along with them a feeling a mystery, of obscurity, of passion and of solitude. In the depth of our heart, each one of us might have two different voices for speaking to oneself…
 
Coming from afar, Bendu invites you to laugh, to weep and to whisper with him. At the same time, his paintings explore an itinerary, lead towards a destination that remains undetermined and improbable. The forest is a labyrinth, a feeble light is the only lamp of the half-blind traveler that walks into its depths.

Ink and water illuminate the spiritual labyrinth of Bendu. You have to navigate between natural, spiritual and artistic landscapes. The artist attains spiritual freedom through his creations, and this is why his artworks are the most beautiful gift he can make to us. For he thus leads us towards a road of spiritual freedom, transcending social divisions, gathering into One all the rivers of love, and making us all meet in truth.

The paintings of Bendu return towards the source of life. May they help you to confront your dryness, the torments of others, may they help you to confront the real choices that your life is made of. I am confident that they can also contribute to gather a community of spiritual seekers, a community of people searching for inner knowledge, so they can continue together along the road.

Raising a song to the universe from the depth of his heart, a song neither obscure nor luminous, a song that oscillates between hope and torment, Bendu invites you to narrate the tale of your own beautiful and tortuous pilgrimage.

Opening on Tuesday, October 7, 2008, 7pm

At the Sunbow Art Gallery
3F,0 Bld, 50, Moganshan Road(M50), Shanghai
Tel:86 21 62993931

The exhibit will take place from October 7 till October 22
Download here the pdf invitation


Tuesday, 29 August 2006 04:17

Ink Paintings by Bendu

Chinese painting has traditionally been seen as a spiritual way, a practice that aims at modifying the thought and soul of the one that seriously undertakes it. As is the case with other Chinese forms of art, ink painting integrates the aesthetic, the moral and the meditative dimensions into a whole. By representing the macrocosm into which we live, grow and die it also rectifies and nurtures the microcosm of our inner world. At least, such is the theory. In the real world, things can be vastly different. The practice of Chinese painting sometimes becomes a way of stressing one’s cultural and social ethos, an evasion outside the worries and duties of this world, an ethnic or even nationalistic endeavour that celebrates the uniqueness and excellence of Chinese tradition compared with Western forms of art. Chinese painting is a nexus of meanings and practices that speak about one’s identity, self-understanding, aspirations and sensitivity.

This selection of paintings can be seen as a reflexive account: how did the practice of painting and calligraphy mix with my understanding of what spiritual life is about and my attempts at a lived experience of this inner reality? Why and how does Chinese painting matter for me, did it change me in any way? I only try within my ability to bring in glimpses of experience and convictions that have gradually taken shape.

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