Sunday, July 18, 2010
The last pigment in this series is the ash of burnt sandalwood incense, which, applied in different numbers of layers form the various shades of grey.
Sandalwood is considered a sacred tree, incense made from same is used in religious rituals and worships. It is believed to transform one's desires and bring one closer to the divine. In Catholicism, it typifies prayers "enkindled in the heart by the fire of God's love."
Everyday, in the morning and in the evening, before breakfast and dinner, for as long as I could remember, my grandmother burnt incense for the bodhisattvas and the ancestors, and prayed to the Goddess of Mercy. After my grandmother's death, my mother and I took over the practice of honoring the gods and ancestors with incense. I've been saving the ash of the incense I burnt ever since.
Dharma. It is the teachings of Buddha. It's supposed to be the ultimate truth, the ways things really are, the source of lasting happiness. In Hinduism, it's supposed to embody one's righteous duty, morality and law. It's similar to logos (λόγος : I just like the way the word looks :P) in Christianity: the word of god.
It's such a heavy word, I feel / fear.
The rabbit on the moon used its mortar and pestle to make the pill of eternal life - it was a task it was assigned as its reward for sacrificing itself for another (a higher purpose, considering the old man was a spiritual teacher).
One of the main ingredients for the ancient alchemists in elixir for immortality is cinnabar. The mineral (zhūshā 朱砂, HgS - common ore for mercury) is used in traditional Chinese medicine despite its toxicity. It was also the pigment used in vermillion / China Red paint.
Synonymous with transformation and longevity, the mercuric sulfide's red colour also represents the fire of transformation from illusion to wisdom in Buddhism. Cinnabar from Phoenix County (凤凰镇), Hunan, China is the pigment used in this series.
In Chinese Taoist sacred beliefs are talismans called "Fu" (符), drawn with words strangely put together and supposedly in closely-guarded secret ways, incorporating mantras, mudras (hand gestures), rituals, and invocation. Each talisman's power is different and can be used to manifest psychic or spiritual energy. The charm empowers its holder, its magic transforms the various energies and his/her mental state.
The archetype for this series then is the sorceress, the mystic, the witch, with the herbal and natural ingredients and her focus and energies she is making charms, for wisdom, intending to transform darkness to light.
For the "form" of the images in this series, I drew from the architectural drawing / drafting classes I took in undergrad. It's good to know I haven't lost that level of patience and care (or the mathematic abilities), with the rushing and going and always moving forward with the hurry-hurry of life. The geometric / scientific-looking drawings reflect my belief in the correlation between spirituality and science.
Cinnamon is also the tree on the moon, under which the Moon Rabbit lived. Wu Gang, who angered the gods for his insincere / loosey goosey pursuit of enlightenment, was banished to the moon to chop down the tree. He was told that when the tree fell, he would attain what his sought. It was a sisyphean task. It is believed that every autumn, the flower buds of the tree would fall from the moon, filling earth with its fragrance, and its leaves represent all that is good and wonderful.
The brown pigment in this series is cinnamon. The spice symbolises spirituality, healing, protection and love. Plus, according to legend, the phoenix collects cinnamon twigs for her nest, and when the time comes , the nest is set affire with her. Out of the ashes a new phoenix is reborn.
"PC" in the numbering stands for "Piel Canela", the title of the series. It is also the name of popular Mexican love song - a song I often heard in my neighborhood when the residents were predominantly hispanic (mixed in with old Polish; before gentrification).
Que se quede el infinito sin estrellas (let the universe be without stars)
O que pierda el ancho mar su inmensidad (or let the big sea lose its immensity)
Pero el negro de tus ojos que no muera (but the black of your eyes, let it not die)
Y el canela de tu piel se quede igual (and the cinnamon of your skin remain the same)
Si perdiera el arco iris su belleza (may the rainbow lose its beauty)
Y las flores su perfume y su color (and the flowers its perfume and color)
No seria tan inmensa mi tristeza (my sorrow wouldn't be as immense)
Como aquella de quedarme sin tu amor (as that of losing your love)
The song had been playing over and over in my head, and after I looked up the lyrics and the translation, I knew why. The stars, the sea, the flowers, the rainbow, they are all symbols of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it fits well with the Mary/Guanyin motif of this work.
Tathāgata - a word in in Pali and Sanskrit (Chin.: 如来) is the name Buddha used when referring to himself. Literally, it means Tathā-gata (one who has gone) and Tathā-āgata (one who has come). So, the Tathagata is beyond all coming and going. i.e. one who has transcended the human endless cycle of rebirth, beyond all death and dying, and beyond all suffering.
The Diamond Sutra (Sanskrit: Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra; Chin.: 金剛般若波羅蜜多經, or 金剛經) was presented as a conversation between Buddha and his disciple, teaching him to unlearn his preconceived, limited notions of reality, in order to reach enlightenment.
This is supposed to be one of the shorter sutras, and simpler to understand. For someone more enlightened than I, it seems. Because of the nature of the materials used, I basically have to think about every stroke I put down because nothing is correctable. (Graphite doesn't erase well on rough water color paper, the thin layers of acrylic dry almost instantly.) Kind of like life / choices... The process, however, does lend itself to "emptying" and "centering" of thoughts and heart in a way.
The paper used in this series is Arches 300lb Cold Press 12x16 Block. Matte, glossy, and combination acrylic medium / gel are used as binders for the pigments.
the works on paper continue. the inspiration for this new series came directly from a dream, in which i was like the rabbit on the moon, grinding the different pigments with pestle and mortar...
the words, drawn in graphite, are taken from a translation of the Diamond Sutra, a buddhist scripture of "perfection of wisdom", with carbon being the strongest, natural substance we have.
Here's the 1st piece of the series. More on the process and materials etc in later posts.