“We have to take back the childish candor through long years of practice in the art of forgetting ourselves (…) Once the man reaches that stage of spiritual evolution, this man will become a life zen master (…) This man’s hands and feet become brushes. And the entire universe becomes the canvas used to paint its life through seventy, eighty, and even nighty years. The work painted like this is called history.”
T. Suzuki, 1953.
Asia Principle, to Flow
In the Eastern culture, the moment of creation has to flow as water flows: freely, facing the analytical reason.
In Indian culture, discipline, and spirituality (in yoga’s philosophy, “Tapas”) go hand in hand. Freedom can be found through work made with discipline, willingness, and passion. For yoga, life has moments you have to bear and others of abandonment that you need to allow. This is, if we go back to the concept of water flowing, in a river you need to know when you have to swim and when to let yourself float. Western culture is made of strict classifications. In other words, one or the other, spiritual of physical, premeditated or spontaneous, work or game. But eastern culture doesn’t have this division. For example, yoga is at the same time a physical and spiritual process, awareness and rest, complete freedom and impeccable discipline. In eastern culture there’s no such thing as absolute truth, it’s not white or black. One thing doesn’t excludes the other, but it adds up; it’s not this or the other, it’s this and the other; the rational and analytic mind that wants to classify and divide is set aside. This is why it’s possible that discipline and freedom go hand in hand.
Eastern culture also contributes with concepts such as the appreciation of simplicity (wabi-sabi) that has its roots in Buddhism and it’s based on the three characteristics of existence: nothing is perfect, nothing is complete, and nothing lasts forever. This way, wabi-sabi’s aesthetics is characterized by asymmetry, which is not perfect; roughness, the unfinished work; and the use of natural elements that are perishable.
As a pillar of Japanese aesthetics, its major influence can be observed in the ceremony of tea, the floral arrangement (ikebana), and the composition of haikus.
The influence of western culture also gave us the Yin and Yang philosophy, the fragile balance between two opposite concepts that need each other and in which each of them shelter the other. This concept, born in nature’s observation, is at the same time the essential source of Taoism and Tao Te Ching, which comes to tell us that nature tends to compensate the imbalances. In other words, to see the light you have to have also seen darkness.
China, Japan, and India and the Contemporary Art in Spain
Until June 24 you can visit the exhibition in the Fundación March, where you can see how this Asian “active ingredient” mixes with our culture and produces shapes, colors, and structures that are new and very different among each other. The exhibition focuses on the period between the Spanish abstract generation of the 50s and the artists born around mid-60s, when the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art of Cuenca (1966) was created by Fernando Zóbel. The Spanish painter with Philippine origins became a bridge between Asian art and Spanish abstraction of the 50s.
Zóbel arrived from Manila with his books of eastern art, his sketches, and his notebooks filled with annotations taken in his trips through Japan and China. Thanks to his relationship with Spanish artists and thanks to his library, which had a big section of Chinese and Japanese books, it’s possible for this Asian “active ingredient” with Buddhist influence, with Taoist and Zen aesthetic, to mix with what was happening with Spanish art by that time.
This exhibition, with more than three hundred Asian and Eastern pieces that are presented collectively, shows the rich crop field that took place in Spain’s art thanks to not seeing the world exclusively through classic European perspective.
Asia Principle for Me
This mixture between western and eastern can be felt in Zóbel’s work, in which its very much present the search for balance and that process of removing the surplus, eliminating distractions, to be able to express the initial idea; in the value of space in white and the emptiness and the sobriety of Antonio Saura’s materials; in Antonio Tapies’ brush traces, which communicate emotions and make you feel that behind formal reality there’s a deeper one; in Pablo Palazuelo’s traces and sculptures that manages to explain the invisible; in Marta Cárdenas’ freedom and expression of things flowing; in the continuous effort to induce the spectator to change the look and see the empty space as much as the metal piece in Chillida’s sculptures; in the non-perfect aesthetic, the roughness, the sensation of an unfinished work, and the use of natural elements in the work of Miquel Barceló.
This week’s workshop consists of reflecting about the contribution of the eastern world in our world based on principles such as balance: the Yin and the Yang. We will meditate about the idea that discipline and freedom do not come separate, but that discipline provides us freedom. We will also talk about the appreciation of simplicity in the creative process, about letting go the surplus and only keeping the essential.
We will visit the exhibition and later, in our experimentation table, we will have paper rolls, Indian ink, and brushes to express what we have absorb in our being after reflecting about these concepts and seeing the exhibition.
The process will be note-drawing-sketch-painting. The notes will remind us the idea; with the drawing we will try to represent it. The sketch will be an essay of fulfillment and, through a process of elimination, we will remove distractions in an attempt for the painting to be the clearest possible fulfillment of the initial idea.
This exhibition proofs the importance of seeing the world entirely, of traveling, reading, knowing other cultures. Is your world filled with limits or do you live in a permeable one? Let’s read, visit museums, travel, and share it, let’s expand our conception of the world. “Mixture”, “permeability”, “integration” … words that allow meditation.