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Daily Perspectives and Stories on Buddhist Trends

Tag: art

Milarepa’s Exhibition 2017

From Paola Di Maio

Bodhgaya is a special place of power, in particular when it fills with the energy generated by practices and blessings.

Earlier this year, during the Kalachakra 2017, walking from the hotel to the Kalachakra grounds, a leaflet on a market stall caught my attention.

It advertised an exhibition being held at the Mahayana Hotel, on the road to the main temple, entitled “Milarepa” 1 Jan to 20 Feb 2017, with an entrance fee of 150 rupees.

An exhibition about Jetsun himself, a first of its kind.

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Buddhism is Bhutan’s Key to Working with the Great Buddhist Powers

India and China are right now locked in a dispute over a plateau (known as Doklam in India and Donglang in China) that lies at a junction between China, the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim, and Bhutan. My focus today is not on the technicalities of the border dispute (this analysis by Wangcha Sangey, a retired civil servant and former managing director of Bhutan Times, lays out the situation far better than I can), but rather how Bhutan could play its cards over the long term through the piety of its Buddhist people and its Buddhist royal family.

HRH Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck with Bhikkhu Sanghasena

In an age where landlocked Bhutan’s behemoth neighbors, China and India, are going all in with Buddhist diplomacy (not to mention regional neighbors like Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka), the Himalayan country’s Buddhist heritage grants it a unique and priceless asset. This is because the idea of “Buddhist kingship” or chakravartin-hood is embodied in its monarchy. I venture to propose that without Buddhism, the moral authority of the royal house of Wangchuk would be diminished whilst one of the country’s key soft power exports (such as its concept of Gross National Happiness) would be compromised. Nowhere else, except perhaps in Thailand, is there a monarchy invested with such a Buddhist mandate.

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Ways of Seeing Life

Grace Ko

Chinese artist Cheng Ran’s video art “ Circadian rhythm.”

The esteemed British art critic and author John Berger once said: “Art is one of the noblest achievements of man”. He advocated that the art critic must not only look at art from his personal point of view, but also from that of other artists, the conscious and unconscious mind of the spectator, the general public, and even future generations, if possible. Berger’s underlying meaning was that art and human life are inseparable, and when we view a 
work of art, we may find ourselves through its aesthetic. That is why some of the best works of art 
resonate throughout our lives and leave lasting impressions that unfold with new meaning repeatedly.

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A Meditation on Mind, Body and Place – Ho Siu Kee

Wilson Chik

An ancient Banyan tree: a giant in its own rite, towering. Thousand green leaves shimmering air, each leaf, a moment in life. Nested inside, in the intersection of two gnarly branches, stands Dr. Ho Siu-Kee (known as Kee to friends) in all white. Though human, Kee is scaled tiny in this instance, comparatively. Nevertheless man and tree paired, inseparable.

This is how Kee chooses to open, and this is also how Kee chooses to close his recent talk: with a photograph of himself in the midst of a towering Banyan tree. Perhaps, this visual imprint comes to signify a deeper still-motion in progress, a quest of coming full circle not only in his myriad of creations such as this photograph (even though to Kee this is a thought recorded), but in the long line of life-work-art thoughts that purposefully places his body in synthesis among geometries, both personal and spiritual, thus far. We, as the viewers, are placed too in an immediate relationship with him, intimately. Unknowingly we fall into place, so to speak, drawn in by aesthetics and a precision that can only besiege us. For example, Kee standing in the Banyan tree.

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The Language of Flowers: Flower Artist Masao Mizukami

Grace Ko

Mizukami’s flower arrangement at Hong Kong Flower Show 2017. Image courtesy of Sally Tsui

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand; and a Heaven in a Wild Flower; hold Infinity in the palm of your hand; and Eternity in an hour,” said English poet William Blake. Japanese flower arranging emphasizes interaction with the natural world to reach enlightenment. Japanese flower artist Masao Mizukami finds this spiritual and creative language in flowers and nature.

Flowers are emissaries of nature, inspiring us to see and appreciate beauty in the world. Masao Mizukami is a master of Japanese flower arranging and he finds a creative language in the arrangement of flowers with natural settings.

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Ju Ming: Finding what has been thrown away

Grace Ko

Ju Ming, Tai Chi Series: Strike with Fists 1984 Bronze

“Hell is in the living world, but the living world also has a paradise. Which way would you go? It’s your choice entirely.” The eminent Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming wrote these thoughts about life at his first solo exhibition in Hong Kong in 2014. His artworks are inspiring and the path in his artistic career has run parallel with his Buddhist education.

As with most successful people, Ju Ming experienced a tough period and invested effort and hard work into building himself up as an internationally recognized artist. He was an ambitious craftsman and ran his own flourishing carving business before the age of thirty. But his success didn’t last long, failing because of the over-expansion of his business. This blow to his career made him rethink his life but he decided to be an artist. He worked as an apprentice under a renowned Taiwanese sculptor Yuyu Yang. After an eight-year apprenticeship, his teacher Yang taught him the “throwing away” principal: throw away skills and styles in the mind; discard forms; banish reality; and preserve the spirit.

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Art and the Language of Change

Grace Ko

Simone Boon, “Promising Red,” 2010, Photography

What kind of language is art? Every time I read the gatha in Diamond Sutra, “Thus shall you think of this fleeting world: a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream; a flash of lightning in a summer cloud; a flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream,” I think of Dutch artist Simone Boon’s photography. Her unearthly images seem to visually express this gatha.

Viewing art is like opening up another sensory channel that hones an artist’s view of the world. Everyone’s sensory channel and how we interpret the world is different. A few years ago, when I saw Boon’s first series of photographic stills. I found the work stunning, but also eerie. The figures in these photographs of females who move into the abstract blurs look like spirits.

For Boon, she was trying to explore other types of photography to present the idea that, “form is only a snapshot view of transition,” — a statement from French philosopher’s Henri Bergson. Her aim is to capture human essence that forms in relation to patterns in a flow of becoming. The flowing essence of humans can be attuned to the changing rhythms of reality. It is not in the everyday images we see.

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The Art of Emptiness

Grace Ko

Liu Kuo-sung, Symphony of Sun and Moon, 2015. Ink and colour on paper.

Liu Kuo-sung, Symphony of Sun and Moon, 2015. Ink and colour on paper.

Art has long captivated us and yet, even though art historians and philosophers have spilled much ink over its nature, we still can’t fully define it. Recently, notable American artist Trevor Paglen revealed what he thought art is, which really impressed me. “Art,” he said, “is about making invisible structures visible, the better for viewers to grasp the operations of the world around them.”

It made me ask, “How can we understand the world we live in? Do we need to understand the countless other lives that intersect with ours?” Is that what art does?

In The Diamond Sutra, the Buddha said to the senior monk Subhuti, “This is how the bodhisattva mahasattvas (enlightened great beings) master their thinking: Many species of living beings—whether born from eggs, from the womb, from moisture, or spontaneously; whether they have form or do not have form; whether they have perceptions or do not have perceptions; or whether it cannot be said of them that they have perceptions or that they do not have perceptions, we must lead all these beings to Nirvana so that they can be liberated.”

The Buddha also asked Subhuti, “Do you think that the space in the Eastern Quarter can be measured? Subhuti, can space in the Western, Southern, or Northern Quarters, above or below, be measured?”

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Passing Through the Hands of Time

Grace Ko

A copper alloy figure of Four-armed Avalokiteshvara from 15th century Tibet that was showcased at Fine Art Asia Hong Kong.

A copper alloy figure of Four-armed Avalokiteshvara from 15th century Tibet that was showcased at Fine Art Asia Hong Kong.

In October 2016, ancient Buddhist statues were a major presence at the season’s art fairs and auctions in Hong Kong, Beijing, and New York. There was an impressive range. Audiences could view Buddhist art from the Eastern Wei Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty, originally from Tibet, Mongolia to Nepal and Central Asia, were showcased in Fine Art Asia and Poly Autumn Auction in Hong Kong, Guardian Fine Art Asia in Beijing, and TEFAF in New York.

Buddhist art has survived for centuries and fallen into the hands of different collectors, proving how its ideas have etched themselves into time across Asia while remaining significant in people’s lives. However, it seems audiences still can’t view this kind of Buddhist art widely at museums or public exhibitions organized by the government or even non-profit making organizations. Still, they are finding their value at art fairs and auction houses, and these are the places for art trading and selling. Viewers can appreciate delicate and exquisite Buddhist art there, while being astonished by its high-selling prices as well.

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Weaving Stories of Dharma and Joy

Raymond Lam

From visitmeadow.com

From visitmeadow.com

Stories have been a beloved pastime of mine since I learned to read. In my childhood I devoured fiction of all kinds: from fantasy novels based on pop culture franchises to my favourite genre of world myths and legends retold in modern prose. Odin, Hathor, and Trickster Raven were my companions as much as my high school friends and classmates. As I became more involved in the great religions of the world I discovered that Buddhists, Christians, and practitioners of all faiths regularly explore the depths of meaning in their traditions’ stories. I’ve always thought of life itself as a tale in progress, and that a life well lived was, in essence, a story that could be told with a sense of poignancy and meaning. How beautiful, even if sometimes impossible, is the simple wish for a happy ending?

The human impulse to produce and consume stories is universal, even if we know those stories are fictitious and can be deconstructed, taken apart, dismissed. In my interview with Sri Lankan poet Ramya Jirasinghe, she made the emphatic point that “artistic creation and working through the Eightfold Path can’t be linked as they have contradictory goals and processes,” since artists and writers need to work from their self and experience and the Buddhist must see through the illusion of the self. No self, no story, just a process that is misinterpreted as a story.

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