THESIS

As in life, art is a space of unlimited and often unpredictable possibilities. When one approaches art with open spontaneity and drops the self-conscious analytical mind they allow for the natural rhythms of life to manifest their work. By allowing the strokes of a brush to dance freely the artist may find an effortless effort that allows for their true self to create itself through the quietude of intuitive knowledge. The allowance required to let go begins with an embrace of the entire life spirit, which far transcends artistic skill into the art of the soul. The process of discovery is not knowing the outcome but being open to change and seeing new possibilities, which require leaving behind preconceptions of form. In essence, one must sense what they did not know they knew. This is the transition from becoming to being, intuition to realization, a trust and receptivity that allows the idea to reveal it self. Thus dropping the self, the pseudo-identity that I create my work under is Condensedcloud. Being that I am a multidisciplinary artist whose work ranges from painting to printing to performance, it was rather difficult to condense what I do to a single term. I’ve more or less discovered this idea of ideal than constructed the condensed conclusion but nonetheless here is the thesis of essential accounts to the fundamental nature of that which I create and creates me.

I originally became interested in Zen meditation through the power of art. This is not an uncommon phenomenon to be influenced dramatically by the visual experience of art, as art has been functioning as a teaching device since its birth on the walls of caves. Zenga art, a form of sumi-e ink painting, has uniquely inspired me through the image of an Enso. An Enso is a simple circle that usually begins thick with paint and empties as the stroke reaches full circle. This was an art form that I didn`t understand and it inspired curiosity in me. A child could very easily paint a circle, or even a square (which is another form of an enso). I asked myself if this was really art, which raised a much more complex question ‘what is art?‘ This is a problem often pursued in contemporary art through movements such as Dada or Japan’s Neo-Dadaism, which produced `anti-art` rejecting the previous notions of what art was and broke down the barriers of what could be constituted as art. I decided to pursue the Enso and Zenga in search of what art really is.

The Enso was born from the hand of a Chinese master Na-Yueh-Haui-jing from the Tang dynasty who claimed that his circular figure was `perfection` symbolizing the nature of the enlightened consciousness or the original countenance before birth. I found that to understand the Enso, the human heart must also become an Enso, but what made an Enso an Enso? I discovered the Enso most commonly resembles emptiness as the blank page isn`t empty enough, that true void is depicted by the movement of the Brush. The Enso is a symbol of emptiness, of nothing, of everything, of unity, the moon, a drop of water, the ultimate goal yet a shape without beginning or end. The Enso was so much more than a symbol. An Enso was not the moon, nor was the moon an Enso but an Enso was the finger pointing at the moon the active reflection internalized in the viewer.

On looking at the mirror I discovered I needed to look behind it to find my original face. For an artist, art is not about product but process. I realized that to really understand the art of Zenga painting I needed to understand the practice. The meditative states required to really contain the `mystical identification` found in Zenga painting went far beyond the conventional handling of paint requiring a great deal of intense concentration and meditation. I found that painting in the style of Zenga was incredibly difficult despite how deceivingly easy it appeared. The secret to painting Zenga lay in the rather difficult mindset of not allowing the practice to be difficult, to slip easily in between subject and object, accepting nature directly as experienced as in Zen-mind or no-mind (mushin), no mirror.

The Enso is the essence of art that I had been searching for. The Enso is the moon pointing at the moon. The Enso is meditation. The Enso is an interrelated mutually conditional open container of potentiality. The Enso is inherently empty, empty of an essence. The Enso is just an Enso.

Ancient Zen artists actually used to attempt to place dots on paper in artistic disorder, this seemingly easy task was actually very difficult to do without forming some sort of arrangement. In Zen we sometimes emphasize disorder or imbalance to reflect that even though we may try to control life’s situations we actually cannot. Life, movement, is the destruction of balance against a background of perfect existence and thus there is the realization that suffering itself is how we actually live. Similarly, trying to control other aspects in life, such as a flock of sheep, people, and your self can be equally challenging. The most efficient way to control these aspects is to create the platform, or a meditative space which creates a seal to harness the mind without the external worlds influence, for what you are attempting and actually give the control up to allow the universe to take action. If you wish to raise a sheep give it a large pasture if you wish to control a person, encourage them to be mischievous, if you wish to achieve tranquility in your meditation, do not attempt to control your thoughts but rather let them go, watch them, don’t ignore them but allow the thoughts to pass and you will find them under your control. This is right effort. This is true freedom. This is to put the universe in your control.

In my work and life, I approach the idea of chaos through the mathematical concept of chaos theory otherwise known as the Butterfly Effect. The Butterfly effect is roughly the idea that if a butterfly flaps its wings it may cause hurricanes on the other side of the globe through causal relations. This is essentially the idea of interconnectedness or “interdependent arising”, an expression of oneness, a reality where everything is relevant and everything reflects everything else. Where minute mindful actions make worlds of a difference.

I initially began exploring this concept through my sumi-e ink paintings series titled ‘Dominos’ which were composed of chaotically dispersed butterflies composed of wildly uncontrolled brush strokes. I was still left feeling too much in control of the work and to reach the beauty of the natural I needed to further the influence of the natural cosmos. I thus continued my exploration of chaos by finding different means of applying ink, which led me to an alternative printing matrix of inking a found ready-made artificial  butterfly. I would then ink the butterfly model and throw the relief at the canvas, which would result in a fantastic arrangement of ink splashes and butterflies. This chaotic display held more movement and carried a stronger and immediate aesthetic for comprehension but I wanted the viewer to participate beyond their intellectual internalization of the work.

I thus began performing visual artistic functions at live music acts around the twin cities. Though my acts primarily consisted of wildly splashing acrylic paints matched with suggested symbolism on the foreground of a canvas, I was able to further my interests of artistic communication with the audience to a communion of creation. At performances, I would ink my butterfly matrix and hand it to participants who would throw the butterfly on to the canvas, an act of further removing the self and duality of subjective and objective, of the art, artist and audience. These pieces led to the audience throwing the matrix of tinier butterflies into the shape of one larger butterfly, emphasizing that individuals together lose their self-id to become one larger entity.

Since then, I’ve replicated this performance through means of origami. Although origami in an old art form dating back to when Buddhist monks brought paper to Japan from china in 6th century, paper was rare and rarely used but for ceremonies. Origami is actually a very contemporary art and has changed dramatically from the original ancient art created by the Japanese. The Japanese aesthetic is one of the understatement, this way of suggestion is similar to how the few lines of a haiku may evoke the sense of a seasonal sunset or how a few strokes of ink may suggest an entire plant. Origami allows the viewer’s imagination to move to a state of participation and complete the work. To emphasize this participatory nature at the Minneapolis Monarch Festival, I had participants fold butterflies, which were then added to larger origami butterfly, made from screen and mounted to a wall, resulting in an experiential aesthetic that accentuated the physical actions of when everyone contributes a little effort, they can make a big difference. A similar installation project I did as a commission for the company Paperista involved screen-printed letters which were folded up to sequential steps of an origami butterfly and thus displayed with the final butterfly forms flying into a suspended rose composed of origami butterflies. The idea being that a gesture as small as writing as a letter can make a world of difference to the recipient.

Though origami is technically the traditional craft of folding an uncut piece of paper, origami is not merely paper sculpture. Origami is a paper performance, neither a subtractive or additive matter, but matter arranged in a sequence. Form created from the emptiness it folds upon itself. This form is a game of sorts, bound by rules to create a puzzle matrix that results in an expression of art. I’ve emphasized this notion of performative sculpture in multiple works. In a study of “erasure” I remembered a troy told to me during a meeting with the Kanin (that is the Kancho or Head Priest’s right hand man) of Eiheiji (the largest Zen Temple in the world!). The Kanin was a fascinatingly accomplished person whom was trained to die as a kamikaze pilot but given his life when the Atom Bomb dropped. Ever since the Atom bomb of Hiroshima, a flame was maintained at the site of Hiroshima, inside of a little red lantern. This flame was fueled by suffering, by pain and rage, and as the Buddha had said holding on to anger is like holding on to a hot coal with the intent to throw it at someone, you are the only one whom gets burned. The Buddhist monks believed that everything moves in a circle and recognized that the only way to extinguish this fire was to return the flame to the source. Organizing a group of monks together, the Kanin and crew flew to America and walked a great distance carrying the lantern to the gates of Trinity, at a military base that released the bomb, where the flame was born. The security resisted at first, but seeing the peaceful parade and the children with tens of thousands of cranes, with each containing a prayer for peace, they decided to open the gates. The band of peaceful people entered and opening the lantern they burned a specially prepared prayer on a long cloth along with thousands of cranes and a scrupulous amount of karma until the flames had extinguished themselves. The children`s prayers reached the heavens and were truly the key to getting into the gates of trinity and extinguishing the flame. To resemble the phoenix, the bird born of ashes of old, I folded a paper crane and than deconstructed the bird to leave an empty sheet. Although the paper still carries traces of old in the creased folds, the paper is otherwise empty, not to be seeing as nothing but as a blank slate of unlimited potential where further creation can occur.

In a similar piece I performed at the Altered Esthetics gallery, I took paper and screen printed The Heart Sutra, or prajna paramita, one of the most prominent sutras in Mahayana Buddhism. It’s direct meaning translates as “Heart of the Perfection to the Transcendent Wisdom. The sutra recites the liberation of the bodhisattva through realization to as the nature of emptiness in all compounded things, including the five aggregates which compose us, that being form, feeling, cognition, volition, and consciousness. Thus with nothing to be attained, the bodhisattva finds liberation in perceiving direct reality without any attachment.

During the performance, I folded the Heart Sutra into a lotus and recited the following dharma in respects towards the monk Chimen whom had a man ask him “What is a lotus flower before it emerges above the surface?” and Chimen replied “A Lotus Blossom” The man then asked Chimen “Well what is a lotus after it surfaces” and Chimen replied “Lotus Petals”

The man was most likely not asking Chimen a gardening question. Buddhism regards the lotus flower as complete, that is not necessarily pure as it is born from the muck, but in that it has nothing left out in its entirety. We all inherently have this complete nature accessible at all times but limiting doubts, insecurities and misconceptions block our experience of this completeness. The man was really asking chimen before one has realized their true self-nature “what are they?” and Chimen responds that they are already complete in that stage of chrysalis and though the visualization of totality is dreamed, it remains only a figurative ideal construct that may cause one to miss their full lotus life in the meantime.

After the lotus emerges Chimen declares that it is lotus petals, that is the individual petals, each composing and composed of the entirety. Knowing this also sheds clairvoyance on the impermanent existence that is of being a perishable form and also inherently empty. Chimen is responding by saying after this big “illuminating realization” one must let go of that as well and watch the “dream” fall away, paying close attentiveness to every petals release into a beginningless past and a beginningless future.

I thus unfolded the lotus blossum to reveal the crease pattern that composes a lotus and also the completion, that is the decomposition of the lotus blossoms petals. Taking oil I’ve painted an enso, a Buddhist meditation manifestation resembling emptiness as the paper is not empty enough but with the emptying of an ink filled brush the paper becomes a container for the circular figure of “perfection” which symbolizes the countenance before birth and yet the ultimate goal, a shape without beginning or end, the present moment, a goal and a starting point.

The medium of origami battles imagination with limitations, margins to creases. Every fold enacts as a strategic chess move or as a chord in a symphony. Technique thus comes from learning the restrictions. No material is wasted, everything is put to perfect use, and no complexity may be simplified. Origami is finding what is in the paper by folding and then taking apart the memory preparations to rearrange and then by matching the means to the end discover the mathematical mandala and release what was trapped inside the square.

Origami is a means of discovering woven abstracted mathematics, which divide a square into finite polygonal arrangements that make it easy to represent a mathematical theorem. This theorem is not represented in the final product but the composition composed of creases created and even in their undoing. These sequential procedures or algorithms play a crucial role in optimizing design in consideration of the economics of constraints which allows clarifying insight to the mosaic of mathematical mirrors. When these mirrors reflect the pathological entirety of the infinite within finite modules it appears as a fractal, that is the finite portion appears complete and yet can be combined to create the infinite. This is also called “minimal surface” or “Gaussian Curvature” where at any amount of distortion, which is at any and every point down to the minimalist point or degree, an unbounded resemblance of the entirety that may support itself.

I approach this idea of infinity and interconnectedness and relate to the algorithm of chaos theory through another mathematical algorithm called the ‘Hyperbolic Paraboloid’, which is a parabola that revolves around an axis to create an infinite surface existing within three dimensions. I create the Hyperbolic Paraboloid utilizing “computational origami” which consists of folding all the edges into the center and then unfolding the paper until it relaxes in it’s natural curved form.

Combining these Hyperbolic structures together I create context for the body of work which I title “Zhuangzhi’s Dream” Zhuangzhi was a monk whom awoke from a dream and could not be sure to as whether he was a man whom dreamed he were a butterfly or now a butterfly dreaming himself to be a man. A similar sensation I experience in considering my own experiences in Japan.

MUH is the mathematical universe hypothesis that says all structures that exist mathematically also exist physically and furthermore in those worlds with self aware substructures they will thus consider themselves in a “real” world and different worlds with different initial conditions or potential equations are equally as “real” which enters the perceptual perplexities of platonic realism in regarding only the revelation of smaller parts of the fabric totality.

Platonic realism relates to the existence of universals otherwise deemed abstract objects. These universals exist as a broad sense, which cannot actually be seeing by standard sensory perception. That is all things are inherently empty and only through referents do we understand words such as sweetness, vibrant, dark, love or god. Plato is suggesting that object and form are subjective to interdependent mind functions. An example of this idea in participation of form can be described through mathematics, which Plato believed not to be created but discovered. An “ideal” platonic triangle consists of angles adding up to 180 degrees but no matter how one would draw the triangle, with the most precise of equipment, would they be able to draw the “ideal” triangle without some defect that even our senses could not detect. Thus Plato claims forms to be mental entities. Platonism is thus the distinction between reality which is perceptible, but not intelligible, and that which is intelligible but imperceptible.

The Sri Yantra is a mandala that quite so embodies this “idea” of platonic realism. The Sri Yantra is composed of nine interlocking triangles surrounding a bindu. This sacred geometry embodies the nature of shiva shakti, the cosmos and even the non-duality nature of form and emptiness. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the Sri Yantra is that it is mathematically impossible and every Sri Yantra is an attempt for the least amount of error. I’ve screenprinted a stereoscopic image of the Sri Yantra when gazed upon with the Shambhavi Mudra one may glimpse the divine. The Shambhavi mudra is a yogic mudra that enables one to balance both hemispheres of the brain and enable a closer connection to non-dual divinity. In yoga, we use the tip of the nose to begin shambhavi mudra practice and once one is able to sustain an equal vision of both sides of the nose in a relaxed manner they may then continue to use this “eye-lock” beyond ones body. If you feel pain during this exercise it means that the hemispheres of your brain are fighting each other rather than synchronizing and if one allows to let go of this egoic pain and surrender to the divine they may find one self in closer unity with divine love.

What we see is only but an illusion, a limited dimensional shadow of the continuous. Time for example can only be measured down to a plank where it thus becomes unobserved, undetermined, quantum chance. This mathematically perceived universe of MUH is a multiverse created of structure in which there are no “things” but only that which exists in structural relationships, a similar concept to the mathematical algorithm of “chaos theory” and the Buddhist conceptualization of “MU” or emptiness.

A conceptualization shared by both Hindu’s and Buddhists that demonstrates the infinite in finite through its inherently empty structural relations is Indra’s net. To envision Indra’s net through metaphor, imagine a spider web covered in dewdrops and every dewdrop contains the reflection of all the other dewdrops. And, in each reflected dewdrop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so on to infinity. This is the Buddhist conception of the universe, of interconnectedness.

There is a similar Buddhist metaphor relating the self to a collective consciousness idealization in Dogen Zenji’s Shobogenzo, Treasury of the True Dharma Eye. Dogen Zenji founded Zen in Japan with the Shobogenzo, which thus became the primary doctrine and defining meditation manual for Soto Zen. Within this text there is the “Genjokoan” which roughly translates as “Actualizing the fundamental point” and within this koan there is a particular metaphor that goes along the lines of “Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the whole moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water”. This metaphor describing the nature of enlightenment is very similar to the metaphor the Atman water droplet found in Hindu culture.

The Hindu concept of Atman and Brahman is the relational concept that man has to god. This belief is often portrayed through a metaphor in that which the Atman, essentially the individual, is depicted as a drop of water in a river that is Brahman, which essentially God. Each person is thus a part of God, identical to god. The idea of being an individual identity is thus much a delusional illusion created by societal implications and the ego.

This conceptualization approached through scientific terminology, though limiting in it’s own physicality, science and math can serve as expedient means to understanding truths in the universal experience. The hydrological cycle of evaporation, condensation, precipitation, infiltration and subsurface flow describes the continuity of water’s movement on, in and above earth, which consequently affects a considerable amount of the ecosystem and life on earth. An interesting part of the equation often overlooked is that human beings are composed of 60-80% water. Maseru Emoto, a Japanese scientist has further developed this idea through his claims that the human consciousness can actually change the molecular structure of water depending on the intent that a person implicates upon a body of water, which would furthermore imply that human’s directly affect all living things which they come in contact with as every living thing on earth is made of water and thus much requires water to live. Perceiving life as such, the idea of recycled lives or “rebirth” can be understood scientifically as well as to an extent spiritually.

These are the theories, conceptualization, forces and meditations that compose my work, that compose me, that compose Condensedcloud.