"Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man."
The above Taoist reflection on the transformation of material things is in the familiar vein of the enduring tradition of Eastern thought and spiritual insight which considers this reality as nothing else but a dream. The notion of the great awakening, whilst not limited to Eastern thought only, is a dominant and shared premise of a number of traditions of mystical and spiritual insight.
The great awakening, according to those traditions, is not considered to be only a transition from a state of dormancy into a state of wakefulness, but the realisation of a reality that is not subjected to the forces of the material dominion.
Looking from our Sisyphean position of incessant pursuit of permanence as something dependent on the materialistic realisation, the promise of such awakening sounds like an ultimate existential relief.
The incessant transformation of material things correlates to being in a state of dream and this has interesting parallels to our consumer driven society. A product's elusive promise of fulfilment, presumably realised in the act of consumption, is sustained by its ceaseless transformation. This fantasy, however, seems to be reaching a critical point with our increasing awareness of the limits of material resources.
As we awaken from this dream and search for new paradigms, can art possibly suggest alternatives?
The fundamental aspect of an artwork is that it is to be experienced. In spite of our desire, an artwork refuses to be consumed.
Bill Henson stated once that to experience a work of art, everything else needs to disappear and one needs to be on their own, alone with the work. An artwork,in this sense, can be thought of as a site where an encounter with the present is possible.
If the operating principle of a product is based on stimulating the distance between desire and its object, as an ever escaping promise, the raison d'être of an artwork is precisely the abolishment of distance and making the present the subject for experience.
This suggests that an artwork is not just transformed matter, that is a product, but something radically different – an artwork is awakened matter.
Awakening, the inaugural exhibition, has certainly created its own presence in a humble but intimate gallery space of Eden and the Willow. It is interesting that this space, which some months ago was functioning as a beauty clinic, now serves to stimulate and cultivate the inner beauty.
The works in the exhibition, oil paintings by Katharine Buljan, and ceramic Ichirin zashi by Takeaki Totsuka fill the space confidently and reassuringly. They each have created the universe of their own, whose richness and depth compel the gaze to float between them.
The linseed oil permeates the space not only with its scent, but also with the nostalgia that gives access to the time where our doing left a trace as an ingrained memory.
The presence of time is strongly emanating from each of the works. It is not the chronological, laborious, time, what is embedded in these works is that time we have access to in our child-like state of imagining, where the mind has a different quality of focus. If we imagine a thought as a quantum of energy pulsated into being by the mysterious mechanisms of the subconscious, then those fragments are awake and resonating in these works.
Takeaki Totsuka's Ichirin zashi (single flower vases) charged with iconic Japanese stillness, densely populate a plank of wood that emerges from the white wall. The gentle redness of a stained maple underscores and anchors the off-white vessels that appear quite apt of simply floating in the space. The outward minimalism of the works is deceptive, but is incapable of hiding the individuality of each vase.
The primordial turbulence fills Katharine Buljan's abstract paintings. The subtle layers of colour shifting into ever-changing shapes, reminiscent of the old masters, makes these surfaces events where the birth galaxies can be witnessed.
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Eden and the Willow Team
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