Multi-print techniques, collage, charcoal, linoleum carving. 30”x40”
Ripple VIII is inspired by my meditation practice which is heavily influenced by my Tibetan teacher and his teachings. Recently, my friends LiWei and YaLan in Changsha invited me for an afternoon practice with LiWei’s Tibetan teacher. It was an incredibly powerful experience, given the circumstances: I was practicing Tibetan buddhism in China! Times are changing. The other thrill was to see my beautiful hand carved wooden Buddha (and that’s another story!) make its way onto the altar and be blessed by the Rinpoche.
“reflections on China” dates back to my return from my first visit to China in 2005.
It is a series of mixed media prints that explore issues around China’s fast growth and changing position in the world. We have grown accustomed to seeing daily stories about China in the media, and have consequently been forming opinions – positive and negative – about the impact that such development may have – or will have – on western society, and more specifically, on our personal lifestyle.
Spending time in China however brought new and unexpected dimensions to the preconceived ideas I had of the country. Most of all, I was shocked by the people’s warmth and sense of humor. That became one of my strongest motivation for learning Mandarin.
Walking around was often a visual feast. A bounty of colorful signs; overcrowded streets; people wanting to talk to us; lanterns; street vendors; cars; buses, bicycles; mopeds; ancient housing; modern complexes; destruction and construction sites; tiny family businesses; huge international corporations; the whole thing accompanied by an infinity of unfamiliar smells and sounds. All at once side by side the very rich the very poor the very old the very modern repression freedom everything.
Afterwards, when I sat down in the calm of my studio, I tacked a twenty-five foot long piece of paper on my wall. What came first were the faces in the background. For some weeks, we stared at each other. I later understood that they are westerners, and possibly others too, who are expressing how they feel as they observe China’s development -- curiosity, fear, financial interest, excitement, envy, judgment. I then cut my drawing into eight pieces, and became focused on developing a new visual vocabulary to express the richness and the paradoxes that I had witnessed. I wanted to bring the intensity of my experience into each panel by building layers upon layers of diverse imagery. Concurrently I became immersed in studying Mandarin and furthering my budding understanding of that fascinating culture.
The choice to incorporate Chinese characters became obvious as I discovered in me a love for the way Chinese words are conceived. I love the fact that words don’t just translate from English into Chinese. Characters often have deep meanings that go far beyond the actual word. A good example of that is 平(Ping) which appears in Ripple IV. The English word is “Peace” but its definition is “the balance between opposing forces – equilibrium”. Additionally, each character is built by bringing together related concepts, so it is explained that in “Ping”, we see a bamboo stem, balanced on each side by a single tongue of fire. I chose each character very carefully, making sure that it added to the meaning of my artwork.