Sometimes, when you look at something you’ve created and it appears perfectly fine and then later, other things happen to come along that say the work needs something more- that is alright! During my recent visit to look after my sick and elderly parents, I found many newspapers that reading now, suggested something darker was happening then- things that would be unacceptable now. So upon return, I decided to use those historical references to my painting of the city of Jaisalmer in North India which I had made in January 2009. I decided it was perfectly fine to revisit memories and through my art, to be exorcised of that past. Although upon first glance the painting glitters and there are flags reminiscent of festivities and brightness, but when one looks carefully at the newspaper cuttings, darker images emerge out of the surface.
Here is a reminder of the painting looked like for almost five years before-
I know I can’t take it back to where it was and now it reads differently, so I have to accept it is now where I am. Art is an expression of one’s life and one can’t be too precious about it. This work is also a representation of my eye problems because now my art has to be more tactile and contrasting. Have you done something like this?
All this week, I have had to visit hospitals for various problems. Yesterday, I received news about the glaucoma in my eyes- that an operation might be needed earlier than thought (I have had three operations already). This made me both anxious as well impatient to do as much reading and writing that I could. Of course, I felt depressed too. This morning, I got up and went for a walk. The sun was shining and I looked down at an avenue of Victorian brick houses, washed in the rain and glorious in the early daylight. Those houses had been standing there for more than a century- and I thought of the loves, the lives, the fights and the illnesses of the people that would lived there, now gone and unknown. Then I thought, ‘I am alive and that is all that matters. Not what has happened and what may come. Now is the moment to live. Now is important’ So I walked back, in a happier mood than I started. The treasures of the storehouse of my belief in myself are more important than anything else. That is all I need to celebrate today.
‘As the Buddhist teacher Nichiren states: “More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all.” “Treasures of the storehouse” refer to money and other forms of material wealth. “Treasures of the body” are skills and abilities, as well as physical health. “Treasures of the heart” are the riches that we build within our lives. This indicates the kind of inner strength that cannot be defeated by any tribulation. It refers to the power to live out our lives in a creative way, with constant joy, fulfillment and vitality.’ Daisaku Ikeda.
“Research is formalised curiousity. It poking and prying with a purpose”– Zora Neale Hurston, Anthropologist
In my book I had written about ‘cultivated innocence’ or even ignorance. When we get used to things, people or our environment, we stop looking with our creative selves. We stop seeing with new eyes and instead of following our hearts, we follow our deep-seated prejudices and pre-judgements. This morning I looked at my garden with new eyes and found so many things I had not seen before. For example, I did not realise that bees came to my lavender plant at a certain time in the morning everyday. I learnt to listen out for them and did try to photograph them but did not succeed- perhaps I did not how fast bees fly or how quickly they drink the nectar from flowers! I discovered some tulips, some geraniums and some moss I had not seen before. All this gave me great pleasure- all through seeing the same thing with the ‘eyes of innocence’. Using the words of the poet, Wallace Stevens, we must “resist intelligence almost successfully” to follow our hearts.