Posts Tagged ‘Zen’

Big Bang



“Astronomers… say there was a primordial explosion, an enormous bang billions of years ago which flung all the galaxies into space. Well let’s take that just for the sake of argument and say that was the way it happened.

It’s like you took a bottle of ink and you threw it at a wall. Smash! And all that ink spread. And in the middle, it’s dense, isn’t it? And as it gets out on the edge, the little droplets get finer and finer and make more complicated patterns, see?

So in the same way, there was a big bang at the beginning of things and it spread. And you and I, sitting here in this room, as complicated human beings, are way, way out on the fringe of that bang. We are the complicated little patterns on the end of it. Very interesting.

But so we define ourselves as being only that. If you think that you are only inside your skin, you define yourself as one very complicated little curlique, way out on the edge of that explosion. Way out in space, and way out in time.

Billions of years ago, you were a big bang, but now you’re a complicated human being. And then we cut ourselves off, and don’t feel that we’re still the big bang. But you are. Depends how you define yourself. You are actually—if this is the way things started, if there was a big bang in the beginning—you’re not something that’s a result of the big bang. You’re not something that is a sort of puppet on the end of the process. You are still the process. You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are.

When I meet you, I see not just what you define yourself as—Mr. So-and-so, Ms. So-and-so, Mrs. So-and-so—I see every one of you as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I’m that, too. But we’ve learned to define ourselves as separate from it.”

― Alan W. Watts

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GC Myers- Into New Territory smIf your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.

Shunryu Suzuki


I was looking for some words to go with this new painting, Into New Territory, that is part of my show now hanging at the West End Gallery.  I came across this quote from the late Zen monk and teacher Shunryu Suzuki that expressed very much what I was seeing in this painting.

I see this painting as being about moving out from that which you know, examining the possibilities that open up to you when you dare to move beyond your comfort zone.

When I read Suzuki’s words, I began thinking about my own experience as a painter.  In the beginning when everything was new and my knowledge consisted of much less than it does today, every day was filled with new discoveries that opened up wider and wider vistas of possibility.  There seemed to be no boundary, no limit to where it might take me.

But as one gains more knowledge and becomes more “expert,” one begins to set limits on their possibility.  They learn hard lessons from failures and often even stop looking in that direction as a future avenue of creativity.  Their focus becomes narrower and narrower.  The possibilities that seemed endless as a beginner seem much more limited and defined.  The “what is” is greater but the “what might be” seems to be fading into the mist.

The trick is in retaining some of that  beginner’s exuberance and its naive openness to all possibility, and to find a way to incorporate the gained knowledge that came to you along the way.  In the context of this painting, it means straying out into the open and daring to look in all directions.  It means setting aside all fear of failure and the encumbrances of the “what is” to move toward an endless horizon.

It’s so simple a thought and so difficult to realize.  But one must try and try and try.

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Sometimes a title for a piece is so undeniable that it makes all other attempts at naming it seem utterly futile.  When I completed this 8″ by 16″ painting on paper, I tried to find something in it that reminded me of  something other than  the feeling of  Eastern influence that seemed to drip from the surface.  The bonsai-like tree and the mound from which it sprouts.  The rising sun.  Even the way the sky is segmented and shaded seemed to bring forth thought of a flag from the East.  It all conspired to give the painting a decidedly Eastern Zen flavor.

I was trying to get away from having the viewer see the piece as only a product of influence, as though that might somehow lessen the work.  But isn’t every painting a product of influence somehow?  I can often see the onfluence of others in my work.  A bit of color here borrowed from something I’ve seen in another artist’s work.  I remember doing a piece when I was first showing and I had used a green in the work that had a wonderful rich earthiness to it.  This little bit of my painting so reminded me of the greens that Albrecht Durer had used in some of his lovely paintings of small wildlife such as rabbits and squirrels.  One day, I was in the gallery and the piece was hanging when another artist who also showed his work there saw it.

“That’s Durer’s green!” he exclaimed. 

I was thrilled that he caught it, that he saw the same qualities in it that I saw in Durer’s use of the color even though there was no other similarity in the work.  It provided a real insight into how influence works in how we create and view work.

So, why fight it when an influence shows through even more prominently?  It was influenced by the East as am I.  Even as I sit here now, my desk looks out an east-facing window as I watch the sun’s rays filter through the thick foliage of the trees as it rises from the east.  Every morning that I look into the eastern sky I am influenced by it.  You can’t deny your influences or habits, the things that shape your views.  So to call this piece anything other than Eastern Influence would be like trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

This painting is part of the New Days exhibit of my work at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY  that open this Thursday, July 22.

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