how little needs to be said to know nothing

Melinda_Blair_Paterson_BSA_exhibition_2018_2
how little needs to be said to know nothing – exhibition @byronschoolofart – 13 to 25 April 2018

My current exhibition opened last Friday 13th April at the Byron School of Art, Project Space, Mullumbimby. For those that may be wondering where this is, Mullum (as we locals call it) is located in the Byron Shire (Byron Bay area), Northern NSW, Australia. It’s a beautiful little country town with a thriving arts community. The Byron School of Art, or BSA, is a welcome addition to the community and is growing in popularity as it offers year-long courses, short classes and exhibition opportunities encouraging artists to experiment with their ideas. I was fortunate to be selected to exhibit this year with this large body of work on paper I’ve been quietly creating for nearly two years.

Entitled ‘how little needs to be said to know nothing’ this exhibition explores an inquiry into the direct experience of form (the body, thoughts and emotions) and formlessness (silence, stillness and spaciousness) through my daily contemplations and meditations.

With a keen interest to understand the human experience of consciousness I wanted to take the simplicity of a piece of paper, showing up with a brush in hand, and surrender to whatever the moment created. I wanted to just paint and paint and paint and see what would be there at the end of a hundred paintings. So far I’ve painted 70 works, most of which have not been edited, or gone over, but rather completed in one or two sittings, put to the side, moving onto the next. In this way I felt I was better able to stop the mind from jumping in with conceptual ideas of what ‘should’ be on the page, or allowing overt self-criticism.

As the months rolled by I began to see themes emerge. One of them being “how little can I express onto the paper for it to still engage and meet me in some way?” In this way the title ‘how little needs to be said to know nothing’ can be read as a question or a statement.  Reviewing the paintings, I realised the exhibition feels like a visual journal, where what started as painterly expression, using the metaphor of a vessel for form, has quietly fallen away.  The paint has became thinner, the subject has receded, leaving just spaciousness on the paper. In today’s busy digital disruption lifestyle, I like the simplicity of that.

The exhibition continues until 25th April and can be viewed Monday to Saturday 10am to 2pm at the BSA Project Space, 112 Dalley Street, Mullumbimby. I will be there most days to share the experience and would enjoy your feedback should you be able to pop in and say hello.

For more information www.byronschoolofart.com/bsa-project-space-calendar/

Some more pieces from the exhibition:

Melinda Blair Paterson artist
untitled #6 – melinda blair paterson – mixed media – 290gsm paper – 2016

The above piece was in the initial part of this series that used the shape of a vessel to depict the human experience of form.

Melinda Blair Paterson artist
untitled #21 – melinda blair paterson – mixed media – 290gsm paper – 2017

The above piece shows the language or asemic writing I love to express. It is a language that has no meaning and yet brings a palpable experience of energy through my body when it is written.

Melinda Blair Paterson artist
untitled #45 – melinda blair paterson – mixed media – 290gsm paper – 2017

The above piece is an example of the later part of this series where spaciousness became the main expression and simplicity of colour was applied in thin washes of paint.

 

 

bush roses

IMG_9084
bush roses #5  – melinda blair paterson – 2016 – oil on board

 

Summer time brings the bush rose outside my bedroom window into full bloom. It’s a delight to awaken each morning and smell their fragrance. Yes… roses that do offer a sublime scent that goes straight into the brain and sends endorphins of pure pleasure through the body. Nothing like the perfect, yet devoid of scent, commercial roses found in most florists or roadside stalls today. Real roses thank you very much!

I’ve learnt over the years that bush roses are traditionally short lived once picked. Their petals flop and quickly fall, taking their scent with them. Knowing this, however, doesn’t inhibit me from loving the ritual of using my sharpest gardening shears, gathering as many as the bush will allow, and bringing them inside to fill my tiny little cabin with their beauty, perfume and grace. Bliss.

Last summer I began seeing visions of pale pink roses on a dark background. I found myself buying a small set of oils, a few canvas boards and began translating the visions into little paintings. There have only been five small artworks completed to date. A couple of prepped boards still await my return, and I have no idea when? It was like the Muse arrived one day, played with me and then left, just when the game was getting interesting.

Oh well… maybe she’ll come back to play again next summer.

Mx

 

indigo september

Indigo Lotus Leaf - Monoprint - Melinda Blair Paterson - 2015
Indigo Lotus Leaf – Monoprint – Melinda Blair Paterson – 2015

Something changed in my art practice in September. I put down the paint brush and started playing with a cake (block) of natural indigo dye I had brought back from Bali in 2013. It had sat on a shelf in my studio haunting and mocking me for two years… “when are you going to stop being afraid and play with me!”

So after the clear out and burning of June, the pens and pencils and upscaling of July, and the cabin bound flu of August; Spring arrived and the indigo came down off the shelf.

I had no idea what to do with it. I read the indigo dyeing instructions that the kind Balinese man, Wyang, had given me needing paw paw pulp or banana skins for the dye vat and thought: “too hard!”.  So I meekly shaved a bit of powder off the hard cake and mixed it with a bit of water. Grabbing a few leaves from the garden I began the simplest printing technique I know – monoprinting.

Within a matter of moments I had produced a string of little prints quietly drying on the studio floor and felt the childlike play spring to life. Ahhhhh…. that’s the feeling I remember. The lost in the moment, ‘no me’ joy of just creating, having no idea of where it goes or how it ends up… the creative expressing being all there is.

Within a few days I was at an artist friend’s studio gratefully using her printing press, experimenting with larger pieces of paper and lotus leaves. Oh God… this was even MORE fun!

September finished off with exploring the addition of colour, pens and pencils, and working back into the monoprints.

Here are a few of my favourites from this little forage into the simplicity of leaves, monoprinting and indigo, which I’m happy to say I no longer fear. 🙂

Mx

Australian camphor and gum leaves - indigo monoprints - Melinda Blair Paterson - 2015
Camphor and Gum leaves –  Indigo Monoprints – Melinda Blair Paterson – 2015
Seaweed Indigo - Monoprint - Melinda Blair Paterson - 2015
Seaweed Indigo – Monoprint – Melinda Blair Paterson – 2015
Indigo Pen Pencil Leaf - Monoprint - Melinda Blair Paterson - 2015
Indigo Pen Pencil Leaf – Monoprint – Melinda Blair Paterson – 2015

 

up scaling

  IMG_7964-0untitled   66cms diameter   pen on paper   2015   melinda blair paterson

At the beginning of this year, during the Australian summer, I found it too hot in the studio for my art practice, located in a shipping container on the property where I live. So I switched to a cooler location, ie my desk in the cabin, and began creating spontaneous small pen and pencil drawings, whilst listening to Rupert Spira’s meditations ‘The Light of Pure Knowing’. The intention was to let the hand have it’s way, put the mind on pause, and see what comes!

Some of these drawings I have shared with you on this blog over the past six months. Each one bringing forth a sense of delight and love for me in the making, and a feeling of returning to, or reconnecting with, a more intuitive process in my artistic expression. More recently I’ve noticed the ‘almost daily’ practice began to disappear. The pull to the desk dissolved. So I waited.

With the summer months rolling over into winter,  I knew the weather conditions for studio practice were returning. However, another factor I must take into account is rain. You see if it’s raining I can’t go into the studio either, as the only access to light is by opening the container doors wide open. It provides a wonderful vista down the valley but not ideal for trying to keep artwork moisture or mould free. So with a week of wet weather approaching I decided to bring an easel, pin board, a large piece of paper into my tiny cabin, and ‘up scale’ my drawing practice.

Yes, it was a bit squeezy at home, but when you live on your own, it’s the kind of thing you can do. It’s also one of my favourite things… to be tucked up in the cabin creating when it’s wild, wet and windy outside. Bliss!

The above image is the piece created in that week. A drawing of spontaneous mark-making influenced by, and drawn from, the series of smaller drawings created over the past six months. It remains untitled and without colour, as I am unsure about either at this time. So I wait.

Mx

art to ashes

art to ashes - Melinda Blair Paterson

Cleaning out the studio, feeling the moment when brush will touch white surface again and mysteries will gently be revealed to the ‘observer’, today, however, ended in a bomb-fire of artworks that didn’t make the cut.

A liberating experience of turning art into ashes, watching  a thirsty fire lick colour and form, expressing its delight in bursts of blasting heat and towering flames under a clear night sky, encouraging me to step back or join the revelry.

Hours of agonising decisions on colour and mark making:  adding, subtracting, covering, and revealing. I remember struggling with it all and these artworks showed every nuance, hence had to go.

What a relief.

Mx

exquisite circles

Plate from Die Radiolarien (Rhizopoda radiaria) – Ernst Haeckel [1862]
Plate from Die Radiolarien (Rhizopoda radiaria) – Ernst Haeckel [1862]
My fascination for circles continued last week when cruising around Facebook I came across a post on the awakened eye that pointed to a piece called ‘The Rhetoric of Weird Wonders Gleefully Carousing in Morphospace : The Biodiversity Heritage Library’s Flickr Collection.’ The name alone seemed a mouth-full and would normally have had me scrolling past with judgement of ‘too hard’, however the accompanying image stopped me in my tracks. What’s that… click! The screen flicked over to a blog called Data is Nature, and as much as I found the text a bit high brow for a quick scan, I was fascinated by the images of exquisite scientific illustration.

The author Paul Prudence writes in his post:
Scientific illustration, especially of a biological kind, reached an apex in terms of draughtsmanship and delicateness during 19th century before photography became widespread. Though the emphasis on these illustrations was on accuracy, utility and facsimile of biodiversity, the personal aesthetics of the artists inevitably wrestled their way into the frame. Ernst Haeckel’s brilliant illustrations are the canonical example of this kind of treatment. (continued here)

Phew!

On viewing and sitting with these illustrations there is no doubt they are of an exact scientific nature, however, for me it is the placement of the circles, and the subtle work of pencil that evokes an etherial beauty. Some forms appear feminine and organic, and yet a surprising element of the masculine and mechanical appear in others. All of which felt like a pointing to something deeper and perhaps beyond the duality of our world.

I found myself re-reading the post and trying to understand what Prudence was saying about Haeckel’s work. What does ‘canonical’ mean? When in doubt… Google it! The definition of CANONICAL FORM is ‘the simplest form of something’ in a mathematical context. I felt even more pulled into these drawings; bathing in their beauty, simplicity and form as captured by the artist.

Simplicity = Circles = Form in Beauty = Awareness (to me).

Mx

a circular nature

allow your mind to go to the forms, but allow your heart to remain in pure knowing- Melinda Blair Paterson

allow your mind to go to the forms, but allow your heart to remain in pure knowing – pen and pencil – 10mar15

we may go out into the world, but we never leave ourself

we may go out into the world, but we never leave ourself – pen and pencil – 18mar15

You, are that which is Aware of experience - Melinda Blair Paterson

You, are that which is Aware of experience – pen and pencil – 19mar15

the thought that was present two seconds ago has now disappeared - Melinda Blair Paterson

the thought that was present two seconds ago has now disappeared – pen and pencil – 27mar15

nothing prior, nothing after it, just vast spaces either side - Melinda Blair Paterson

nothing prior, nothing after it, just vast spaces either side – pen and pencil – 28mar15

getting back in the game - Melinda Blair Paterson

getting back in the game – pen and pencil – 07apr15

All drawing by Melinda Blair Paterson
Titles from words by Rupert Spira (except ‘getting back in the game’)

These recent works from my ‘contemplative doodling’ series seem to offer a theme of a circular nature. Mostly created whilst listening to Rupert Spira’s meditations, The light of pure knowing, and more recently my own internal musings. The life of an artist, especially for one with a strong intuitive pulse or inner compass as experienced here, is a constant source of wonder. Why is it I can just let the hand and pen have its way, or trust whatever chooses the next colour pencil; and who knows when the work is done? It’s all a mystery to the ‘me’ and a joy to the unknown. 🙂 Mx

no me art

we have overlooked who we truly are - pen and pencil - melinda blair paterson - 2015
we have overlooked who we truly are – pen and paper – 2015 – Words from Rupert Spira – Drawing by Melinda Blair Paterson

I was speaking with my partner the other day about my art and where I feel the artist and the art fits, or rather doesn’t, in the so-called ‘art world’. By that I mean the art of our time, which is usually described with words like ‘contemporary’ or ‘conceptual’. For years, both in art school and since,  I have struggled with trying to fit into a conceptual art scene, dying a little inside each time I was requested to come up with a story for what my art meant.   You see for me, the truth of what is artistically expressed has little, if any, meaning. It’s purely an experience and a joyful one at that. Recently I came across the words and world of ‘contemplative art’. This art practice springs forth from the Buddhist traditions and is more about the contemplative or meditative approach and process, than the outcome of the artist’s work. For the first time in years I felt a light come on and a spark of resonance.  Yet even the term contemplative art doesn’t quite hit the mark, feeling ever so slightly off my centre. So in this casual conversation with my partner I found myself saying: my art is really about me getting out-of-the-way and just letting Awareness express itself, it’s really… no-me-art.  I like the simplicity and truth of that. Bang on! Mx

 

NOTE: Just for interest here is an excellent explanation of Contemplative Art from Contemplative Mind:

Art-making is a contemplative practice that affects us internally, through our thoughts and emotions, as well as externally, through the creation of object and images that can serve as sources of inspiration and healing. Contemplative art may be loosely divided into two (non-exclusive) categories:

1) Process Emphasis: the process of making artwork is what is paramount; the work that results from the practice is not important. One might consider these contemplative practices to be simply “exercises;” they can be especially freeing for those who feel they lack adequate artistic talent or skill, since the point of the practice is not to make “good” art, but simply to observe the mind while engaging in the creative process. 

2) Product Emphasis: the practitioner intends to create a specific type of object–which may be directly related to other contemplative practices. For example, painting a religious icon, weaving a prayer shawl, stringing a rosary, or hand-binding a journal may done with mindful intention. The practice has a desired result: to produce a particular image or object.

In both cases, despite the emphasis on process or product, the intention of the practitioner is the same: to engage in the creative process with contemplative awareness.

loving each new creation

untitled  -  12Mar15  - pen and pencil  - melinda blair paterson
untitled – 12Mar15 – pen and pencil – melinda blair paterson

I have a confession…

I watch myself fall madly in love with each new artwork I create.

Even the ugly ducklings.

It’s always been this way.

In the moment, when pen and pencil or brush and paint, are doing their mindless abandoned thing… its pure joy tearing through my veins whilst the finished creation is delighted in and loved like a new-born child. Carefully placed where my gaze can intermittently check, re-check, and greet the new one.

It’s a curiosity because I’m not saying every piece of artwork I produce IS fantastic, however the experiencing is.

The conclusion I’ve come to is the creative expression springs forth from the Truth of who I am, the Love that we all are, and thus creates this wonderous mad alive loving experiencing.  🙂

Mx

doodling with Rupert



it has been brought to an end in understanding   2015   words – Rupert Spira,  drawing – Melinda Blair Paterson

It has been going on for a week or so now, this love affair with Rupert Spira, or rather his recent published work ‘The light of pure knowing‘, some 30 meditations on the essence of non duality. 

I sit at my desk, take my journal in hand, push the play arrow on the iPad, and enjoy an hour or so of exquisite pleasure listening to Rupert whilst doodling with black pen and colour pencils. I’ve coined it ‘contemplative doodling’. 

Every now and then a few words spoken by Rupert, in his elogent English accent, filter through and I write them down. Words that unknowingly penetrate the mindless abstraction of doodling, and strike a note of connection and deeper understanding. I love that. Mx



the object comes to us, we don’t go to it   2015   words – Rupert Spira   drawing – Melinda Blair Paterson



beauty is the experience that objects are not objects   2015   words – Rupert Spira   drawing – Melinda Blair Paterson



being aware in everything   2015   Melinda Blair Paterson



floating in awareness, forever free   2015   Melinda Blair Paterson



how close is this experience to the knowing of it?   2015   words – Rupert Spira  drawing – Melinda Blair Paterson