Monday, October 1, 2012

Combining The Physical With The Spiritual

“Since ancient times the most refined art of enlightened scholars has been painting.” 
                                                                                                                  Han Cho

China has a rich tradition in art that goes back thousands of years. Ancient Chinese believed that painting, with its focus of spirit, its delicacy and subtleness of brush strokes, was the one and only true art - they did not consider sculpture art because of the physical labor involved in its making. Those who made sculptures were considered artisans. (craftsmen who earned money for their labor) They believed that artists should not be involved in the business of making money. The ancient Chinese also believed in the benefits of combining the physical with the spiritual. They believed that a physical ordeal combined with spiritual devotion is a means to a higher consciousness. An example would be the Shaolin Monks where martial arts training combined with calligraphy (painting), is part of their spiritual training and is considered and essential component in attaining enlightenment.

That is not the case in America. In America the artist community shuns that notion. The general attitude of artists is that the mind is all that matters, the body is of no importance as long as one is doing art. In America combining art with a physical endeavor is considered a waste of time and energy. (I experienced this first hand when I was studying art at the College of Arts and Crafts in the late sixties. Jack Delinger’s gym where I once trained was across the street from the college and many times I heard disparaging remarks about the “muscle-bound oafs” that trained there)

That shortsighted outlook overlooks the spiritual and emotional dedication and mental energy that is involved in a protracted physical ordeal. When you toughen your resolve, dedicate you spirit, and discipline your body you gain a deeper understanding into the potential for creativity that resides within your soul. It is not a waste of time. I believe for artists it is essential for the maximizing of the artist’s creative potential.

I have devoted almost fifty years of my life to art (the spiritual) and now have a seven year commitment to the physical. I am hoping this trip to China will help me merge the two disciplines and perhaps give me some insight into the Tao, “the way,” so that I might become a more complete artist.

I will be painting while in China particularly on the Great Wall, a goal I set for myself fifteen years ago. I made a special painting box for my brushes, colors, and paper. On it I painted the Chinese characters for “Strength and Wisdom” to constantly remind me of my goal.

Although I will have my computer with me I may not be able to post in this blog everyday as it will depend on if I have access to the internet. I will however write the text everyday and post it when I can. We are leaving on October 16th so look for new posts after that date.

For an update please go to: