Tuesday, 21 May 2013

My Buddha Dilemma

Buddha, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 30 cm
As I mentioned before, sometimes the image of a finished painting is firmly planted in my head. In this case: the lettering, unreadable; the big splash of red; the white rectangle, with weathered paint; and a little bronze Buddha head, very neatly painted. It should have been straight-forward. Technically, it was, at least for me. So, what was my dilemma?
Well, there is a head, not a full-size body, on a large pool of red. This could be interpreted as a chopped-off head in a pool of blood. That is definitely not my intention. In fact, I don't like my images to be confrontational. Instead, I prefer them to be harmonious; make people feel better when they look at it.
There were a few solutions. Firstly, paint a full-size Buddha. Simple. Proportion-wise, though, it didn't work well for me, but it offers the possibility of being used on a subsequent painting with different dimensions.
Secondly, change the big splash of red to another colour. With my mind's eye, I went through the lot of them: blues, yellows, purples and browns. Even greens. However, nothing looked as good as red to me. My third option? Abandon project. My reaction: Nah.... Fourth option: change the interpretation.
There is a Zen-koan that goes like this, "If You Meet The  Buddha on the Road, Kill Him."
That's actually a rather brutal expression from a very peaceful religion. I have heard stories of monks walking with extreme care in order not to squash any ants or other bugs. The precept of No Killing is taken very seriously by many Buddhists. So, where does this expression come from? Apparently it comes from Zen master Linji, but what did he try to say? Without master Linji being present here, all I can offer is my understanding. As I see it, he warns you not to idolise someone or something outside yourself. Be it a person, an idea or an image (mental or otherwise). The Buddha was very clear: we all have Buddha-natures. Worshipping something or someone, placed outside ourselves, is not going to reveal what is already inside us. Believing or having an idea about enlightenment is not going to help us experience our already enlightened nature.
So there you have it. This, for me is a good enough 'justification' for my little painting.