Cézanne and the art of nondual nonfinito

 

Or – getting emptiness exactly right

 

Paul Cézanne La Montagne Sainte-Victoire vue des Lauves

La Montagne Sainte Victoire vue des Lauves, Paul Cézanne, 1901-1906

 

As Cézanne aged, his paintings became filled by more and more naked canvas, what he eloquently called nonfinito. No one had ever done this before. The painting was clearly incomplete. How could it be art? But Cézanne was unfazed by his critics. He knew that his paintings were only literally blank. Their incompleteness was really a metaphor for the process of sight. In these unfinished canvases, Cézanne was trying to figure out what the brain would finish for him. As a result, his ambiguities are exceedingly deliberate, his vagueness predicated on precision. If Cézanne wanted us to fill in his empty spaces, then he had to get his emptiness exactly right.

For example, look at Cézanne’s watercolors of Mont Sainte-Victoire. In his final years, Cézanne walked every morning to the crest of Les Lauves, where an expansive view of the Provençal plains opened up before him. He would paint in the shade of a linden tree. From there, Cézanne said, he could see the land’s hidden patterns, the way the river and vineyards were arranged in overlapping planes. In the background was always the mountain; that jagged isosceles of rock that seemed to connect the dry land with the infinite sky….

And yet the mountain does not disappear. It is there, an implacable and adamant presence. The mind easily invents the form that Cézanne’s paint barely insinuates. Although the mountain is almost literally invisible – Cézanne has only implied its presence – its looming gravity anchors the painting. We don’t know where the painting ends and we begin…

– Jonah Lehrer: Proust was a Neuroscientist


Source – http://www.selfdiscoveryportal.com/Conquest.htm
PS – The entire article is well worth reading.


what my eyes saw on the way

Frederick Franck - Mariakapel

In the silence of drawing
hidden, yet visible, in each face
I see the Face of faces,
see:
that the plural of man
does not exist,
is our cruelest hallucination –
see that our Oneness is infinite differentiation,
see:
that the pattern of the universe
and mine
are not-two,
that what lives in me
is the Tao
in which all lives.

THIS IS NOT WHAT I BELIEVE
BUT WHAT MY EYES
SAW ON THE WAY.

Having become
all these faces, all these bodies,
a meadow, a flower,
a night moth and a cow,
A STRANGER NO LONGER
I AM AT HOME,
BELOVED EARTH!

– Frederick Franck, The Awakened Eye


Frederick Franck was one of my most treasured teachers. He taught me how to see, how to draw as though my life depended on it, and how to live with eyes wideawake.

My website the awakened eye is dedicated to him and his vision.
See:
Frederick Franck’s to-do list
Frederick Franck, artisan


Drawing by Frederick Franck, Mariakapel


Dogen on painted cakes and hunger

 

Zen saying: painted cakes do not satisfy hunger

 

Wonderingmind Studio: Wayne Thiebaud - Boston Cremes, 1962

 

Meaning: painted cakes aren’t the real thing, they only describe the real thing. Implying that for the serious seeker of Truth, creative work is a vanity, a distraction, a pointless pursuit.

It is true that the tendency to identify with one’s creative expressions can cause the ego to inflate, with all the suffering that comes by default. But identification with any human activity carries this danger.

The question:  What is the self that expresses in self-expression? is our lifeboat in these dangerous waters.

The monk Dogen saw the bigger picture.
He said:  Painted cakes do satisfy hunger.

Aside from painted cakes, there is no way to satisfy hunger.
Aside from the painted cakes we make,
artists and writers and educators and web builders
have no way to express their ideas and inspirations.

Aside from the process of making painted cakes
we have no insight into our creativity
and what fosters it or sabotages it.

Aside from the painted cakes we perceive,
what so-called Reality is there?

If Reality is REAL, it must be whole and undivided.  Our painted cakes are therefore nondual expressions of the truth – whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not.  The ten thousand things are painted cakes awaiting the glance of an awakened wondering mind.  This vast and all-embracing perspective lifts our creative work into the realm of sacred practice, something many artisans – including this one – are very conscious of and deeply committed to.  Our works are ‘painted cakes’ and amazingly, they do satisfy hunger.


Homage to John Daido Loori, Sensei, for inspiration and teachings.


Painting by Wayne Thiebaud – Boston Cremes, 1962