Thursday, August 21, 2008

"Murmurs from Deep Time"

Robert Brawley
"Murmurs from Deep Time"
2004, oil on panel, 14.5" x 16"
I love this painting.
Everything is lucid; everything is in focus. Bob often integrated the fantastic and symbolic with the objective and mundane, making a very integral realism, I think. This comes through beautifully here in this painting, yes? I mean, just look at how the moon, crystal ball, window, and mirror (each an established symbol for profound realities) are all aligned deliberately down the central axis. Six ordinary stones are arranged in the foreground, at the base, expressing both symmetry and asymmetry, diversity and homogeneity. And each stone is glowing, like a lucid dream, like a magic jewel, stunning, absolutely stunning! And he even put some fantastic Himalayan mountains into this still life. If you appreciate "disguised symbolism," or Japanese Hiaku, this painting is a lot like those as well. Haiku poems (5-7-5) often include juxtaposed sizes, for example: The distant mountains wait outside a window-light lined with river stones or center of my eye reflected in a mirror beyond mountaintops As many of you know, my meditation teacher, Khamtrul Rinpoche, used a crystal ball in his "pointing out instructions," so including that clear marble on the windowsill cements this into meaningfulness, for sure. Bob also studied and practiced Tibetan Buddhism, so any "buddhist interpretation" very likely could have been intended. Also, Brawley worked a lot with totems and totemic relationships, and the totem here might be: stone (representing earth/world/order and chaos, the elements, the universe, the beauty) then the mirror (mind, reflection, perception, humans, the Self,). Then above that is the crystal ball (transcendence, purity, clarity, nature of mind), and then, what would go above that? What whould go above the Nature of Mind? God? Goddess? Spirit? Well, there is a window (the beyond, the light?) then a scene of mountains and the moon in the sky. Interestingly ordinary. Profoundly ordinary. ANd yet, mountains are often equated with the Ground, the Vastness, the Holy, the Alaya (as in Himalaya), and in Japan they can actually be Gods, great protectors and sources of energy. Dead center above them, at the top of the totem, is the moon (mystery, sacredness, feminine/masculine, luminous emptiness, nondual reality, whatever. The cresent moon can represent open boundarylessness, as well as the union of emptiness and form. In Zen it represents the Truth, or Dharma, and the teaching is to look at the moon, not the finger pointing to it. Maybe the moon at the top is like the star at the top of a Christmas tree; it's the guiding Light and Love. However, the painting only implies that these relationships and meanings might be experienced there. Nothing is obvious. The moon could simply represent the moon, always already there, glowing, nondual, and real.
According to this great article, Brawley sees his still lifes as expressing “a layered metaphor of entrapment or containment in a materialistic and destructive plane of existence.” So cool, and so integral.
If you are interested in this Master's form of integral realism, please visit my blog,
The New Realism,
and join the discussion.


It's often said that artists (and all people, for this matter) can choose to communicate with a certain audience--a certain type of perspective.
They choose what perspective to communicate with, and then try to use the symbols and languages inhabited by that general altitude of consciousness. They can make art for the anarchists, the spiritualists, or the traditionalists! Or all three, if they are really good. I think Brawley wanted to speak to as many kinds of people, all across the spectrum of consciousness, as he could. He wanted his (art)work to go right into people's minds and mess things around. And it just so happens that in order to be "entrapped" some perspectives need fantasy, need dream time, and find that particular language attractive. Others need realism or technical perfection, and prefer to offer that picture their praise. This painting, like most all of Bob's later work, integrates all of these movements into one, seamless, totemic, psychological, alchemical, hauntingly brush stroke-less whole. I love it, don't you?
You don't? Why not? Please tell me. I'd love to know.
"Harmony in Diversity." More diversity= more harmony, or at least that's the case for (and the state of) my belly! Right now body, mind, and eyes are all in love with the diversity found here in the states, both of America and of Mind. Seriously. I feel very United right now-- with family and friends, feelings, and familiar foods. I'm having a great time in the United States (of mind).

A related story: My friend back in Japan recently asked,
"How are the states?"

and I thought, That's a fun question. What states do you mean? The states of consciousness, for example, are ethereal dreams textured with love, generosity, and light. Perception is inherently luminous, especially here in Kansas. Outside is beautiful green, and I am being showered in love.

The states of weather are surprisingly calm; misty nights, cool breezes and vast sunsets. Fall is arriving fast.
The states of the America are political, as expected--Obama: running mate announced soon, McCain: five percent lead, working now with Rove... American racism, sexism, homophobia madness, books and articles and gossip and Doogie Howser M.D on hulu! Love the theme song.
States are passing, though. That's what "states" do: they arise, stay a bit, and then pass. (which is really quite true for all of reality, if you think about it. Everything is Impermanent).
"All things must pass."
Mostly though I'm being showered in love over here; both inwardly and outwardly; showered in a love without end, and radiant diversity, and beauty, holy god incredible beauty is shining forth from everyone's faces! and the food is good and grainy (multi-grain breads! Yes!) and cheeses and raspberries and hummus and a great, deep, holy diversity of foods! I almost cried in the isles of Whole Foods. I was, and am, so happy to be home.

Relationally, though, How are your states?
Murmurs from deep time.


chrisromain said...

Wow. OMG! Oh my God. I love the Murmurs From Deep Time. I love the surreality of the daytime light coming in through an unseen window, which is so masterfully painted, combined with the mountains and moon at the top which seem to be in a night/dusk time. It looks as though it could be a painting on the wall within the painting, or a window into the actual Himalayas. I don't know which it is, but it would be fun it was another window. The crescent moon looks like the crescent in the Om which represents the final subtle dualism before complete oneness (the non-dual state) is reached. It would also be the threshold beyond which is where the cycle of birth and death have been transcended. Okay, SO, did he paint on this for 20 or so minutes a day, at the same time each day, so that he could get the light right? Or did he take a picture and calculate the angles of the shadows he wanted and get that exact, but paint for an hour at a time around the same time of day??? I just don't know how you paint all of that natural light and texture and shadows from a photo. Did you ever talk to Bob about using photos for paintings? For himself, and for other people?

David said...

Great ideas chris! I did talk to Bob about natural light, and he said that he painted so many still lifes that he could make the light up. And he did use photographs and photo references, but not often.

His precess was to first loosely draw out all the images and then slowly "pull" them into focus using many layers of semi-transparent paint, so he could have done the highlights and shadows near then end and all together (he also used a fast-drying medium). It's the light on his face which trips me out. amazing.

David said...

also, interesting fact: the original mirror was red. he changed the color on the painting (maybe to match his ocean blue eyes?God, remember those twinkling eyes? I miss Bob so much). Your points make me think, How much of this scene is real, and how much is imaginary? That's a good question to ask ourselves about all of our experience, actually. How much is real, and how much is imagined?

chrisromain said...

David, could you take more detail shots of Bob's painting? Maybe, the mountains, and the rocks on the bottom middle and left? :)oh and, p.s. I found some mala in my backyard- would they belong to you?

May all beings be Free and in Love.

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