ARTS AND HUMANITIES: The museum presents meditative paintings | Characteristics

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Since 2020, we’ve all had a lot of time to get in touch with our inner selves. One of the few benefits of any period of self-isolation, including a lockdown necessitated by a public health crisis, is the opportunity it provides for introspection.

Meditative practice, however, is not new. It’s as old as human history. The ancient Greeks practiced “omphaloskepsis” or “the navel”, and the concept is familiar to countless other people who view yoga as a means of raising individual consciousness.

Don Cooper’s art, currently on display in a special exhibition at the Morris Museum of Art, prompts us to look above the navel. The 14 paintings currently on display focus on what is known in Sanskrit as the ‘bindu’, which in the practices of Tantric Hinduism and Buddhism manifests itself in the human body at a point at the back of the body. head. Since the bindu is considered the starting point of creation, it is no wonder that over the centuries it has become a focal point of meditation. In Cooper’s work, he also serves as a point of reference for artistic creation.

Informed by the Atlanta-based artist’s trip to India, each of Morris’s bindu paintings is made up of a series of concentric circles radiating from a central point. Whether in oil or acrylic on canvas or watercolor on handmade Indian paper, these works vibrate with energy. By focusing their gaze on the pinpoint at the center of each composition, the viewer will soon notice that the radiating circles within the circles begin to vibrate and merge, roughly mimicking the universal meditative “journey” from the outside to the inside. . In essence, it can be said that Cooper’s bindu paintings serve as “road maps” to introspection.

The decision to mount these works in the small gallery next to the entrance to the museum’s first floor was a stroke of genius. I remembered as I was sitting on the bench in the middle of the exhibition space – and I don’t think this comparison is too far-fetched – a visit I made to the iconic Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas a few years ago. . This peculiar spiritual space, designed some fifty years ago by one of the greatest abstract painters of the last century, features 14 large-scale color field paintings – the same number of works as in the gallery dedicated to Cooper’s work in Augusta.

In the case of Mark Rothko’s works in Houston, seven are essentially black rectangles on a brown background and seven are variations of the color purple. At the center of the non-denominational space are benches and mats for silent contemplation, for looking outward at the works themselves – Rothko himself felt that the color values ​​in his dark paintings expressed various emotions. human – and to look within.

Cooper paints are intended to perform much the same function. Those whose center is dominated by warm colors advance towards the viewer; those where cold colors predominate recede; but whatever their relative intensity, we are drawn into the vortex, the swirling center of energy skillfully constructed from oil, acrylic, or water.

For more information on this exhibit, on view until August 1, visit themorris.org.



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