When I was a student beginning my study of art, I found the book Creativity and Taoism – A Study of Chinese Philosophy, Art, and Poetry by Chang Chung-yuan (published by Harper Torchbooks of New York in 1968) while browsing a local bookstore (yes, there used to be lots of bookstores). I bought it on a whim, and it has been informing my thinking about art ever since.
Perhaps one of my most favorite paragraphs begins “In the spring of 1952 when Jacques Maritain delivered a series of lectures at the National Gallery of Art in Washington he explained that the inner principle of dynamic harmony seized upon by the Chinese contemplative artists should be conceived of as a sort of interpenetration between Nature and Man. Through interpenetration things are spiritualized. When the artist reveals the reality concealed in things, he sets himself free and, in turn, he liberates and purifies himself. This invisible process, fundamental to Chinese art, is the action of Tao.” Maritain points out that at the root of both Oriental and Occidental artists’ work is an experience without logical reason, by means of which objectivity and subjectivity are obscurely grasped together. Interpenetration.
Midsummer is a hallelujah moment. It is based on an experience at my local pond. It was a day with storm clouds clearing out. I was standing by the pond’s edge looking across the water with the sun behind me. Trees were casting shadow patterns on the water in front of me, while trees on the far bank were reflecting their green structured forms into the pond. A sheen of pollen drifted on the water, obscuring slightly the crisp reflections. At my feet, I could see green reflections from the trees behind me interpenetrated with shadow and light. The entire view was interwoven of light, shadow, sky, trees, and reddish grasses. Everything looked real and abstract, present and ethereal. I wanted to shout to Maritain you should see this!
Details below. Enjoy.