The paintings I do don’t really have any message or meaning. There is no specific content to convey. There is instead a kind of purpose. What needs to be said is not something said in words or thoughts, but experienced in silence.
Your thoughts differ from my thoughts. You ideas and the words they formulate are different from mine. These things are never the same in two people, they remain individualistic and separate. The more we move into the world of words and thoughts, the more we are apart in existential experience, the more we move into the world of my view as opposed to, or different from, your view. At best we can use the words to communicate across the gap, but even our experience of that communication differs subjectively, and the gap remains.
Your silence does not differ from my silence. Silence remains the same whether it is experienced by you or me. Silence is a shared experience. In the very experience of it you recognize it as having a universal nature. Inherent in the very experience is the realization that this silence is identical, the one and the same, as the silence the other is experiencing. The experience is not an individual one. It is vaster than the individual, but still available to each individual. Something that stretches beyond one’s boundaries, but which one remains intrinsically a part of.
When silence is shared it is no longer communication but communion. It is not one point talking to another point, but a sharing of the very ground that these points are existing upon. There is no gap. The other cannot any longer be seen wholly as the other, but instead is recognized as being a part of this commonly shared, underlying experience… this common ground of being.
Entering the common ground of being creates a new way of being and relating, both to oneself and to others, and to existence as a whole. It is a dissolving of the assumptions of separateness that surround us, and with which we continuously maintain the mind-manufactured world of manipulation, domination and fight. It is only in the awareness of the ever present underlying core of silence that the seeds of love and compassion can truly be found. Which is very different from the love that is found in the ideas of love, or the kind of compassion that stems from the notion that one should be compassionate.
The purpose of the paintings is to evoke this silence. That is the only “message” inherent in any form of meditative art. To enter the center, rather than to engage oneself in the periphery of thinking and feeling. In entering the silence of the observed object one inevitably enters the silence within oneself. There is no other way. If you recognize silence here, you recognize it over there, it is everywhere. It is inherent in a rock, a tree, a cloud, a star. It does not depend on any object. It depends on the mode of seeing and experiencing, and the awareness that arises out of it.
Meditative art is an invitation to enter this awareness. Meditative art is not an attempt to illustrate or describe meditation, but an attempt to induce the very experience of it. The message is not a message about something. The message is a taste of that actual something.
Artist's statement from the exhibition catalogue, 'Temples, Shrines and Sacred Sites'
March 1995, Barefoot Gallery, Colombo