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Submitted by Matt Jones on Mon, 8/2/2010, 11:37pm
Recently Pat Groneman and Josh Adler lead a class studying Chogyam Trungpa's book True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art. I attended this class as an artist and meditation practitioner. After reading about Great Eastern Sun and Setting Sun ideas of Art I got to thinking that I could start an art criticism blog based on this framework.
It wouldn't be about taste or opinion but analysis of a work of art according to Chogyam's ideas of Great Eastern Sun and Setting Sun. Here's an excerpt from True Perception that illustrates the concepts and potential critical framework:
The three principles of Great, East, and Sun have specific meanings. Great means having some kind of strength, energy, and power. That is we are not fearful or regretful in presenting our expressions or our works of art--or, for that matter, in our way of begin. That power is absolutely fearless. If we aware cowardly, we would have a problem in trying to handle an object, or even thinking of touching it or arranging it, much less in arranging our life or our world. We would be afraid to do any of that. so the absence of that fear is fearlessness, which develops out of delight. We are so delighted that we spontaneously develop that kind of strength and energy. Then we can move freely around our world without try ing to change it particularly, but just expressing what needs to be expressed or uncovering what needs to be uncovered by means of our art.
East is the concept of wakefulness. The direction in which we are going , or the direction we are facing, is unmistakable. IN this case, the word East is not necessarily the geographical direction. Here, it means simply the place you see when you can open your eyes and look fearlessly ahead of you. Since this East is unconditional, it does not depend on south, west, or north. It is just unconditional East as basic wakefulness.
Then we have the third category, or Sun. Sun has a sense of all-pervasive brilliance, which does not discriminate in the slightest. It is the goodness that exists in a situation, in oneself, and in one's world, which is expressed without doubt, hesitation, or regret. The Sun represents the idea of no laziness, and the Sound principle also includes the notion of blessings defending upon us and creating sacred world. The Sun also represents clarity, without doubt.
These three categories are the nature of Great Eastern Sun. We could say that they are trying to bring us out and to uncover the cosmic elegance that exists in our lives and in our art. In contrast, the notion of setting sun is that of wanting to go to sleep. Obviously, when the sun sets, you go to sleep. You want to go back to your mother's womb, to regress, appreciating that you can hide behind dark clouds. That is to say there is no bravery; it is complete cowardice. At the same time, there is struggle: you do not want to step out of this world completely; you are still trying to survive, still trying to prevent death. So the setting-sun world is based on a psychological attitude of fear. There is constant fear, and at the same time it is deliberately suicidal.
We have a lot of examples of setting-sun art. Some of them are based on the principle of entertainment. Since you feel so uncheerful and solemn, you try to create artificial humor, manufactured wit. But that tends to bring a tremendous sense of depression, actually. There might be a comic relief effect for a few seconds, but apart that there is a constant black cloud, the black air of tormenting depression. As a consequence, if you are rich you try to spend more money to cheer yourself up--but you find that the more you do , the less it helps. There is no respect for life in setting-sun world. The only respect you can find there is in the brotherhood of human beings who are trying to combat death with the wrong end of the stick. I'm afraid at this point I have to be biased; there's nothing positive I can say about setting sun at all. But that actually helps, in that we can see black and white clearly an properly, so there is no doubt whatsoever.
Great Eastern Sun in True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art, Chogyam Trungpa, p8-10.
In speaking with Ethan about writing this art criticism blog he suggested that I post one artwork per week with pertinent information (hopefully from the exhibition that displayed the work and the writers/curators responsible for its inclusion) and ask the reader whether the work of Art was Great Eastern Sun Art or Setting Sun Art.
Each week I will do this, select one work of Art that can be viewed at the time of the posting in and around New York City (so you can go and see it for yourself). More than likely I will post my interpretation after a day or so in the comments section and I actively encourage you to do so as well.
Every four to six weeks I will write a larger blog entry analyzing a single work of Art using the Great Eastern Sun and Setting Sun framework, which specifically addresses certain aspects of Great Eastern Sun v. Setting Sun - where ambiguity may exist and where clarity is given an opportunity to presnt itself.
I look forward to your participation in this experiment and your brilliant ideas. I love Art and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have such an inspirational framework from Chogyam Trungpa with which to get deeper into these works.
Is this painting an example of Great Eastern Sun Art or Setting Sun Art?
Information on this painting:
Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987). Rorschach, 1984. Acrylic on canvas, 158 x 110 in. (401 x 279.4 cm). The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with funds provided by Laura R. Burrows-Jackson, Baltimore; and partial gift of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © 2010 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Mitro Hood
From the Brooklyn Museum site:
The Rorschach paintings feature totemic forms of intricate design that evoke deep mysteries lurking beneath the surface. The suggestive quality of these paintings mimics the tests after which they are named, in which patients are given a set of standard inkblots and are evaluated based on their responses to them.
Again, what do you think? Is this painting Great Eastern Sun Art or Setting Sun Art?
I look forward to your thoughts!
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