The Image Ark
A Garden Path Exhibition
Mystery Painting is a contemplative practice that combines silent meditation with art, story creation and dialogue. It allows practitioners to give form to the unconscious energies and impulses that direct, or misdirect, their lives. Through cultivation of intuition and imagination it allows us to see what we care about and leave behind that which smothers and ensnares us.
The paintings of the Image Ark are examples Mystery Painting or Mayachitram, as they are known in Sri Lanka where they originated in two studios, the Monkey’s Tale Centre for Contemplative Art in Batticaloa and Step-by-Step Studio in Colombo.
Both these studios are offspring of The Butterfly Peace Garden of Batticaloa, which opened its doors on September 11, 1996. To this day the Garden develops and delivers daily programs that rally the creative imagination, empathy and energy of young people across the ethnic and religious spectrum in Sri Lanka allowing them to shine their light into the darkest recesses of our times.
There is no secret to this practice apart from the ardors and alchemy of love in the ruins. These young people have discovered the secret of faith and fidelity – faith in the power of our shared humanity and fidelity to the witness of beauty through practice of the arts. These two attributes combined mend old wounds and help make new friends.
In the Garden we recognize the violence and destruction we see all around and within us but we do not fixate on it. Through a committed practice of the arts – painting, story creation, story telling, comedic theatre and other forms of beautiful nonsense – we bring balance back into everyday life. In the context of war, peace, tsunami, monsoon, drought and now pandemic, the heartbeat of the Garden transmits a signal of unwavering solidarity throughout the world.
At the heart of the Garden practices are two words you will never have heard of because we made them up to describe how we do what we do, not technically, but on a deeper philosophical level. Though they may sound like nonsense they are central to everything we do on the Garden Path.
First we practice rejewelleration through cultivating the arts wherein we rediscover bejeweled aspects of ourselves that we have lost due to the trauma of war, natural disaster, poverty and environmental depletion. Then we discover how Resiliation, the quality of resilient radiance which emanates from this discovery, restores the spirit of social justice and brings us back to our heart’s true home, which is intimacy in communion and creation with one another.
The paintings in this collection are scaled up versions of original Mystery Paintings done in the Garden studios between 2005 and 2015. They represent a sampling of hundreds of paintings created during this time of war, natural disaster and the eventual return of peace. As well as being symbols of the human capacity to transform crisis into opportunity and translate local struggles into universal lessons from which all might learn, they are the prophetic seed syllables of words not wholly formed which transmit meaning into another, significantly better, world still waiting to be born.
At a time when it feels like the sky is falling and the world is closing down in self-destructive politics we continue to cultivate the Garden Path ideals of compassion, creativity and community in today’s young people so that they can shape a more just and tolerant society than we their elders have given them.
These paintings bear witness to our oath. The proceeds from their sale will be divided between the Butterfly Peace Garden and the Monkey’s Tale Centre to augment the ongoing process of healing among Sri Lankan youth, as well as the Falling Sky Studio, which will be established to serve immigrant and marginalized youth here in Toronto with your support.
There is a Sri Lankan proverb that tells us, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” These paintings are a present for you from young people caught in a war and set free through imagination and empathy. They range in size from 16”x 22” to 48”x 64” and are painted in acrylic on canvas, framed in Sri Lankan mahogany and ready for display.
Paul Hogan / Artist-in-Tuition
Falling Sky Studio / Toronto / October 2020