The obstacle on my path IS my path…
[or as the buddhist saying goes: ‘your teacher will find you’…]
It has taken six years of motherhood to arrive at the above reflection. This realisation came to me a few weeks ago, entering my mind like a drop of water into a clear pond. The desire to continue to live the spiritual and creative existence of my days prior to birthing my wonderful children - my hope of again finding the freedom to meditate and create has at times wrought much suffering these last few years, as I have struggled to maintain my artistic practice within the context of my new life.
Over these last six years of motherhood - it has felt at times that obstacles litter my pathway to creativity… dishes piling up in the sink, un-mowed lawns, baskets of washing waiting to be folded, meals to be shopped for, prepared, eaten, and then tables to be cleared, floors that needed vacuuming that lay-in-waiting beneath a strata of lego, plushies, superheroes and stormtroopers.
Beyond these daily realities lay the path to my previous art practice - if only I could just work my way around these daily obstacles and find enough time and space to regain my creative ‘flow' ...
The funny thing I found was it seemed the harder I worked to overcome these obstacles, the more there were… no matter how hard I tried to clear the path, I could not find my way back. In the past my art practice blossomed through voluntary isolation; time spent alone, sometimes for days, weeks, months in remote outback locations - immersed in the exposed strata of our land’s geologic history, fascinated by the sense of humility and mortality of one’s short lifespan against the expanse of time geologic.
Creativity within the realm of motherhood has at times felt a less voluntary isolation; with my days often immersed by strata of an altogether different kind… the daily layers of life that are endlessly deposited and [hopefully] excavated - only to constantly re-form with each new day… and at times oh, so humbling…
As years passed by, my desire to work with the striking form of Djarragun [the Pyramid] seemed to be endlessly frustrated by my inability to find the right time or moment to climb it even once - let alone the many times I had hoped to in order to create new work… Amidst these failings I found great solace [and at times some resentment] in my morning ritual of yoga and meditation in my backyard. Starring up at the unobtainable, yet inspirational peak, at times the mountain seemed like a sentinel, at times a witness; always a comfort in its constancy. After five years of waking each day to contemplate its quiet, enduring presence it has become to me something of a Buddha Mountain - and every year around its distinctive form patchworks of sugar cane crops are grown, harvested, sown again…
So it was, over the three years of discussing and considering whether to commit to this wee show at The Flying Monkey; my constant desire - to find a way to overcome the obstacles and regain my place on my path. As time passed and deadlines came closer and closer I found that not only was I no closer to attaining my desired position - but that the obstacles were larger and more challenging than even I had anticipated.
Then one Saturday - surrounded by children and almost obscured by a table full of dishes and food I asked a friend and fellow mum, seated across from me, to take my portrait.
And reflecting later that evening on these images I took a deep breath and surrendered…
Threw away the concepts I was trying to reach somewhere beyond the life I was living…
and arrived at the realisation that perhaps ‘the obstacle on my path IS my path…’
And so with very little time to spare I got to work with a new-found acceptance not just for the work, but for the minutae of my life. Remembering the well known buddhist quote ‘before enlightenment chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment chop wood, carry water’ …
Thinking also of the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn and his wonderful use of Gathas to assist in mindfulness and gratitude within the mundane, and writing my own Gathas in relation to each work…
‘Mowing the lawn
I am reminded of the fecundity of life
I am grateful for this beautiful garden
in which my children laugh and play'
‘Washing the dishes
I grateful for the friends
whom have joined us, sharing
food, stories and laughter’
‘Folding the washing
I am grateful for our clothing
of such colours, textures and patterns
to decorate our bodies’
‘Sorting the paperwork
I am reminded of the many services
that support and bring comfort
to my life’
‘Stumbling through sharp lego
I am reminded of the immediacy of childhood
and the gift of play and imagination’
In creating this exhibition I feel as though for the first time in some years my art is addressing my life as it stands now… To embrace and contemplate this unexpected turning in my path.
This exhibition is also an acknowledgement of the creative dilemma of many women, as explored in Rachel Power's book 'The Divided Heart - Art and Motherhood' and recent articles doing the rounds on social media. Such creative dilemmas DO seem to be predominately gender specific. One of the wonderful aspects about this exhibition for me has been the conversations this work is generating and the sense that there are many other creative women travelling similar roads…
The Art of [Domestic] Enlightenment was on exhibition at The Flying Monkey, Cairns in March/April 2016 and Trolley Studio, Gordonvale April/May 2016