Listening - watching
taking a moment
drawing the world
finding the way to connection
again and again.

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Dance of Light & Dark

Fourth day in the Ellora caves.
I'm warmed up and ready for the full encounter.
I step into Cave 15 . . .

A series of large sculptural panels line the walls.
I walk towards a dyad showing the moment Narasimha - the lion-man avatara of Vishnu -
springs out from a pillar to engage the cruel demon Hiranyakashipu in battle.

I sit down and drawn Alice Boner's Space Division grid on the page,
showing the central focus with radiating lines of energy.

Alice Boner was a Swiss sculptor and painter who lived in India from 1938 to 1978.
Over these years she explored the Ellora caves for months at a time,
drawing and contemplating the sculpture.
One day she began to see an underlying pattern of geometry beneath the forms.
Describing this moment in her journal she wrote, " I felt that here might be
the clue to the mystery that lay hidden below the surface."

Alice Boner's grid gives me some spatial orientation
as I jump into the full battle dance scene,
my pencil and brush moving quickly on the page.
Curious onlookers gather around me . . .

The lion/man-god is gentle, graceful, full of love.
He smiles as he fights and one of his hands rests lightly on his enemy's shoulder.
The demon dances towards death, also smiling, ecstatic, ethereal.
Through engaging with the god, the worst of murderers is released from his sins
and grateful, his horrendous acts forgiven and cleansed.

I finish the drawing - feeling energized by the image. 

I walk over to another large panel scene on the other side of the cave.
This is the god Shiva slaying Kali, in her skeletal haggard dying form.

First the grid goes down on the page -
this one shows the diagonal elements of Time,
the way the figures are moving in the space.

I begin softly with pencil, feeling tentative and uncertain of my ability
to be in conversation with these powerful forms.

A young man watches me quietly and then asks,
"What is your purpose in drawing like this? "
His question is so simple and deep and I light up.
"When I draw I understand the world in a deeper way.
Drawing brings me into to another level of perception. "
He is listening closely.
"Is it the supernatural you are connecting with? "
"I don't know about that. I just feel something settles and focuses
and I trust this place inside me. "

But this time, as I work on, I feel overwhelmed by the intensity of the image -
Shiva is so triumphant and dispassionate,
Kali so horribly deformed, dreadful, collapsing.

A father and his two daughters watch me draw.
Their presence is gentle and calming.
The man points out that I have forgotten to add the restored form of Kali.
I look again and notice now a smaller peaceful female figure on the right side of the panel -
Parvati seated on a lotus.
She is watching it all and waiting.
As something dies there is the promise of a new world.
I add her into the drawing.
Now there is a still point in the chaos where I can settle
and let it all swirl around me.

I end the day with Ganesh - the Elephant-Headed One - the Great Dispeller of Obstacles.
Some of his hands have been broken off.
When I need to know what he is holding I ask anyone in the crowd gathered around me.
They all know the answer !

Here I am at Ellora . . .

And here is a short cave concert by Steve Gorn !


More on Alice Boner - 

Alice Boner Diaries : India 1934 - 1967
Principles of Composition in Hindu Sculpture - Alice Boner

More on Ellora - 

Ellora: Concept and Style - Carmel Berkson
Abhinav Publications, India, 1994, 2002



evie said...

You dare to enter,
You dare to bring us with you.
We see what you see
And feel.
The conflict, the power, the beauty, the resolution.
And there you and Steve are,
With your generosity of spirit and creativity!


Tamsin said...

Barbara, this is wonderful. I'm painting memories of India in strips of ochre and pink, and there you are in the caves, channelling it to me directly! I'm fascinated by your responses to those extraordinary places... Thank you for sharing them.

brt said...

Thanks for this. You look great. Your sketches look great. The concert was great. I can't wait to get my hands on Alice Boner's books. Are we paying you enough money? Oh, wait, you send all this as a gift. I sure do thank you.

elizebeth said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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