Ch’an Art: Disengaging the Ego

There is no one thing that art is or does and where we find this notion most powerfully and consequentially present is in those artefacts which successfully disassemble not only pictorial space, but through this – the perceiving mind itself.

The role of linear perspective in the European tradition has always been dual. The projection of depth in the representational order of a linear (essentially Cartesian) coordinate system provides logic and a causally intelligible ontology of object relations in space. A viewing subject and it’s inverse vanishing point of ego self-definition is implicit and is also an unacknowledged component and consequence of this representational system and its broader cultural presence and context.

In the indistinct and ambiguous rendering of depth in the Ch’an tradition of painting, we can intuit that a reflexively-defined focal point of the perceiving mind has become indistinct, hazy. There are still object relations and a looser interpretation of causality but all are disengaged from any essential dependence to (or anchor on) a causality and reflexive, inverse focal point of ego self; this is the visually-encoded message of Buddhist philosophy.

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