This issue of Gentle Voice is titled ‘Art Unlimited’ and there are a multitude of different forms of art: drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, computer generated art, digital graphics, pop art, minimal art, performance art, street art, indigenous art, architecture, music, dance, film, photography, the art of conversation, the art of seduction and so on…! Types of art are as varied as media, subject matter and technology allow.
Maree: [M] Emma Walker, one of Australia’s most respected young artists says, “The creative process is not a straight forward one. There is no exact recipe that can be followed to produce a consistent result. Each artist comes with unique inner workings and personal history that creates their own individual approach. For this reason, the variety of outcomes is limitless”.…. In your view, what is integral to the work of the artist?
Rinpoche: [R] I really like that actually. I think she is very right. It is limitless and that’s so good. It is so good but also because of its limitlessness it’s also frustrating.
M: What genre of art do you most identify with and why?
R: I’m supposed to identify myself with the art of being able to become useless but the temptation to be useful is just so strong. The temptation to have some kind of purpose in life is so strong because of lack of renunciation and all that – it’s just not possible but that’s what I should be identifying. Other than that, I guess the most tangible and visible so far is the art of filmmaking that I have been exploring and recently I am actually picking up on drawing. I really like drawing.
M: From your perspective what is the purest form of art?
R: You know communication with people is so, so, so difficult. Even the notion that we actually did communicate with somebody is only in your own imagination and for that matter even miss communication. In my mind I think that I am talking to you and you are listening to me and I think you are listening to what I say and that’s about the only thing I have to settle with. In my mind I think that you can see the same fake flowers from Hong Kong as I see (Rinpoche points to a bowl of flowers on the table) but actually who knows, most probably you never see what I see and I never see what you see. So the purest art is actually the closest and the most successful way of being able to convey the message and portray or demonstrate what I see – to you. To me that is the purest art.
M: Do you think art in its purest form is spontaneous or premeditated?
R: I actually think both. I like premeditated art because after all we human beings are more capable of mimicking. Spontaneous is very difficult. Many times we just make believe that we are being spontaneous. Of course, I think the aspiration to be spontaneous is quite important other wise we become too corrupted. And I think, as I was saying earlier, the purest form of art is based on being able to communicate. I think children do that, they force adults to think like them even for a split moment, that’s quite a success and they do it kind of spontaneously.
M: Most artists seem to be suffering, searching; tortured souls and many of your students are artistic. Can you explain the link between spirituality and the artist?
R: I think it is connected to what I said earlier. My ideal art should be able to be useless. Art, music, romance, and poetry, all of this is the closest thing that we have that is spiritual in this materialist world. I mean, scientists, mathematicians they are all bound and limited by logic and measurement and all of that but suddenly a scientist can fall in love and when they fall in love logic doesn’t make any sense and nothing makes sense but at the same time also everything makes sense. Everything that logically doesn’t make sense makes sense. I think without many of the artists realising that as soon as you try to be a good artist the war between uselessness and usefulness begins. This is maybe bothering people and I think it is good.
M: What similarities do you think there are between a meditative state and creating a work of art?
R: It can be similar, because in meditation there is no meditation such as keeping a notebook next to you, write it down and record everything. Whatever comes, especially in Buddhism, you are supposed to shrug off, no hope, no fear, no jotting it down. I guess if an artist can do that I think they become much more creative because they don’t get stuck with one idea.
M: Sand Mandalas, Kseniya Simonova’s Sand Animation, Ice Sculptures – for instance – are transient art. Do you think that ephemeral art is a higher form of artistic expression because in the end what is created is destroyed?
R: I think that’s a very good idea. The idea is good but nowadays everything has become so commercialised. It would be so good if somebody made a really amazing Sand Mandala or an Ice Castle without any audience and the manufacturing date or expiry date is never known. These days even the renunciation of a person is recorded and made a big who-ha about it. If somebody renounces the world then it will be publicised. Not the best thing to do is it?
M: In your view what role does the artist have in society today?
R: To create harmony. Definitely. Harmony is so important.
M: And how does an artist achieve that?
R: To really make people realise their own potential and their own weakness, both, through whatever medium they are using. Not just entertainment, not just through creating distractions but to really make you believe.
M: When you visit small galleries in London, Paris and New York and view the work of young emerging artists – what do you think of their art?
R: I am so bad with these because I am not really trained, I don’t know especially the modern arts. I am still trying and learning to appreciate it.
M: What about Impressionist artists? Are there any paintings or Old Masters that you admire?
R: Oh they are amazing, just mind-boggling. Amazing!
M: Any particular artist or artwork that you really admire?
R: Many, many Russian artists. The ones in Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Wow! The works there are just amazing.
M: Do you think artists can enhance their skills at art schools or do you think it is preferable for artistic skills to emerge without any formal training?
R: Both. I think artists isolate themselves too much from the rest of the world.
I would like to say that I wish many artists should try to become politicians. That’s what is lacking.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche with Maree Tenzin at Khyentse Labrang in Bir, India. Dec. 2011