Tag Archives: emptiness

a reading list

photograph by Sylvester Jacobs

photograph by Sylvester Jacobs

photograph by Sylvester Jacobs

photograph by Sylvester Jacobs

After my gallery talks a few people expressed interest in pursuing the topics further, so I am including a list of works that were informative and influential in my own preparation. Black Robe White Mist includes an excellent set of essays, by far the most comprehensive source that I found regarding the life and works of Rengetsu.  Francois Cheng’s Empty and Full has been a source of inspiration and understanding in my own work for several years now, and was worth re-reading.  The other texts vary widely in their density, some being quite accessible and others requiring a slow and careful read with no distractions.  In any case I hope that this list will get you started on your own search.

Empty and Full: The Language of Chinese Painting, by Francois Cheng

Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism, by N. J. Girardot

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu, translated by Stephen Mitchell

Lotus Moon: The Poetry of the Buddhist Nun Rengetsu, translated by John Stevens

Black Robe White Mist: Art of the Japanese Buddhist Nun Rengetsu, catalog for the exhibition, National Gallery of Australia

Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning, by Frederick J. Streng

Religion and Nothingness, by Keiji Nishitani, translated by Jan Van Bragt

Poetics of Emptiness: Transformations of Asian Thought in American Poetry, by Jonathan Stalling

Metamorphosis of the Private Sphere: Gardens and Objects in Tang-Song Poetry, by Xiaoshan Yang

77 Dances: Japanese Calligraphy by Poets, Monks, and Scholars, 1568-1868, by Stephen Addiss

Working Emptiness: Toward a Third Reading of Emptiness in Buddhism and Postmodern Thought, by Newman Robert Glass

The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, by Ernest Fenollosa and Ezra Pound

The Structure of Emptiness, by Graham Priest, Philosophy East and West, Volume 59, Number 4, October 2009, pp. 467-480 (Article)

Emptiness as a Paradigm for Understanding World Religions, by John P. Keenan, Buddhist-Christian Studies, Volume 16 (1996), pp. 57-64

A Structured Use: Emptiness and Opportunity in Creative Practice

This summer I devoted much of my time to reading, and a significant part of my reading list was chosen in preparation for the series of gallery talks that I will be delivering at the Saint Louis Art Museum next week.  For the past five years or so I have been particularly interested in questions of emptiness– a byproduct, I am sure, of a longer engagement with Chinese painting and calligraphy.  When I was invited to give these gallery talks on a subject of my choice, it seemed like a good opportunity for an investigation, definition, and articulation of this “emptiness”.  The title of the talk refers back to a quotation from Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching:

From a lump of clay, one fashions a vase; the emptiness in the vase permits its usefulness.  One makes doors and windows for a room; the emptiness in the room permits its usefulness.  Being is what creates       advantage, but emptiness structures use.

Using the tangible, visible, and literal as points of reference, we will quickly move farther afield to explore the role of emptiness as it relates to artistic action, the role of the viewer, the question of relevance, and even our concepts of space and time.  It’s a lot to pack into 45 minutes, but I hope that you will come out to join the conversation.  Location, dates, and times are:

Saint Louis Art Museum: meet at information desk, then proceed to the East Asian gallery

Thursday, September 30, 11:00 a.m.

Friday, October 1, 6:00 p.m.