Extract from: Beyond the Stage of Time, Volume I Realised Realms. The Master of the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat

52 53 Consider two pictures: Resolving Dichotomy , a painting by the Master of the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat, and Red Silos , an etching by Jo Riddell. Th e world may be considered in the light of three qualities: unlike, like, same. ‘Unlike’ accounts for the ‘ten thousand things’, the cast of di ff erent objects and environments which constitute the world. ‘Same’ is a fi lter through which to divide that world into categories: tem- peraments, colours, breeds (the class of ‘irascible, ultramarine-blue dachshunds’). ‘Like’ is one of the dimensions of art: echoes, hints, allusions, references, reverber- ations, overlaps. Th e very act of depiction is the making of a likeness: ‘ Th ese marks are at once themselves and a representation.’ In writings on art, ‘likeness’ is found in the forms, ‘in fl uenced by’, ‘in the tradition of ’, ‘quoting’, ‘indebted to’, ‘a pale shadow of ’. In our example here, Resolving Dichotomy is painted from the mind, albeit using a vocabulary stocked from the world; Red Silos is drawn from close observation of the world. Visual art lives between the twin poles of the inner eye and the outer eye, sometimes abetted by the mechanical eye: camera, scanner, so ft ware. Th e formal echo or rhyme of these two works does not inhere solely in the works themselves; it is ‘found’ or ‘added’ by the viewer, and once found o ff ers an aesthetic meadow in which to gambol. From the similarity of these disparate images we can consider the idea that ‘how’ is of more importance than ‘what’. In the realm of aesthetics, it matters not if the subject is a rock as portal serving the evolution of consciousness or silos for the storing of grain. What matters is the aesthetic eye and its vision, which encounters meaning wherever it looks, meanings untrappable, unspeakable, unholdable. And how could it not, in a world of light, of movement and of relationship? From this comes the thought that personal preference can readily be let go of. ‘I don’t like jazz,’ becomes, ‘Did you hear what Coltrane did there, way out in Interstellar Space ? His teeth were wrecked by pumpkin pie, and still he blows, hear how he blows, with Rashied Ali on trap set, the pair dancing wild on astral winds, howling down the markless galactic road—players, listeners, sound: gone. Rock on, bad boys!’ stone Westerners collect pebbles on a beach (or they did before their numbers forbade such idle amusement, a curtailment now threatening food, travel and procreation), they value sparkly jewels (with brother magpie), they play Ducks and Drakes (for the joy of seeing a stone in fl ight, kissing the surface of the millpond in ever-smaller leaps, its path revealing the horizontal plane of the water, otherwise only dimly perceived). In China, people admire, collect and value stones and rocks, and have done for centuries. Rocks are found in the natural world, are moved and positioned, are sometimes cra ft ed with a tweak here and there with a chisel, and are considered playgrounds of consciousness. If very large, they are admired in situ ; if human-size, they may be relo- cated to a garden, a courtyard, a study; if small, they may sit on a desk or low table. Such rocks are characterised by a writhing, twisting line, sinuous and rippling with energy, albeit one that is contained in aesthetic re fi nement. Th ey are o ft en pocked with holes, making them partially see-through, so that the twisting lines are not just in the rock, they pass through it. Th eir curves echo those of surface tension in water, the sort found in Roger Dean landscapes and Zaha Hadid roofs. To some, such rocks can be unsettling: the holes are eyes and mouths, the form is culturally strange. Th omas de Quincey, in his Confessions of an English Opium Eater , describes the arrival at his Lake District door of a turbaned Malay, an improbable and exotic visitor in Regency England. Th erea ft er, the Malay reappeared in de Quincey’s opium dreams as conduit to all that is strange and weird in Asia to the western mind, from India to China. An English boy of seven in 1960 s Hong Kong had an analogous expe- rience when fi rst encountering a Chinese co ffi n: clearly still a tree trunk, ornate, pale and highly varnished, the e ff ect heightened by the wailing of shaunas and professional mourners in white. Horror! But cultural strangeness is an opportunity to enlarge ourselves, and can be powerfully intriguing. (An aside. We have pastoral, lyric and visionary modes in literature, yet what is the most popular kind of novel in a lending library, beloved by the law-abiding elderly curled up with a box of chocolates and a sherry? Crime. Dante’s Inferno is much more thrilling than the Paradiso . You can’t write about bliss for more than half a page without the reader falling asleep or giggling. To read may be blissful; to read of bliss is o ft en not so.) Rocks are o ft en set on a wooden stand, carved or in the form of natural-looking roots. Th e stand is a throne, and it and the treasure it bears set each other o ff ; they become an inseparable, if unequally valuable, pair (unlike staves and their partner stones, which are equal; see Volume II). Inseparable, that is, unless they are placed apart by the artist, the rock fl oating above its stand: no gravity, no force to which rock, stand and we as viewers are subject, a metaphor of transcendence found also in the fl oating rocks of Bada Shanren of the seventeenth century. Th e tabletop rock is both itself and a sign of a larger rock, of a mountain. Th e mind can meander through its curves and holes as the body can through hills and dales. Th e size of humans is of no lasting signi fi cance. We happen to be smaller than gira ff es and larger than weevils, but in the realm of aesthetics and consciousness we are sizeless. Th e mind can soar the endless vault of space and bobsleigh through clouds of electrons. In this sense the rock need not be there at all for the mind to be at play. Once we have seen one and understood its role as portal, the mind can do all the work. But it is good to relate to objects which are shared with others, mediums of friendship and openings with strangers. And in the end, mind and body: one thing. Come to that, all things: one thing. Golly, we need something to write that down on. paper Surfaces used to paint and write on: the human body (ritual decoration, scari fi cation, tattooing), stone, wood, clay, papyrus, glass, bamboo, silk, parchment, paper, screens, water (as a game, or a poetic act: nothing lasts), no surface or STB (‘straight-to-brain’, delivered by chemical injection, by the ingestion of pills, by electrodes, by irradiation, by evolved mind-to-mind transfer). Of these, paper, invented in China some two millennia ago, may prove to be the longest-lived. Technologies today advance so quickly that many inventions rapidly become obsolete. For Sale: phototypesetter, pager, plastic planet. Th e advantages of paper: light (in single sheets; heavy as a tree in industrial rolls winding o ff a Fourdrinier-type paper-maker), rollable, foldable (and holding a fold or crease, from which property issue paper cranes in fl ight, sixteen-page book signatures, the concertina album form of painting), fl exible, durable (if protected from the haz- ards detailed below), inexpensive (if forestry is sustainably managed), biodegradable (and compostable directly by the user). master of the water , pine & stone retreat Resolving Dichotomy , 2016 Ink and watercolour on paper AK 16 . 20 see Volume II p 305 jo riddell , Red Silos , 2017 Etching master of the water , pine & stone retreat Clutching Cinnabar Haze , 2012 Ink and watercolour on paper AK 12 . 84 see Volume II pp 172 – 173