Chinese Gardens VI (Ritual Landscapes).
Before the static world of the image or the slowly changing landscape,
the ritual of the self in time.
role of rituality, the presence of the ceremonial in the tradition bequeathed
to us by Confucius (Kung) is almost a matter for some surprise in this most
un-religious of ‘religions’. Until we remember the formative and cohesive value
of rituality, a medicine to be taken daily, repeated regularly, a nourishing,
directing practice of the self together with the guidance that will lead it
into its seamless fit, its place reserved in the social whole. The pure rhetoricity of rituality is underlined by an eerie lack of
emphasis on transcendent entities; the function alone is what is important. A
tradition that values so highly the abstract forms of rituality would not
exclude the gentle force of the image redolent with its own gifts regarding the
rhetoric of persuasion. The tradition of reading the image runs
side by side with that of the Confucian ritual, from the noise of periodic
ceremonial to the quiet affirmation of the self before the image, a continuum
of recognition and avowal. The recognition that constitutes
the self before the image. The avowal that opens the
portal to the gift of the future.
rituality of self and time can also be found in the presence of absence on the
page. Present as the void, the eternal (truth) behind appearance so emphasised
in much in the writings and practice of both Buddhism and Daoism. Between
planes and grounds, the white space, the absence of the image, the presence of
the grain, the absence of a mark, the presence of the unmarked, the stainless,
a presence at once part of and beyond the image. This imperfect union of the
image and its support leads the viewer to the otherworldly perfect, the
unimaginable, the unrepresentable
(the sublime)… Yet present on the page; a deixis made
of absence, drawing on another texture than that of the representation (the
texture of the page) figuring the a-temporal, landscape of the ideal. Communing with Nature. A view with a
difference. Communion with image as gateway (itself absent…).
there is the role of Nature as order. As a key to the Way, as symbol of
appearance and its relation to reality, to the underlying essence as the way to
the self in time and through (to) the outside of time. Order
above (the quiet mountains) and social order below (in the court and affairs of
state). And through disorder (as with the Chang/Zen slap on the cheek,
the disordering effect of the oblique reference, the oblique point of view as
key to the thought of what lies beyond Illusion). As in the image, at one
extreme in the depiction of the cascades and landslides of a melting snow and
at the other the cognitive surprise waiting in the slightest brushstroke. Disorder as a wake-up call to the self, signalling the overwhelming
presence of the beyond…of the Law that lies beyond. (Disorder,
the presence of the sublime).
absence, disorder and the destruction that is Nature unbridled, the
transgression that evokes the golden lands of the West treads the path of
ritual. Ritual as the path to the self: in East (detachment) and West (denial)
alike to overcome the self (the avowed but futile end of monasticism). The Sublime as the law of the self before the Law. Made
fragile, blasted like the empty trunks of trees in winter, only to be reborn.
To return is the order of ritual in art as elsewhere: elsewhere as the art of
2005 Peter Nesteruk