<The Flower Sermon: The Buddha wordlessly holding a flower transmitted Dharma to a disciple showing a subtle smile at a moment>
*Through the artwork, passion, and meditation, Hyeja Moon have journey to the gate of Buddhist Dharma. This year the artist put her paintings titled <The Smile of Buddha> forward, which reminds me of the Flower Sermon of the Buddha. In such wordless sermon, the Buddha holding a flower transmitted the Dharma without a word, and the disciple smiled a subtle smile. After the years of the artist Moon’s effort trying to offload from her works she might find herself understood why the Buddha, in his sermon, left words out.
*Before I mention her works of this year, I should look over the previous works in May 2021. They show the balanced compositions of lattice work, a pink lotus on a reddish-brown rectangle in the center. The lotus grows through the background works of lattice. Some patterns are filled with colors and others are not occupied. Also, the rectangle is well fitted in the colored patterns. Here are the three elements of her paintings: the lattice works with a pencil and colors, a reddish-brown rectangle, and a lotus. These elements are to be used again by the artist at the works in Jan 2022.
*In the works of this year, unlike the ones of last year, the lotus is not growing through the lattice works and the rectangle. Rather, the lotus seems to ooze out of the lattice works on the canvas. Such a plaintive, beautiful, and barely-there flower seems to be looming or dispersing in the air. The flower exists with traces of the beauty itself even though it is not fully presented nor void. The subject is, and is not at the same time. Is the artist saying that this is the Middle Way? The lotus floating over the canvas becomes the artist herself with non or beyond the duality: suchness. What a work of art! Impressed by the results of a ruler and a brush: the exquisite composition and the improvisatory brush work! Her years of training and meditation drew such a beauty.
*Also, the artist beats the two-dimensional canvas by barely-there drawing. It is the moment that her painting attains space. Her paintings have gone through many significant points during her career. At last, she created space over the canvas by off-loading her minds. It looks like that the lotus floats in the air between the canvas and my eyes. The artist Moon used to paint many years of study and meditation and also she represented it this time. Moon makes variation in layers according to the parts of the canvas.
Lattice works with colors are drawn in order on the canvas well-balanced. However, the compacted arranged composition is not hers. The canvas has three un-touched corners for breathing. Then, seemingly Korean traditional lattice works, which play a role of opening and closing at the same time, symbolizes window and wall. The artist uses them metaphorically right along.
The three untapped corners of the canvas fuse together with the wall at the back. Thus, the colored lattice works with narrow sides unpainted looks like bars between which dark reddish-brown inserted. The thick painted dark rectangle, as if a thick wall, disturbs the sentient from being peaceful and mastering the mind. The artist Moon wrote in her note (Jan 2022) that “over the reasonable delusion of nature I make the floating lotus as suchness and it makes the Middle Way real”. For the artist daily routine may be “the reasonable delusion” Flamboyant colors are regularly arranged like our daily routine, then we abruptly face a wall interrupting our balanced life. The artist adds one more element on the two, that is, her Dharma becoming a lotus and floats in the air. I see her flower glowing in her work of art.
*In Tang Dynasty, there were two Buddhist masters named Bae-Hyu, and Hwang-Byuk. The book titled <As a flying bird leaves no traces in the air> contains their dialogues and explanations. The artist Moon told me that she was indulged in reading the book. There is possibility for her to let the Buddha’s smile in her mind. The true mind with no boundaries is like a smiling cat, Cheshire or Schrodinger’s cat: it appears or disappears at the same time. With or without effort, it reveals itself.
The trueness is suchness. The sentient beings experience obsessions or delusions that blind the sentient beings. The artist no longer obsesses to represent a lotus, rather she choses to off-load the mind and put the brush in charge. Then, the “barely-there” flower looms up to be her Dharma.
When I put my eyes upon the paintings, the Buddha puts a flower on the daily routines and disciplines in the face of the unexpected wall with a subtle smile. Even though I have no knowledge whether the artist Moon drew the flower looming or dispersing, I can see that she does not care.
( 2022.01 by art critic Soyoung Cho )
1. The Flower sermon: a story of the origin of Zen Buddhism. In the story the Buddha picks up a white flower and only one of his disciples, Mahakasyapa understand his wordless sermon and smiles. For this, the Buddha says; “I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvelous mind of Nirvana, the true form of the formless, the subtle Dharma Gate that does not rest on words or letters but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures. This I entrust to Mahakasyapa.”
2. The lotus flower: the symbol of Buddhism, which grows in the mud but is not tainted. It also, symbolizes a sentient being who is untainted by worldly defilements.
3.The Middle Way or Path: The principle of non-duality. It is synonymous with emptiness or non-substantiality; the Buddhist description of the path lying between all extremes. It is called the Middle Way because its theory lies logically between annihilationism which holds that nothing is real, and cosmological realism of ordinary experience. Thus, it should be distinguished from the Confucian thought of “the mean” or “moderation” and “the golden mean” of the Western thought. The Buddhist view of the Middle Way is above and beyond such a dualistic view or conception of things. (refer to practical dictionary of Buddhist terms)
4.The artist, Hyeja Moon has spent years of studying how she off-load delusionary reality through her works of art. Now, she represents her main theme of off-loading as the lotus. Thus, I translated her lotus drawing as “barely-there” drawing.
5. Lattice works in Korean windows or doors play a role of opening and closing.
6. Hindrance or obstruction to attaining enlightenment and Nirvana
7. Suchness, true suchness, being as is, the Dharma-nature, suchness of existence, the true nature and equanimity of things, the state of things as they really are, the absolute in differentiation, or in the relative, the ultimate reality or truth as opposed to the appearance of the ever-mutating phenomenal world. It is also another name for the essence of mind, and in suchness there is neither coming nor going, neither becoming nor cessation.
8. False or idle thoughts: Delusion or deluded thinking, which is the mind of sentient beings. (refer to Buddhism dictionary)
In Buddhism Vikalpa is corresponding to false imagination, right knowledge, and suchness are the three modes of being: the mere fictions of false imagination; the relative existence of things, under certain conditions or aspects; and the perfect mode of being. Corresponding to this threefold version of the modes of being and awareness… (refer to Britannica)
9. Dharma: philosophical sense of multiple meanings: Buddhism disciplines, the trueness, the enlightenment etc.
10. A smiling cat, Cheshire is a characteristic in the book <Alice in wonderland>. It appears out of nowhere and disappears leaving its laughing sound and the smile behind.
11. Schordinger’s cat (in the scientific experiment interpretation) is known as a cat simultaneously alive or dead until a watcher looks in. When one sees what happens, the decision is made.
12. The master of our mind: It means our original true mind or nature, which has neither a name nor form.