Glimpse into eternity at the Red Cave – inspiration and process

I’m inspired by sacred sites because they feel alive as if having breath and pulse. They provide the space for deepening practice and worship, and through time hold vibrations of all the ones who came with a pure mind. All the pilgrims, yogis, hermits, lamas who came before, their timeless presence continues to reverberate through the cracks of cavern walls.

The inspiration for this work came from the Red Cave at Saspol, carved into a hill of conglomerate rock overlooking the Indus. The composition came to me in a whim at my home studio, and I felt I had to execute it quickly to capture the heart and soul.

I used an ink-dyed kozo paper mounted on board, it was ready to paint after sizing with alum and I thought was perfect for the subject. The “white” part of the rocks is from a mixture of sodalite, amazonite, and crystal. I let the paint flow across the paper, guiding it with the help of brush.

In painting with mineral pigments,  each mineral has different properties – particle size, gravity, refraction, transparency, etc. and they do not dissolve into a uniform mixture, thus can produce interesting results.

After the first layer is dry, I added the red which is mixed from red earth, burnt iron oxide, and red japser. I’m not an expert in mineralogy, but from experience painting with natural colors, I pick colors that resonates with a specific work in mind rather intuitively.

Then I used pine soot ink to give the rocks shape and volume, slowly adding layers of wash and lining with a fine brush. Eastern art is not about depicting a subject in a realistic manner, but the way they are in the artist’s mind from impressions, feelings, stream of conscious that can only be tapped into in a state of flow. 

The rocks in my mind, in their natural, unrefined state, carry in their crevices wonders of creation, churning of oceans, splitting of skies. Their lines are calligraphy written by Time, words of prayers in silence. They are here for all the ones before me, and will continue long after I leave, for all who’s yet to stop and wonder.

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