Light Exists because of Love - Part I of IV

A blog series on the impact of Loretta H. Yang's Guanyin artwork

Updated: October 2, 2015

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Why Buddha? Is it religious? What is Asian art? And whose visage is suspended mid-crystal in Loretta’s “Formless, but not without Form?” As with all initial encounters, the recent exhibit at Grand Palais has triggered a deluge of questions in the international art arena. Though many were familiar with Yang’s work, few can easily assess it in the unique context through which it shines. After all, it is neither entirely traditional nor contemporary, not strictly religious yet not secular. So, with a brand new Guanyin collection just around the corner, we thought it fitting to explore the depths of this rich area of Asian art.

The following is a three-part blog series beginning with a brief look at Guanyin in Asian art and ending with a fast-forward recount of Loretta’s most ambitious works in her thirty-year career as a liuli artist.

 

 

 

Loretta H. Yang and the spotlight piece from 
her masterful collection “Enlightenment.”  

 

Part I: The Bodhisattva – History of an Inward Journey

Legends say that when souls depart from this world, they are placed by a Goddess of Mercy into the heart of a lotus and sent to the western pure land of Sukhavati. Translated from Chinese, her name means “she who hears the cries of the world,” or Guanshiyin (觀世音).


Guanyin is a bodhisattva (or, enlightened being) which, along with Gautama Buddha, are the most widely depicted figures in the history of Buddhist art. And because of the colossal breadth of Buddhist art over time (two and half millennia to be exact) it becomes too difficult to understand the myriad ways, religious or otherwise, in which that art is expressed. Inasmuch as this is true, one unifying sentiment is holds fast across time: An inward journey.

Despite misrepresentations, idolatry or ideas lost in translation, Guanyin remains a character manifested by the people to reflect a hope for compassion. She, among all the other bodhisattvas and Buddha, is an idea of what the human heart is capable of. At that point it becomes quite clear that Buddhist art is no longer the depiction of divinity; rather, Buddhist art is an exercise in inward understanding.

  

 

 

The Bodhisattva Guanyin, Northern Song Dynasty,
China c. 1025, wood.
Image source: Wikipedia

 

So if Western art can be generalized as a language that focuses on form, Eastern art differs mainly in its focus on introspection—its focus on spirit. In understanding this essential element in analyzing Asian or, especially, Buddhist artwork, we can begin to grasp the many dialects of the language of art.

 

 

Stone state of sleeping Buddha in Mogao Caves, China.  
Image source: GBTimes 


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