Blood River I
My story of Inspiration
Payne traveled to Tokyo for the spring of 2002 to experience and capture sakura, the cherry blossom, on film. She also found inspiration in the myriad images of kinbaku, erotic rope bondage.
"Moving away from the pornographic nature of the images, I used them in a more Classical sense as the nude bound, to symbolize what in Buddhist language is known as samsara: conditioned existence, that is, living a life of superficial habits and compulsions. I chose to portray women in bondage since I believe it to be a potent metaphor for the addictive patterns so many of us fall prey to. In our search for happiness and freedom we are often seduced into believing that something outside of ourselves will bring us that much sought after relief, but in actual fact we just end up tightening the ropes that bind us. The cherry blossoms are a reminder of the cyclical nature of life, death and rebirth, they offer hope, freedom from bondage, they mark the beginning of spring and the oncoming of summer and fruitfulness."
This tension between holding back and letting go, restraint and exploration, encapsulates her concerns as an artist and is investigated further in her next body of work entitled Sacred Yin (2005). In these hexagonal paintings the ropes are cast off and flowers are morphed into patterns reminiscent of mandalas, embodying a sense of spiritual equanimity.
"The women, still fragile, are out of bondage, they have broken free, the bubble of isolation has burst and they join together in the dance of life, flowers bloom.
Sacred Yin is a kaleidoscopic interpretation of my exploration of the rebirth of the feminine principle. My paintings mirror the sacred geometry or archetypal energy forms that underpin all creation. I am not alone in recognizing that our world is out of balance - we have been living in a left-brain, male-dominant society for centuries. In my paintings I consider this imbalance by working with the geometrical form that the six vibration generates: the hexagon and its internal form, two perfectly balanced, interlocking equilateral triangles. This is the most evocative symbol of the spiritual axiom, 'as above, so below'.
Six illustrates the relationship of the divine and the human, indicating the importance of balance of the spiritual and the physical, the eternal and the transitory. Six shatters the illusion that polar opposites are totally separate from each other. Six unifies male and female aspects of our psyches, and the perceptual consciousness of the right and left hemispheres of our brain. Six represents co-operation, proportion and harmony.
Eastern spirituality has been a consistent thread through Payne's work since 2002 as well as her focus on the feminine principle. Around 2006 she shifts her attention to the masculine as her muse. The artist recalls watching the video Shaolin Wheel of Life for the first time, before seeing the monks live in performance.
"I was transfixed. Here were spiritual men, Zen Buddhists, and at the same time masters of the martial art of kung fu, a seeming paradox. Men so strong, yet their bodies looked soft and their faces serene. They seem to embody the masculine principle, sacred yang, a perfect marriage of the spiritual and the physical. It is as if I'd found a new beginning, a place of forgiveness and sacred appreciation of 'man'.
The Sacred Yang (2006 -2007) paintings represented an aspirational ideal, their dominant mood one of inner peace. Most of the portraits exist in the space of meditation just prior to action, 'the quiet before the storm' so to speak. In Altered States however emotion is traced through the facial expression of a young monk, from concentrated potential to an outburst of energy.
In her next two series, Slow Release (2007) and Let Them Out (2009), Payne continues this exploration of emotion; something that she notes is often absent in portraiture. The serial format of the works points to another key influence: film, or specifically video. Unlike portraiture, the narrative- driven film is a medium in which intense emotions are frequently enacted. At the same time the viewer with a remote control has the ability to slow down or halt time, to linger over or analyze the otherwise transient.
In her latest series of paintings, Cape Chakras (2009) Payne picks up the thread of 2005 and offers us a meditation on colour. The seven colours of the visible light spectrum are familiar to us as the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. These colours correspond to the chakras or energy centers of the body in Ayurvedic tradition, shifting from red at the base of the spine, through green at the heart centre to violet at the crown of the head. For each colour and chakra Payne has chosen a flower indigenous to the Cape, abstracting it to create a kaleidoscopic and jewel-like circular composition.
These radiating paintings bring our awareness to the intensity of colour and allow us to contemplate our own emotional experiences to the hues. The pulsating contrasts and optical illusions within the compositions mesmerize our minds beyond finite points of focus to which we are accustomed when viewing the world. In many respects Payne's work could be viewed in the tradition of sacred art. The circular canvasses recall the stained-glass rose windows of Christianity and the mandalas of Buddhism, among other forms inviting spiritual contemplation. At the same time her flowers seductively remind us of the cyclical nature of life, death and rebirth; the ravishing blooms will fade and go to seed in the continuing cycles of creation.
This essay has been compiled by assimilating the writings of Michael Stevenson, Sophie Perryer and Tracy Payne from 2002 till present.
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