One Brush Stroke, One Prayer

Last Friday I took my youngest to the Billy Bishop Airport in downtown Toronto. She was on her way back to Halifax to begin another school year in the march toward her chosen career. We were able to get away a bit early, and so avoided the ubiquitous threat of being stuck in gridlock. A turn around trip home immediately after dropping her off would have meant a plunge into the madness in reverse, and so I opted for a visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario.

I got there a bit before it opened, and so snuck into a nearby coffee shop for a quick java. The shop hosted an exhibit call “Foot by Foot.” The shop was adorned by paintings 12 inches square with three spots allotted to each artist. It was a great accompaniment to the smell of fresh coffee. I followed my cup, carried by a kindly young woman, into a “terrace” interior to the café. The sky shone from above and four brick walls framed my space, where I read a brilliant article by Rowan Williams before stepping across the street and slipping into the gallery.

I wandered around, from one gallery to the next. I popped in on a few favourites, and met some new paintings along the way. There were many visiting from galleries across the Americas to take part in the exhibit entitled “Picturing the Americas.” Some of these will be remembered by me and others not, slipping over the edge into the black hole of forgetfulness: images enjoyed in the moment and then gone.

After a while I made my way into the AGO Store. There I pondered, for a bit, buying a book on Scandinavian Design, but decided against it. The time didn’t seem right, and so I moved along. I found a little something I had pondered buying years ago, but then lost sight of and now found again. I might describe it as an art device – it goes by name “Buddha Board.” It comes with a water container/stand, a brush and a special board that turns black wherever water touches it. After a short time – one to ten minutes depending on the amount of water used – the image disappears. Slowly lines soften, and a block becomes blob and a blob becomes a fog that fades into nothing. The purpose of the board, according to its makers, is to allow the artist to “master the art of letting go.” It might do that for me. Time will tell, but I think I bought it for another purpose.

I was intrigued by the idea of having an incentive to make art close to hand in my office, either at home or at work. It will serve, hopefully, to give me occasion to use those little bits of fractured time in my day to find some unity. Life, it seems, is often a collage of splintered experiences looking for a narrative. Art might be seen as up to the task, and so is a sister to faith, which also knows of what cannot be proven but surely is worthy of a gesture to, an attempt at wholeness. It pulls together what is disparate; it wagers a narrative. Indeed, memories fade, paintings are forgotten, children fly to their future, but still, still hope announces its presence: one brush stroke, one prayer at a time.

8 thoughts on “One Brush Stroke, One Prayer

  1. shoreacres says:

    I was intrigued, so I went to the Buddha Board site. How I laughed when I went to the FAQ page, and found that none of the links worked. I wasn’t sure if it was a problem with the site, or a Zen joke. I think I’ll go with joke.

    It’s an interesting concept, and of course the question I wanted answered was, “What happens if I want to keep my art?” Clearly, I’m not very far down the path to enlightenment!

    The gizmo reminded me of the drawing toy I had as a child. It had some sort of film, backed by a board, and a stylus. You could write or draw, and then, if you lifted up the film everything disappeared. The difference between that and the Buddha Board, of course, is intentionality. The person drawing still was in charge of when the image disappeared. Still, the point of it all was the disappearing: whether a drawing of a tree, or a to-do list.

    I like your phrase, “wager a narrative.” It’s sometimes said that we impose a narrative on events, but of course everyone’s narrative differs, and it quite a wager to believe that ours is worthy and true.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Yes, I think wanting to keep the image is missing the point! All the same, I have to admit that it got me thinking, in the event I ever create something remarkable, and want to keep it, I decided I could always photograph it!

      I remember those toys. We had something called etch a sketch, and it entertained children for hours. You can probably buy an etch a sketch app for your phone, but I think I’ll take a pass. I rather like it that I can use my Buddha Board when the power is out.

      Thanks for the thoughts on the narrative bit. I’ve heard that phrase “impose a narrative” and have wondered about it. It strikes me that narratives only work when they are convincing, and so imposition doesn’t normally fit – although it certainly would to a degree in a place like North Korea, I think.

  2. Mary says:

    A lovely weaving of reflections…

  3. What lovely closing reflections. I love the idea of art being prayer (and yes, faith). I hAve said my art is my worship.

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