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The Power Found in the Gaps

December 1, 2010

Sometimes someone will say some simple words that are so profound they virtually take your breath away.

On Friday mornings I teach an one-on-one class to a marvelous student of Japanese origin.  I don’t always immediately understand the comments she makes but neither does she always understand mine.  Last Friday we were busy discussing texture techniques in watercolour and my student sat back in her chair and said “When in Japan, the people that make arrangements with flowers, find it important to leave the gaps”.  It took me a moment to process the statement and when I figured out what she meant I said, “yes, when painting it is also important to leave spaces, called negative spaces, this is where the power in the piece often falls”.  She looked at me (processing what I had just said I am assuming) and said ” to the Japanese these gaps bring peace of mind and spirit” and she touched her heart.

I could barely continue to teach her. My mind was so full of imagery, flitting from thought to thought, relating that statement to painting, meditation, my favourite – most powerful –  music tunes, amazing photographs I had seen, the pause after reading an amazing book ….breath itself!  I have spent basically every available minute since that class pondering that statement and the power within it.

I do believe that my life, my thought process has changed forever. This is what I have come up with so far.  These “gaps” as my student called them, the spaces between objects, the rests between musical notes, the pause between yoga postures, courses at a dinner, words in a conversation…is where the brilliance lies.  What if it is these “gaps”  in time and space that spawn creative thought and imagination?  These “gaps” that are largely brushed over, ignored, that we rush to fill with noise, words and imagery.

"Leaving the Scene" Oil Painting - 9" x 12" For Sale - $150.00

Take this painting – “Leaving the Scene” for instance.  The spaces around this old man are entirely responsible for making this painting work!  The negative shapes found around the figure, define the figure.  The colours that I chose to paint the painting are for the most part neutral….that is they don’t make much of a statement.  Even the path that the old man is taking toward the light is defined by the negative space….the pause, the emptiness, the lack of detail.

Think about it. We are probably all a lot more brilliant than we give ourselves credit for.  If we collectively acknowledge and honour the “gaps”….wow, look out!

As a note, I would like to thank everyone for their kind words responding to my last post.  The emails, Facebook notes and comments on the blog are very encouraging.

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