2010/2011 MOCA GA Working Artists Project


Mandala #12,13,16Installation view,Samsara, MOCA GA, From Left to Right: Mandala#12,13&16, oil on canvas, 144x109 inches, 2010-2012

Samsara, and Mandalas Made From Ruins:
First Notes on the New Work of Xie Caomin
Essay by Dr. Jerry Cullum

Samsara, and Mandalas Made From Ruins: First Notes on the New Work of Xie Caomin Mandalas are a marriage of mathematics and metaphysics. Their symmetries are meant to be a point of contemplative focus in which to realize the hidden repetitions and regularities of the (not necessarily religiously defined) universe.

Thus Xie Caomin’s mandala paintings, which create order from the chaos of the ruins of the World Trade Center out of which their imagery is extracted and (re)shaped, are about cycles and repetitions, rise and wreck followed in turn by the rise of new and different forms of order and technological advancement. The falling and rising again are not one, but they are part of the same cycle, the same dialectic. As Wallace Stevens wrote in "Connoisseur of Chaos," "a violent order is a disorder and a great disorder is an order."

This is, at least, one possible reading of these immense paintings. Given Xie’s exhibition’s freighted title Samsara, it is necessary to read the work at least momentarily in a more conventionally Buddhist fashion.

Samsara is the realm of illusion in which our personal and historical existence unfolds; it is the world created by desire.

Buddhism teaches that the turning wheel of transient existence is operated by conditioned origination, by a causality that is generated by grasping and/or longing for what is not yet ours. In other words, the force that gives birth to technological progress also generates suffering, decay, and death. You can’t have one without the other.

This inevitable dialectic also propels human history. Thus Xie’s repurposed ruins of the World Trade Center become an apt focus for meditation in his mandalas. Towers rise and fall for different historical reasons, but the rise and ruin all stem from identical existential causes.

All the passions behind construction and destruction, both positive and negative, arise out of the strange fundamental desire identified in Goethe’s epic drama Faust: the wish to hold on forever to a single transient moment, to make the moment both permanent and uniquely an individual possession. The Faust of Goethe’s drama, tellingly, finally finds such a moment in a successful technological project. (Thus an earlier historical epoch called the whole European project "Faustian.")
Goethe rescues his protagonist from the consequences of his grasping by declaring that salvation comes through eternal striving upward. This doesn’t quite solve the problem, and there is a deeply significant distinction between Faustian striving and Buddhist acceptance of the fact that desire condemns us forever to go round in circles.

We don’t have to believe that there is a way out, the way of desirelessness identified by the Buddha, in order to believe in the circular dialectic of rise and ruin and reconstruction driven by human passions. Xie’s mostly unbroken symmetries contain none of the traditional emblems of higher realms of being, although they may replace them with an order that contains all that Buddhism knew as the full range of imprisonment and liberation. The central images of these mandalas echo the Buddha palaces and the symbols of spiritual fulfillment that are found in traditional Buddhist objects of contemplation, but only the shapes are traditional. In Xie’s work, that which was formerly represented as a realm of perfected beings who aid in our way out of the labyrinth of desire has become a network of new perceptions that is formed by the shards and fragments of our own catastrophes.

In the Mandalas of Ruins series, each mandala painting operates on a distinctly different geometry, even though their prevalently dark palettes are similar. (The lighter tones of #13 are the only unambiguous exception. #14 and #16 are a mix of light and dark in which the dark is the defining background.)

It is the contrast of light against a dominant dark that makes forms possible at all in most of these paintings. Only in #17 do we begin to see passages of dark on dark that, taken far enough, would lead to something like Ad Reinhardt’s black-on-black canvases. Xie almost certainly will not go there; the dialectical logic of the mandala itself would forbid

such a one-sided reading of the prospects of the luminous dark — a potential luminosity of darkness itself which seems very nearly bodied forth in Mandala #14, where the light itself seems born from the uniform darkness of the background.

video samsara

"Samsara" , Still Image , Video Projection

In the video titled Samsara, the jeweled geometry of change becomes a literal kaleidoscope which begins as a slow swirl and gathers speed as it cycles through the elements, of which water is the most contemplative and fire the most spectacular. The creation and dissolution of patterns yield far more illuminated and/or luminous possibilities than paint alone will allow.

The cycle devoted to the element of earth is momentarily almost stable, though it is only the slowest of the cycles and thus only seems to pause. Forms grow and dissolve and finally explode in a burst of energy not unlike the Big Bang with which, the physicists say, our particular universe arose — or, even more, like Buddhism’s Clear Light and the formlessness that underpins the shadow show of history.
Continuous flux becomes hypnotic. Different speeds of rotation produce mesmerizingly seductive visual effects. It is almost impossible to turn away from the projection’s rich pageant.

That is, of course, exactly what samsara is, an ever more complex cycle of creation and destruction that need only be stepped out of to perceive its illusory qualities. The question on which Europe and Asia have historically diverged is whether or not we want to lose our attachment to the great round of physical change, and whether practicing compassion without identifying with our actions is possible or even desirable.

The wheel of history and nature has continued to turn, however, and what was once a simple opposition has become fruitfully complicated by the interpenetration of ideas: linear history has been supplanted by a fascination with fragments and incompletion, and a once-solid faith in material processes has been decentered and displaced by an awareness of the fragile nature of the structures erected by mind in response to the cravings of mind and body. At the same time that nature has come to seem more historical, history has come to seem more governed by nature: knowledge of the human genome and of our neurological circuits has seemed to define the limits of what was once thought to be an indeterminate capacity for freely determined action, and this knowledge of our inbuilt limits comes at just the moment when human activity is changing the underlying physical structure of the entire planet on which humanity dwells.

In their combination of slightly broken symmetry and untrammeled energy, traditional realizations and technological underpinnings, Xie’s Mandalas of Ruins paintings would seem to be an excellent visual metaphor for our present situation. As Buddhist thought and the sociology of knowledge and culture would tell us, we live, like it or not, in a condition of being that might well be called Samsara. Xie’s work leaves it up to us to decide whether there is a way of escape, and if so, what.



杰瑞 科伦姆


因此,谢曹闽的曼荼罗绘画是关于在技术进步的各种形式与更新中的事物周而复始的生成与毁灭的景观;这些都是基于过对世贸中心废墟混乱图像的抽离和再组合。这种沉沦与升华中的事物不是作为一个单子,而是作为共同的循环和辩证关系中的一个部分。, 正如华莱士 斯蒂文斯所说的:“暴力的秩序是一种混乱,而伟大的混乱则是一种秩序。”








在“废墟的曼荼罗系列”中,每幅曼陀罗绘画都运行在一个显著不同的几何平面, 尽管他们拥有者相同的深色色调(#13的浅色调为唯一显著的例外。#14和#16为深浅混合,而深色为凸显的背景颜色。)

正是这种运用了浅色突出的大片的深色上面对比方式让了画面中的图像得以呈现。只有在#17中我们开始看到深色与深色的映衬,如果继续发展, 会让我们联想到埃迪莱茵阿特的黑色画。 这显然不是谢的绘画方向;曼陀罗本身的辩证逻辑会打破这种对发光黑色的解读----#14中呈现出了黑暗中的潜在的明亮,光源本身好似诞生于那统一的黑暗背景之中。

在名为“轮回”的录像艺术中, 如宝石般变幻的几何体变成为一个确实的万花筒,由缓慢的漩涡开始,逐渐加速好像辗转循环于图像元素中,其中水为循环中的冥想而火为现实的存在。这些影像图案的创造和溶解产生出的明亮灿烂效果的可能性远远超过了绘画本身所能及的。


影像循环中给予土壤的元素部分是一段暂时性的静止。尽管它是其中最缓慢,看起来好似暂停了。 那些形状继续的发光,溶解,最终激增爆破消散于能量猝发中。不同于物理学家对于“大爆炸理论”的学说,我们宇宙所有的物质均高度密集在一点,存在极高的温度而引发大爆炸,之后物质开始向外膨胀, 形成我今天的宇宙。录像其最后的结果更等同于佛家的净光心与无象之境,这些巩固着历史的虚影。


历史与自然之轮不断地运转着,然而,理念的相互贯通使一个简单的反面变得异常复杂:线性的历史被一种碎片和不完整的迷惑所取代,曾经的对物质进程坚不可摧的信仰已偏离了中心,取而代之的是,在我们对身体及心灵的渴望中,对由心灵所建构的世界其脆弱的本质的认识。 同时,自然似乎已变得更加具有历史性,历史则更多地被自然所决定:历史好似被人类的基因的自然知识所统治和支配。我们的神经电路似乎可以任意定义曾经无法界定的行动极限。我们内在的能力和认知将被激发,而人类居住的星球的潜在物理结构正在被人类活动所变更。



Mandala#14, oil on canvas, 112x144 inches , Courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia


Mandala#23, oil on canvas, 96x120 inches, 2012


曼荼罗 废墟 绘画


1. 曼荼罗





曼荼罗展现的是一个主客体无差别的宇宙, 即佛陀所说的无差别心。





曼荼罗是一个“O”。关于“O”:释曰圆觉,道曰金丹,儒曰太极。“O”在数学中意为“零”。 逻辑学家弗雷格说:零作为空概念是没有任何对象落在其中的概念。他以为,既使世界是空无一物,“O”作为"是一个“空概念"这样一个概念的概念还是存在的。


Mandala#22, oil on canvas, 96x120 inches, 2012

2. 废墟




身处现代文明,华莱士 斯蒂文斯论秩序与混沌:“暴力的秩序是一种混乱,而伟大的混乱则是一种秩序。”

佛在法句经中云:经多生轮回,寻求造屋者,但未得见之,痛苦再再生。已见造屋者! 不再造於屋。椽桷皆毁坏, 栋梁亦摧折。我即证无为,一切爱尽灭。






Mandala #13, oil on canvas, 109x144 inches, 2010

3. 绘画









Mandala #12, oil on canvas, 109x144 inches, 2010