Song Share: China Girl, David Bowie

Well, his passing hasn’t really sunk in, but I started thinking about which of his songs would be my favourite, which I couldn’t, but this one has some great symbolism, to do with heroin addiction ( a recurring them in his music).

My own little re-appropriation is to have it refer to the Chinese arts, in particular, Chigong, for example:

“…and when I get excited

my little China girl says

Oh baby, just you shut your mouth.

She says

Shsh…”

 

Translation of an Ancient Chinese Poem

I recall my Chigong teacher telling us that, by way of what we in the West call calligraphy, well intended words of healing would be written on fans, and healthy Chi would also be put into the fan, so that whenever the owner uses it, the Chi and information would be transmitted to them. It was taught to us as a legitimate healing technique, but in this poem, words of love have been written on a fan by a woman, and given to her lover, you might say in the “Summer” of their love:

RESENTFUL SONG

White silk of Chi, newly torn out,
Spotlessly pure as frozen snow,
Cut to make a fan of conjoined happiness,
Round as the moon at its brightest,
It is ever in and out of my master’s sleeve,
And its movement makes a gentle breeze,
But oft I fear with the Autumn’s coming
When cold blasts drive away the torrid heat,
It will be cast aside into a chest,
And love in mid-course will end.

(? Pan Chieh-Yu)

 

~

The Karate Kid and Balance

I was born in 1975, and when I was a kid, Star Wars was huge. The other B-movie kind of saga which had a big impact on me in the eighties was the original Karate Kid trilogy. I started doing Seido Karate when I was about eight, and made my way to yellow belt, but I stopped there, because it really wasn’t providing me with that something sacred which I hoped it might.

All of these years later, I think of when I was diagnosed with Sjogrens Syndrome as the chaotic factor in my life which was out of balance in a big way. Then, one day, a friend told me about a Chigong master who was coming to town and doing individual healings. He advised me that Zhineng Chigong was what I needed, and so I committed to learning it. My teacher told me that Chigong was the original martial art, because healing and consciousness precede the need to learn to fight. The blissful feelings it brought about, along with the positive culture, and techniques I could incorporate into my daily life were providing the disciplined sacred space that I needed.

Fear, worry and self-doubt are all part and parcel of being diagnosed with any disease (especially when Western medicine tells you there is no known cure!). Michio Kushi, in his Macrobiotic theory, talks of there being a background and a foreground, and that usually our preoccupation is with the foreground, which is occupied by our fears, vices, and perceived flaws. The background is the positive things which are going on in our lives, often brought about by our efforts to remedy the negative.

So I don’t think my aim is to become a Pollyanna, brimming with positivity  no matter what, but to develop something like dialectic reasoning, as Mr Miyagi does effectively in this scene where Daniel is focusing on the foreground of the Karate tournament (the object of his fear). Mr Miyagi reminds Daniel of the lesson about balance, and shows him the photo of Ali (the object of his love and happiness).

I like to think of the Cobra Kai as being the disease, as its credo seems to be ‘No Mercy”.

That little master is the wise centre in us all.

 

Revisiting Neo-Expressionism, and Looking Closer to Home

As I mentioned previously, I had realised that the formalist approach was limiting, in that it’s not an approach designed for expressionism. I wanted to work in a way which was more intuitive, and could express my feelings in a simple way which could appeal to a wide range of people. Of course, I was still wanting to use non-toxic mediums, but I hadn’t really experimented with watercolour and acrylic.

So I purchased some hardboard and gum tape with the intention of building up grounds with blending and blotching techniques. The resulting textures I could then gaze at for a while and anthropomorphise whatever figures and forms I see. I was getting into various conspiracy theories at the time, and these kind of became source material for the works, which were devoid of colour, for the dual purpose of making the process simpler, and expressing feelings of despair which were associated with working a lowly part time job and needing some welfare to supplement my income.

The meek shall inherit the debt     Austerity Measures

 

I continued exploring the same themes while beginning to bring in colour, especially by way of water soluble crayons and acrylic.

Treadmill    triangle circle square

 

I was enjoying these much more, but still felt like they were a means to an end. They are imitations, especially of Jean Michel Basquiat, from whom I was definitely learning helpful things, but whose style i also wanted to divorce myself from a bit.

I decided to look a little closer to home for inspiration for how to move forward. I took the time to watch a few documentaries on New Zealand artist Ralph Hotere, whose ingenuity gave me some good ideas. He uses words in his work, and he manages to merge minimalist style with expressionism. I’ve also been lucky to have been exposed to the paper assemblages of James Robinson, who really exploits paper in ways which allow for the element of surprise akin to that of how I imagine the alchemists of old went about their work.

He’s also a fellow chigong student, and introduced me to Yuan Gong, a simpler style of chigong invented by Yuan Tze, which I have since begun to learn and practise.

These two artists, along with Shane Cotton, have managed to continue along the same line as Colin McCahon, in the way that they explore the sacred and the sublime aspects of New Zealand life without resorting to obvious and over-used “Kiwiana”, as so many here are like to do.

During this period I picked up another part time job, so another challenge these days is managing my time so that I can continue to be productive with both poetry and painting.

This almost brings us up to present day, where I find myself trying to find the best way for me to do all of the things I want to in painting, and to make it cost effective.

Picking Up the Pieces

Having been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, and having researched into all of the horrible things it can do to a person, I sunk into a depression which probably lasted for two to three months. I remember the song going around and around in my head at the time, with its catchy line “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone?”. Yep, this is the one:

When you’re down, everything about the world looks stupid, empty, horrible, unfair, and oppressive.

I was fortunate at the time to be reading Carlos Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan, which gave me a fresh perspective on things. The Toltec concept of the Warrior is that a warrior thrives on challenges, and is an “artist of spirit” who is concerned primarily with the pursuit and preservation of energy.  They believe that I warrior firstly must accept his/her fate (which is ultimately death), And once that fate has been accepted, then the warrior can commit the ultimate audacity of attempting to change it.

I now had a different song lyric going around and around in my head. It was “I know the pieces fit, ’cause I watched them fall away.”:

I forgot to mention that I had just been through a break up only months prior to getting the diagnosis, and Schism seems to be division both between male and female, but also a kind of divorce from the spirit.

In Toltec terms, spirit, and god mean the same thing as “intent”, and shamanic healing requires the mastery of intent to gather and direct “energy”.

There were no shamans around little old Christchurch, but a friend had told me about his learning Chigong, the ancient Chinese healing art, and told me of the Master who taught him, Yuan Tze, and that this man was coming to town and doing individual healings. I went along and spent about 30 minutes explaining my health problem to him, as he sat across from me, gazing attentively but dispassionately.

He told me that if I learn and practise Zhineng Chigong, then my symptoms would gradually ease over time, until ceasing altogether. He then got me to stand and close my eyes as he did some healing chigong on me. I remember the feeling of my body warming up as he was doing it. I then signed up for a six session tutorial on how to do the first method of Zhineng Chigong, known as “Lift Chi Up, Pour Chi Down”, as well as “wall squats” and “stretching chi”. Within a month I had noticed improvement, so I kept on attending weekly lessons and practises, and was amazed at how many challenging little techniques there were to learn.

Aside from that I was slowly learning how to deal with my symptoms, by breaking them down and dealing with them one at a time. I hadn’t heard this song back then, but it sums up the process very well: