Compassion Oil on linen 100 x 100 cm
I have been pondering the painting above...yes, while I was painting it [of course!] but also when I have been driving my car, before I go to sleep at night, as I have been eating a meal, and last night even my dreams were preoccupied with it. As I ponder, the painting seems to grow beyond its boundaries. I wanted to create an image which 'spoke' of compassion, in a similar way that my ealier painting Love 'spoke' of love. http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com/2010/01/love.html
I really enjoyed painting both Love and Compassion and could feel an emotional essence transferring to, and then from, each painting. Regular readers would know that I have written about compassion previously. Indeed, I have a post in 2008 called 'Compassion' http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com/2008/08/compassion.html
Compassion, to me, is more sustainable than sympathy, which relies on a relationship of giver and receiver, thus a heirarchy. Sympathy certainly has its place, particularly after a disaster. But, ongoing sympathy, given and received, allows for an emotional colonisation process that can lead to power plays. Compassion is a more equal dynamic, where differences as well as similarities are acknowledged, and where, with imagination, each party can place themselves in another's shoes. Compassion is about negotiating distances of perception and perspective, to a point where, with the help of imagination, a person can move back and forth between how they see themselves, how others may see them and how others see themselves and so on.
With Compassion I wanted to suggest a meeting of difference, which obviously has underlying basic similarities. So, I used my transcultural/religious tree-of-life/knowledge, one a dark purple and the other a dark green. As the two trees' branches move closer the colour softens, until they meet in a light pink, which seems to pulse. Small dots, yellow on the left and sky blue on the right, fill the spaces between the trees' branches. Again, the colours soften as they move closer together, until the meet in a frisson of white [light].
Difference is signified in the different colours of the two trees and small dots. However, basic similarities are 'held' within the symbolism of the tree-of-life. For me these are those things which signal life ie: heart beat, breath, as well as the urge for identity and shared stories across religions and cultures over time. The trees' branches suggest a vascular, system-like quality which is augmented by the dots, giving the circular shape a sense of movement, even a pulse.
The circle indicates continuity of life, eternity, time, humankind memory. Yet, the image may be a cross- section of something even more dynamic such as a spiral. If this is the case the past and future are contained within the image...our souls' immortality perhaps? I also wanted to create an impression of a halo hovering in the endless space of the universe. After all, halos hover above those that are perceived to be holy, and thus presumably compassionate. Halos also have connotations of light, as in the light of God. When the two trees meet in a pulse of white light compassion evolves into an expression which is much larger than the moment or place. This is the power of spirit.
The wreath-like appearance of the circle of trees evokes the compassion felt during memorial services, particularly for fallen soldiers. Indeed, compassion contains gratefulness whether it be for soldiers who gave their lives for us, or for important religious characters, such as Christ, who gave his life for humanity.
Compassion, rather than sympathy, has the capacity to affect the world in positive ways. It is sustainable because it it not hard work. It really only requires an urge and imagination.
ADDED APRIL 2011
This painting was in my exhibition VORTEX: Seeking Stillness At Its Core in February 2011. A visitor to the show brought in a pair of 3D glasses. Once I put on the glasses, many of my paintings immediately separated into multiple layers which I felt could be touched and traversed. 'Compassion' took on a spiral like impression, as if part of the circle receeded and continued back into the painting. I was thrilled! When I wrote the earlier post above I said, 'The circle indicates continuity of life, eternity, time, humankind memory. Yet, the image may be a cross- section of something even more dynamic such as a spiral. If this is the case the past and future are contained within the image...our souls' immortality perhaps?'
I wrote about the 3D glasses in a post after the exhibition. Here's the link http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com/2011/03/3d.html