From Art to Zen

Book Reviews

Madhuri reviews Nirguna’s art book.

From Art to Zen by NirgunaThe book is a large flat square, 12′ x 12′, and only 1/3 of an inch thick – most of that being cover, as there are only 11 pieces of paper, or 22 pages, in it. When you look at the book you’re hit by black, by strong color, and by a feeling that this thing looks agreeable to pick up, put on your lap, open. We’ve got a painting: of what appears to be fingers, and what is definitely a bird, with a thoughtful, unyielding sort of expression on its face. Pensive…as if it has all the time in the world.

The speedy world needs things that have all the time in the world…so we’ve already got some jungle gravitas going on.

Inside we’ve got Black, then turn a page and the black’s got white text on it – a bio. Nirguna graduated from the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, but “was unemployable…I was a Hippie.

Nirguna“My next step was to follow the Beatles to India, where I stayed for 7 years in the free-for-all commune of Osho, immersing myself in deep spiritual and Tantric practice. Emerging even more unemployable, I wandered in the West for a few years teaching Tantra, painting astrology charts and building sacred structures.” He lived in California for 20 years, then moved to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. He praises the light in both these places.

There’s a photo of him in a panama hat, lounged on a sofa with a huge painting looming and shining above. He looks like a sort of dashing geezer in tropical whites; his feet are bare. The painting is of eyes in the top half of a head and a sort of blossoming lizard of a 3rd eye, and green hair, and a surprised, very alert expression. The sky is very blue behind the cranium, with Van-Gogh-esque white starriness in it. I like the painting very much. It seems to have a reason to be here – it is alive, awake, funny, whimsical, inescapable. Those eyes would follow you around the room, commanding you to wake up, find yourself alert and laughing. A good injunction for us all.

I turn the page.

To enter this book is to be yanked into Guatemala. I don’t know the place; I can only get what I feel through the paintings. Nirguna’s accompanying text is often mysterious to me, too. I had been wondering, on first reading, “Does he really know what he’s talking about, here?” His words are declarative, instructive: “A nature that is so full of form, expression and color, hides the mystery and yet reveals the awe of it every moment.

“To experience that directly is called Mahamudra, the Great Gesture, the cosmos in orgasm.

“We are as much a part of nature as anything else…we are not separate…plus we have awareness.”

Okay…it’s a little bit bossy for my taste, but what do I know? Maybe this is Real Authority.

Nirguna and I had a skype. I found him relaxedly louche but sharp, very sharp. He mentioned his Satori and how it had issued forth from Hara.

I know even less about Satori than I do about Guatemala (I think – and I assume one knows these things if they happen to one? Cosmic orgasm, like the other kind, must be unmistakeable?)

The accompanying paintings are soft, rich, bold…insistent primary colors, blended earth-hues.

I turn the page, and five paintings are before me. The question about Satori/Mahamudra still vibrates, but I know I can’t find an answer out there anywhere and already, then, I’m thrown inwards. So his book is doing its work.

The paintings are bold, in-your-face, yet there is in them a certain stillness, a certain silence. Even a dancing figure, like a Mayan Nataraj, has for me a quietness. He’s combined, it seems to me, photography and painting in some of these – a Shiva-Shakti hovers above an evening lake, held in red tropical flower petals; the Mayan Nataraj is backed by pyramidal temple structures.

I turn the page…again and again the sensitive, sensual, uncompromising, cosmic images rise up. The teacherly text marches alongside, white on black, not too much of it. I arrive at my favorite painting in the whole book: “Two Angels. I sensed the presence of helpers on the day my dad passed, and sketched this. Thanks for this understanding as I only had one Dad and he only had one Death.”

The painting is gorgeous: leaf-green, grass-green, purple-magenta orangepoppyaqua, with a bright yellow orb behind the two faceless figures. A vividly deep pine green at lower right.

As a friend of Helpers, I enjoyed seeing them depicted so lovingly and respectfully… respectful of their something-only-sort-of-resembling form.

A bit later, he goes on about Mahamudra again, and we can only suppose he knows whereof he speaks, and that is why he says it so simply.

More painting… Coral Reef, Mayan Maiden, Shivaphrodite. All bright, still, hot, cool.

‘Penetration’ is also a beautiful painting – misty, hidden like penetration itself; evocative of great power, yet with a certain soft murkiness, and some vivid blue to wake things up.

I’m guessing most people will like Nirguna’s colours, his strength, his celebration. His paintings are, like poems, invitations to come in, visit again and again, find new reflections there. You can look, and look, and still not know; maybe, the longer you look the less you know.

Again, we’re sent scurrying back to the inner classroom: “When I don’t know, then, um, who am I?”

A nifty thing to be able to do with a painting. –

large size 12″x12″

small 7″x7″


Related article
Nirguna in Atitlan – paintings inspired by the Mayan landscape and culture in Guatemala

MadhuriMadhuri is a regular contributor to Osho News

More articles, reviews and poems by the same author on Osho News

Comments are closed.