Touching Stone Gallery logo

Touching Stone Gallery   Santa Fe, USA

www.touchingstone.com    director@touchingstone.com

 

John Guernsey
 Finding Mu: Ripples in a Quiet Mind

November 24 - December 30, 2006

Man is a thinking reed but his great works are done when he is not calculating and thinking.
- Teitaro Suzuki (1870 - 1966)
Finding Mu: Ripples in a Quiet Mind

Mu (無), a Japanese/Chinese word for nothing, is said to be a gateway to Zen. It's a state of mind that transcends the perceived distinction between self and the rest of the world. In this state, the mind becomes clear as a mirror, the body merges with the surroundings, thoughts and movements become spontaneous and natural. In this state of mind, an artist no longer creates art as a separate entity; the artist becomes his/her art, which in turn reflects perfectly upon the artist. Santa Fe artist John Guernsey, a life-long Zen practitioner, has been seeking this state of mind in his paintings.

Guernsey developed an interest in painting early (His mother and grandfather were both painters). He studied painting at Alfred University and later at the Art Students’ League. But it was a Chinese sumi-e show in a New York City museum that sparked his interest in Chinese and Japanese sumi-e and calligraphy, particularly Zenga, a form of brush painting practised by Zen Monks. This, along with his Zen practice, formed his desire to create paintings that are spontaneous, alive, and combine elements from Eastern and Western traditions.

Unlike traditional sumi-e painters who apply ink with a variety of Oriental brushes, Guernsey paints with oil, using only a simple palette knife. He recalled how he developed his style. He used to paint in a representational style, he would often scrape off the palette with a knife and swipe the colors onto a piece of newspaper. He was struck by the unexpected beauty of the intermingled colors resulted from his casual hand movements. That is how he wanted to paint! He quickly learned that it was very difficult to deliberately create paintings with such spontaneity. After many experiments, he settled on the simplest tools, oil colors, pigments, a palette knife and no brushes.

However, the most important ingredients are not the tools. As in Japanese Zen painting, the mindset of the painter is of the utmost importance in order to express the ineffable in a direct and uninhibited manner. Guernsey prepares for each painting session by emptying his mind through Zazen (meditation). Then, in a burst of energy, he would apply colors onto paper with a single or a few strokes of a palette knife. The aim is to project himself in an instant onto the medium, with minimal conscious thoughts and deliberate thinking. He works with either watercolor paper or Japanese paper. The former accentuates impact and strength. The translucent nature of Japanese paper yields delicate nuance uncommon for this medium. With this approach, the creation of each painting is fresh, vibrant, and immediate.

The current exhibition, Finding Mu: Ripples in a Quiet Mind, includes an unusually candid and expressive body of work that embodies the artist's private artistic and spiritual journey.

Click on the images to view selected paintings.

Inquiry/order: director@touchingstone.com, see Inquiry/Order


Guernsey_Buzz.jpg (131779 bytes)
"Buzz" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame  23.5" x 16"

  

Guernsey_Tumble.jpg (159410 bytes)
"Tumble" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame  23.75" x 13.75"  Sold

Guernsey_Float.jpg (133415 bytes)
"Float" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame  24" x 14.75"  Sold


  
Guernsey_Dervish.jpg (238449 bytes)
"Dervish" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame 24" x 18"   Sold



Guernsey_Jaunt.jpg (118239 bytes)
"Jaunt" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame  16" x 12.5"  Sold



Guernsey_Swift.jpg (120282 bytes)
"Swift" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame  16" x 12.75"  Sold


Guernsey_Walkabout.jpg (129373 bytes)
"Walkabout" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame  23.75" x 13.75"  Sold


Guernsey_Seed.jpg (96962 bytes)
"Seed" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame  23.5" x 13.5"  Sold


Guernsey_Glide.jpg (98233 bytes)
 "Glide" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame  23.75" x 14.75"  Sold


 
Guernsey_Pursuit.jpg (119688 bytes)
"Pursuit" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame  23.75" x 14.75"  Sold


Guernsey_Bang.jpg (124955 bytes)
"Bang" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
silk mounted, black wood frame  41.5" x 23.75"  Sold


Guernsey_FindingMu.jpg (159934 bytes)
 "Finding Mu" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
silk mounted, black wood frame  45.5" x 23.75"   Sold


Guernsey_Chi.jpg (158674 bytes)
"Chi" 2006
Oil on watercolor paper
black wood frame 28" x 16"


Guernsey_Jungle.jpg (190286 bytes)
"Jungle" 2006
Oil on watercolor paper
black wood frame 28" x 16"   Sold


Guernsey_Resolute.jpg (107610 bytes)
"Resolute" 2006
Oil on watercolor paper
black wood frame 28" x 16"   Sold


Guernsey_Sway.jpg (125544 bytes)
"Sway" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame 27.5" x 16.5"


Guernsey_Haiku.jpg (243963 bytes)
"Haiku" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame 19.75" x 11.5"  Sold


Guernsey_Shimmer.jpg (108122 bytes)
"Shimmer" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame 21.75" x 13.75"  Sold


Guernsey_Cascade.jpg (119726 bytes)
"Cascade" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame 27.5" x 16.75"   Sold


Guernsey_Jujitsu.jpg (122164 bytes)
 "Jujitsu" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame 24" x 12.5"  Sold


Guernsey_Rapid.jpg (127658 bytes)
"Rapid" 2006
Oil on Japanese paper
black wood frame 39" x 17"