Investigating Sense Perception: Hands Holding the Void

Traditionally, sense perceptions have been explored extensively by artists. Highly developed perceptual sensitivity is the talent and field of expertise of an artist. Their explorations and discoveries hold valuable lessons about the nature of reality. This series is about artworks that resonate Buddhist teaching.

Hands Holding the Void
Hands Holding the Void

Alberto Giacometti, Hands Holding the Void, 1935, bronze cast, MoMA


The statue expresses the artist’s recognition of the inherently empty nature of sense perceptions.


O Shariputra, — in this pure there is no form, sensation, thought, activity or consciousness; : No eye, ear,  nose, tongue, body,  mind; no form,  no tastes,  sound,  colour, touch or objects;

Hands Holding the Void
Hands Holding the Void

Facing Life and Death

Joop Valstar by Erwin Olaf
Joop Valstar by Erwin Olaf

A dying man asked photographer Erwin Olaf to make a farewell portrait. He died a couple of hours after this final picture was taken, photographed at home as he was already too ill to come to the studio.

What strikes me is the powerful presence and the unflinching peace that is emanating from the face, shining brightly through the frail body that is about to give way. The artist managed to capture both the impermanent and the transcendental.


At The Twilight

At the twilight, a moon appeared in the sky;
Then it landed on earth to look at me.
Like a hawk stealing a bird at the time of prey;
That moon stole me and rushed back into the sky.
I looked at myself, I did not see me anymore;
For in that moon, my body turned as fine as soul.
The nine spheres disappeared in that moon;
The ship of my existence drowned in that sea.


Divan, 649:1-3,5

Words continued

Continued from the previous post and contemplating further on the power of words, I was also reminded of the line from the bible:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In essence, this is about the power to create.

As I went to buy groceries today and I was looking around, I had to acknowledge that everything I saw, the streets, the pavement, the buildings, the supermarket, the aisles with food, with products, money, the clothes I was wearing, my house, the tap I use to wash my hands, everything, started as a concept, a word in the mind. The world as we know it started as a concept, started as a word; our world is the result of our innate power to create. We can use this power for self serving goals, or use it to create a world that is inclusive and beneficial to all. Now that we are collectively forced to a halt and forced to reassess our unsustainable way of life, an enormous creative energy rises to find alternatives, to consider choices that take into account our interconnectedness.

Through the formidable effort that is being made, through the anxiety, the grief, the uncertainty that is palpable, still this creative force shines more brightly than ever. Alternatives are found, things previously thought as impossible are carried out. Our power to create does not diminish in the face of adversity, on the contrary, it rises to the challenge and shines even more brightly.


Batik study

I am currently experimenting with batik for an assignment to make a batik design for a kimono, consisting of writing / words and using indigo blue.

I had the following contemplations on the nature of words.

Words have great power, both to obscure and to reveal the truth, to divide and to unite. We can use words to create stories, stories about us and them, and believe these stories to be the truth. It takes the reality of a pandemic to eminently bring to the fore the truth of our shared being, of our interconnectedness, the truth of what is essential and what is redundant. Words that express this clarity have the power to unite, to heal.

Inside – Outside: Contemplating the Nature of a Bowl

Inside – Outside | Bowl, flax fiber pulp, turmeric root, acrylic pigment

A bowl is in essence a secluded space. The form creates a seclusion which can hold content. With the form, an Inside and an outside come into being, a certain relation between the two is established.  It is a dynamic relationship, it changes depending on dimensions, perception and point of view.

Inside and outside are relative, changeable, they are not absolute truths. The temporary labels of “inside” and “outside” do not impact or divide the space in any way. The immuration by the form results in a temporary modulation of the space, when the limitation of the form disappears, the labels “inside” and “outside” disappear, leaving space unchanged, undivided, unbound as it ever is.  Objects do not hold space, the space holds objects from time to time.

The project”Inside – Outside” is based on the observation that like form and space, who we are has a changeable, dynamic aspect and a stable, unchanging aspect.

Our dynamic aspect has to do with our thoughts, feelings, perceptions, experiences, our body. They change, they come and go and don’t last. The child that we have been had different thoughts, feelings, perceptions and a body then our adolescent self, then our thirty, forty year old self.

That which does not come and go is the faculty within, with which we know thoughts, feelings, perceptions and experiences. Like the essence of space remains unchanged by the form of an object in that space, the awareness with which we know the changing scenery of mind and body is not affected by that scenery. Thoughts, feelings, perceptions and experiences as mind objects may veil the awareness but leave it undisturbed in its always peaceful state. Mind and body do not hold awareness, awareness holds mind and body from time to time, it is our unchanging, unbound essence.



He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.

– William Blake

Taking up Space

Anna Aysea Shibori collar

When learning to walk again after surgery, my physiotherapist would often instruct: No stooping, elbows out, go up and wide, dare to take up space!

Standing erect, taking up space, walking tall even if our steps feel less then confident, speaking up, trusting the inner compass, it requires courage.

This shibori collar was designed as an expression of daring to go up and wide, of daring to take up space.