Gestures towards emptiness : an exploration of ritual with reference to Buddhist tradition and innovation
This thesis is a cross-relational enquiry into the nature of ritual as the subject of arts-based research. It can be described as ritual-led; or as an artist's manifestation of ritual. The core of the submission consists in an exhibition, comprising 30 pieces of framed, wall-hung artwork; 3 artist's books; some smallscale sculptural work and a documentary film. The research is concerned with parallel, related disciplines and modes of working: visual art, music, general ritual studies, pedagogy and the practice of Buddhist meditation and ritual. The following areas are being addressed: 1. The context of ritual in general, and Buddhist ritual in particular, both as traditional practice and in a contemporary setting. 2. Tradition and innovation as complementary forces in the evolution of ritual. 3. The interplay of pedagogy and art in the emergence of a body of work. 4. The effects of a personal life-crisis (contracting diabetes type 2) on the course of study; i. e. the discovery of ritualised artmaking as a form of healing and catalyst for increased artistic productivity. The foundation of the enquiry is both theoretical and practical. The experimental visual artwork employs a variety of techniques and media: ashes on paper; papermaking; wood pulp; and watercolour. The written thesis entails an analysis of process and outcome in each series of works, seen in relationship to Buddhist and educational disciplines. A four-year period of pedagogical developments in small and large-scale groups is documented, surveyed and evaluated. The conclusions are based on reflections of a holistic nature, integrating the different modalities of working and indicating the context of the studies within contemporary society.