The art of awakening

Mainland Chinese artist Zhang Dase shared his latest artistic concept with High Life during his second visit to Macau.

Mainland Chinese artist Zhang Dase was recently invited to Macau by the Macau University of Science and Technology to talk about his latest artistic concept – the art of awakening. It was his second visit to Macau since his solo exhibition “A state without limits” in 2015.

Having graduated from Capital Normal University in Beijing, Zhang majored in oil painting where his philosophy that art is a quest for the truth of life developed. Over the past two decades he has been to Tibet to study Buddhism multiple times and after thoroughly studying the mind has refined the essence of wisdom – especially the acts of watching, listening, singing, painting and dancing – to a set of self-cultivation methods suitable for modern people and for developing his concept of “The art of awakening”.

During his stay in Macau, Zhang Dase granted an exclusive interview to High Life, explaining “The art of awakening” with profundity and an easy-to-understand approach.

“I started to realize that it was easy for me to focus and relax in painting and I wish to convey this tranquility, serenity and joy to people through my own works,” he says.

“In fact, I have been practicing meditation, but in traditional ways. When invited to give lectures to others, I hoped to find a more direct way. Gradually I developed a series of artistic practices including mandala paintings and then refined that into a whole series of ways of catering to modern people.”

Citing mandala painting as an example, Zhang says, “The mandala visually reflects our inner consciousness, which is a structural diagram of our internal view. When we continue to draw, we are integrating our inner order.

“In painting, it can also be very effective to practice focusing and enhancing the inner concentration and awareness. When you are drawing, you will see yourself painting. At this time, you will change from the participant to the viewer and you will look at yourself from a different angle. Whether you want to practice meditation or want to know yourself, this is a very direct method.

“Art is different from religion in that it is more free. Whether you are a religious person or not, it can be your means.”

Zhang says “The art of awakening” includes many more aspects of Zen life and humanistic aesthetics but admits, “I didn’t expect people’s inner loneliness to be so great.”

Therefore, he began to adjust the curriculum to cater to the needs of more people – primarily to find inner health, learn how to relax and build a flexible space for the mind.

When asked about the difference between “The art of awakening” and spiritual healing, Zhang explains that the latter is just to create a more comfortable sense of existence. “The art of awakening” is art-focused and reveals that the comfortable sense of existence is an illusion. A sweet dream is not as good as awakening, which will lead you to a freer world.

“Everyone lives in this world and gets along with their emotions at all times, but we don’t understand ourselves, lack the power to go beyond our troubles and often lose out in self-limitation. ‘The art of awakening’ opens a door and shows us the inner connection between life and awakening to help us to find a peaceful, beautiful and free life in art, which is closely related to everyone,” he says.

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