A new series of Lotus Art premiers this week at Amansara. Battambang-based artist and Australian native Morrison Polkinghorne premiers his series of “Lotus Art” grey-black toned paintings made from lotus stems.
Amansara is a fitting venue for the Lotus Art collection. Formerly the private Siem Reap residence of Cambodia’s King Sihanouk, its restored Khmer Moderne architectural lines and cool monochrome colours showcase Morrison’s lotus series perfectly. Four large white-framed pieces created on Chinese calligraphy paper hang in the hotel’s Library, and there are portfolio Lotus Art sales in both the hotel’s Boutique and Spa. All are on acid free art paper.
A tassel maker and weaver by trade, Morrison designs and recreates intricate 18th and 19th century reproduction decorative arts for historic houses, museums and private residences. He now branches into the world of Lotus Art. It is the perfect imagery for Buddhist Cambodia, as this flower symbolises the Lord Buddha’s spiritual awakening, emerging from the muddy dark depths into light and becoming a flash of beauty.
“As a weaver I am used to counting: from number of shuttles going from side to side on a loom, to counting warps and wefts (the length and width of threads) and actual thread sums as well,” explains the artist. “So it’s automatic that I began to count the number of lotus impressions I emboss or stamp onto each of my works.” Consequently, Morrison titles each of his works from the true total of lotus embossing he stamps on each, and signs this number with his artist’s signature.
Morrison’s Lotus Art collection at Amansara consists of a total of 63,213 lotus marks. The four works in the Amansara Library include a triptych of three vertical paintings. Each portrays two vertical lines of varying depths of darkness — coming from the base to the top, thus reflecting how a lotus flower grows. Each stamp is unique, as the paper varyingly absorbs each lotus marking. Using the stalk as a paintbrush, the initial embossments are darkest, and what eventually remains are faint impressions with ever-decreasing ink fading to light grey. Conversely, each painting emerges like a lotus flower, every horizontal line complementing one after another.
Just as important is the ink itself. Morrison creates this from charred lotus petals distilled with Battambang rainwater which he personally collects during Cambodia’s annual Monsoon season. The painstaking process takes over a year to complete.
A fourth horizontal picture hanging in the Library “reflects the Sangkae river flowing past my home in Battambang,” explains Morrison. “It was my impression of its waters flowing into the Tonlé Sap. What inspired me are the many classic Khmer songs written about the river.” This landscape work of 10,159 embossments is signed with the artist’s autograph and tally.
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