November 2018
Java - Phnom Penh 

Artists Statement

Lotus stems are my paintbrush, while its flowers create my tones. I envision my pieces as both ecological and holistic, with Cambodian nature as the source. My pictures reflect the waterways and deltas of Cambodia, the kingdom’s true lifeblood. 

The theme of lotus art is the perfect imagery for Cambodia, as the flower symbolizes the Lord Buddha’s spiritual awakening, emerging from the muddy dark depths into light and becoming a flash of beauty. 

Sacred Ink Lotus Art consists of vertical and horizontal rows of varying depths of darkness. Each painted line complements one after another, rising from the base to the top. My pieces emerge like a lotus flower grows. Using the stalk as a paintbrush, my initial embossments are darkest, and what eventually remains are but faint impressions with ever-decreasing ink fading to oblivion. Each stamp is unique, as the paper varyingly absorbs the lotus markings. 

My unique ink is just as remarkable and unexpected as the final art. Like a rare distillate, or Sacred Ink so to speak. Each year, I collect cartloads of lotus recycled after the Lord Buddha’s birthday. Typically, one cart produces as little as a few cups of ink.  First, I char the petals, and then during the monsoon season I set out trays to collect rainwater.  I then brew the charred lotus petals distilled with the Battambang rainwater, a painstaking process that takes a further year. In this way I offer an original environmental approach to art, from pond to studio to display. 

Equally noteworthy is how I sign my works with the number of lotus impressions embossed on each piece.  As a weaver I am used to counting:  from the number of shuttles going from side to side on a loom, to tallying warps and wefts (the length and width of threads) and calculating actual thread sums as well. So it’s natural and automatic for me to count the number of lotus impressions I apply onto each of my works. I then entitle each of my works from the total of lotus marks stamped on each paper, finally signing this number along with my artist’s autograph.

Introduction

The work of Morrison Polkinghorne, Battambang-based artist, is rooted in ancient spirituality and the artist’s background in weaving. For many years Morrison has created bespoke textiles using traditional techniques, some of which he has revived from becoming obsolete. It is through this manual artistry that he takes his starting point for printmaking. Each work is made from individual impressions using the cross-section of the lotus flower stem. By repeating the impressions of the lotus stem he leaves traces of the distinctive shape and creates rows of varying opacity, like a weaver carefully constructing a tapestry. Throughout this process, he recalls his background in hand woven textiles which requires meticulous counting. A piece of fabric is created when two different threads are interlaced at right angles, and it is necessary to count the number of threads as they are weaved together. Similarly, the artist weaves the lotus impressions across the paper, counting as he goes and making note of it at the ends of the rows. For the fifteen unique prints featured in this exhibition, it required a total of 81,472 impressions, which gives us the title of the show.

The process by which Morrison creates the stamp and ink for his unique prints is as meaningful to the work as the final piece itself. In connection with Cambodia’s ever-present spirituality, the artist collects discarded lotus flowers from rituals performed in nearby pagodas to use for his artistic purposes. Used during ceremonies, these flowers are imbued with ritualistic and spiritual significance. In Cambodia, where Buddhism is the government-sanctioned religion, lotuses hold a unique spiritual position as one of the eight auspicious symbols.

Morrison, who has made his home in Cambodia, feels a deep connection to these rituals and to the people who practice them. He responds specifically to the energy that he feels is accumulated in the flowers, in which people invest their faith during the ceremonies. He is moved by these acts of devotion activating the symbolic power of the lotus, of which he collects petals to respectfully transform for his artistic purposes. He says that, in fact, it would be much easier to purchase the lotuses from the flower market, but he feels compelled to perpetuate the cycle of energies. Correspondingly, the compositions of the artworks seem to be a result of this energy transference, with repeated lines and gradation that resemble movement and fluidity. The artist compares them to the waterways of Cambodia that are essential to sustaining life and connecting communities.

Through symbolic gesture and a long and arduous process, Morrison transforms the organic material of the lotus flower for use as artistic material. The petals are charred and brewed in rain water for more than a year, while the stem is used to make impressions on the paper. Here the analogy with Buddhist philosophies comes to completion: what was discarded, left to decay and start the cycle over again, is now transferred into a permanent state liberated from samsara, the karmic cycle of life and death.

The numbers used for the artwork and exhibition titles signify process and artistic labor, while simultaneously it is a grand gesture towards the universality of numerical harmony. When associated with the recognizable and geometrical shapes of the lotus stem it forms a colloquial vocabulary that is communicated intuitively. Like all languages, meaning is determined by definition and context. Morrison has built his artistic vocabulary by carefully considering every step required to make the works for 81472. From the gathering of ceremonial flowers to the collection of rain water for the ink, he has determined meaning from material, its production and application. The resulting artworks that call to mind loosely woven tapestries, or flowing rivers, remind the viewer of the significance of energy and its transference between ourselves, our environment and with each other.

Sacred Ink - Lotus Art
SACRED INK - LOTUS ART


l o t u s - c o u n t s 
as of 3 February 2020
I've created a total of
509,111 lotus impressions


 

n e w s
Feb 2020
Sofitel Phokeethra
Phnom Penh


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