Mandala paintings by Amy Cheng
"Mandala is the Sanskrit word for ‘circle,’ and is a spiritual and ritual symbol incepted in India. The basic form of traditional mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. In Buddhism and Hinduism mandalas are employed as a spiritual teaching tool for establishing sacred spaces, as an aid to meditation and trance induction. According to Wikipedia, “[t]he mandala is ‘a support for the meditating person’, something to be repeatedly contemplated to the point of saturation, such that the image of the mandala becomes fully internalized in even the minutest detail and can then be summoned and contemplated at will as a clear and vivid visualized image.” Today the term mandala is commonly used for any centered geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically – a microcosm of the universe.
I started making mandala-like paintings in 2009. I did not think of them as mandalas. I used the circle within a square as a formal device to make centered, iconic images. Eventually I came to see that, although not strictly speaking devotional, the paintings do speak to the sacred, to the largeness of life, to being one with the universe.
I grew up in a family that primarily prized book-learning; my childhood was bereft of sensual pleasure – little music, almost no visual art. I grew up with a longing for sensuality I was barely aware of. Unconsciously but consistently, I have used painting as a way to answer that longing. In this way visual play and visual pleasure became a central tenet of my work.
Sumptuous, intricate, ornamented, my current paintings are richly referential – they call to mind a range of associations from mandalas, the cosmos, cells, lace, brocade and more. I align myself with the long tradition of geometric and floral patterns the Far East, the Middle East, the Byzantine and the Baroque have long employed. They did so with the implicit understanding that pattern and repetition, which are endemic in nature, are primal in its rhythmic connection to the human nervous system.
In retrospect I have come to see that I am creating what my friend, the artist Thomas Lyon Mills describes as worlds within worlds with the aim of revealing profound, contemplative, slow, truths. I am making mandalas.”
currently in exhibition at Elisa Contemporary Art
FEBRUARY 15 - APRIL 12, 2014