Language of the Birds

Language of the Birds

In many traditions the language of the birds refers to the practice of divination. Divination itself is based on the idea that we are part of a vast web of patterns that is revealed in all phenomena; to divine is to read those patterns. My fascination with divination led me to undertake the study of traditional methods of divination, in particular the I Ching, the Book of Changes. A section of the I Ching, known as The Great Treatise, relates that the mythical Sovereign Fu Xi and his consort NüWa, who uncovered the components of the I Ching, did so as they “looked upward and contemplated the brilliant forms exhibited in the sky; … [they] looked downward and contemplated the patterns shown on the earth, …[they] contemplated the ornamental appearances of birds and beasts, and their adaptations to the regions”. By looking closely at the display of phenomena, they were able to apprehend the entirety of the world, and thus could “trace things back to their origins” and “follow them to their end” (from Richard Lynn’s translation of Wang Bi’s commentaries on the I Ching). The practice of divination presupposes an open, contemplative receptivity to the world; it has led me to consider painting as a kind of divinatory practice, in which one allows images to arise through the medium of paint. This series elaborates these ideas in images suggested by the words the language of the birds.

Language of the Birds I
18" x 24" Oil paint on canvas
Language of the Birds XII: Processional
6.5" x 5" Oil paint on paper
Language of the Birds III: Diviner's Child
16" x 18" Oil paint on canvas
Fu-Xi learns the trigrams
Language of the Birds II: Fu Xi Learns the Trigrams
30" x 36" Oil paint on canvas
Fu-Xi learns the trigrams
Study for Fu Xi learns the Trigrams
9" x 11" Pencil on paper
Language of the Birds IV: Keeping a Watchful Eye
12" x 8" Oil paint on canvas
Watching the Omens
11" x 9" Pencil on paper
Feeding the Magic Tortoise
9" x 11" Pencil on paper
Village Diviner
8" x 5" Pencil on paper

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