Red Thread Tangles by Wendy Ann Greenhalgh
"How is it that perfectly accomplished saints and bodhisattvas are still attached to the red thread?" (from Songyuan Chongyue's - Three Turning Words, Miscellaneous Koans) **
Form is no other than emptiness. Emptiness is no other than form. (From the Heart Sutra).
As I began to draw the first tangle, working from the body and breath, a very specific form of mark-making began to emerge, repetitive and triangular in nature. As a result of this particular movement of body and pencil across the ground of the drawing, empty spaces started to appear. They appeared without intention and I began to call them voids, choosing to accentuate them in some cases and obliterate them in others, but never planning when they would appear.
This juxtaposition of tangle and void, form and emptiness, brought the heart sutra to mind, and I began consciously to make the performed action of drawing a somatic recitation or mantra. Form is no other than emptiness. Emptiness no other than form. Out of the tangle comes the void. Out of the void comes the tangle. Our of stillness comes drawing. Out of drawing comes stillness. The void and tangle interacting - as visual artist John F Simon Jr noted in a conversation we had for his Drawing Your Own Path podcast - as a contemplative figure-ground reversal.
In the tangle drawings I am working both very small and very large, the dynamic organic shapes at times resembling the proliferating microcosm of cells in the body, at others the expanding macrocosm of the universe. Scale has been an important part of this exploration, with the largest Tangle measuring a metre high and nearly two metres long.
For me, these drawings are an active exploration of the creative movement that characterises all things. From nothing into something. Emptiness into form. Void into tangle. Blank page into drawing. And back again to nothing. Through them I experience the red thread as the generative and reductive force that drives life and consciousness itself.
** For more on the significance of the red thread in my drawing practice - click here.