This Bowen art series is based on an exhibition in October 2009 in Stockholm Sweden. The Bowen exhibition was the first showing of his artwork since his passing away in early March of the same year. Bowen’s good Swedish friend and Tibetan monk, Johann Neumann, spoke at the exhibition about Bowen’s unique cultural contribution and how Bowen’s artwork exquisitely expresses the Buddha-Dharma-Nature. This is the beginning of a series of 12 Bowen paintings and commentary by R.W. Bruch. Copyrights from the upcoming book ”Bowen-Buddha-Nature“.
Buddha Seed of Consciousness
Any Truth that is authentic is worth spreading. The perennial Dharmic wisdom of Buddhism is portrayed by Bowen in this large composition as a sprouting seed held by three Buddhist monks. Plants, flowers, and faces all emerge from that cosmic seed of awareness: a God-like golden figure looks on as the holy sprout grows into maturity. Planting the Buddha Seed of Consciousness illustrates quintessential Buddhist philosophy. Planting the Buddha seed of Consciousness happens every day when someone repeats the Dharmic wisdom to someone who is suffering in the repeated cycle of birth, death, old age, and disease. If a person is open-minded, then this seed of knowledge, the Buddha seed of consciousness, takes root in the austerities of the monks, and with proper care and watering, emerges as mindful discernment.
Contemplation of Sorrow
The Buddhist notion of sorrow or suffering is not intended to convey a negative world view, but rather, it recommends a pragmatic perspective that deals with the world as it is, all the while attempting to alleviate suffering. The Four Noble Truths, which contemplate the reality of sorrow, teach a person how to become a sacred warrior and ultimately put an end to suffering. The concept of pleasure is not denied, but acknowledged as fleeting. Pursuit of happiness and pleasure can only continue what is ultimately an unquenchable thirst. In the end, only aging, sickness, and death are certain and unavoidable. All sentient beings are subject to this horror. Bowen’s exquisite composition illustrates these musings and persistent ideas. The artist portrays a saintly person in meditation having mystical visions while absorbed in these truths.
Meditation in Gamla Stan
While walking the streets of Gamla Stan, the old-world section of Stockholm, Michael Bowen was startled as he saw a woman in the back streets sitting cross legged. Back at his studio, he sketched the incident from memory and painted it over the weeks. The scene transcends time and place and begs many questions. Why is the woman doing this? Is she crazy? Her outfit could be interpreted as a psychiatric straight jacket for restraining the mentally ill. Has she gone crazy from conventional Swedish lifestyle and culture? Maybe she lost a child or husband recently? Or maybe she was just a woman in meditation……
The Greek Goddess Gaia, often thought to be the original deity behind the Oracle at Delphi, is repeatedly portrayed as the Earth Mother by Bowen. In the early 70’s the Gaia Hypothesis advocated by author James Lovelock described the homeostatic intelligent relationship between the diverse biomass and the biosphere that allowed Earth to function as a kind of super-singular organism. The ecologically friendly Gaia Hypothesis inspired many of the early environmental leaders and movements. However, in Lovelock’s latest and most controversial book, The Revenge of Gaia, he argues that because of the lack of respect humans have had for Gaia over the last decades, the potential for runaway Global warning now becomes a genuine threat to the future sustainability of life on earth as we have known it. These are the musings of the male and female plant figures in this jewel-like Bowen painting as they sprout, meditate, and grow.
Queen Tulasi, Elixir of Life
Tulasi is both a Mother Goddess and a healing herb indigenous to India and Nepal. For thousands of years Tulasi has been venerated and invoked for Her protection and guidance. Medically, Her preventive and curative qualities were known to the ancients. It has been said that the Holy basil, occimum sanctum, or Tulasi grew at the site of Christ’s tomb. The Vaishnava sect carves and wears Her beads around their necks and She is the preferred wood for fire ceremonies and rosaries. Her protective qualities to Her devotees are legendary as Her husband is Vishnu, the preserver of the Dharmic wisdom and harmony. Tulasi Devi is understood to be the Great Queen Goddess, the teacher of Devotional Love, the Elixir of life itself.
Happy Buddha Factory
The laughing Buddha, the jovial and corpulent Buddha of feng-shui auspiciousness is portrayed with an ironic twist in this distinctive Bowen composition. The bright colors, red sky, and gold smoke and golden eyes, instantly allure one’s visual attention to the aesthetically powerful gaze of a smiling factory. While driving in the Tuscan countryside of Italy, Bowen would occasionally pass ancient factory complexes that were visibly in modern use with grey-black smoke billowing out into the blue Italian sky. He envisioned one of those factories having a dual personality, one as a laughing Buddha, and the other identity as an ecologically naïve manufacturer, the plump smiling industrialist pumping “golden” smoke out of its chimney. The moment he had this vision of a dual personality, Bowen became transformed like a Zen awakening; it was as if the open secret of our identity with the all pervasive Buddha Nature had been suddenly and unexpectedly resolved. The One, the Buddha, was omnipresent ….The veil of illusion had been pierced and held back long enough to find expression in this Bowen miniature masterpiece.