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#2334 - Tuesday, December 6, 2005 - Editor: Jerry Katz

Report of a New Zealand art exhibit -- Bill Ferguson's exhibition Metaphors for the Invisible was at Blacksphere Gallery, 217 Swan St, Richmond VIC 3121 from 27 October - 13 November 2005.  

Seeing Amber - A personal, spiritual encounter
by Olga Buttigieg December 2005/January 2006

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift"
- Einstein

Bill Ferguson's exhibition Metaphors for the Invisible is about story, relationship and deep knowing. His paintings resonate. 'Every story you hear has an echo of an ancient story'. (Arnold Zable, 2005)

You enter these stories by being fully present and still.

This story connects to the Aboriginal way of knowing 'dadirri'. 'Dadirri is a special quality, a unique gift of the Aboriginal people, is inner deep listening and quiet still awareness. Dardirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. It is something like what you call contemplation'. (Miriam Rose Ungenmerr-Baumann)

The meandering dots, as seen in a number of paintings, invite us to be co-companions on a journey and to question on what is "real" by reflecting on the invisible and visible, on "being and un-being". Bill Ferguson expresses this tension as a paradoxical state of matter as being pure energy. There is an 'uncluttered' deep song emerging from these "song lines" of meandering dots in his landscapes. The spaces between the dots is our invitation to enter and engage with stillness.

  Bill Ferguson
For a non secret ritual, 2005
Courtesy of the artist and Blacksphere Gallery

We have inherited an empirical, objectivist way of looking at reality. We demand answers, or a solution and to have certainty to every situation. We are rewarded when we produce the correct response, rather than when we create new possibilities.

The spaces give us 'space'. The "nothingness" renders the dots beautiful by giving to us the permission to be still and pause. The spaces give us silence and waiting. There is an intuitive awareness that cannot be adequately expressed in words

The spaces are metaphors for slowing down. We are constantly active and hypnotised by the "busyness of life". Our culture values 'the visible' and values experiences where there is an element of control.. Bill Ferguson challenges this Grand Narrative and offers us a new story.

He restores the balance to this dominant masculine worldview with a landscape filled with "humility, mystery, vulnerability, community and an authentic inclusive way of being in this world.

There is 'relationship' in this exhibition: the journey of the artist and art are authentic. The paintings demand our attention. You are engaged in something that you feel is part of your own story. There is a resonance and a rhythm as a result of our connectedness and moves you towards a wholeness of being.

The journey of the dots and spaces call us "to be", and that Being, not wanting, having and doing is what is the essence of spiritual life. The richness and simplicity of Being brings forth a liberating freedom. Bill Ferguson's work can be likened to Russian icons. The icon is sometimes referred to as a "window of eternity". A window is like a veil an invisible barrier that you can see through. It lets in light and you can experience the outer world. It is a bridge between two worlds.

The icon is ecclesial in nature. It is founded on the mysteries of Incarnation and Transfiguration. The incarnational foundation of the icon stresses the importance of the personal experience and enjoyment of creation. The deep connection and "relationship" with the outer world is a necessary element of the process of creating the icon. The icon is based on the tension between the earthliness experience of this world and eternity. The "purpose" of creating an icon is to be a meeting point or a window or door in which we can enter and meet God. At the base of every icon is a spiritual experience. It is an invitation to be caught up in the messiness and chaos of life to enter this world that is beyond our understanding. Richard Rohr (2002) defines these moments as liminal.

"It is a special psychic and spiritual place where all transformation happens. It is when we are betwixt and between, and therefore 'not in control'"

There is always a paradox, a tension that exists. You need to be part of this world to be part of the other world. To be transfigured is a sense is to be touched by this world.

The 'jewel' of this exhibition is the painting "For a Non Secret Ritual".

This painting dominates the exhibition and your attention.

Firstly the archetypal symbols of law, life, birth, male, female challenge your cognitive domain. Question emerges and activates within the viewer a journey towards meaning and connected knowing.

Silence and stillness before this "icon" enables you to enter into a deeper more ancient, intuitive way of knowing, that of the non-verbal. Being fully present, being open connects us to our feelings, emotions and affective ways of knowing. This way of knowing is not only as valid as the cognitive but enables our whole being to be "renewed". We 'see' and 'know' more holistically. There is interplay between verbal and non-verbal, and activation and an interconnection between the right and left sides of the brain. The non-verbal now becomes accessible. We have words or language that now connects both the verbal with the non-verbal.

The relationship between the verbal and non-verbal experiences brings forth a transfiguration. There is a new knowing, a new way of being and seeing. A new energy of sound emerges from within the painting that we can now hear. This spiritual experience takes us beyond ourselves at that moment of time and place and connects us to a larger story.

The sacred amber that is seen on the right hand side of the painting "For a Non Secret Ritual" hints and teases and 'calls' us. We recognise the call deep within us. It was never a secret, it has enabled us to see our "own inner nakedness" and that we are and have always been "spiritual beings having a human experience".

The precious amber, speaks not only of the divine but once again reaffirms, that in order for the spiritual experience to exist in the first place - like the precious amber stone we need to be fully bodily present within our environment which means to be covered at times (not knowing) with sediments of various layers that exert pressure and challenges.

It is only with the engagement with these layers and being part of the environment (our world), that transformation is possible.

Amber which once lay hidden in the depths of mud (in our mind) on the river bed has emerged and now glistens in the light.

For a Non Secret Ritual acts like a portal for our interior transformation, it enables the non verbal emotions, feelings, symbols, intuitions to connect with the verbal analytical and we have a new language to express our spiritual experience.

Bill Ferguson reminds us of this sacred gift.

Olga Buttigieg, PhD student at A.C.U. (St. Patrick's Campus)

Bill Ferguson's exhibition Metaphors for the Invisible was at Blacksphere Gallery, 217 Swan St, Richmond VIC 3121 from 27 October - 13 November 2005. Photos from the exhibition:

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