The Philosophy and Spirituality of Art
Written by Genie Davis
July 8th to July 28th, Khang Bao Nguyen will bring his jewel-like, richly philosophical art to Shoebox Projects.
Nguyen takes spiritual and philosophical insights which he’s uncovered and translates into a visual vocabulary that encompasses perception, consciousness – and as he puts it “an immediate awareness of Being that is free from the mind’s thought-constructs.”
His mesmerizing work is both maze and mosaic; astonishingly detailed, it invites contemplation. This is not work to be quickly observed and walked by, rather it inherently demands an intensity of gaze and time that pays tribute to the artist’s immersive process.
Nguyen says “My work investigates the nature of existence, knowledge, perception, consciousness, the ground of being, totality, liberation, nonlinear consummation, and non-dual awareness. I’m currently a PhD student in Eastern and Western philosophies – the non-dual tradition, dialectical tradition, postmodern philosophy – at Claremont Graduate University, and I integrate philosophical insights into my artwork.”
In both his studies and his art, Nguyen explains that he is creating a bridge between the philosophy from the East and West, showing both what they have in common and their differences. What he derives from his studies he applies to both his approach and subject for his art. But the viewer needs to be aware of none of this to appreciate the artist’s serene and beautiful patterned work.
Of his work at Shoebox Projects, Nguyen notes “My work in this exhibition is a continuation of my past work as well as based on new insights. I create artwork in order to help me to see from different visual perspectives.”
These perspectives are both liberating for the artist and the viewer. “I believe visual perspectives have the capacity to open my mind beyond simple conceptual comprehension, by triggering certain intuitive insights and direct experiences,” he asserts.
There is palpable, moving spirituality in his work, that elevates both Nguyen’s art and the experience of the viewer. He is both inspired by and inclusive of the spiritual in his work, creating a reverential circle of visual bliss. This reverence and the meditative quality of the work isn’t surprising given the strength and beauty of the artist’s devotion to both art and philosophical exploration.
“My artwork is a reflection of my practice/investigation in the non-dual spiritual traditions, which includes Zen Buddhism and Dzogchen,” he explains.
The observable beauty and visceral depth of his work is a tribute to the complexity of it. This level of precision and perfection is intensely rewarding to examine, and the result of a long artistic process.
“The details and patterns in my work require many hours to build up layers of complexity from simplicity,” he says. “I break up solid shapes into smaller facets in order to create a sense of movement, reflectivity, and uncertainty.”
The result is something quite amazing. The works are highly geometric in their patterns, yet delicately evocative. To say they transcend the everyday is almost beside the point – they are both meditative mandala and spiritual DNA. The palette is varied and lustrous, and the colors seem to reflect, enhance, and grow from the image Nguyen creates.
The artist employs a variety of mediums. “I use oil paint, ink, and graphite on canvas, paper, or wood panel. I usually gravitate towards earth tones or cool colors – shades of turquoise, purple, blue, green, black. To me, these colors invoke a sense of contemplation.” And to the viewer, as well.
Created for the soul, the heart, and the mind, Nguyen’s work transfixes and shines, as if it came from both beyond this existence and within it. His Shoebox Projects residency should be a don’t-miss.