Direction of a circle
The silence of the meditative mind is not within the borders of recognition, for this silence has no frontier. There is only silence in which the space of division ceases. 1
|Louise Rippert creates a meditative, fragile and mysterious environment in which to explore the phenomena of thought, time and being, working within an abstract and mathematical framework. Art and science converge in a spiritual terrain, forming a distinctive visual language that draws much of its content from her long-term investigations into Eastern religion and philosophy and Indian culture.
Spanning the last decade, the exhibition contains mixed media paper assemblages, collages, and sculptural objects and installations, reflecting key concerns that define the artist’s practice. Rippert employs a meditative creative process and utilises a delicate and minimal palette, offering the viewer an opportunity to reflect on ‘the riddle of continual change and growth, whilst simultaneously experiencing a sense of the image’s stillness and completion’.2
The circle is a dominant form in her oeuvre, suggesting completeness or perfection. Utilising the circular mandala, the artist creates structures upon which physical layers reflect notions of time, consciousness, and the infinite, ‘by drawing our awareness to a central point of stillness’.3
Rippert’s mandalas act as aids to meditation and self-enquiry, aiming to calm or empty the mind of thought to achieve a “sense of oneness”. ‘The mandala, literally ‘circle’, is one of the most potent symbols of humankind. Its circular form and concentric structure reflect the shape of the universe outside and the sense of perfection within’.4
The evolution of Rippert’s mandala works is evident in Direction of a Circle 1997, a textured etched surface demonstrating her engagement with mark making. The deep embossing reveals the labour intensive nature of intaglio printmaking, whilst the resulting work holds the potential to induce states of inner calm and reflection. The concentric spaces radiating outwards and inwards evoke an expanding cosmos, enabling the contemplation of the infinite or unknown.
In creating her work, Rippert utilises an intriguing and diverse repertoire of materials. Ranging from glassine and hand-made paper, thread, gouache and aluminium gilt to ceramic, sand and pigment, many elements are evocative of the colours, textures and materials observed in India .
Fascinated by the transformative power of the silver leaf she discovered upon viewing gilded rocks in Rajasthan, Rippert explores the phenonemon of consciousness ‘the mirror upon which time and thought appear’.5 In Garden Blanket 2000 and Final Eclipse 2002, the light reflected from the silver gilt and diaphanous materials becomes a metaphor for the intangible qualities of consciousness.
Associations with internationally renowned artist Anish Kapoor, whose work explores spirituality within the context of Abstract art and links with Eastern and Western aesthetic traditions, can be found in Rippert’s engagement with similar themes. Both artists investigate a spiritual universe, evoking the sublime: the subject of the unknowable void or Brahman featured within Hindu philosophy.
The corporeal sensation or space implicit within Kapoor’s work also operates in Rippert’s oeuvre. Garden Blanket 2000, Valentine 2001 and Return 2002 address the body directly, expanding through illusion and extending our vision beyond the everyday boundaries of experience.
Rippert’s fascination with infinity and optical illusions is investigated in Return 2002, an installation of silver ceramic vessels resting on sand like washed up cultural relics. Resonating with light and energy, the vessels create an arena for viewer interaction through the reflective mirrored surfaces. They become fragile bodies or containers for collected memory and identity, mirroring the exterior world, but also drawing us into their central point of emptiness.
Links with the work of artist Eva Hesse are evident in Rippert’s sensitive experimentation with delicate, translucent and ephemeral materials; an interest in circular shapes, vessels and grid forms; and the concept of repetition explored in a fragile environment. Glassine is Rippert’s preferred material, attracted to the paper’s transparent qualities, its associations with memory and archival procedures and ‘the way you could view the stitch both above and below the surface and that you could layer it like layers of the mind’.7 Precise stitches into the glassine paper carry traces of the artist’s presence and act as markers for time passing.
Rippert’s complex, labour-intensive paper constructions engage the viewer through repetitive abstract patterning, intricate hand-stitched paper fragments and methodical numbering. The artist’s interest in multiplicity and repetition is apparent in the processes of stitching and mark making investigated in Garden Blanket 2000, Valentine 2001, Final Eclipse 2002, and Dance 2005. In each work, the viewer is drawn into a meditative realm through observing minute details and tracing the organic generations of pattern across the work’s surface. The intricate numbered sequences, annotated in pencil and paint, also suggest a quantifiable marking of time, while alluding to infinity or the unknown.
|Clues to understanding the artist’s work and methodology can be traced to her childhood, when the early experience of creativity and the wonder of being were firmly linked. Rippert recalls the experience of peering through folded translucent paper held against the sky and being fascinated by both the intersecting lines and the paper’s ability to capture soft light, describing the moment as one of ‘joyous wonder’.
Rippert’s delicate and ephemeral paper constructions invite quiet contemplation, beckoning closer examination of the fragile veils of translucent surfaces—structures that both reveal and conceal a mysterious interior world. Light is an essential part of her aesthetic, permeating and becoming embodied in the layered paper fragments. Like an archivist, Rippert methodically organises systems for the recording and cataloguing of collected fragments that resonate with memory and the enigma of consciousness.
Dance 2005 incorporates materials sourced from nature, evoking the passage of time and enticing the viewer to ponder a mysterious universe. Joint-winner of the Blake Prize for Religious Art in 2005, Rippert’s formal grid-like structured paper assemblage features a repetitive pattern of fragile flower petals methodically collected, stitched and trapped within transparent veils of glassine archival pockets. Dancing movements of light and colour reflecting from an intricate patchwork surface form a meditative pattern, alluding to a spiritual realm captured within the labyrinth of layers. Reminiscent of the mysterious world shown through the lens of a microscope, each Hydrangea petal is revealed to be delicately painted with small staring eyes. ‘The spiritual can be found in the detail of this work, in amongst the harmonious arrangement of colours and forms and the eyes through which nature here lucidly returns our gaze’.8
Rippert explores mortality in Valentine 2001, a fragile, floating shrine that reflects on the long life of her grandmother through the devotional recording of her 94 years. Over 34,000 numbers, representing the days of her life, are inscribed on translucent panels of paper to form the spine of the work’s ascending body. Its surface captures and filters light, revealing loose uneven knotted threads from behind the translucent layers. Infused with memory, Valentine reminds us that our own life is finite. Created in anticipation and finally in celebration of the birth of Rippert’s daughter, Pink Bindu/Eva’s Circle 2007 is a beautiful and rich cosmic fusion of colour, uneven texture and rhythmic pattern, evocative of Indian textiles woven in silk and silver thread. Shiny pink, red and silver threads are intricately stitched, shaped and arranged in a circular, radiating mandala to ‘express notions of time and of meditative watching’.9 Our eye is drawn into a central point of meditation or “still point of the bindu”, said to be the source from which all energy is derived, and to which it ultimately returns. Upon closer inspection, we observe miniscule pencilled numbers methodically inscribed at precise points around each circle’s circumference, inducing powerful states of wonder.
An intricate “braille” pattern or scripture of thousands of repeated numbers is deeply embedded into the patinated celestial surface of the installation Direction of a Circle 2002, stimulating a rich tactile experience. A sensorial approach is required to uncode the language and assist in reading or navigating the direction of the vessel’s circle formation as the title suggests. Reminiscent of archaeological notations, we are invited to decode the secrets and cryptic numbering systems contained within.
Recording 2008 draws us into the glittering intricate textured surface of aluminium gilt and silver leaf. Repetitive stitched numerical sequences in mirror image encourage an exploration of the rich layered textural qualities inherent in the material. Both the numbers and intervals between each expansion are measured and calculated, reminders of a mathematical order and the measuring of time or memory through the mind’s recording of experience.
Rippert’s meditative offerings invite quiet contemplation and provide rich territory in which to investigate spiritual and scientific realms and discover ‘the mystery of what lies beyond’.10
Diane Soumilas, September 2008
Originally published in Louise Rippert:Trace, Deakin University 2008