“What was the appearance of your face before your ancestors were born?” This question exemplifies what Buddhists call a koan, a riddle or contradiction that cannot be resolved through reason. A meditation tool intended to upset and unbalance the mind, the koan helps the open and relaxed person in contemplation break through conceptual barriers imposed by language by conjoining ordinarily incompatible things and ideas.

I intend for my paintings and drawings to operate as visual koans, bringing attention to the inherent contradictions and incongruities of existence. By juxtaposing disparate images, I hope to create a space for the viewer to explore the fragile relationship between being and meaning and to experience a sense of wonder inspired by the temporary displacement of the latter in favor of heightened consciousness of the former. In much of my work, I use broken and severed images to speak of a sense of alienation, isolation, and loss that results from many kinds of inequalities. Color and composition are tightly controlled and rational in direct contradistinction to the apparently irrational and absurd images. Through careful interaction with these seductive incongruities, images in the paintings and drawings become abstracted, linguistic constraints dissolve.

Socially constructed meaning and egocentric consciousness have an oppressive tendency which art has the ability to transcend. Similarly, the koan, when realized, releases the mind from the confinement of local language in order to attain a higher level of lucidity. It is in such moments that one is free to see beyond the individual to the universal.

All artwork on this blog © 2019 Annelise E. Ream

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