When joy leaves

A few years back I experienced an extraordinary sensation.  I was in a yoga class and at some stage I had a powerful feeling of joy leaving me. I could feel it and almost see it, watch it leaving the room. I felt bereft.  It’s not unusual to have strong emotional experiences in yoga; some poses, especially deep back bends, open the heart, others open the hips, where lots of emotions are stored. In ancient Indian philosophy  (especially Kundalini and Ayurveda) there is a belief that there are energy centers within the human body – chakras – that help to regulate all its processes, from organ function to the immune system and emotions.  There are yoga poses associated with these chakras and many yoga teachers use these poses to work with chakras: to balance and align.

I haven’t been a believer in chakras.  I’m not a spiritual person.  Yoga was for me a form of physical exercise which eventually became something more powerful; I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it was spiritual, but it certainly made me feel much better –  less anxious, calmer, happier, better.  I always marvelled (and still do) that no matter how I felt and what my intention was for going to a yoga class, somehow I always came out feeling like I got exactly what I needed – and this is contrary to what I thought I was after. I would always walk out more energised, smiling, grateful for the class.  

So having this experience of being abandoned by joy has felt devastating.  This was some 2 years ago and I still have this sensation that joy got up and left and hasn’t yet returned.  I miss joy.


A note on chakras:
There are 7 chakras positioned throughout the body, from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Each chakra has its own vibrational frequency, that is depicted through a specific chakra color, and governs specific functions:

  • Red is the color of the root chakra (first chakra); it’s located at the perineum, the base of your spine.  It symbolises safety, survival, grounding, nourishment from the Earth energy. Its function is concerned with earthly grounding and physical survival. 
  • Orange is the color of the sacral chakra (second chakra); it carries meanings associated with emotions, creativity, sexuality, and is associated with water, flow.
  • Yellow is the color of the solar plexus chakra (third chakra) and symbolises mental activities, intellect, personal power, will.
  • Green is the color of the heart chakra (fourth chakra) which is connected with love, relating, integration, compassion.
  •  Blue is the color of the throat chakra (fifth chakra); it symbolises self expression, expression of truth, creative expression, communication, perfect form and patterns.
  • Purple (or deep indigo blue) is the color of the third eye chakra (sixth chakra) which evokes intuition, extrasensory perception, inner wisdom.
  •  White is the color of the crown chakra (seventh chakra) and is associated with the universal, connection with spirituality, consciousness.


Gerhard Richter: The Life of Images

If you don’t know who Gerhard Richter is, you’re probably not alone.  He is considered to be one of the greatest artists of out time, having had extensive exhibitions at both the Tate and the Pompidou yet he has been glaringly absent from any collections in Australia.  This exhibition at QAGOMA is a first for Australia, and a real coup.

Richters oeuvre is prolific and stylistically varied: “I like everything that has no style: dictionaries, photographs, nature, myself and my paintings,” he says.  His artwork references other historical images and he often makes use of photographs, distorting them to create something entirely new. Birkenau (2014) consists of 4 large panels which seem to be completely abstract – black, white, green and red paint over a grey background.  But in fact these are based on photographs taken in secret by a Jewish prisoner in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in August 1944. Richter took copies of the photos, blew them up and painted over them again and again until they appeared to be monumental abstracts.  

Elsewhere, Richter creates works of art using the twin mediums of photograph and paint to present the viewer with a conundrum:  deliberate defacing of photographs or a merging of visual forms to create a new way image? In the “Overpainted Photographs”, Richter smears oil paint over commercially printed post-card sized photographs. The paint is then pressed or scraped or lifted to give various effects. The photographs are just legible beyond the paint. You can just make out the scene below the paint: a beach, a new mother,  a familiar landmark or monument.  It’s an interesting artistic device: we peer to identify what’s below the paint and once having identified the image we return to regard the paint and the image as a whole.  An entirely other work of art.

His work is both illusory and painterly. Richter is a master painter – his still-life paintings are almost photographic – photo-realist – but what I found more interesting are the photographic-like portraits that he then blurrs, sometimes only slightly, other times more severely.  He uses a kitchen squeegee to move the paint over the canvas once its almost dry, thereby keeping the image intact.

Among the artworks on show at QAGOMA are the iconic portraits Reader (804) 1994 and Ella (903-1) 2007, still-life paintings including Two candles (499-4) 1982 and Orchid (848-9) 1997, and the evocative landscapes such as Meadowland (572-4) 1985 that evokes German Romantic painting. 


There is also a long gallery devoted to  ATLAS Overview, an extensive 400-panel extract from Richter’s encyclopaedic archival project ATLAS 1962 –  an ongoing collection of photographs, sketches, collages and cuttings that he has drawn on for his paintings throughout his career.  Richter personally nominated and arranged the selection of these images on display at GOMA.

It is a show that needs multiple viewings.  Fortunately it runs through till 4 February 2018.  I highly recommend spending some hours with these incredibly fascinating works.