River Oaks Square Arts Center Presents “In Search of Balance”
Posted July 2012
This mid-summer exhibit of a collaboration between Maria Manemann and Martha Whatley, resident artists of River Oaks Square Art Center, explores the meeting point between the age old metaphysics of Feng Shui and contemporary art in a series of paintings and ceramics.
Feng Shui literally means “Wind and Water”, referring to the many ways these two natural forces shape the world around us. To people of Chinese origin all over the world, Feng Shui is a practice that blends ancient wisdom with cultural tradition, a body of knowledge that lays down guidelines for life’s different situations. Based on living in harmony with the natural world, it has been applied for the improvement and well being of both the individual and society at large. Whether in the office or in the home, Feng Shui promises a life of meaningful abundance.
Feng Shui is not considered a belief system. Instead, it is a science based on the ancient Chinese view of the universe and how it explains the forces that shape it. Moreover, it is only part of the whole body of Chinese traditional knowledge, and is described in symbols—animals, the natural elements, the directions on a compass—that are relevant to the Chinese cultural context. This can make it hard for non-Chinese to understand what exactly is being represented by those symbols.
It is these symbols that are the subject of “In Search of Balance”. Much of Feng Shui involves making sure that the natural forces represented by these symbols are in right proportion with one another. Not too much of one or too little of the other. When natural energies are neither stagnant nor moving too fast, harmony is achieved and good luck lingers. The right element in the right compass direction with the right animal results in the enhancement of the life aspiration being represented. The combinations and possibilities of both auspicious and inauspicious Feng Shui are almost endless, and can get complicated. Not only that, but different master practitioners can have differing opinions. Maria and Martha hope to demonstrate some of the fundamental concepts in their art while learning about them, and with any luck teaching them to others.
“For me,” Maria says, “Feng Shui bears some striking resemblances to both the design concepts and principles I learned in college and reading I have done on Karl Jung’s theory of archetypes. For example, having one shape at right angles to but not quite touching another creates visual tension. In Feng Shui, similar features are called ‘poison arrows’ and are something that brings bad luck, and are to be avoided or mitigated. Karl Jung’s theory says that various animal and mythological creatures featured in art and dreams represent various aspects of the human psyche and are pretty universal, regardless of culture, and that in interacting with these ‘archetypes’ we come to understand ourselves and our world better. In Feng Shui, the four Celestial Animals each play a role in bringing good luck although in the wrong context they can also bring misfortune.”
“In Search of Balance,” featuring both Whatley and Manemann, will be on display in River Oaks’ Galerie des Amis from July 10th through August 18th. The Bolton-Davis Gallery will host recent works by over forty River Oaks Resident Artists in “The Annual Summer Show”. The opening reception for both exhibits is scheduled for Friday, July 13th from 5:00pm to 7:00pm. The reception is free and open to the public, with special thanks to our exhibit sponsors, Mr. and Mrs. Kyle Randall.