Finding the Spirit of Zen in Windows and Calligraphy
Perhaps the greatest challenge a contemporary artist faces is how to be creative, yet remain innovative too.
By observing an artist’s body of work, over time the evolution of techniques, expressive styles, the exploration of media and the investigation and development of the artist’s ideas can be easily seen.
However, when an artist, like in the case of Peter Dittmar, chooses to express himself within a very rigid format, innovation can become problematic.
Dittmar’s latest exhibition, “New Color Windows and Calligraphy” is currently on display at the Tonyraka Art Gallery in Ubud. The creative theme of the exhibition is his five-year spiritual quest after practicing Zen, calligraphy and abstraction for more than 17 years.
“I have set the boundaries of my ‘Color Windows’ within the tight format of the square. I then have had to research and discover what it is that I can accomplish within this format,” Dittmar said.
“In the basic formula of the composition I place a square within squares because I want the observer to be led to the center of [the] painting and to eventually arrive at a place of their own inner contemplation. The idea is to give the viewer a taste of tranquility and stillness, similar to the Buddhist expression of the mandala.
“My ‘Color Windows’ I see as a metaphor, a window giving sight and pointing towards the unknown and the non-expressible. The center is an empty space which is symbolic of the void.”
Dittmar adopts the core aesthetic elements that were the fundamentals in the early 20th century to the pioneers of the abstraction movement, who were captivated by mystical and philosophical ideologies. The crux of abstract/non-representational art is the exploration of the essence that exists beyond the object. His paintings are examinations of color, geometric abstract minimalism, texture and calligraphy.
“I studied Western traditions and techniques of painting, however I see myself as a contemporary artist who is influenced by the Eastern philosophy of Zen and its related theory of aesthetics,” he said.
“My inspiration comes from my spiritual journey and my attraction to Eastern wisdoms that state that via personal introspection clues are revealed to the mysterious nature of the universe.”
Born in Munich, Germany, in 1945, Dittmar divides his time living and working between Bali, Sydney and Munich. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and was an art teacher in public schools, colleges and universities in Munich, Jakarta and Para, Brazil, collectively for 14 years. He first came to Bali in 1982 and after many years of exploring the landscape genre he created his first abstract painting in Bali.
“Last year I felt the desire to break free from my format, and this has led to investigations into the size and shape of the works utilizing both the rectangle and the wave,” Dittmar said.
Dittmar has previously explored the shape of the circle in a series of paintings in the Japanese Zen tradition of the enso, the symbol of the universe and universal harmony.
His current exhibition includes three round works in which he has deliberately intensified the surface textures and experimented with the focal points.
“Electronic Color Window #1, 2012 Bali” is perhaps Dittmar’s most experimental work to date. Here, he enhances the contemplative qualities of his format by including an electric light positioned at the back of the principal central window.
“In my search to be more innovative I discovered that light would be a very interesting element to introduce into my composition,” he said.
Dittmar has fixed a three-dimensional metal component into the focal square with a light mounted behind. The pulsing and alternating light changes the color of the painting and intensifies its alluring qualities.
Several of Dittmar’s works feature calligraphy that expresses raw power captured in the moment via the rapid delivery of the brush stroke. The whirling presence of the calligraphy, at times surrounding the inner window, presents another contrast within the dynamics of the paintings.
He also presents older works in this exhibition that date back to 1995 to allow a glimpse at his artistic development.
New Color Windows and Calligraphy
Through Jan. 27
Tonyraka Art Gallery
Jalan Raya Mas, Ubud, Bali
Tel. 0361 781 6785