VIS270 Activity 1.3: Zen Lonely

Zen Lonely
small sculpture
60cm x 50 cm
cushion, stone, cling wrap, plastic straws, fly mesh, fishing line, chicken wire

Loneliness has a stigma attached to it. If one admits to being lonely, often reflected is a sense of it being your own fault, that loneliness is a result of some choice or mistake. I wanted to challenge this in Zen Lonely: the experience of feeling unseen has less to do with circumstance and lack of relationship and more to do with how we live. There’s a tendency toward self protection, we put up barriers and keep others out with layers of plastic, screens, avoidance and defence all while keeping ourselves caged, held in and kept safe by the modern trappings of security.

This series of found objects and how they are arranged expresses my personal experience of loneliness – I am on the outside looking in but I can’t get through to connect, there’s too many barricades. Unlike people, where deeper motivations of protection, fears and psychological structures are usually hidden, the sculpture makes those walls visible – each layer is transparent. We can see through the external, denser chicken wire to the more flexible fly mesh beneath then through the soft plastic shield protecting the figure within.

Another meaning also evident is an exploration into the paradox of the need for both freedom and security. The stones within are relocatable and rearrangeable. The meditation cushion they sit on can be shifted. Yes, the dedication to stability and protection can create loneliness but a lifetime devoted to freedom, travel and the spiritual quest can also lead to the same experience. Like stone, the responsibility and obligation of jobs and relationships have a weight to them that must be carried. Like stone, we are dependent on the structure of place to exist. In my efforts to move lightly through life, the safety and security of home and reliable structure has been sacrificed. And yet… just below all that motion and fear and self-protection, there’s peace, balance and strength.

“Zen Lonely” explores themes of separation and aloneness, freedom and safety. Like us, the figure within is solid and dense unlike the walls around it which are vulnerable and flimsy. Perhaps we can remake the shape of the cage we find ourselves in but we can never escape it.