In April 2022, artist Peter Makela ’04 will travel to Nepal as a Fulbright Scholar. He’ll spend 10 months in the Kathmandu Valley pursuing his project, “The Radiant Emptiness of Space: Madhyamaka and Contemplative Perception,” while studying Madhyamaka philosophy at Rangjung Yeshe University, the world’s preeminent English-speaking Buddhist university.
In Nepal, Peter will integrate a deepened study of Madhyamaka into his painting practice, specifically the series of Sky Paintings that he has been working on over the past two years. Peter’s Sky Paintings series can be viewed online at www.petemakela.com
, where he’ll also be posting new work created during his Fulbright journey.
In his artist statement, Makela explains:
"I see each painting in my current body of work as explorations of Buddha Nature, impermanence, interdependence, and the illusory nature of everything.
"My current body of work of Sky Paintings which I’ve engaged in over the last year has provided me with ample opportunities to explore an intersection between perceptual painting, abstract painting and states of contemplation. The act of painting allows me to apply presence and just react to what's in front of me as well as engage in analytical meditations on questioning what is perceived and who is perceiving it. Through this process of staring at and responding to the ever changing sky I use this time to contemplate formlessness, as the sky has no form, it is pure space and luminosity just like how Vajrayana masters describe the true nature of mind. The longer I engage in this practice the more profound the experiences.
"In Vajrayana Buddhism, a reverence for lineage—expressed by devotedly studying the masters—is of the utmost importance. At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I received my BFA, I was trained to always study and revere the great painters of the past: a principle that has never left me, and that has contributed to my real veneration for and devotion to both Vajrayana and artistic masters. Painting the sky has become a way for me to engage with and honor a lineage of painting that has always been dear to me, the romantic perceptual landscape painters of the 18th and 19th centuries, JMW Turner, Boudin, Courbet, and Monet. I hope to follow in these great painters footsteps and bring this lineage of exploring nature, the mind and their interdependence into the 21st century."