with Chi – Life Energy
Sound-making and Drawing
by Kathleen Houston
I remember the first time I heard a Tibetan singing bowl.
That sound awakened something inside of me, like a kinship
that belonged in my repertoire of sound-making interests,
to become a part of my creative process of art-making and
healing work. I had no idea how that sound would change me
and become a part of my life, or that I had to have a singing
bowl before I left Montreal six years ago, or that I would
do healing work with them, do visualizations and sound offerings,
and be part of ritual or a creative process with my students.
That moment was an invitation to something. Perhaps there
are many moments like that in a life, when who you were before,
and who you became after, are different.
I became interested in chi - life energy. It is in me and
in you, and in the environment, which for me was a great
discovery about resonance. Oddly enough, chi is especially
obvious with sound work. The practice of chi gong helped
me connect sound-making and energy work with drawing, and
also influenced my video work.
I learned how health and healing and art are connected
to the environment. First I began with making art that connected
me to the earth, and the earth connected me to earth medicine
and drumming, and all that connected me to the symbolic and
spiritual side of things. Then I got very sick doing printmaking
and casting with resin at the University of Quebec in Montreal
during my bachelor program. I had become environmentally
sensitive. It was gruesome. My body was retaliating, big
time!—a life-changing experience.
I learned the hard way that my health is profoundly connected
to what is around me. My life upon arriving in Prince Albert,
Saskatchewan, initiated a lot of changes and my health improved.
I have become quite connected to the river here, and the
forest at Little Red, and to the sky. I recall my fear about
how my art practice would change once I left Montreal, but
it just evolved along with the new things here. I even became
healthy enough to have my daughter at 41, with the council
of my acupuncturist in Montreal to take Chinese herbs to
support my process. Other healing tools presented themselves
to me: the environment, shamanic work, sound work, and detoxifying
from Montreal life. I am blessed with a supportive husband
and healthy daughter.
We are vibrational
we respond to sound and imagery
all the time.
I took a ground-breaking voice workshop in Montreal, lead
by jazz vocalist Patricia Pope. For the first time I experienced
my voice in an empowering, non-judgmental way. I learned
Egyptian vowel chanting and I lead a workshop at a drumming
circle. I watched how others adapted the vowel chanting for
themselves, for focus and healing. The vocal workshop opened
up my voice, except I burned it out a little by impersonating
fire. We were working in groups of four and each of us sang
as an element. I got into the leaping flames of the fire
and for me there are no half measures! My voice was opened
up. Another defining moment.
Sound-making, singing, and drawing are for anyone, not
just the gifted or trained, though for them it can open up
awareness. For someone like me, finding my voice was extraordinary.
Feeling where sound resonates inside the body makes the experience
meaningful and energizing. Doing drawings brings the work
to another level.
An important experience opened me to the possibilities
of visualization. During a night fast in the hoodoos of Writing
on Stone Provincial Park, in southern Alberta, I received
a spontaneous visualization. I found a special place where
I sat with my candle and sage, the sky open above me and
a sense of darkness silhouetted the stone shapes around me.
My eyes were wide open. It was like a time-lapse movie that
showed me the sculpting of the stone structures over time.
Lots of water...remember, in the beginning there was too
much water. The imagery was a creation myth about emergence.
I started using words in my drawings, to symbolically bridge
the visualization experiences with the landscape. In my video, Breath,
I used Egyptian vowel chanting to create a sound space for
the art work imagery in the hoodoos.
I discovered how sound and images are very powerful partners.
We are vibrational beings and we respond to sound and imagery
all the time. A focussed intent allows us to isolate sounds
and select what works best for well-being. When a group shares
a sound, for example, the vowel “Ahhh”, the energy
and synergy is quite incredible. You have the sound you are
making, the group sound, and the energy of the circle, all
resonating in your being. When people experience the grounded
sound of the drum, the focus of the Tibetan Singing bowl,
or the resonance of their voice in different parts of their
body, an awareness settles in, energies are boosted, stories
are shared, we laugh and enjoy ourselves. People bring their
own experience to the work, and a community grows.
Kathleen Houston, a visual artist
for 21 years, has exhibited in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan,
and France. Her work in celtic shamanism and healing with
sound has converged over the last nine years with her art
practice. Presently she is in the Mentorship Program organised
by CARFAC with a focus on digital video and sound work with
video artist, Terry Billings. She practices chi gong for
her health and well-being and, as an avid star-gazer, enjoys
connecting to the cosmos. She welcomes comments by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or
phone (306) 922-8836.