“The Quiet Thread”

Gaby Berglund Cardenas

Gaby Berglund Cárdenas works in several media and her work often involves depictions of the female body in various forms, serving as metaphors for social inequities with regard to gender.

While studying Buddhist philosophy in Asia, Cárdenas started creating lengthy handwritten calligraphy scrolls as part of her meditative practice. She soon started transforming objects and making installations with the scrolls. It was the morning ritual after long walks in the forest in Busan and the repetitive process involving writing, sewing and assemblage – similar to saying a mantra or a prayer – that gave birth to this series: “The Quiet Thread”.

“The Quiet Thread” was curated by Sabine Casparie and it consists of scrolls, artists’ books, sculptures and installations exploring the role that art can play in bringing to light the power of “mindfulness”. Cárdenas uses Nepalese paper, Japanese ink, thread and Swedish antique sewing and weaving tools that she collected in her trips between 2014 and 2018.

For Cárdenas, the process of slow stitching has the power of restoration, sewing the past, reconnecting with her mother, who used to sew her dresses as a child.  Cárdenas’ repetitive handwriting process, meanwhile, is reminiscent of the Zen Buddhist monks, who in the sixth century started drawing Ensō circles after their meditation practice. The circles symbolized the state of mind of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of imperfection as perfect. Cárdenas creates her own ritual with a strong belief that stillness, structure and repetition are what keep us whole.

For thousands of years, Buddhist monks have used meditation to obtain a transcendental experience on the path to enlightenment. More recently, physicians have clinically employed meditation to successfully help treat disorders like depression, anxiety, addictions, and chronic pain. Cárdenas’ Prescriptions series explores the benefits of mindfulness, the role art can play in raising awareness about the value of mindfulness in health treatments and how art can be used to heal and express experiences of illness. We need to talk about pain raises awareness of how addictions often originate in pain; the question is not ‘Why the addiction?’ but – ‘Why the pain?’ Other works explore the power of breathing and meditation in self-healing, such as Finding her lower Dantian (下丹田, Xià Dāntián).

Through Girl Rising, Woman Rising, Migrant books and Los Inmigrantes (The Immigrants) Cárdenas brings awareness of two important issues for social change today: women and migrants. The works explore how social change can be benefited by “mindful activism”: staying grounded when participating in peaceful resistance.

For Cárdenas, “The Quiet Thread” is a natural consequence of her spiritual journey which started in Asia and continues in Houston today.

Cárdenas,  is an international multi-disciplinary artist whose work straddles disparate worlds — Houston, where she currently lives as an expat; her birthplace of Ecuador, where her family lives; Sweden, where her new home is; and South Korea, which has influenced her spirit after living there for about nine years. Through her art, she addresses the human condition, the female body and the realms of spirituality. Her work spans mediums from paintings and printmaking to installation, textiles and artist’s books. Cárdenas works from her studio in Houston and is a member of PrintMatters. She also is represented by Grafik i Väst in Gothenburg, Sweden.

For more than 50 years, The Jung Center has served as a nonprofit resource offering dynamic and compelling classes – “continuing education for the human spirit” – on a diverse range of psychological, artistic, and intellectual topics.

The Jung Center’s building was originally designed as an art gallery and mounts approximately nine exhibits of work by both established and emerging artists each year. The Jung Center is an active member of the Houston Museum District. Admission to the gallery and opening receptions is free and open to the public.

This exhibit will be on display February 2-27, 2018 at the Jung Center, 5200 Montrose Blvd. The public is invited to a gallery reception Saturday, February 2, 5-7 pm and to a pop-up installation/performance Saturday, February 23, 2-3 pm.