Birds of peace

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A selection of Sri Chinmoy’s bird paintings comes to Perth, writes GRAHAK CUNNINGHAM

Sri Chinmoy painting

In celebration of Sri Chinmoy’s 50th anniversary of his arrival from his native India to the west via New York on April 13th 1964, a selection of his Soul Bird paintings was hosted by Western Australia’s Joondalup Gallery for the month of May. The art which is on loan from Sri Chinmoy’s New York collection, was framed locally in Western Australia and has been touring throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007) was most well known as a spiritual master, athlete, poet, musician and ambassador for world peace and but he was also a prolific painter.

He chose birds as his main artistic motif because of the inspiration they gave him.

“The caged bird,” he said, “is crying for freedom. The uncaged bird is striving for peace”.

Sri Chinmoy learnt to meditate for up to eight hours a day when he was still a child and he applied this skill when drawing and painting. His bird paintings were created in these meditative moments and aimed to distill a sense of inner peace in the viewer. He drew over 16 million in his lifetime and called them Soul Birds, in reference to the spiritual dimension of the birds which he appreciated so much.

Officially opened by Joondalup Mayor Troy Pickard and attended by the City of Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts, the opening ceremony of the Soul Bird exhibition at Joondalup Gallery consisted of poetry, food, music and stirring speeches. “Sri Chinmoy’s art has previously been exhibited at Parliament House Canberra, the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Carousel De Louvre in Paris and now the Joondalup Gallery,” commented Mayor Pickard. “I commend the Joondalup Arts Community for securing such a prestigious exhibition”.

Mayor Tracey Roberts was equally moved by the exhibition and explained her love all art and the effects of this exhibit.

“I am sure everyone here has found that sense of peace. Looking at the artwork here today, the peace you feel in the Soul Birds is so important for all us when we live such hectic lifestyles. It is a very simple message. When you want to project a very clear message, a simple image is the most powerful”.

“It is wonderful to have two mayors here supporting uplifting art and the concept of peace” said curator Vidagdha Bennett who has been involved in several of Sri Chinmoy’s overseas exhibitions. “Sri Chinmoy always promoted the feeling of oneness in the world and the flocks of birds he painted represent this world family. World peace really depends on all of us”.

Many world leaders have commented on Sri Chinmoy’s art and even become unintentional owners of original bird drawings as Sri Chinmoy used to decorate letters of correspondence to his peace server friends with Soul Birds. Said Nelson Mandela, “Within each of us lies the power to build a world where we respect each other’s beliefs, understand each other’s culture and support each other’s values – a world where hatred, pain and suffering have no place. This is the great cause of world peace to which my dear friend Sri Chinmoy devoted his life and to which his paintings are dedicated”.

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