Om at the Waterfront

Art is meditation, and vice versa, for artist John Duckworth. In his riveting show Awake, he implores viewers to do much more than "view." Do yourself a favor: show up.


It's that time of year already—barely even mid-November and the holiday "rush" is on. Catalogues clog the mail, cheap decorations clutter up stores, and the mind cranks it up a notch or two to try to process it all (the shopping lists, the budget crunch, the endless to-dos...), on top of already overloaded circuits. Just in time, artist John Duckworth reminds us that there's an alternative.



Duckworth has created much more than an exhibit with AWAKE, which opened Friday at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park. He's presented us with a journey, an interactive, immersive invitation into another realm, where we step out of the mundane, out of the habitual motions of our daily routines, and into a contemplative space, where the mind (your mind, my mind, all fuzzy and chaotic) is the true art object, and Duckworth's creations—serene digitized landscape abstractions, glaring and intense Buddha's layered and tattooed with graphics and images—become a mirror for consciousness. Sound heady and ambitious? It is. Sound cool and appealing? You bet.






To be sure there, is stunning visual beauty in Duckworth's creations. Marsh horizons blur in tonal harmonies of emerald and lapis. The familiar Buddha head becomes a blank canvas for elegant graphic designs—some peaceful and golden-hued, some dark and harrowing—all balanced and honed, presented in a drumbeat-like repetion that is effective aesthetically and spiritually, if you will. Speaking of drumbeat, the show incorporates audio artistry as well, featuring accompanying soundtracks by Duncan Sheik, Quentin Baxter and Lee Barbour. "Awakeners" (that's you, exhibit goers) wear headphones that serve both as guide and shroud, inviting you to tune out the outside world and tune into another channel.

                                                                                          One As All by John Duckworth


I plan to go back a few times, to soak it all in. I particulalry want to re-watch the 12-minute introductory video—a film featuing trains, busy streets, Duckworth in various stages of body paint, wandering through vacuous buildings (1600 Meeting Street stars!), in and out of doorways—a brilliant extended metaphor for the "monkey mind" that a disciplined practice of mediation seeks to lasso in. At least it has for Duckworth, who boldly and honestly shares his own soul searchings and spiritual journeys with all of us. His limber imagination and creative engine has been invigorated by his meditation and yoga-infused personal awakening. It's palpable, especially when Duckworth is on-site meditating in front of the video. Try, if you can, to visit during one of these times when the artist will be either actively meditating or at the gallery:


Wednesday, Nov. 12: 12–5.30 p.m. (artist present 3–6 p.m.)

Thursday, Nov. 13: 10 a.m.–6 p.m. (artist present 2–6 p.m.)

Friday, Nov. 14: 10 a.m.–6 p.m. (artist present 10 a.m.–2 p.m.)

Saturday, Nov. 15: 12–5 p.m. 

Sunday, Nov. 16: 12–5 p.m. 


There are other opportunities to learn more about Duckworth's journey that led to AWAKE, including a Gibbes-sponsored gallery talk this Wednesday, November 12 at 6 p.m., with Society 1858: An Evening with John Duckworth (purchase a ticket here:, and a Mission Yoga/Dharma Talk with Kelly Jean Moore on Thursday, December 4th at 5.30 p.m. at the City Gallery ($25). Visit for more information.


(photos by Stewart Young)