Where does the word “ice” resonate within you? What is your felt sense when you let it ring in, when you breathe it in?
I have heard it mentioned a few times by clients during a craniosacral session. “I am freezing suddenly”, “there’s an ice-cold vibration travelling up my spine”… The qualities of the tone that carried these reactions were diverse: surprise, fear, curiosity, annoyance, neutral absence.
I have felt it too during a cranio session a few days after receiving a blow in the chest that literally immobilised my breathing and shocked the whole area. I did not feel cold then just great pain: it was as if someone had inserted a solid cube of pain inside my sternum.
The safe craniosacral holding gradually shifted this tightly held block and an ice-cold current began to flow from my chest, my brainstem and down my left leg, it was an incredible sensation tainted with sadness, awe and relieving, loving surrender.
Now look at the image above. How does it make you feel?
This is a piece called Natural Law by Loeum Lorn, a Cambodian artist from Battambang, a town in the North West of the country, not too far (about 100 km) from the Thai border.
I was wandering in its warm and relatively still streets one evening when I stumbled upon a group of about 4-5 people projecting photographs onto a wall. I started to chat with them, they were so friendly and so welcoming of my curiosity. They explained they were preparing for the forthcoming re-launch of an art gallery. I came back the next day to visit it and found Tep Kao Sol, Loeum Lorn’s exhibition space.
I was struck by how his paintings made me feel, how images of the spine, midlines, and lungs sprung in my mind’s eye when I looked at them. They were so alive and moving (in both meanings of the word).
I had no idea what they were about but they were talking to my heart, my brain and my gut; to my physical and emotional body.
I looked for a blurb and found a short note which further teased my fascination:
“Ice is intrinsically linked to the spiritual path of my life. It express and nourish each other permanently.
Discover the photos of Loeum Lorn whose work relies on the use of ice as a way to make a bond between his art, spirituality and meditation ”
I was astounded and had a “wow… ahaaaa" moment. I took pictures and did some further research online.
Loeum Lorn was 11 when he and his parents fled the battleground between the Red Khmers and government forces and hid in a forest near the Thai border.
He remembers how terribly cold he felt: “We were so scared…It was sometime in December; the weather was quite cold and we were freezing,” he recalls ( The Cambodian Daily, April 9th 2012)
Just like my “cube of pain”, Loeum’s “freezing” experience stayed within him until he was ready to heal. Shortly after graduating from art school in Battambang, he was asked to exhibit at the Institut Français in Phnom Penh and chose to paint a kid surrounded by a block of ice: “I wanted to tell the audience that the kid was so cold and scared being surrounded by a cold environment.”
He did not know how to paint it at first so he worked with a block of ice. He used ice as his canvas, highlighted its patterns with colours and surrendered to its texture, its rhythms, its flow. He hasn’t stopped working with it since.
“The operation of moving quickly, and of working through the continual shifting and changing of the previous layers of paint against a melting canvas, forces Lorn to relinquish his sense of control over the medium he is attempting to wield and to give in and embrace the effects of the paints’ reaction against the melting ice; the motions of applying the paint are as much the artwork as the final photograph we see before us.” ( see https://roots.sg/Roots/learn/collections/listing/1344813)
Loeum says, “Ice is really fascinating. It creates thousands of movements and colours when I apply ink, watercolour, or dry colour on it. When it melts, it forms patterns. There is something unique and special about ice.” (The Cambodia Daily, 9 April 2012)
“Some days I did not get a single good shot of the melting ice. Since it is a natural process, I do not control any stage of the melting process,” he says. “My work is a continuing flow. If I don’t observe closely, I will lose the chance to capture the moment.” (The Khmer Times, December 19th, 2014)
This surrendering lets the expression of clear patterns arise, transmuting them and dissolving them as the ice keeps on melting. It is so beautifully like what happens during a craniosacral session.
The artist sees in his art a reflection of the impermanence and constant flux of life itself as seen through the prism of Buddhism. “My photographs are what’s left behind, like a memory,” he suggests, “and this I think is the connection between my work and the dharma” ( https://roots.sg/Roots/learn/collections/listing/1344813)
Dharma refers to “the eternal and inherent nature of reality (…)” (Oxford dictionary).
As craniosacral therapists we work with the memories left behind by life events on our paths and we trust Life's Intelligence to transform them.
Loeum called the painting above Beauty Emerging: isn’t it the most gorgeous evocation of a glowing, translucent midline with patterns of varying densities? The more I look at it, the more I connect with a sacred stillness within me, the source of all that is and ever will be: the Dharma, the Natural Law and the Breath of Life all at once, all one.
Loeum Lorn first launched his solo show in 2012 in Phnom Penh, he was 29. It has shown in Battambang, Siem Reap, France and the USA.
He called it Yesterday, No More.