Brian Hinman – “Yin yoga shut my brain off.”
My art has been significantly impacted by my yoga practice. It comes back to having been fortunate enough to learn this Yin element that comes from listening. So often in our day-to-day lives as productive capitalists in American society, we confront challenges and meet deadlines and accommodate certain elements of bureaucracy such that we can continue to live our lives.
What generates our wages and our value is this ability to meet problems and overcome obstacles and push things forward. All of that comes from the active energy of doing. When you’re doing, all the communication is going from your brain to your body.
If you’re talking to your hand or to your feet like, “I’ve got to walk or I’ve got to grab this, I got to type these things.” This is an ascending experience and there’s no cerebral receiving involved.
Yin yoga shut my brain off enough so that I could let my body talk to my head for a change and listen to what my body is asking for. The idea that your body is always communicating with you is really important.
People end up with sore shoulders from sitting undisturbed at their computers all day. They have learned to completely ignore that their shoulders are tense or their lower back is hunched over. They are too focused on other things to hear their bodies complain. They end up with all these problems later in their life. It’s certainly not ideal.
Yin yoga showed me how to really listen to my body and that is how yoga is tied into my art. When I make certain art processes, I want to have as little of my brain involved as possible. I want to be available to just listen to some intuitive response to what my art should turn into. I want to allow my body to move quickly enough so my head doesn’t get in the way to judge the gesture.
I have an art process that I use that allows me to make an art piece in between 5 to 25 minutes. Every brush stroke I make has to be really decisive and quick. I’m inventing a really physical thing. With yoga, the practice is responding with a physical honesty about how something feels, not from a mental place but from more of a heart place. It allows me to make artwork that more honestly represents something outside of my personal critical judgment.
I was fortunate to have a residency in China at the Si Shang Art Museum. I had to make art all day every day for six months. My art process goes back to listening and is really precise and rigid and focused around self-control. I enjoyed the meditative stillness of it. I enjoyed the opposite of being in a hurry. I enjoyed the presence and ease that it gave me.
I would listen to music or an audiobook and just be still with this art piece. It was precise and geometric and black and white but I sat still and my body was hunched over and was ergonomically not ideal. My body began to complain because I was spending 10 to 12 hours a day sitting still. Physically, that got uncomfortable. It was too much. This whole sense of restlessness of staying still started to shout out at me.
At the same time, I had explored the idea about how to incorporate my body more in the art that I make and how to incorporate a performance element, like a video worthy element of how the art is made.
I posed to myself certain questions; “What would happen if I put my canvas on the wall and then didn’t allow myself to get any closer to it than the free throw line of a basketball court? What if I have just a line between the canvas and me? How can I make art on that?”
There were processes where I would say, “What would happen if I put a piece of canvas 10 feet high on the wall where the backboard of the basketball would be and I had to figure out how to paint that and make art on that canvas? What if I was on a second story balcony and making art that was on the floor below me?”
These were methods to completely shake up my approach to art creation. It was a brand new context and it was really liberating to not have the centuries and millennia of art history to precedent what a painting of that sort should look like.
Had I not had the presence to listen to my body complain during the first two years when I was sitting still doing black and white work, if I hadn’t been able to hear my body ask for something vigorous, more fully expressed, ask for something that didn’t come from my mind but came from my impulsiveness and came from my animal, irrational self, I would not have had the clarity to realize that I had this whole control element.
That is what these super precise black and white art pieces were about. This whole out of control expressive “paint things like this” that part of my body wanted to release and let loose. I really wouldn’t have been able to recognize that I needed something physical. That I needed something that felt vigorous and fully expressive, artistically speaking, without yin yoga. I needed to be able listen to my body.
I started to make a series where I put a 12-foot trampoline in the corner of a room. I had a canvas on a basketball hoop coming out off the wall and I started to paint while jumping through the air on a 12-foot trampoline. It was absolutely ridiculous but it was perfectly liberating and perfectly fun and perfectly carefree and childish.
It’s impossible to take yourself seriously when you’re doing that so it completely freed me up creatively to experiment and risk and just give new things a go every day. Every approach to the piece became brand new. All that, again, blossomed out of just simply hearing my body cry out for a creative process that was physical.
I credit yoga for allowing me to hear that.
1st part of The Yoga Blog interview series with Brian Hinman in Del Mar, CA.
Interviewed by Hung Tran
Photo credit: Brian Hinman. Art by Brian Hinman