I first met Rinpoche through various friends who attended Jampa Ling from late 1990s. Then again in 2002, when I brought the remarkable Chinese artist Chen ZhongSen to Ireland for a series of performances & exhibitions, who I had encountered through various explorations into Taoism and Tai Ji. ZhongSen is renowned as painter, calligrapher and for his almost ‘super-human’ micro carvings of Buddhist texts, images and poems made in focused meditation with eyes closed. Works such as The Diamond Sutra contains thousands of characters carved on Shou Shan stone measuring just 40 x 50 mm, can be seen in the collection of The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. He is most famed for a work “Two poems on a hair”, which is literally that, two poems carved into a single hair of his wife’s head.
Rinpoche attended the exhibition we presented at The Model in Sligo and met ZhongSen (a practicing Buddhist in the same tradition), and they instantly recognised something in each other – beyond my understanding. Rinpoche invited us to Jampa ling for a most memorable lunch. Although not a regular attendee at Jampa Ling, nor a practicing Buddhist, I have always felt a strong connection and good will toward the place and teaching.
A few years later in 2006, I wrote and asked Rinpoche if he would come to my studio and sit for me for a painting. I had been working for many years on a type of portraiture based on the direct encounter, painting only the sitter is present, and responding as best as I can to living presence. He generously agreed to give me a week to work, without really knowing what it was all about, arriving to the studio each day. At the time I offered that any proceeds of future sales would have an agreed percentage to support Rinpoche’s charitable endeavours. This has happened on the odd occasion I have had the opportunity to exhibit or sell a work from our encounter.
The intensity of the week’s work , I think took both of us by surprise. Rinpoche had just returned from the USA and was a little tired initially, but as I began to work, the focused nature of our meeting became manifest with what felt like an extraordinary transfusion of vital energy that stayed with me for many months after. I painted freely, and memorably on the second morning two birds flew into the studio and circled us for a few hours, before departing at the end of work as auspiciously as they had arrived. I made nine pieces of work (watercolours) from the smallest scale to two life-size pieces (152 x 122 cm) and a monumental oil on linen (204 x 183 cm). I showed a few of the works in an exhibition in 2007 “Standing, sitting, lying”. Several of the pieces are now on display in the Centre at Jampa Ling.
About Nick Miller
Nick Miller (b 1962, London) moved to Ireland in 1984, working in first in Co Clare, then Dublin. He moved west to Co Sligo, where he has been based since 1992. Miller pursues different genres and modes of working that allow direct engagement with subjects: portraits, landscape or object. His work focuses on addressing that encounter. One of Ireland’s leading contemporary painters, he is the recent recipient of the 2014 Inaugural Hennessy Portrait Award. He has exhibited widely in Ireland and internationally including solo shows at IMMA and the RHA. His work is held in many major collections including the Irish Museum of Modern Art, The National Gallery of Ireland and The Hugh Lane, Dublin City Gallery.