Catrien Ross

Artist & Mystic in Japan

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An Indo Survives Dutch East Indies Life, Death and Indonesia’s Birth in Still I Dream of Java

May 15th, 20180 COMMENT

By Catrien Ross, Still I Dream of Java new book

Forty-eight hours had passed and still Oma Leimena’s coffin stood open in the sitting room. A hint of decay cloyed the moist air.

Aware of the risk, Johanna Margaretha refused to close the lid on her mother-in-law’s death. That finality would let go Oma Leimena’s body forever from the living. Until Jan could look on his grandmother’s face once again, such action was unthinkable.

“The coffin stays open, and that’s that,” Johanna declared. “We’ll all have to manage somehow. We just need to be very careful. Jan will be back soon.”

As the wife of the dead woman’s eldest son, Johanna ruled her household with unshakeable resolve. It was pointless to argue with her once her mind was set.

Leaving the doors swung open to stir the air, the family members cleaned the room with added care. The children were tasked with polishing the floor with the dregs of fresh coconut milk until the surface shone. In the tropical heat of the day they all changed clothes as often as their exhaustion allowed and at night they adjusted the shutters time and again to catch a mountain breeze. After taking turns to sit at the coffin the adults rinsed their mouths out with water and scrubbed contagion from their hands.

With the condition of Oma Leimena’s body now changing by the moment, the hope for Jan’s speedy return became an urgent prayer.

It was halfway through the dry season, the period of the southeast monsoon.

Cooler mists from the hills granted a respite from daytime temperatures and in the afternoons a thunderclap might crack in the darkened sky, bringing a short outburst of warm rain. To the east the volcanic core of Mount Merapi rumbled, but for several days there had been neither ash showers nor the slightest earth tremor.

The lull added to their unease.

Fatigued by the distress of their peculiar predicament the adults grew irritable. Johanna was testy and more autocratic than ever. She snapped in Javanese at the maids in the kitchen and bickered in Dutch with her mother, Nora Daniël, over the tiniest issue.

“Stop making so much noise and wash your hands again, all of you,” Johanna scolded the children.

Fretting over their health, she dragged the teak wood chairs further back from the coffin and stood motionless on the verandah, awaiting some sign from the road. Her complaint never varied.

“Why doesn’t Jan come home?”

Twelve years old and the firstborn of her two sons and three daughters, Jan had just set out with some of his Indo and Chinese friends on one of his frequent cycling trips. The teeming iridescence of Java’s countryside had captivated Jan from the moment he took his earliest steps in the garden and exploring by bicycle was what he now loved the most.

Awaking in the dawn’s fine haze, Oma Leimena had insisted on waving her grandson off. She had cupped his chin in her frail fingers and stroked his cheek.

“My dear little Jan, so grown up,” she said.

Afterwards she had lingered at the front door, her eyes searching the emerging skyline long after his bicycle had vanished.

No-one ever knew when Jan would return from these excursions. It had never mattered before. But later that afternoon, from her bed, his grandmother had called out to her daughter, coughed up a fountain spreading red over the pillow, and died.

Together with the other women of the household, Johanna prepared her mother-in-law for burial. They stopped up the orifices of the diseased body with soft cotton plugs and washed the crevices of the papery skin with dampened towels. After clothing Oma Leimena in a new, white dress, they laid her at the center of the sitting room.

The same night the ancestral spirits came to dance around her coffin.

You have just read a book excerpt from Still I Dream of Java, a new work of literary non-fiction by Catrien Ross scheduled for print publication in late June, 2018. The book retells the memories of a beloved Dutch-Indo aunt who grew up in the final, turbulent years of the Dutch East Indies, as the new nation of Indonesia emerged.

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Nutmeg, Trade Wars and How the World Turns

March 9th, 20188 COMMENTS

Catrien Ross Nutmeg, Trade Wars and How the World Turns

Nothing evokes the past quite like nutmeg.

One strike of the seed against its grater and the aroma rises like a swell in the oceans I crossed as a young child leaving my birthplace behind.

In an instant the fragrance transports me back into the arms of my grandmother, of my great-grandmother, back to an emerald archipelago lush under the tropical sun.

Indonesia, native home of the nutmeg.

But my story, like an ocean wind, races ahead of itself.

First, let me ask you how much you know about nutmeg.

Is it the speckled powder you sprinkle on winter eggnog?

Might it be the elusive nuance in a fragrant cake, the secret zing in your favorite fizzy drink?

Have you ever rolled a nutmeg kernel in your fingers?

It seems absurd the little nutmeg was at one time the most expensive commodity in the world, after gold and silver.

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Sudden Artistic Output Taps Brain’s Hidden Universe – Paintings and Music by Catrien Ross

June 10th, 20160 COMMENT

Close-Up Detail, Catrien Ross Sudden Paintings

I accept my sudden paintings and music as personal proof that we can spend an entire lifetime without once tapping into our brain’s hidden universe.

I was already 59 when I first experienced the overwhelming compulsion of a sudden artistic output that erupted into my life.

Spontaneous paintings and piano compositions began pouring out of me in fantastical flows.

The eruption was especially astonishing because I have no study or training whatsoever in either painting or the piano, and throughout my life have never shown the slightest interest in either.

I do not draw, sketch or paint, and there has never been a piano in my house.

At the surface level I know absolutely nothing about painting or piano techniques.

Within the hidden universe of the brain, however, I clearly do know and I clearly do understand, all that I need to about how to paint and how to play the piano.

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New Consciousness As A Sudden Savant Artist – The Hidden Universe in Catrien Ross Art

August 19th, 20150 COMMENT

Catrien Ross Art - Kirari Collection

I now have direct access to a new consciousness I could not readily tap before my sudden savant eruption in 2013.

More and more, that’s what my being a sudden artist actually means.

And one astonishment after another emerges.

A few months ago, I took a closer look at From Source No.74, an acrylic on canvas I spontaneously painted last November.

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Sudden Artist Eruption – Mystery of Savants, Genetic Memory and Creativity in Catrien Ross Art & Music

December 5th, 20140 COMMENT

Catrien Ross Solo Art Show #3

In 2013, I experienced a sudden artistic eruption – the first in July and the second in October – that unleashed astonishing new abilities to instantaneously paint and play the piano.

Now, just over a year later, as clarity about what happened emerges, I am able to think more coherently about my sudden eruption, and to express it better to myself and others.

Researching sudden and remarkable creativity, I came across “sudden savant” phenomenon.

This led me to Darold Treffert, a Wisconsin psychiatrist who has been studying Savant Syndrome for over 40 years and is considered the world’s leading expert on this rare condition.

The author of Islands of Genius:The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired and Sudden Savant, Dr. Treffert was also a consultant to the movie, Rain Man, which helped bring the world of the savant into public awareness.

I wrote to Dr. Treffert and we have been corresponding about my situation.

His insights and writings have greatly increased my understanding.

I am now delighted to call myself a Sudden Artist.

My sudden artistic eruption revealed that I know things I have never learned about painting and the piano.

I have no study or training in painting or the piano and before my sudden artistic eruption had zero interest in either.

Yet my paintings flow forth in radiant colors and are effortlessly completed in minutes.

My piano pieces also flow forth effortlessly and are recorded live as they erupt.

Live recording is essential because, mysteriously, each piece erupts once only – it is a one-time phenomenon I do not repeat.

By autumn 2014, I had erupted more than 170 original acrylic on canvas paintings and over 50 instantaneous piano pieces.

I have many questions about my sudden artistic eruption, especially the phenomenon of knowing things I have never learned and the sudden ability to confidently express this knowing.

Dr. Treffert talks of ancestral memory, genetic memory.

Does this mean my very mixed bag of genes might play a role?

I was born in Jakarta to a Scots father and Dutch-Indonesian mother and my heritage reveals I carry the genes of seven different countries.

But why did it take close to six decades for my sudden artistic eruption to manifest?

Does my spiritual bent or my life close to nature provide ideal conditions to nurture a sudden artistic eruption?

Could it be that my sudden artistic eruption is not so much a savant phenomenon as a mystical awakening?

In Japan I encountered a long period of Japanese family trauma and stress, during which I might have had a slight head injury.

Was the physical structure of my brain affected?

There is evidence that left brain changes can affect the left brain’s ability to exert control.

When this happens the right brain is able to release more of its innate creative power.

Was I suddenly freed from the “tyranny” of my left brain?

Is my sudden artistic eruption a phenomenon accessible to anyone at any point in life?

If so, what conditions might help spark this creative explosion within us?

How did I awaken what Dr. Treffert calls, “the little Rain Man within each of us”?

While the writer in me enjoys posing these questions, I am quite happy to let others debate and decide how to describe my phenomenon.

My life since my sudden artistic eruption is fully and unabashedly being the continuing mystery of my instantaneous art and music.

I can only be and live this personal truth.

My sudden artistic eruption granted me access to new and wondrous worlds of color, composition, harmony, as well as incredible joy and continuously evolving creativity.

I am grateful each day for this unlocking of the sudden artist within.

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Catrien Ross Art:Dr. Johann Gottlieb “Hans” Laetz in Loving Memory

October 27th, 20140 COMMENT
Catrien Ross Art for Dr. Johann Gottlieb "Hans" Laetz: "Remembering Hans", 2014

“Remembering Hans”
Catrien Ross Art for Dr. Johann Gottlieb “Hans” Laetz, in Loving Memory, 2014

 

Dr. Johann Gottlieb Laetz – “Hans” to me – died on September 23, 2014.

“Remembering Hans” is my first memorial art for him, with love.

Gold dances upward on the canvas, exulting in Hans’ joy in life.

Lush greens and blues sculpt his optimism, generosity, and lifelong love of gardening.

Violet-purple accents echo his memories of poetry and song.

“Remembering Hans” recalls his dynamism – Hans was a funny, interesting man who loved telling stories about his childhood in Ortenburg, a little German village.

In the book we published together in 2009, Hans cites his enduring connection with Nature.

He tells how he grew up revering the Bavarian forests, the flow of rivers, the reassuring power of the seasons.

Hans believed that planting a tree is a deeply spiritual act.

In our 22 years of married life together, he planted so many trees.

When my own spiritual calling took me alone to Japan, we remained unfailingly close, loving one another through 38 years, until his death.

Hans visited me in Japan twice recently, intending to move here for the last phase of his long life and so excited about his new adventure.

He reveled in the beauty of my mountain minka and especially the ancient ginkgo tree that sheltered him as he sat.

His magnanimous energy continues to enrich my painting and my heart.

“Remembering Hans” delights in the love we cherished and thanks Hans for loving me so long and so well.

Goodbye, Hans – I am missing you, missing you. With Love Always, Catrien.

“Remembering Hans” will be shown November 13-17, 2104, in Catrien Ross Solo Art Show #3, titled “Energy of the Universe” at Honkohji Temple, in Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka, Japan. Details

 

 

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Catrien Ross Solo Art Show at Buddhist Temple in Japan

April 29th, 20140 COMMENT

Catrien Ross Howa at Honkohji, Japan

A Buddhist temple in Japan’s heartland will present Catrien Ross paintings in a solo art exhibition titled, Soul Journeys (in Japanese, Tamashii no Tabi).

Honkohji is a Nichiren Buddhist temple in Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka Prefecture.

With some 1,600 years of history, its current head monk is Saito Bunyo, written about in my blog post, How My Intuition Painted the Perfect Gift for Bunyo.

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New Glints Art From Source in Japan’s 120-Year Snow

April 20th, 20140 COMMENT

Catrien Ross New Art Glints

120-Year Snow at Catrien Ross Studio-Sanctuary in Japan


From the deep hush of a record 120-year snow, new facets of my creative flow emerge.

A series of twelve small paintings infused with vibrant color.

Each richly textured canvas reveals some hidden essence.

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My Sudden Art Finds Its First Home

February 22nd, 20140 COMMENT
Catrien Ross From Source No.6

From Source No.6 at Catrien Ross Studio-Sanctuary in Japan

I painted From Source No.6 on the fifth day of the sudden and stunning eruption that shapes the continuing mystery of my art and music.

My brushstrokes release the hidden heart of the rainbow, defining and expanding its inner radiance.

Someone with many works of art throughout her home happened to view this painting two days after I signed it.

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How My Intuition Painted the Perfect Gift for Bunyo

February 18th, 20140 COMMENT
Catrien Ross From Source No.7

From Source No.7 – Bunyo’s Blue

From Source No.7 is an acrylic on canvas artwork I painted as a gift for Bunyo, calling it “Bunyo’s Blue.”

Bunyo is the head monk of a Buddhist temple in Shizuoka, Japan.

He has been bedridden for some four years after an operation to remove a kidney.

Now 85, he almost never opens his eyes and rarely speaks.

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