"I drink this beautiful Chinese pu-erh tea.
The element of slowing down…
The tea allows us to breath, to move."

In a hypnotic voice, the man speaks. And suddenly, a brush is dipped into the tea.

"The whole thing starts with a big splash of tea.
It's like some empty space inside a mountain."

Silent Crescendo,
directed by Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee for The Global Oneness Project,
is a meditative and intimate portrait of ex-Yugoslavian émigré artist Slobodan Dan Paich.
It follows his daily ritual of creating simple drawings with tea and ink,
which transcends art making.
( Duration: 3 minutes )

"I discovered working with tea really by accident.
I spilled the tea on a drawing.
I look at them and I read them like somebody would read coffee beans."

"I start with a pen. And then I look at the markings.
It's almost like a little oracle.
I'm not drawing it to be holy nor to be out of this world.
I just allow myself a little space. A little moment"

"There is no attempt to be original.
Originality is totally irrelevant.
If they look like something else, why not?

There is some deep internal intelligence.
Some non-verbal narrative, which nourishes us,
which has its own natural wellspring.
So these drawings try to touch the rim of that."

More than Tea and Ink

MOOWON: As the filmmaker who created this poignant short film on this particular man and his extraordinary ritual, what are the values you wished to transmit?

EMMANUEL VAUGHAN-LEE: Slobodan's story expresses something that we are losing: the importance of slowing down and how creativity is much bigger than what we might have imagined in our narrow definition of "art." He simply tries to get you to remember something that is greater than yourself and what you're already a part of, yet had forgotten.

MOOWON: How did you meet Slobodan?

EMMANUEL: I've known Slobodan all my life. He has been an eclectic and esoteric artist for as long as I've known him. He was not interested in conventional artistic expression, nor building a successful career path as an artist in terms of making money or obtaining acclaim. He was always more interested in exploring what was in his heart and mind. He grew up in Yugoslavia and ran an underground theater troupe, amongst many other things, that was frowned upon by the regime of the time. He was viewed as a dissident and eventually escaped to the West to pursue his art.

MOOWON: There is something extremely profound about the simplicity of Slobodan's accidental discovery, yet it seems to embody something much bigger.

EMMANUEL: When I heard about the little tea paintings, his latest thing, I was intrigued and moved by their underlying simplicity. Some of of his work is quite complex, whether that be an avant-garde dance performance, or an esoteric lecture and slide show where he uses unique and powerful images to take you on a journey into life's secrets and mysteries.

But I found that one tiny image, created in a matter of minutes, expresses the man that I've known all my life. I was intrigued to see what his everyday ritual was like. He would scan the image he liked the most from that morning and email it to all of his friends. And it was his ritual of creating, having a moment of simple silence in the mornings, and sharing that with his friends—that was what I found beautiful, and I just wanted to capture that.

Within the ritual component of his tea and ink drawings, there is a lot of esoteric wisdom in what he says and explores. It is not just about what happens when tea and ink meet. He is exploring life's mysteries, where different worlds come together to tell a story

MOOWON: Slobadan exudes a certain detachment from the sense of time and place. What is the essence of this man?

EMMANUEL: He is like an archetypal character who can exist in any century. He is someone you might stumble upon in the woods who might be picking mushrooms to take home to read them in order to see what they tell you. Or, he may be standing before a giant canvas in a medieval cathedral painting them. He exists beyond time and reality, and in some ways he does not fit into the world as it is right now. He walks down the busy streets of San Francisco, and he does not blend in. He just is. He just is himself, moving at his own pace and in his own way, as everything is moving past.

He is one of those rare people who is his true self 100% of the time without conforming or catering. He does what he feels is right at the moment; he creates a space around him as all true great artists do.

Slobadan is a mystic. A mystic is someone in search of a direct relationship with God, or the divine, and is aware that in many ways that relationship is a mystery. But regardless of that they yearn for that relationship, that closeness and love. He has dedicated his life to that, and his art is an expression of that.

Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee is an award winning filmmaker, musician and composer. His work has been featured on National Geographic, PBS, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Outside Magazine, Al Jazeera, exhibited at The Smithsonian and screened at festivals and theaters worldwide. He has directed numerous acclaimed films including Marie's Dictionary, Isle de Jean Charles, Yukon Kings, Elemental, Barrio de Paz and What Would it Look Like. He is the founder and executive director of The Global Oneness Project, a Webby Award winning educational multimedia platform. Prior to his work in film, Emmanuel performed with some of the biggest names in Jazz, as well as releasing two critically acclaimed records Previous Misconceptions and Borrowed Time. He lives in a small coastal town in Northern California with his wife and two children.

Mona Kim is the Founder and Curator of Moowon magazine. As the Creative Director of award-winning multidisciplinary design studio, Mona Kim Projects, she has been conceiving public space experiences and large-scale experiential projects for global brands and cultural institutions. Her museum and exhibition design for the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, World Expo, Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanhã), and UNESCO-sponsored projects, gave her the opportunity to document and be exposed to some of the most distinctive examples of social realities and cultural expressions. On these projects, she had co-curated world issues such as endangered languages, cultural diversity and sustainability. The Moowon project is an extension of this background. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, WWD(Women's Wear Daily), The Creative Review, and in publications by Gestalten and The Art Institute of Chicago.