My language is vibrant color and line.

Wabi Sabi - a Japanese Cultural Aesthetic

Wabi Sabi, an aesthetic concept intimately related to Japan and Zen Buddhism, is a way of perceiving things.

...the Japanese cultural source of this law of continual, cyclical evolution and decay parallels the British cultural mood of determination, stubbornness and pride which mandates a belief in improvement during times of hardship. (1)

A Buddhist way of perception

Wabi Sabi is a aesthetic concept intimately related to Japan and Zen Buddhism. However, it is not a "style of art" but rather a way of perceiving things, a very refined culture of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete that expresses itself in great freedom of form, sublime colors, and a simplicity. Things of wabi-sabi nature are understated and unassuming, yet they do have presence and quiet authority and describe the transience and solitude of existence, an existential loneliness and tender sadness, in short: the essence of Zen.

Wabi Sabi invites the viewer to appreciate of the minor details of everyday life and gain insight into the beauty of the inconspicuous and overlooked aspects of nature. Present-oriented and comfortable with ambiguity and contradiction, imperfect simplicity takes on new meaning as the basis for a new, pure beauty of organic forms and personal, individual solutions.

Historical roots

In the sixteenth-century the Japanese tea master and Zen monk, Sen no Rikyu introduced the concept of Wabi Sabi. The following little anecdote is known about him:

Sen no Rikyu desired to learn The Way of Tea. He visited the Tea Master, Takeno Joo. Joo ordered Rikyu to tend the garden. Eagerly Rikyu set to work. He raked the garden until the ground was in perfect order. When he had finished he surveyed his work. He then shook the cherry tree, causing a few flowers to fall at random onto the ground. The Tea Master Joo admitted Rikyu to his school. (2)

Personal experiences

Now the question might arise "how exactly I incorporate Wabi-Sabi into my work"? In a way Wabi-Sabi aesthetics are my roots. I feel at home in Buddhism, and Wabi-Sabi is a Buddhism-related art theory. When I studied in New York some of my work executed then were quite Wabi-Sabi. Now, years into painting, I came back to my true inner voice: colorful, dynamic, energetic.

To be whole one must know both sides: the fearless never can be courageous, because courage means to overcome fear (thus if you are not afraid, you can never be very courageous).

Knowing the subtleness of Wabi-Sabi consequently is the root for my energetic paintings: I now know both sides.

My language is vibrant color and line. by Karin Ulrike Soika
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