Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Yūgen - An Exhibition of New Paintings

Yugen (幽玄): (Japanese noun) - an awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses too deep and mysterious to be described. Yūgen is said to mean “a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe…”

There is nothing you can see that is not a flower;
there is nothing you can think that is not the moon.
Matsuo Basho (1644 ~ 1694)

Yūgen is at the core of the appreciation of beauty and art in Japan and is an important concept in traditional Japanese aesthetics.

It values the power to evoke, rather than the ability to state directly. Yūgen is a Japanese word that has no English counterpart. It has been described as “strictly speaking an untranslatable word’. Further to this, it is essentially an indescribable word, at least in the context of other words. Yūgen suggests the beyond thatwhich can be said but is not an allusion to another world. It is about this world, this experience. It describes the profound grace and subtlety inherent in all things. These ideals, and others, underpin much of Japanese cultural and aesthetic norms on what is considered tasteful or beautiful. Thus, while seen as a philosophy in Western societies, the concept of aesthetics in Japan is seen as an integral part of daily life.

In Japanese waka poetry, the word Yūgen was used to describe the subtle profundity of things that are only vaguely suggested by the poems, and was also the name of a style of poetry. Japanese Haiku poetry also contains a strong element of Yūgen. The haiku offers a direct intuitive penetration into nature, and life, which offers insight, joy and truth to readers. A simple verse captures a multi-sensory experience of the profound beauty of life.

How reluctantly 
the bee emerges from the deep 
within the peony
Matsuo Basho (1644 ~ 1694)

Over the past decade, my work has been inspired by the sacred arts of a number of Asian countries and particularly the arts of Japan. Be it a scroll painting, a monk’s calligraphy koan or a beautifully woven kimono, these ancient objects capture the essence of timeless simplicity and beauty inherent in all things. Such a concept offers a welcomed reprieve from the stress, noise and hustle-bustle of this modern day.

The paintings in this exhibition combine the influences of: The ancient artwork from Japan, an understanding of Yūgen, the contemplation of traditional Japanese Haiku and a contemplation of the natural beauty of the natural environment. With a poetic reverence, monks and artists of ancient Japan painted beautiful depictions of their natural world, the seasons, flora and fauna.

It is with the same sensitivity and with the influence of the Japanese aesthetic that I have chosen to depict the Yūgen in the flight of a bird, flowering blossom or the perfection of pattern of the honeycomb in a bee hive.

Bee Collage 

Areas of empty space rest beside the magnification of leaves and flowers, allowing the viewer to experience both a focus the shapes and also the space to contemplate the details of these forms. The voids of space within these works suggest a magical, ‘alive’ dimension beyond the material. ‘Form’ and the ‘formless’combine to create a sense of harmonious balance.

Materials used in these paintings incorporate a collection of vintage Japanese fabrics, wallpapers and metallic leaf and foil; combined onto the canvas with screen printed patterns, paint and encaustic wax.

Precious Obi and kimono fragments included in these works have been hand selected from travels to Japan and antique bazaars. These beautiful and rare treasures ignite a fascination of a time when life was perhaps more simple than in this modern day. These fabrics in themselves spark a sense of Yūgen. The haiku poems chosen also evoke a quiet contemplation of the simplicity yet incredible beauty of life on earth.

Bee Collage 3

The paintings are material objects that depict an image which arose from the essence and which, at their highest function, will offer the viewer a window to their own invisible essence of Yūgen within.