Cover of book Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence

Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence

by: Andrew Juniper

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26 Highlights | 0 Notes
  • Rooted firmly in Zen thought, wabi sabi art uses the evanescence of life to convey the sense of melancholic beauty that such understanding brings.
  • The term wabi sabi suggests such qualities as impermanence, humility, asymmetry, and imperfection. These underlying principles are diametrically opposite to those of their Western counterparts, whose values are rooted in a Hellenic worldview that values permanence, grandeur, symmetry and perfection.
  • The Japanese were to become masters of space, and have throughout their long artistic history, stressed the importance of space or nothingness as a juxtaposition to things that presently exist.
  • The small nuances of color, the curve of an opening petal, the crack in a bamboo vase, or the decay of a knot in old timeber all came to symbolize mujo, which is the Buddhist tenet of impermanence and continuous flux.
  • If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene menlancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi sabi.
  • The Japanese attention to detail and their desire to keep all aspects of design as simple and well balanced as possible are evident even in today's modern designs.
  • For the Zen monks, everything they undertook became a spiritual task in which they had to immerse themselves totally, and in doing so they absorbed themselves in the activity rather than in their ego's understanding of the activity.
  • Every movement from the master is pure poetry as his concentration brings a fluidity and precision to every action. The years of practice now bring the moves, rehearsed so many times, into the realm of art in its purest form, for it is art without art, art without thought, art as a pure connection with the ultimate reality.
  • simple and restrained designs of Zen temples
  • Wabi sabi is not solely the work done by nature, nor is it solely the work done by man. It is a symbiosis of the two.
  • Melancholy, an emotion nurtured in the Zen world, was used as a whetstone on which to sharpen spiritual awareness; this was not a self-indulgent form of pity but rather a sadness tingedwith an intangible longing. It was in the face of the most undesirable of human conditions that real beauty could be found and the chords of the unconscious spirit, so aware of our fragility, can be touched very deeply when our worlds are put into context.
  • Then too, when food is served, a leaf or flower of the season is usually placed as a decoration and reminder that everything has its season and that they must be appreciated.
  • A Japanese carpenter for instance will treat his tools and the materials he uses with intense reverence. His function is to try his best to bring out the wood's inner beauty in a harmonious way. When his work is done he will not be seeking praise or gratitude for the work, for he has a personal sense of satisfaction that he has done his best and can do no more. This sense of modesty is the lifeblood of wabi sabi and saves the work of artists from being tainted by the pretensions or ambitions of an artist. Wabi sabi art must have this essential element of humility if it is to retain the purity of its spirit.
  • It has been said that wabi sabi pots are not perfection, but in fact, they have gone a step furthur, for they have relinquished the desire for perfection to reveal a truer and more beautiful view of life.
  • The term seishintouistu refers to the concentration of the mind and spirit on just one activity, and through this contant mental discipline the person is able to loosen the dominance of the ego and become one with the activity. The artistry is the result of a mind focused on the task at hand, whethre it be polishing a floor, raking gravel or cutting vegetables. By bringing the mind to bear on the here and now, everyday activities can take on a profound meaning and in Zen these are considered key for the development of the mind. This attitude can then transform the most mundane tasks into art.
  • the role of the artist is that of a medium rather than an individual.
  • But for true wabi sabi art, it is the impermanence of the piece that makes it so special, and therefore a large part of the value accorded to it lies in its ephemeral nature and in the fact that the same moment will never come again.
  • Zen monks and tea masters were aware of the effect a well-designed room or garden could have on one's psychological well-being and made every effort to fine tune their arts to maximize these positive effects.
  • For it is in these almost imperceptible details that one can find the visual treasures that lie at the heart of wabi sabi, and it is through them that one might be able to catch a glimpse of the 'serene melancholy' they suggest.
  • Quite often what is not added is more important than what is. The discipline of Japanese design is to refrain from embellishment and to let the art work by itself without trying to improve it.
  • … there is a need to focus on the essential part of the design: beyond its functional requirement no furthur embellishment should be required.
  • This non clutter requires discipline, and it is often necessary to get rid of all excess in order to give sufficient space to just one expression.
  • It is an undeniable truth that much of the beauty accredited to the simple line in Japanese design comes down to the determination to keep both art and everyday designs to a functional minimum.
  • Buddhists say that the idea that desires can, if given sufficient means, be satiated and appeased is an obvious fallacy, and that beyond one desire lies an inexhaustible line of others.
  • By only taking what is really needed to maintain physical health, there is then freedom from the relentless desire to have anything more. The scope of this freedom is far-reaching, because it then opens the way for a simple life without the need to chase dreams of wealth or sensual gratification. Freed from these desires, a person should be able to find peace and not need to invet so many hours of the day in pursuit of goals that yield only transient satisfaction.
  • Zen maintains that it is effort and discipline that will bear fruits, and if we in the west wish to benefit from this wisdom then there must be a move away from the pervasive goal of instant gratification of the senses. The transition toward a simpler lifestyle, fraught as it is with difficulty, is a path only for those with a resolution to travel its length knowing that it is a path without end, yet a path with heart.