Encounter with Japan Part 6 - Climax
Thru my creative journey I found that it is either the very troubled time of torment, or its reverse, calm and tranquility, which inspire and motivate my creative strive. Having experienced both, I prefer the latter, but yet realize that had I not tasted both, most likely I would not know, or appreciate, the true attributes of either.
For some time now I have been promising myself a return to organic art. In my case this means line drawing. I love how line fluctuates, swings, cuts, curls, twists, envelopes, stubs, caresses, how it becomes a natural extension of an artist, how its creator can funnel into it the inner thoughts, passions, desires, frustrations or dreams. How such a simple entity can act a echo of the complex one who brings it to being. What a harmonious synergy and mutual dependency, one might say, till death us apart? It is amazing how it carries and projects such an amazing range of emotions, while maintaining its black and white purity and simplicity, even certain integrity, how it can challenge and drive its creator crazy. And so, I loved it back when it and I had such an emotionally fulfilling bond, and hence have been missing it ever since. Now, years later, my desire to rediscover and explore it once again has grown in intense, became eager to be unleashed.
Yet life can be full of surprises, pressures, stresses, and challenges. Those of you who are truly heroic in maintaining certain sovereignty from the world around us, from the systems demanding that we conform, likely know that upholding independence comes at a cost to calm, to a piece of mind, mental tranquility, or serene sleep. Yet what is the worth of a life in which one has sold, relinquished or submitted oneself to the system that our humanity has, consciously or not, devised for itself, gradually befalling to this mighty beast of its own creation.
Thus, over the years, I kept on delaying and postponing. But in Japan, maybe due to the quality of calm and stability, of which I had spoken in all the previous reflections, even if for a limited period of time, I found it and regained it. Did I enjoy it? To the fullest! I felt motivated, vibrant and “spirited away” once again. It was amazing to see that the skill, the passion, desire to will a line, to unleash it to life, is not eternally gone. It is reliant on one’s state of mind, and time to reflect.
Thanks to the opportunity, and a very rare and tranquil state of mind, which it was able to liberate, I was endowed to create several artworks reflective of, and expressing ideas and feeling inspired by my exhilarating encounter with Japan.
But first, a brief foreword to the certain staple symbols, in which Japan is so rich. Religion is very important to Japanese, it has two contrasting origins and intents. While dramatically diverse, both religions are rich in distinctive visual symbolism.
For an admiring alien to the cultural potency of Japan, it was a question, of which symbols appealed to me most directly, which sparked my imagination. Dragons became my instant friends. A fiery symbol of power, dominance, bravery, furor, independence, in the context of the recent traumatic events there, to me they challenge their status quo, gaining a innate and multifaceted meaning, Maybe the same emotional reawakening is also occurring in the minds of the Japanese?
Amongst other abundant symbols, those that I most instinctively and emotionally connected with were the ever so mysterious, impenetrable, majestic, supremely stoic, peaceful and sublime Buddha, and the gloriously proud peacock, in its full bloom and illustrious external majesty, which in the current context of perplexing crossroads Japan has reached, could seem vain, pompous and even gigolo like?
The familiar crystal balls appeared either in the ever so delicate Buddha hands or full of sharp teeth dragons’ jaws. The image of ocean waives is now so apropos, gaining a totally new meaning in the context of the recent tsunami, it following the 3/11 earthquakes. However, this was a theme of one of the preceding articles.
Kyoto has over 1.000 temples and shrines! It is the oldest cultural center and a former capital of Japan. It is a city that is proud of its history and cultural heritage. It is, most likely, the combination of this immense richness and the unique time in which I found myself there, that have fused into an expression of both, an intense admiration for the art, pride and symbolism of the various religious imagery with an impact of a 3/11 disaster. As I said earlier in my previous blogs, in my belief Japan has not yet realized the full impact of it. They carry on traditions, customs and attitude as though nothing has changed. This amazing projection of elegant aloofness, robed in such stoic respect and kindness was truly startling to watch.
But now let the artwork speak for itself. Each will be followed by a brief impetus.
Dragons, peacocks and all kinds of monsters glaring at you, attracting your eyes, challenging your senses and provoking your admiration for their glorious designs, renderings, and ability to project their stature, pride, mysticism and historically primeval timelessness. All such qualities are magically inspiring to imagination.
And so, this is my initial attempt at exploration of the topic while learning use of a large Wacom table, an amazingly helpful, hypnotizing and truly addictive device.
This one represents a work still in progress. I chose to include it to illustrate how my time there and an increasing perception of the 3/11 events and the people’s reaction, or maybe rather lack of it, has impacted on my thinking, ideas and their visual reflections. This dragon combines several elements: an ever stoic Buddha, represented by a gracefully delicate hand, it projecting the inner calm, a body of a peacock’s, clearly not as potent and mighty as the dragon’s powerfully shape would be, and a shiny crystal ball, within the jaws parted in its realization of the onrushing tsunami. This waive, which took place only a year ago, converts the ever delicate peacock feathers into those inspired by the historic “The Great Waive off Kanagawa”, the stunning artwork of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).
As time and exposure to the customs or traditions further penetrated my senses the complexity of ideas increases. Japanese signify a masterfully refined fusion of the outer and an inner personality. Such has been prescribed by centuries old traditions. The outer one, very carefully cultivated, is always present and visible to all. The inner one is always hidden and very private. Intensity of attention that is paid to the outer proprieties is astounding. It seemed as though intensity of attention and demand on behaving just so is such that it happens at a cost to being natural, forget spontaneous. Thus, mainly in social ceremonies, Japanese turn into performers of their behavior, acting it out for appreciation of others. In this so intricately designed ancient culture, mistakes are simply unthinkable.
This dragon, so very refined and proper, is so intensely focus on being seen as so very correct that, when unexpectedly touched by its own tail, shocked, caught off guard, it instinctively attacks it. Such improprieties are simply not permitted.
Religion, which never seizes to perplex me, acted as a muse for this dragon. Over millenniums, Japanese have embraced two religions. One is sought for pragmatic, material and physical needs and desires wishes. The other is turned to for those more spiritual aspirations. Such a division, in my own observation, further reinforces and magnifies the split of a Japanese character. On one hand it's the physical, but on the other it is the spiritual being that is subdivided. I have seen people run from one shrine to another, or from one deity to another, to pray to them all, to insure that they have all been respected or acknowledged. Yet, I have seen them in temples, and gardens, submerged in their contemplative state of mind, in an aura of tranquility that is wonderful to observe. Hence the above dragon is being pulled between the pragmatic and that which is very spiritual.
And yet, under such scrutiny, customary strictness and obligations for preserving of one’s face, despite the divisions turning the inner spirituality into, what seems to an outsider, opposing directions, Japanese curry their roles and pressures with astounding panache, gracefulness, elegance and seeming indifference to all that may in any way disturb this acute, cultivated through millenniums, art of balance.
The uniquely Japanese Geisha, in my mind, it signifies the essence of Japanese character and personality. Obscured by pure white dye, it covers the true identity, instead projecting the stoic and impenetrable image of its role, a function that has been shaped and refined through countless ages. In my reflection is represents and projects complex, multilayered meaning. It fuses artistry of pleasing the eyes of the master while hiding the truth or its true identity. What is may not be what it seems, or even what it is. Therefore, I refer to it as the “two faces of Geisha”, the black one unseen and thus left to the observer’s interpretation and imagination.
Another work in progress, it synthesizes the ideas explored in the above images. It is a fusion of a dragon, Buddha, peacock in its fully unveiled glory, it is graceful, calm, meditative and focused, stoic, posed yet slowly unwinding (with panache of course). It is holy, delicate, even sensuous, yet it is resting upon powerful claws, and its very sharp teeth, while embracing a crystal sphere, may also have ulterior purpose. I am waiting to see what might happen if, and when, it chooses to turn its eyes from the inwards daze into the one seeing the world of the current reality.
Lastly, here is the “Insanity”. It's a crazy and mad world we live in. Yet, for those of us who dare to venture into it, and to explore it, what an amazing place this is.