This is my sixth blog and the fifth in the series dedicated to Japan. For whatever the reason may be, the first few were very verbal. But, as they progressed, they became more illustrative. In the last blog, dedicated to Anime and to Manga, they became so visually explicit as to invoke, or provoke, a need for a certain level of “cover up”, or rather a “black out”? This was hard for me to experience and still harder to humbly accept. Hence, being generally a very respectful and sensitive man, without an iota of disrespect towards anyone, I wish to dedicate a few paragraphs to this topic, as well as my own perspective and reasoning for it.
As you may recall from the initial introductory blog, my first ever, I come from the Eastern block. I grew up under censorship and a very wide-open eye of the “Big Brother”. With a great joy and relief, but also with a deep pain of loss, I left all I had or knew, my small family, my precious dog, and a few true friends behind. I left naked, bankrupt by the government that stripped those desiring freedom from all their possession. Political émigré, blacklisted, unwanted, rejected, thrilled to be so, stateless, without anyone to tell me what to do, feel, believe or think, I left.
Ever since, I never experience a moment of feeling homesick. This is due to the intense disrespect I evolved for those leaders who skillfully awakened an intense hate amongst people who peacefully coexisted till then. But, as one who always tries to remain objective, I also realize that what I appreciated, back there, was an openness, raw directness and sincerity with which people were able to speak to each other, men or women, on emotional, personal and deeply touching levels. Yet, strangely enough, the intelligent ones did not object, retaliate or sue. The latest was unheard of, still is in most countries around the world, except for here.
Over the last years I have observed our country, one that stands as the beaker of success, one to which most of the world looks up to, aspires to or wants to alike, change. Political correctness, fear of being painted as insensitive, a chauvinist, a racist, or being too this or too that, or “I’ll sue you”, in my personal view, is killing our free spirit, our sincere openness, ability to dialogue or differ with others on a deeper emotional level. As one who has, not so long ago, personally experienced a good old-Midwestern inquisition, I have strong feelings and beliefs on this topic.
Back to the last blog. It triggered a discussion on whether some restrain, a “black mask”, is called for. I felt that the images left untouched made a mighty statement against their authors, or artists who, in my view, misuse their talents for immoral, even sick, degenerate objectives. Furthermore, I felt that the presence of a “black cover up” actually attracts more attention and causes imagination to spin wild in all the wrong directions. But maybe that’s just me? I would welcome hearing back from those who read the blog. Do comment and share your opinion. Am I wrong?
I had to submit to the unwritten but yet so present rules governing good conduct, political correctness and proprieties dictating rules of a good, inoffensive ways of conducting business. I do sympathize with concerns aired by the other side, but, in large, disagree with the need for any form of censorship. I know advertising, and I know how unscrupulous, insincere and fouls a business, and its mission, is. Again, it is my own opinion. And again, I would welcome an animated discourse on this topic. I passionately believe that if we do not speak up for what we believe in now, we will not have a choice and be forced to shut up later. Am I wrong?
And before I progress to the topic this blog is dedicated to, I wish to thank the reader who was kind enough to send me an email of appreciation for the series. I would welcome more thoughtful feedback. While praise is always cheered, criticism is helpful as well. Being new to this domain I have much to learn. So feel free to love me, thank me, applaud me, correct or challenge me, even tear me apart, as long as it is done in a civil and intelligent manner. Else a black mask!
I anticipate this may be the last blog in the series dedicated to Japan? In it I wish to pay homage to the complex delicacy, beauty, sensuality and unique simplicity, purity and sophistication of Japanese art, design, craftsmanship, old architecture of ancient temples, shrines, dragons as well as other real or imaginary creatures.
Issuing are several illustrations of each of those, for they impressed me the most. I tried to include images illustrating an intense diversity of topics or time periods.
I trust everyone shall admire the delicacy, simplicity and yet richness of the line. The textural lushness is unsurpassed. One can even feel the temperature of the environment in the background, such illustrated with purely minimalistic mastery.
A cynic could be turned. Do notice size of the crow and intense sway of India.
Such influences of India and China make me sing: “it's a small world after all”…
While these artworks are so different, both in media, technique, theme and their styles, aren’t they simply breathtaking? Both were painted on wooden panels.
Whether in temples or in a Tokyo Opera Hall, or in one of the shrines, the fusion of austerity and structural intricacy is striking. It mirrors the two faces of Japanese character, projecting a division of the external formality and the inner spirituality. Yet it is not the structural and design mastery but the elegance that I find striking.
A bit of a forward time travel and yet the sophisticated simplicity remains just as potent and amazing as that of the centuries past. One just can not use the same old cliché “they don’t make them as good anymore” can one? I certainly can not. Both represent elegance of so posh and exuberantly expensive magazine stores yet this is not what its about, but the balance, choreography and grace of design.
Whether in the complex textile or in a simple and fast drawing of the horse, they both illustrate thought, care and pride of the artists who had once created them.
Delicacy and emotional quality of the line and the faces it forms is truly amazing. These artworks were created time before discovery of airbrush. Personally, I was blown away by contrast of emotions reflected by these particular faces. The left reflects deep sadness while, the right, such vanity and critical gaze of superiority.
I would hope that my above words reflect all that I wish to project to the readers. Such a delicacy, purity and simplicity. Simplicity and, above all else, simplicity.
Again thrust forward in time and culture, the modern Manga. The complexity of lines, their flow, grace of posing, motion in stills are dazzling. So graceful, these ladies are invitingly wicked. They are designed to be seductive. Time and space, design style, level of simplicity apart, they also differ in levels of emotional depth from the olden ones. Maybe the new ones do not even attempt it? Their objective is different, but so are the times in which they were created. It is maybe worth a reflection, not on the art but on how it reflects on current times and sentiments?
There is not much one can add to the art above. They are very distinctive but yet clearly reflective of the same culture and origin. The center image is that of a vast ceiling mural in one of the most striking and architecturally well planned temples. The painting on the right is much more traditional, it projects an amazing sense of spaciousness, and its airy quality easily could had inspired impressionism. But to me it is the delicacy of their different brush strokes that is unsurpassed, and so is the sense of intense pride of the artists who created all of these diverse images.
And now for something totally, or just seemingly, or really different? They are artworks of the greatest masters, the most imaginative, most masterful and refined, the nature. They project an unsurpassed imagination, inventiveness, exploration, perfection and delicacy. I saw these flowers in Japan. Whether there is a deeper meaning to this or now, whether they were bred by Japanese or not, they reflect qualities and character I referred to in describing art, design and craft of the people. These flowers, just as so much of the art of Japan, are amazing. They also inspire imagination, and project stories we can only try to conjecture.
And to add some more spice and variety to this magically creative bouquet this blog is dedicated to, a more familiar, yet purely and uniquely Japanese other form of expression. Refinement, delicious delicacy, sophistication and mastery, is unquestionable in this culinary form of a craftsmanship or delicious, eatable artistry. The above photos were taken in a simple, tiny, inexpensive Sushi bar.
This insignificant, unpretentious place, hidden amongst multitude of other similar, tiny establishments had the longest of the lines of people eager to get in to all of these bars. We were one of a hundred or so of those curious or enabled to resist the temptation of joining the queue, stretching far around the corner. It took us an insane 2.5 hours!!! But this was the only time to learn the truth about Japanese art of sushi. There were 3 chefs behind a counter seating only 12 customers. As I said, this was a tiny place, as most superb restaurants in Japan are. These culinary artists made their magically delicious artworks to your liking. I will never forget putting in my mouth, then gently squeezing, sushi filled with salmon roe. Suddenly, unexpectedly, I experienced an explosion of such intense richness of freshness, delight and bouquet of flavors; I was stunned speechless. I am not exaggerating. Life will never be the same. The mastery, artistry, refinement, and intricacy of craftsmanship and of the power of imagination are interdisciplinary.
Last, but not least, the art of wedding. It is a moment in life that is cherished by people of all lands, cultures, beliefs, traditions, political systems and diversity. In some lands people go overboard in the amount spent, or intricacy or complexity of ornamentation, in essence, the more the better. This, as you shall see below, is not the case in Japan. Here, marriage, wedding ceremony in particular, is of intense significance. It's a case of pride for entire families. Hence, it is a big, BIG business. There are entire streets, even neighborhoods, dedicated to insuring that the right clients get the very best, the most supreme and most unforgettable.
A close look at the two images below reveals an artificial, highly manicured pride, meticulous attention to each, however minute and, seemingly insignificant detail. As to be expected of Japanese, it is highly difficult, if not impossible, to penetrate the external, carefully projected, anticipated, expected, if not demanded a façade. It's a masterpiece of artificiality, maybe even superficiality but pomposity for sure. But there is more to it as well, much more. Once again, they give it all, I mean all.
Yet again, despite the commercialization, materialism, excess or pomposity, the intense pride, amazing artistry, superior mastery, sophisticated simplicity comes through in all the aspects and multiple facets of unsurpassed purity. The austerity of design is projected through all the curves, every layer, all the folds and cut. And, as your eyes travel down to the next image, I hope that what they discover there shall capture your eyes, spin your mind and leave your mouth speechless.
I am speechless.
What about you?
No land, no people, no culture, no belief, is perfect. Tradition, by its very nature can be stagnating. By definition it stands against progress and innovation. Yet in so many ways, without it, we would be artificial, flat, superficial, or even narrow in our outlook on time, history, evolution, tradition, progress and our own heritage. Tradition, in its rich, deep glory and meaning, can be amazing and enlightening. In the right state of mind it can act as an inspiring platform for ideation, innovation and inspiration of uniquely individual visions of the future, one that peoples of all the diverse lands owe it to themselves to evolve and treasure. Else, the current globalization will soon make us uniformly boring, blah, plastic, dull, and so ….