08
Dec
12

Wabi-sabi

mothinbramblesSumi ink, gesso and acrylic inks

Wabi-sabi, the quality of things that suggests a natural process, vulnerable to effects of time, weathering, human treatment, yet still possessing poetry, poise and strength of character.  (Many of us folks of a certain age hope that this might refer to us).  It is the quality of things that are indifferent to conventional good taste, maybe even the product of some (lucky) accident.

Wabi-sabi does not profess to be important or the center of attention.  It is understated and yet has a quiet authority.  It may be coarse or unrefined, but in an earthy way, rich in raw texture and tactile sensation.  It is vague, blurry, subtle with earthy tones or smoky hues, infinite glorious grays and browns and blacks and sometimes silver rusts and green browns.

Simplicity is at its core, a sober modesty pared down to the essence, without removing the inherent poetry.

(To learn more about Wabi-sabi, coming to us of course from Japanese culture, you might want to read Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets + Philosophers by Leonard Koren)

. . .or try playing with black inks on white paper as we are doing in Muse Groups this weekend.

As I starting reading this little book, which we’ve had on our shelves for a while now, I kept thinking Yes!  Yes! this is exactly what we are trying to do in the Muse Groups.  We allow natural processes to evolve without forcing them.  We spin poetry out of accidental occurances.  We throw caution to the wind and thumb our noses at artistic convention.  We champion the accidents of art making.  We love soft edges blooming on wet surfaces and do nothing to draw attention to ourselves, but rather take these sublime art accidents as contemplations to dive deeper into new and thoroughly wabi-sabi destinations!

And so, my new love is wabi-sabi. And I set about looking for all the ways to make black ink do the wabi-sabi. . .

. . .like finger and palm prints and painting the ink through tissue paper and rollering it through gesso and more!

identitymachine

the identity machine charges fingerprints as entry fees
step inside, you might be surprised-
starting with sexual identity
yes, the girl kind and there’s more

don’t be afraid
we all have them
embarrassing ones we try to conceal
yet here they emerge in steady flow
on the conveyor belt, mixed in
with Christmas cookies and plastic toys,
the greed you keep stuffed in your wallet
the envy you put make up on
the superiority you alternate with inferiority
never seeming to get it right

don’t be afraid of the identity machine
it will churn out the candies along with the rest
. . .and perhaps no one will notice

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8 Responses to “Wabi-sabi”


  1. 1 Sande
    December 8, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Wonderful poem and piece.

  2. December 9, 2012 at 7:13 am

    I had a great time yesterday during muse group collecting mushrooms and leaves then preparing them for use in future collages. That’s about all I had energy and focus to do. Thanks for the attention Susan. I felt part of something bigger even though I wasn’t with you guys!

  3. December 9, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Wonderful post, Susan; love the images.

    • December 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      Now something I haven’t tried for a long time that goes with wabi-sabi is Haiku. Dare I try? What the heck! When I asked people in the group today if they knew what wabi-sabi is, one person said “Yeah it’s that mustard that burns your tongue!”

  4. December 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Your work is very strong and bold. I love how free and expressive it is. Beautiful and amazing work.


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In conversations with the Muse I mix paint with vision, collage with story, word with meditation and prayer. And out of the mixture comes a release of energy and healing and a lightening of the load of everyday living. You'll find most of it here, where I've been showing up for the past few years, along with collectible paintings, travel sketchbooks, figure studies and an invitation to join me in art play and discovery!

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By Susan Cornelis

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All images and text are the original copyrighted work of Susan Cornelis unless otherwise attributed.

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