there is no end to seeing

There’s hardly a better window onto everyday life in Japan in the nineteenth century than the one Katsushika Hokusai opens in astonishing detail, and his studies in nature are pure nourishment for the soul.  This post is prompted by the current Hokusai exhibition at the NGV.  According to the media releases, 176 of Hokusai’s works will be shown, many for the first time in Australia.  (See gallery information below.)  The exhibition presents a rare opportunity to immerse ourselves once again in the genius of a brilliant Japanese artist and printmaker, who, on his deathbed at eighty-nine is reported to have exclaimed, “If I had another five years, I could have become a real painter.”

 

Katsushika Hokusai: Moon, Persimmon and Grasshopper 1807

 

Not having seen the exhibition, I can’t claim the works I’m posting here are included.  (You can find wonderful preview images on the NGV website and in this gallery at the Guardian.)  I’ve gone my own way instead, choosing a few favourite studies from nature that beautifully demonstrate Hokusai’s depth of “seeing” and the scope of his awakened eye.

 

Katsushika Hokusai: Frog On An Old Tile

 

Although I have posted Roger Keyes’ wonderful poem here before it seems timely to give it another airing.  What more heart-full, wise advice could we possibly need – artists and human beings all – as we learn to simply “let life live” through us?

 

Katsushika Hokusai: Surimono Totsuka, detail

 

Hokusai Says

Hokusai says Look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.

He says Look Forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself
as long as it’s interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child,

every one of us is ancient,
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive –
shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees.
Wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your verandah or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.

It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
are life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.

He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.

– Roger Keyes

 

Katsushika Hokusai: Turtles

 

Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849) is regarded as one of the most influential and creative minds in the history of Japanese art.  His unique social observations, innovative approach to design and mastery of the brush made him famous in Edo-period Japan and globally recognised within a decade of his death.

The self-described ‘Old man mad about drawing’ was known by at least thirty names during his lifetime and was renowned for his unconventional behaviour.  Despite his fame, Hokusai never attained financial success and his years of greatest artistic production were spent in poverty.  He travelled and moved his resting place and studio regularly, finding inspiration for his unique style through close observations of nature and interactions with ordinary people.

 

Katsushika Hokusai: Bamboo and Morning Glory

 

In 1909 the NGV purchased five works from Hokusai’s iconic Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji series, including his most celebrated image The great wave off Kanagawa (The great wave), 1830–34; two works from his A Tour to the Waterfalls in Various Provinces series; and four other major works.  These astute acquisitions established a legacy of Japanese art in Australia that has now extended for more than one hundred years.

Hokusai features 176 works from the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, Matsumoto, and the NGV Collection that encompass the artist’s remarkable seventy-year career.  For the first time in Australia, seven of Hokusai’s major series, including Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji, 1830–34; A Tour to the Waterfalls in Various Provinces, c. 1832; Remarkable Views of Bridges in Various Provinces, c. 1834; Eight Views of the Ryūkyū Islands; and One Hundred Ghost Stories, c. 1831, are on display, as well as selected works representing his great passion for the classical subjects of birds and flowers and historical poetry.  A selection of rare prints and paintings that show the stylistic and thematic changes of Hokusai’s formative years, as well as three sets of illustrated books that highlight the artist’s masterful and compositionally innovative book illustrations, including the complete set of fifteen volumes of Hokusai Manga, compete this comprehensive insight into the life and times of this major figure.

Source – National Gallery of Victoria
See the site’s Gallery of Themes for a feast of Hokusai’s work.
Showing until 15 October, 20017

 

Katsushika Hokusai: Okitsu

 

For biographical details: Katsushika Hokusai

 


Images sourced from the public domain.
1 – Moon, Persimmon and Grasshopper, 1807. Ukiyo-e.
2 – Frog On An Old Tile. Painting on paper.
3 – Surimono Totsuka (detail). Surimono.
4 – Turtles. Surimono.
5 – Bamboo and Morning Glory. Brush painting on paper.
6 – Okitsu. Ukiyo-e.


From the bookshelf:

Hokusai
Mountains and Water
Flowers and Birds

– Matthi Forrer


 

in search of the sublime and beautiful

The great “painter of light”,  Joseph Mallord William Turner,  now has a page at the artisans’ gallery.

Turner, and Turner only, would follow and render on the canvas
that mystery of decided lines,
that distinct, sharp, visible, but unintelligible and inextricable richness
which, examined part by part, is to the eye nothing but confusion and defeat,
which, taken as a whole, is all unity, symmetry, and truth.

John Ruskin
on the man he regarded as the greatest landscape painter of all time.

 

Joseph Mallord William Turner - Sunset at Margate

 

Turner travelled extensively in the search of the sublime and beautiful. The paintings on his page are a small selection which (admittedly to my very subjective taste) express these qualities, regardless of whether one knows their location or subject matter; paintings which, in Ruskin’s words, deliver to the soul “unity, symmetry and truth”.
 

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was just 15 years old when he exhibited his first picture at the Royal Academy. His talent in the application of paint to render land, sea, sky and atmosphere was unmatched in his time. Commonly known as “the painter of light”, we can thank Turner for taking painting to the edge of abstraction and playing there, unafraid. His priceless legacy to the generations of artists who followed gave them (us) permission to engage this fearless and playful expression of the sacred sublime.

To continue reading, please visit the page:
Joseph Mallord William Turner

 


David Bohm and Rouault’s clown

Appreciation of contemporary art doesn’t always come easily.  We “know what we like” and often resist the unfamiliar.  It has always been thus – to the educated eyes of French art connoisseurs in the 1860s the new paintings of the Impressionists were ugly beyond belief.  Yet a mix of curiosity and patience, coupled with a willingness to suspend our preferences, inevitably causes a shift in perception.  Physicist David Bohm was a man with a seriously scientific mind; he was tirelessly curious about the dynamics of creativity and thinking.

In the remarkable collection of letters exchanged between Bohm and artist Charles Biederman,  The Bohm–Biederman Correspondence,  Bohm describes an encounter with one of Rouault’s paintings of a clown.  It’s a fascinating and delightfully honest account of the way the painting literally rearranges his perception, revealing a two-way energetic “flow” between the painting and himself.  He begins by confessing that he found Rouault’s paintings difficult to like, but that a deeper engagement caused his perception to “give way to a remarkable new steady vision which I can best describe as seen in a new dimension.”

 

Georges Rouault - Clown, ca 1937

Georges Rouault, Clown ca 1937

 

I should perhaps [mention] here that my first reactions to modern art were almost entirely negative.  However, in some respects, I have changed my mind.

For example, with regard to Rouault, I first felt that his pictures were very discouraging and depressing.  Gradually, I began to see them in a new light.  In particular, last year in London, I saw a picture of his, The Old Clown …

At first, it seemed to be rather a mixed up set of patches of colour.  But gradually, it began to take shape. In particular two patches struck my eye, one in the face of the clown and another outside him, which seemed to complement the first.  My eye began to move back and forth from one patch to the other, a pulsation was established, and suddenly it ceased, to give way to a remarkable new steady vision which I can best describe as seen in a new dimension.  It was not so much that the clown became visible in three dimensions, this was true but only a minor point.

The major point is that there seemed to be a flow or a current in which the whole being of the clown poured outward to reveal itself, all his feelings, thoughts and emotions etc., and a counter-flow in which the outside (including the viewer) was drawn into him, to emerge again in the outward flow.  It was a very striking experience for me, one that I shall always remember.  Whether the artist intended the picture to be seen in this way, I don’t know of course, I would be interested in knowing whether it struck anyone else in this way.

David Bohm
Bohm–Biederman Correspondence, Vol 1: Creativity and Science
Edited by Paavo Pylkkanen


Charles Biederman


Also see:  scientist meets philosopher (David Bohm in dialogue with J Krishnamurti)


David Bohm, Paul Cezanne and Creativity – F David Peat, a close collaborator and friend of David Bohm, shares insights into Bohm’s creative ideas and process.


 

the art of nondual nonfinito

A review by Jonathan Jones recently posted at The Guardian – The definition of artistic greatness: Unfinished … Works from the Courtauld Gallery – has prompted me to reblog this post from wonderingmind studio First the post, then some tasters from the review.


 

Cézanne and the art of nondual nonfinito.

Or – getting emptiness exactly right

 

Paul Cézanne - La Montagne Sainte Victoire, vue des Lauves

La Montagne Sainte Victoire vue des Lauves, 1901 – 06, Paul Cézanne

 

As Cézanne aged, his paintings became filled by more and more naked canvas, what he eloquently called nonfinito. No one had ever done this before. The painting was clearly incomplete. How could it be art? But Cézanne was unfazed by his critics. He knew that his paintings were only literally blank. Their incompleteness was really a metaphor for the process of sight. In these unfinished canvases, Cézanne was trying to figure out what the brain would finish for him. As a result, his ambiguities are exceedingly deliberate, his vagueness predicated on precision. If Cézanne wanted us to fill in his empty spaces, then he had to get his emptiness exactly right.

For example, look at Cézanne’s watercolors of Mont Sainte-Victoire. In his final years, Cézanne walked every morning to the crest of Les Lauves, where an expansive view of the Provençal plains opened up before him. He would paint in the shade of a linden tree. From there, Cézanne said, he could see the land’s hidden patterns, the way the river and vineyards were arranged in overlapping planes. In the background was always the mountain; that jagged isosceles of rock that seemed to connect the dry land with the infinite sky….

And yet the mountain does not disappear. It is there, an implacable and adamant presence. The mind easily invents the form that Cézanne’s paint barely insinuates. Although the mountain is almost literally invisible – Cézanne has only implied its presence – its looming gravity anchors the painting. We don’t know where the painting ends and we begin…

– Jonah Lehrer: Proust Was a Neuroscientist

 


 

Michelangelo - The Awakening Slave ca 1520 - 1523

The Awakening Slave, 1520 – 23, Michelangelo

 

The greatest works of art in the world are unfinished. This is not a provocation. Leonardo da Vinci’s dreamlike, infinitely suggestive sketch of a painting The Adoration of the Magi, Michelangelo’s tortured Prisoners struggling to attain human form from blocks of rough-hewn marble, Cézanne’s fragmentary, unending studies of Montagne Sainte-Victoire – for me these unfinished masterpieces literally are the definition of artistic greatness.

 

Leonardo da Vinci - Adoration of the Magi

Adoration of the Magi, 1481, Leonardo da Vinci

 

When artists like Cézanne, Monet and Degas started leaving their paintings in an ambiguous and aleatory state in the late 19th century the bourgeoisie were shocked. Where were the immaculately detailed meadows full of identifiable flowers, the clinically exact nudes and historically accurate costumes they had come to expect?

 

Claude Monet - The Roses, 1925 - 26

The Roses, 1925 – 26, Claude Monet

 

Why is the unfinished such a powerful thing in art? The answer is in our minds. A brightly complete work of art leaves nothing for our brains to do. Unfinished art on the other hand provokes the imagination. It invites the onlooker to collaborate with it. Our relationship with the artist is suddenly much more intimate – Michelangelo’s chisel marks left on his incomplete statues are breathtakingly personal.

Less is more, and it is genius.

– Jonathan Jones

Unfinished … Works from the Courtauld Gallery, 18 June–20 September 2015


The absence invites the Presence. “It is there, an implacable and adamant presence.” The forms are barely insinuated, implied, yet they “anchor” the work, and the mind easily participates in the act of co-creation.

Where does the painter end and the painting begin?  Where does the painting end and the viewer begin?  Who can say?  This, as Jones observes, is the real genius of great art.


 

what does the poet see?

Visual language is poetry in its own right, yet when a poet with the capacity to view a painting without bringing the common interpretation of its language to bear, other, deeper and wider dimensions of perception can arise.  Poets sometimes employ another – usually visual – work of art as an entry point to their own creative expression and there’s a name for this form: ekphrasis.  Often the resulting poems convey a deeper symbolism than is obvious; they can open up a surprising new dimension of meaning.  (I wrote more about ekphrasis in this post about Howard Nemerov‘s poem, Vermeer.)

The work of haiku poet Gabriel Rosenstock has been featured on this site several times – he’s almost our unofficial poet-in-residence. (You’ll find links to his other pages below.) Well-known for his collaborative haiga with photographer Ron Rosenstock, Gabriel recently sent me these examples of his ekphrastic haiku. He includes three versions of his haiku – Irish, English and Japanese. (The latter are translations by Mariko Sumikura.)

The artworks are by Marc Chagall and Rene Magritte – details are included at the foot of the post.

 

Chagall-Rosenstock haiku 1

 


 

Chagall-Rosenstock haiku 2

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 1

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 2

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 3

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 4

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 5

 


From top:
Marc Chagall, Le Violoniste Bleu,1929
Marc Chagall, Cover, Souvenir Program for Ballet Russe, ca 1945
Rene Magritte, Le Mal du Pays (Homesickness), 1940
Rene Magritte, Golconda, 1953
Rene Magritte, L’Inondation (The Flood), 1928
Rene Magritte, The Pleasure Principle, 1937


Books by Gabriel Rosenstock

Blog: roghagabriel.blogspot.ie


disappearing in the haiku moment

a glimpse of a god

rosenstock & rosenstock

being in love with light