Beauty & Sadness
The last post attempted to loosely define Wabi Sabi and introduce the project I am taking up. One of the comments distilled the feeling of Wabi Sabi to beauty & sadness. I like that.
The contents of the Wabi Sabi Project will be mostly visual (paintings, photographs of mine and sometimes others – see credits on individual images) and less wordy (some creative writing or very brief explanation when required). However, for those that are interested, this post will offer a context of sorts that you can take or leave. For readers like me, background is good. For most readers, just enjoying the art that comes from the practice will be enough. You can look forward to future posts.
At the moment, I am absorbing as much as I can by those who have managed to write coherently about Wabi Sabi. The non-religious, but perhaps highly spiritual practices and philosophies rooted in Taoism and Zen Buddhism seem to form the nebulous idea of Wabi Sabi.
For those interested in going beyond the trendy and exploring this idea and its aesthetic more deeply, the books below will certainly add a layer to the enjoyment of the work that will follow in the weeks and months to come. I can recommend these quite highly, so far:
- Leonard Koren’s “Wabi Sabi For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers”
- Kakizo Okakura’s early 20th century “Book of Tea”
- William Scott Wilson, “The One Taste of Truth”
- a copy of the latest issue of Modern Haiku
- Alan Watts lectures on Zen
- Donald Richie, “A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics”, which seems to draw on the first two and several others including –
- H.E. Davey’s collection “The Japanese Way of the Artist”
- a translation of the Haiku of Bashō
- ….more to come as I read them
Each of these attempt to describe the experience, but is in no way a substitute for the experience itself. We can bring those experiences into our lives by being present in simple tasks as walking, drinking tea, eating, making and viewing art.
Where to Begin…
The best athletes, speakers and performers will tell you that focus on the breath is where it begins. So must I. And when the outside world becomes too chaotic, sometimes the best retreat is to turn inward for the peace that is always there. Finding that beauty takes some time and finding a way to express it comes in trickles, fits and starts.
Initially, I intended this to be a separate project with a separate website, but the more I read and experienced, the more I realized it might resonate with anyone who enjoys nature and the decay that has been such an inseparable part of my work and why some of you are here reading this.
So, there will be a dedicated category on the blog to Wabi Sabi at the bottom of the sidebar (bottom of the page on mobile). Look for the drop down menu to find all the related posts.
So far, most moments of discovery are in visual form have been through photography. You can catch them, as they happen, on my Instagram account (I am @mbhendry or click the Instagram icon on the upper right of this page and follow me!). The best will always end up here on the blog and when the paintings finally begin to come again, on my newsletter first.
So from here on out, I will write much shorter posts. For those of you who made it all the way to the end of this long introduction, I hope you will join me on this part of the journey and share YOUR experiences of being in the moment and finding beauty in the comments!