THE EYES OF THE THIEF
THE FRESH PLUM
MY WIFE IS HALF JAPANESE
WHERE IS THE OTHER HALF
"In the Bird, The Shape of the Egg" comes from reading a book on Japanese painting. The piece is like a miniature folding screen.
In the early 70's I discovered a book about the great Japanese ceramicist Shoji Hamada. It was about the same time that I became aware of J.M.W. Turner. Somehow they both became entwined in my thinking during my formative years. I consider them both nutritive influences in my painting.
I lived in Tokyo from age thirteen to eighteen, the years I was deciding what to be when I grew up. When my family first arrived, we stayed at the Hotel Okura for six weeks. I found the hotel¹s quiet spaces and angular ikebana arrangements too formal and oppressive. Five years later we stayed there again, and I delighted in the incredible subtleties and exquisite craftsmanship. I came to relish Japanese art and design at every level. References to water and ³the floating world² abounded.
In our minds, there is awareness of perfection;
when we look with our eyes we see it,
and how it functions is mysterious to us and unavailable.
As I approach my paintings, I am searching for a beauty and integrity that is simple, refined, direct and lasting. For me, the awareness of perfection that Agnes Martin speaks of, is a distillation of essential elements that are ordinary, intimate and simple. My quest is related to and influenced by the Japanese aesthetic concept known as Wabi-Sabi.
Wabi-Sabi resounds with a beauty of things modest and humble, and of things imperfect and unconventional.
My Procession Home series is an exploration of landscapes that contain essential elements that add up to a 'place' that feels like home. As I distill the events in my life, I am moved to seek a home ground in my paintings through an exploration of memory, image and texture. This ground, or final resting place, often evokes a sad-beautiful feeling. Wabi-Sabi images also evoke an essential loneliness and tender sadness that moves me. This aspect of Wabi-Sabi provides a pathway along which I travel.
All around, no flowers in bloom
Nor maple leaves in glare,
A solitary fisherman's hut alone
On the twilight shore
Of this autumn eve.
-Fujiwara no Teika
Space works upon perception; perception creates space. This is true in all cultures but differently true in each. In Japan, materiality is a mere mediator between the physical world and the metaphysical. The Japanese are acutely aware of how the pared-down nature of forms asserts the essence of an object more than that object's material composition. I am attracted to the order and clarity of form present in Japanese art and architecture. My work aspires to this clarity of form and perception at the heart of Japanese art and architecture and to the way form and perception works upon and orders space.
The ³Bird and Flower² tradition has deep roots throughout Japanese and Chinese culture. My favorite of these works have a mystical quality, and a surprising sense of sublimity that belies their relatively small scale and humble theme. These paintings and prints have strengthened my vocabulary and guide my attempt to express something deeply inchoate that murmurs within me.
After living 20 years in Japan, the influences that have affected my work are deep enough to have become difficult to define. I was certainly affected by the amazing depth of space Japanese artists can achieve in sumi-e ink painting through the subtle and skillful use of bokashi washes. The immediacy and finality of brushstrokes on paper requires an intense focus that may be reflected in the way I approach the act of painting. And just as in the Pacific Northwest, the rain and humidity causes an intensity of color and a quality of light that has no doubt influenced my work. Perhaps the masterful use of color in everything from ukiyo-e woodblock prints to kimono silk design has also left its mark on my work as well, though I do feel that all of these influences have been indirect, rather than conscious decisions to paint in any way that might be construed as a "Japaneseque" mode.
The line, color and form of the Japanese arts have liberated my ideas about representation. I will be forever enticed by black ink on paper, the fuschia rouge of Kabuki theatre, the flag, the fan, the symmetrical design of forms and the random pattern of nature. The allegorical relationship between man and nature found in most traditioanl Japanese art forms is the basis behind many of the drawings I have made in the past year.