the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection

Ancient landscapes series © Mari French 2010. Mixed media on panel. 30x30cm

Ancient landscapes series © Mari French 2010. Mixed media on panel. 30x30cm

I’ve recently been wondering whether there is a phrase or definition for my fascination with weathered surfaces – peeling paint, foxed mirrors, degraded surfaces (as in many of my textured works and flower paintings). So, I was grateful when a fellow artist, Alan Richmond, pointed me in the direction of artist Jazz Green’s website and her current ‘mouldscapes’ series of eerily beautiful, abstract textural images. My attention was particularly caught by one of her posts explaining her influences, which hit the nail on the head for me…

“I draw inspiration from elemental textures of erosion, dereliction, corrosion or quiet decay – striations and traces, surfaces & structures exposed the elements. This is reflected in my interest in Wabi Sabi, a Japanese aesthetic, of finding unassuming beauty or natural harmony in imperfection and transience.”

Inspired by the idea of Wabi Sabi, I looked it up further online and came up with the following (amongst many other posts)…

“Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death…
Sabi by itself means “the bloom of time.” It connotes natural progression-tarnish, hoariness, rust-the extinguished gloss of that which once sparkled. It’s the understanding that beauty is fleeting.

“Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs.

So… now I know… Sabi
And I seem to share my fascination with many other artists around the world.
Thanks Alan, and Jazz!

3 thoughts on “the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection

  1. Hi Mari
    Just been reading your blogs, it looks like the Jazz Green link has come at the right time for both of us in discribing our work.
    Thanks for the mention and link to my web site. I see you mentioned old mirors and wondered if I have said to you about Saul Leiter who often photographed reflections in old mirors or through steamed up windows.
    kind regards

    • hi Alan
      thanks for signing up for my blog. I think you may have mentioned Saul Leiter but I’m going to have a look anyway. This is all relevant to an extent with my current interest in light in old buildings (subject of a previous blog), where I’m trying to capture the fleeting impression of sunlight on old walls. It’s all a bit tenuous but at least I have a ‘hook’ to hang it on now!
      best wishes Mari

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