Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Chinese legend tells us that the Yellow Emperor’s 4-eyed court historian Cang Jie created the first written characters inspired by the patterns of lines on the back of a tortoise he encountered in the mountains when looking for the inspiration. That was in, traditionally, the 27th century BCE. But by at latest 1200 BCE we already have a fully developed, if grammatically abbreviated, system of writing which has, moreover, the qualities of an art form! How did that happen? I want to be in on that inspiration continually.
I have always been fascinated by the process of creation—the birth of a being, a poem, an idea: something that never was in the world before and now is. Of course each new idea is an expansion from all that came before in the life of the person and the culture, but still, there is the mystery of what a great teacher called “the space between thoughts.”
Asian Brush Calligraphy—Shodo—presents the calligrapher with this real and mystical experience repeatedly. Years of discipline in Shodo, including six years’ intensive study with Shodo master Shinzan Kamijo, inform and in-form all my work. Even when I don’t see it, others tell me they do. You can judge for yourself.
Besides a heightened sensitivity to line and a feeling for alive white space, Shodo demands an awareness of materials, their qualities and textures and the intricacies of their interactions. The art requires you to deal with the properties of absorbent washi papers, the maddeningly flexible Asian brush, and the tricky subtleties of sumi inks. As I turn to western mediums I have tried to bring to them the sensibility they demand.
From my youngest days playing in woods and fields, drinking from a hidden pure natural spring and throwing myself headlong into deep forest moss, a Haiku poet’s delight in the miniature discoveries of the natural world have never ceased to thrill me. Much of my art is Haiku, which, not incidentally, I also write.
Another aspect of the natural world and what humans have added to it that fascinates me is what I see as the “unrandom random:” the way leaves fall on a section of walking path, a brief moment’s configuration of clouds, seemingly unrelated materials and bits of detritus forming a unity after all.
I am excited when I have a chance to share my celebration and thankfulness for the world we share. My gratitude goes out to the Kent Library and to Jeanette Jeanette Rodriguez for this opportunity, and to you for sharing with me.