Wabi Sabi: Extinct?


Or have we merely forgotten, or move too fast, to see?

Several years ago an artist viewing my photography commented that the conceptual premise of my work was very "wabi sabi." Intrigued by this comment, it became the catalyst of an aesthetic journey in composition, themes, light, distressed surface that can only happen over time and with use. What you will find in the wabi sabi section titled gallery a point of study and observation.

I thank this artist for identifying an aesthetic evident in the work to embrace the presence of wabi sabi's pantheon of beauty; to the Japanese the equivalent of the profound influence on the West by the Greeks.

Much of my learning of wabi sabi has centered around the writings of Leonard Koren. Koren describes his effort to translate wabi sabi; as something that is better felt than articulated in words. He explains this ancient aesthetic ideal as something "most Japanese never learned about in intellectual terms, since there are no books or teachers to learn from..."

Wabi sabi is often expressed as a:
  • Beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete
  • Beauty of things modest and humble
  • Beauty of things unconventional

As a point of context; Koren speaks to the blending of the words wabi sabi as an evolution of the form. In recent centuries the meanings of "wabi" and "sabi" have become intertwined. Today typically when the Japanese say "wabi" they also mean "sabi" and vice versa.


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Leonard Koren suggests wabi sabi has traditionally reflected unique meaning when the words are looked at separately:


wabi refers to:

a way of life,
spiritual path

the inward,
subjective

a philosophical
construct

sabi refers to:

material objects,
arts and literature

the outward,
the objective

an aesthetic ideal

temporal events

spatial events



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