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The Sound of One Hand: Reaching Beyond the limits of Traditional Ink Painting

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sumi-e and Haiku

Branch of Persimmon Sumi-e by Casey Shannon

The sumi-e I have created above is called 'Branch of Persimmon'.

Expressed in words by my Haiku:
” juicy ripe, branch of persimmon, gently live.”
- Casey Shannon

Since Sumi-e or brush painting is minimalist painting and Haiku is minimalist writing, it would be reasonable to say that the two ancient art forms would naturally support one another and often be studied and exhibited together. Both Sumi-e and Haiku are strikingly beautiful and are a compliment to one another.

In Japanese, haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line, while haiku in English usually appear in three lines, to parallel the three metrical phrases of Japanese haiku. Such as :

The fragrance!
Though I know not
Whence it comes.
~ Basho

Previously called hokku, haiku was given its current name by the Japanese writer Masaoka Shiki at the end of the 19th century. The typical length of haiku appearing in the main English-language journals is 10–14 syllables and have a symmetrical line arrangement such as 5-7-5 or 3-5-3. Some haiku poets are concerned with their haiku being expressed in one breath and the extent to which their haiku focus on “showing” as opposed to “telling”. Therefore haiku is concerned with showing minimally as is Sumi-e. Sumi-e is concerned with 'showing' spirit minimally.

Now let’s look at the undisputed master of the haiku, Matsuo Bashō, an Edo-period Japanese haiku poet. Bashō’s poetry was quickly recognized for it’s simple and natural style. Sumi-e is recognized for it’s simple and elegant brush strokes. A natural combination.

Let me show you an example of how I have used haiku in combination with non-traditional contemporary sumi-e. For me as an artist, usually the haiku inspires the sumi-e. This results in a simple creative expression and profound experience. The following haiku is considered to be Basho’s most famous haiku writing.

At the ancient pond,
a frog plunges into,
the sound of water.
~ Basho

The sumi-e below is called 'Sound of Water' by Casey Shannon.

Sound of Water by Casey Shannon

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