Zen Brush

traditional Japanese calligraphy brushes. Gallery feature that enables you to save your work in progress, as well as an ink dispersion effect to give your drawings an added feeling of depth.  Uses black and red ink. 

Rembrandt

Rembrandt had a studio with fantastic quality daylight; the window light was soft and he used reflector sheets to bounce light back where he wanted it. In other words he used soft controlled light which is what the studio softboxes of today http://www.rembrandthuis.nl/cms_pages/index_main.html

Rembrandt creative commons website

Exercise: The Night Watch
The painted portrait had to show the viewer what was important either to the sitter or the creator. This was done in some cases by pose, in some by costume or uniform or significant items with inherent meaning, or simply by position – being higher up than others or at the optimum positional point of the image. Look carefully at Rembrandt’s famous painting The Night Watch, commissioned by Frans Banning Cocq, the figure in the centre foreground.

Before you follow the link below, make some notes in your learning log about how the artist uses the elements listed above (background, pose, clothes, props, light). What effect does
he create? What does the portrait say about Banning Cocq?
Look particularly at the use of light and dark in this huge portrait. How might you create similar effects photographically?
Now follow the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9jj74aOr_Q

Ibrahim El-Salahi

Ibrahim el-Salahi  (1930 – present) is a Sudanese artist painter and former politician and diplomat.He is considered a pioneer in Sudanese art. He developed his own style and was one of the first artists to elaborate the Arabic calligraphy in his paintings.

website: http://ibrahimsalahi.com

Google images

Ibrahim El Salahi Interview Tate Modern, July 2013

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African Art on Display at London’s Tate Modern

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Starts with in-depth interview with El-Salahi on his experiences in 1970s.

Tate Shots exhibition overview
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Ibrahim El Salahi Focus on Africa BBC World

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Development of his art

El-Salahi was born on September 5, 1930, in Omdurman, Sudan. He studied Art at the School of Design of the Gordon Memorial College, currently the University of Khartoum. On the basis of a scholarship, he subsequently went to the Slade School of Fine Art in London from 1954 to 1957. He also stayed in Perugia in Italy for some time, to enlarge his knowledge of renaissance art. Back in Sudan, he taught at the School for Applied Arts in Khartoum.

In 1950s, 1960s and 1970s his work is dominated by elementary forms and lines. When El-Salahi returned to Khartoum to teach at the Technical Institute in 1957, he became one of the lead artists in a movement known as the ‘Khartoum School.’ Having gained its freedom from British colonial rule only one year previously, Sudanese artists were trying to define a new artistic voice and means of expression for the country. Yet when he held an exhibition of his work from the Slade at the Grand Hotel in Khartoum, Salahi’s academic style was uniformly rejected. Salahi took some time out from painting to travel around the country to seek inspiration. Here, the influence of Arabic calligraphy, which he had learned as a young child, became more pronounced in his painting, as he began to integrate Islamic signs and scripts into his compositions. Speaking of this era, the artist himself said:

‘The years 1958-1961 were a period of feverish activity on my part in search of individual and cultural identities […] Those years, as it turned out, were the years of transformation and transformation that I went through as far as my work was concerned.’

In 1962 he received a UNESCO scholarship to the United States, from where he visited South America. From 1964 to 1965 he returned to the US with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, and in 1966 he led the Sudanese delegation during the first World Festival of Black Arts in Dakar, Senegal.

Self-Portrait of Suffering (1961) is one of his best-known works from this time. The distended face that becomes almost equine, the dry brush marks and muted palette, show influence of Picasso, who himself appropriated distorted facial features from West African masks. The inability to trace the visual language to a root source is an articulate allegory for the artists’ sense of creative displacement at this time. Other works, such as Reborn Sound of Childhood Dreams (1961-5), integrated the crescent, a motif of Islamic art that recurred frequently throughout his work. El-Salahi also explored the formal properties of paint. Some canvases are incredibly heavy, with a thick impasto crust of paint (Victory of Truth (1962); Dry Months of the Fast (1962)); others with such thin layers of paint the image barely sits above the canvas, such as Vision of the Tomb (1965), crisp detail echoes traditional Arabic miniature painting.

After working for the Sudanese Embassy in Britain for a time in the early 1970s, El-Salahi was offered the position of Deputy Under Secretary of Culture at the Ministry of Information in Sudan under the military dictatorship of General Gaafar Nimeiry. After a failed military coup in which a relative was implicated, he was arrested in 1975, accused of anti-government activities and incarcerated for just over six months. El-Salahi is a Muslim of a Sufi sect, and during this trying time he discovered that the harrowing conditions he was subjected to could be escaped only through his deep spirituality. This was, according to the artist, a time of great personal change. The quiet pen and ink drawings and prose that make up Prison Notebook show a period of introspection and self-examination, with linear and fluid gestures that skirt tentatively across the page.

Upon his release, the artist relocated to Qatar. His work becomes rather meditative, abstract and organic. Subsequently his work is characterized by lines, while he mainly uses white and black paint.

In the late 1980s, El-Salahi began to absorb more of the forms of futurist figures. Still using a pen, his figures become machine-like, solid and heavy, composed of lines, tangents, and geometric shapes. The interlocking ellipses of Boccioni can be found in compositions such as The Inevitable (1984-85), and Female Tree (1994), and dense cross-hatched lines cement the image to its support.

TateShots: Ibrahim El-Salahi’s ‘The Inevitable’

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Often considered El-Salahi’s masterpiece, The Inevitable was first conceived by the artist during his wrongful imprisonment. Deprived of paper, El-Salahi would sketch out plans for future paintings on the back of small cement casings, before burying them in the sand whenever a guard would come near. Working in this manner led to the artist developing a new style, one seen in The Inevitable, where a painting spreads out from what he refers to as the ‘nucleus’, or the germ of an idea, with a meaning hidden even from the artist himself until the work is finished. Only when he saw The Inevitable completed did El-Salahi realise how clear the message was; that people must rise up and fight tyranny and those that suppress them. This was something he felt was relevant not just to his own life when he created the work in the mid-eighties, but to all of Sudan.

When in 1998 El-Salahi moved to Oxford, this new interest in bold geometric lines was pushed further. Using the english countryside as his subject, he began using vertical parallel lines to describe the form of a tree across a series of paintings and drawings. The use of geometric shapes to evoke natural forms perhaps harks back to the Islamic tradition of using geometric pattern to describe the order of the world. Yet through the prism of El-Salahi’s oeuvre, works such as Tree (2008) become Mondrian-esque divisions of canvas, panels of colour against white, that are nonetheless representational.

Many of his compositions suggest painting as meditation or a means of transcendance. Often praying before beginning to work, he says he has little control over the final image on the canvas; the creation of his works becomes almost an autodidactic gesture. Unlike so many established painters, who in later life fall into a distinct, comfortable style, El-Salahi continues to experiment and test himself and his art, integrating Western and Sudanese influences, exploring the boundaries of visual language and transcending a fixed cultural identity.

Rebecca Jagoe: Ibrahim El-Salahi: Painting in Pursuit of a Cultural Identity

Toko Shinoda

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Spanish slideshow of her work

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Toko Shinoda Exhibit by The Tolman Collection, Tokyo at Musee Kikuchi

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Google images

Toko Shinoda (篠田 桃紅 Shinoda Tōkō?, born March 28, 1913) is a Japanese artist working with sumi ink paintings and lithograph prints. Her art merges traditional calligraphy with modern abstract expression. She says she prefers her paintings and original drawings, because sumi ink presents unlimited colour spectrum. In printmaking, Shinoda uses lithograph as her medium. Unlike woodcut that requires chisel, or etching that requires acid, lithograph allows Shinoda to work directly and spontaneously on the plate with her fluid brushstroke. Shinoda’s strokes are meant to suggest images and vitality of nature. She says, “Certain forms float up in my mind’s eye. Aromas, a blowing breeze, a rain-drenched gust of wind…the air in motion, my heart in motion. I try to capture these vague, evanescent images of the instant and put them into vivid form.” Shinoda’s print editions are small, usually ranging from twelve to fifty-five, and after each edition has been pulled, she often adds a stroke or two of sumi color by hand to each print.

Life

Shinoda was born in Manchuria where her father managed a tobacco factory. Two years later, her family returned to Japan. Influenced by her father’s love of sumi ink painting, calligraphy and Chinese poetry, Shinoda practiced calligraphy since she was six.

Shinoda traveled the United States from 1956 to 1958. During this time her works were bought by Charles Laughton and John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Shinoda also became involved in the abstract expressionist movement of the time.

A 1983 interview in Timemagazine noted that “her trail-blazing accomplishments are analogous to Picasso’s”. Shinoda’s works had been exhibited in the Hague National Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, Cincinnati Art Museum and other leading museums in the world.

She turned 100 in March 2013.

Books on her work

  • Takashina, Shuji. Okada, Shinoda, and Tsukata: Three Pioneers of Abstract Painting in 20th Century Japan. Washington: Phillips Collection, c1979.
  • Tolman, Mary and Tolman, Norman. Toko Shinoda: A New Appreciation. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E Tuttle Company, 1993.

Zen Aesthetics and Art

Importance of Zen Aesthetics and Art for my Printmaking practice

I have been interested in Zen meditation – its focus on awareness of the here and now and the possibilities of choice – since being a teenager. In relation to art this awareness of the moment develops an ability to observe, then capture in a few flowing strokes the essence of one’s perception of something. That ability is based on years of practice and development of a sense of composition – focusing on tensions and imbalance rather than symmetry. Zen painting explores the tension between the accidental and imperfect and that flash of control.

In relation to printmaking it has particular relevance in monoprinting – markmaking on the plate as in the large monochrome monoprints of Yamamoto. But also the possible uses of watercolour inks and capturing the way they mix both on the plate and the paper.

Japanese Aesthetics (1 of 1)

Principles of Zen Aesthetics

Zen means “meditation.” Zen teaches that enlightenment is achieved through the profound realization that one is already an enlightened being. This awakening can happen gradually or in a flash of insight (as emphasized by the Soto and Rinzai schools, respectively). But in either case, it is the result of one’s own efforts. Deities and scriptures can offer only limited assistance.

Zen Buddhism’s emphasis on simplicity and the importance of the natural world generated a distinctive aesthetic, which is expressed by the terms wabi and sabi. influenced by Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, particularly acceptance and contemplation of the imperfection, constant flux and impermanence of all things. These two amorphous concepts are used to express a sense of rusticity, melancholy, loneliness, naturalness, and age, so that a misshapen, worn peasant’s jar is considered more beautiful than a pristine, carefully crafted dish. While the latter pleases the senses, the former stimulates the mind and emotions to contemplate the essence of reality. In today’s Japan, the meaning of wabi-sabi is often condensed to “wisdom in natural simplicity.” In art books, it is typically defined as “flawed beauty.”

In Search of Wabi Sabi with Marcel Theroux

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 Zen traces its origins to India, but it was formalized in China. Chan, as it is known in China, was transmitted to Japan and took root there in the thirteenth century. Chan was enthusiastically received in Japan, especially by the samurai class that wielded political power at this time, and it became the most prominent form of Buddhism between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. The immigrant Chinese prelates were educated men, who introduced not only religious practices but also Chinese literature, calligraphy, philosophy, and ink painting to their Japanese disciples, who often in turn traveled to China for further study.

Many Japanese arts over the past thousand years have been  Such arts can exemplify a wabi-sabi aesthetic. Examples include:

A contemporary Japanese appraisal of this concept is found in the influential essay In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki.

Sumi-e or Zen Ink Painting

You Tube videos on history of Chinese and Japanese ink painting

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Other Sources

Met Museum

Zen Buddhism and Art  Lieberman

Zen Painting Google images

Sumi-e or Japanese ink wash painting uses tonality and shading achieved by varying the ink density, both by differential grinding of the ink stick in water and by varying the ink load and pressure within a single brushstroke. Ink wash painting artists spend years practicing basic brush strokes to refine their brush movement and ink flow. In the hand of a master, a single stroke can produce astonishing variations in tonality, from deep black to silvery gray. Thus, in its original context, shading means more than just dark-light arrangement: It is the basis for the beautiful nuance in tonality found in East Asian ink wash painting and brush-and-ink calligraphy.In his classic book Composition, American artist and educator Arthur Wesley Dow (1857–1922) wrote this about ink wash painting: “The painter …put upon the paper the fewest possible lines and tones; just enough to cause form, texture and effect to be felt. Every brush-touch must be full-charged with meaning, and useless detail eliminated. Put together all the good points in such a method, and you have the qualities of the highest art”.

See Wikipedia article. See articles from British Museum collection.

A key practise is ensō ( , “circle”?) – a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create. The ensō symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and mu (the void). Drawing ensō is a disciplined practice of Japanese ink painting—sumi-e (墨絵 “ink painting”?). The tools and mechanics of drawing the ensō are the same as those used in traditional Japanese calligraphy: One uses a brush ( fudé?) to apply ink to washi (a thin Japanese paper). Usually a person draws the ensō in one fluid, expressive stroke. When drawn according to the sōsho (草書?) style of Japanese calligraphy, the brushstroke is especially swift. Once the ensō is drawn, one does not change it. It evidences the character of its creator and the context of its creation in a brief, contiguous period of time. Drawing ensō is a spiritual practice that one might perform as often as once per day.

This spiritual practice of drawing ensō or writing Japanese calligraphy for self-realization is called hitsuzendō (筆禅道 “way of the brush”?). Ensō exemplifies the various dimensions of the Japanese wabi-sabi perspective and aesthetic: Fukinsei (asymmetry, irregularity), kanso (simplicity), koko (basic; weathered), shizen (without pretense; natural), yugen (subtly profound grace), datsuzoku (freedom), and seijaku (tranquility).

Today, ink monochrome painting is the art form most closely associated with Zen Buddhism. In general, the first Japanese artists to work in this medium were Zen monks who painted in a quick and evocative manner to express their religious views and personal convictions. Their preferred subjects were Zen patriarchs, teachers, and enlightened individuals. In time, however, artists moved on to secular themes such as bamboo, flowering plums, orchids, and birds, which in China were endowed with scholarly symbolism. The range of subject matter eventually broadened to include literary figures and landscapes, and the painting styles often became more important than personal expression.

It has also inspired many modern Japanese Abstract artists like Toko Shinoda and Western abstract artists like John Cage.

Series of interesting videos on a contemporary Western Zen ink painter: Nikolai Jelneronov

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