Saturday, September 26, 2009

Here is the third and final portion of my email conversation with Binky Walker, my thoughts in gray, hers in black. The exhibit of her drawings, ukiyo-e: pictures of the floating world continues at Cullom Gallery through October 31st.

The pun is literally your floating ukiyo - clouds - and the pictures (the 'e' in ukiyo-e) you have produced of them. But further, the ideas you have turned around in your mind are much the same as those originally attached to ukiyo: the beauty found in sadness. The coming awareness that we and all things are temporary. You are finding peace with this I think. And certainly you are finding beauty in these ideas and teasing it out for all of us to consider.

Seems you teased out not only the title for this show and its reasons, but something more subtle. That these drawings reflect a contemporary interpretation of ukiyo-e as a re-appropriation of the original intent of ukiyo: to remove the profanity and experience fully the profound beauty and underlying sorrow of our own transience.

The moments (days, months, years) drawing the clouds I rested in a state of intense awareness of that sorrowful beauty. Both the sorrow and the beauty were almost more than I could bear. Simply looking into the sky brings me to tears, knowing what I see will only happen this once in all of eternity. It felt a blessing and responsibility to have been chosen by the clouds to bear witness. This intensity is overwhelming and brings a desire for the profane . . . for "stylish pleasures." To escape what I cannot escape, to disregard that I am bound to the floating world.

The twisting of the ideas of ukiyo that occurred during the Edo period in many ways makes a mockery of its original ideas. By the 18th and 19th centuries it had come to mean a blend of hedonism and laissez-faire. And the contrast between its old & new meanings I think, only heightens the poignancy of the idea in its nascent form; in the heyday of ukiyo-e, the period saw incredible growth of urban centers, industry, politics, and a refinement of decoration and pleasure seeking. In the end these are just gaudy diversions from the true beauty of impermanence.

Your last sentence says it all so beautifully.

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