Saturday, September 5, 2009

ukiyo-e: pictures of the floating world

Binky Walker. Triptych no. 3, 2008. Graphite on paper. Each panel: 8 x 8 inches on 15 x 15 inch paper

Cullom Gallery is pleased to present ukiyo-e: pictures of the floating world by artist Binky Walker, a series of 15 graphite drawings in the form of triptychs, each of which chronicles a brief passage in the ephemeral life of a cloud. Walker’s contemplative process and resulting drawings conjure the 16th century Buddhist idea of ukiyo, or floating world: the stark and sorrowful beauty experienced as we become aware of our transience in this temporal, or floating, reality.

Over the course of two years, Walker performed daily meditations through the act of drawing. Contemplating on paper the minute shifts of clouds, she bore witness to the infinite differences that occur within their slightest movement, allowing an instant to suspend itself across the long duration it took to complete each image. These quiet, exquisitely rendered drawings question Western notions of time - our absolute belief in divisions of past, present and future - and beckon viewers to deeply consider their place in the
ukiyo of a perpetually changing present.

By the mid-17th century in Japan, the meaning of ukiyo strayed from its austere Buddhist origins and came to define the decadent urban vitalization of the Edo period, marked by a ubiquitous pursuit of fleeting pleasures such as the kabuki theater, or the company of celebrated courtesans. Ukiyo-e, or pictures of the floating world, became the common name, still in use today, for the popular woodcuts that recorded the myriad amusements of the nouveau riche merchant class.

With this exhibit, Walker offers a contemporary reinterpretation of the centuries-old Japanese tradition of ukiyo-e by re-appropriating the original intent of ukiyo from the trivial. Her reverent treatment of the ephemera of clouds makes palpable the beauty and underlying sorrow of our own transience, summoning the viewer to experience the profound intensity inherent in every moment of this temporary, floating existence.

The exhibit, ukiyo-e: pictures of the floating world is on view September 3rd through October 31, 2009. Cullom Gallery will also host an artist’s talk and discussion with Binky Walker on Saturday, September 19th at 3:00 pm.

Cullom Gallery, located in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, focuses on the tradition and influence of Japanese woodblock prints and works on paper. The gallery is open Tuesday through Thursday, and Saturday from 10 to 5, and every first Thursday until 8 pm.

Cullom Gallery

313 Occidental Ave S

Seattle, WA 98104


Binky Walker. (detail) Triptych no. 3, 2008. Graphite on paper. 8 x 8 inches on 15 x 15 inch paper


  1. These are gorgeous drawings. And you are an awesome curator. As always, I wish I could come and see the exhibit in person.