Blog #2 – Japanese ideology & descriptive terms

The sculpted works from Hownam explore the interface with light and how it affects thought and mood at different moments in the day, these aspects and complex feelings are a major part of all our work.

Complex feelings or notions that can be conveyed via an aesthetic have context in many cultures, in particular these are often expressed most clearly in Japan. Yuugen  for example describes “an incomprehensible depth with hidden beauty, the allure of these objects in low light which we can’t fully understand.”

Nomura Kakejiku¹ refers to “Yuugen” as an aesthetic principle which influences various Japanese arts such as literature, painting, the performing arts, and architecture. The word originated in China and was used in Chinese schools of thought like Buddhism as well as that of Laozi and Zhuangzi.

Yuugen means the beauty that we can feel sense into an object, even though the beauty doesn’t exist in the literal sense of the word and cannot be seen directly.

Yuugen is a sense not to enjoy the superficial beauty of an object, which is in front of our eyes, but to enhance the beauty more impressive by imagining its latent beauty. For example, we think a flower is beautiful when we see it. This beauty is the superficial beauty. The flower has a past of withstanding wind, rain, and snow until now, and will someday wither, however beautiful it is now. Although the beautiful flower itself impresses us, the beauty will be more impressive than the superficial beauty, when we can imagine its past and future.

If you conceptualize Yuugen as a suggestiveness, lingering memory, aftertaste, or implication, you can more easily understand Yuugen. Imagination is essential for feeling Yuugen, so many artists have, since ancient times in Japan, developed a method to encourage their viewers to exercise their imagination. Unpainted blank space, simplification, asymmetry, irregularity, imperfection, quiet colours, composition, gold paint – these are examples, in the Japanese-style painting world, of ways artists encourage their viewers to imaginatively participate in the viewing.