October in the Pacific Northwest is a moody season. The rains have come, and the fugue state of grayness that leads to indoors brooding requires acts of increasing will to resist. Sunday I felt myself on the cusp of succumbing to what the Buddhists aptly call The Third Hindrance of Sloth and Torpor. Seattle’s caffeine economy is built on what may seem like indulgence: yet consumption of caffeine is actually the first step in Spiritual Effort. I dutifully poured three cups of tea and purified my mind.
Once prodded out the door and feeling clouds on my face I came back to life. The innumerable grays of our skies offer a perfect foil for color, and walking through the blur of crimsons, burnt gold and lichens filled me with calm elation. Still facing East after seeing SAM’s Hokusai, I prolonged the spell of the exhibit with a visit to the Japanese Garden. As I walked through the Japanese garden each tree and stone seemed redrawn in ink in isometric perspective, and I half expected my viewfinder to appear with parallelograms drawn across the glass.
When we are barraged daily with thousands of images seen online it is easy to forget the power of an image seen literally on screen, as in a painting on a folding screen of silk, from hundreds of years ago, holding history present with the physicality of thread. My favorite images from the Hokusai prints showed the ghost seepage of aged rice paste and seams where sheets of paper or silk overlapped. Seen close I noticed embossments of cloud forms I had never caught in reproductions, and this evidence of the physical making impressed memory on me as a bodily thing, amplifying the exhibit’s power. [Read more…]