Tag Archives: japanese

Art In The Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a cultural icon that easily boggles the western mind.  A tea ceremony is not a host and a bunch of her friends sitting on the porch eating biscuits and gossiping. Everything is precisely planned with precision. This is a social event, and as such it promotes the cultural ideals of the Japanese and provides a glance into a very complex culture.

It is also about imagery and how image is very important to the Japanese. A special room or house is often built, such as the one in Reflections of a Tea House. Cleanliness is constantly maintained.  They beat the tatami mats (reed mats placed on the floor for sitting); sweep the wooden floors and replace any damaged Shoji (paper wall) screens.  Gardeners trim the garden bushes, weed the plant beds, and finally, remove dead leafs.  Interestingly, some of the leafs are left so that it maintains the image of the garden being a living thing.   Even the art displayed during the ceremony is important to the image and must follow specific rules.


The tea ceremony is not the place to find the gaudy or outrageous “in your face” style of art.  It is a traditional form that has developed rigid rules on how things proceed. Those rules differ slightly depending on the style or school where the host learned and practiced. However, socially prescribed rules will still exist for just about everything.   Including a particular way to light the charcoal, stacked in a particular way to heat the water.  Every aspect of the ceremony has a purpose and an artistic yet meditative and deliberate movement.


The host chooses utensils for the ritual with the utmost care.  The style of utensils depends on the theme for that particular ceremony.  Some of the utensils are intricate and ornate, obviously of great cost or value, while others are of a simple plain artistic taste, but never “cheap”.  Balance with the theme and style of the ceremony remains vital to the idea of the ceremony itself.


Indeed, every aspect of the tea ceremony remains planned to not upset the natural balance in the surroundings according to the chosen theme.   For instance, the carefully arranged and picked flowers in a vase only serve to enhance the natural beauty of the room.


However, the floral pattern displayed on the vase does not mirror the flowers themselves.  The pattern provides an artistic and pleasing flow with the flowers, but neither the flowers nor the vase detract from one another.


Further, the use of a wall hanging is often seen in tea rooms.  This wall hanging follows the same principles as the flowers or vase.  You want nothing that would detract from the other items in the room.  So, if a wall hanging displayed shows chrysanthemums then you would neither find the same pattern on the vase or in it.


The tea served is Japanese matcha tea.  It is an astringent, somewhat bitter, green tea pounded to a powdered form.  Placed into a cup, hot water is then poured and finally whipped using a wooden or bamboo whisk.

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Summer Reds

When I hear about summer reds the first thing I think of is wine.  But in this case, we are talking about art in nature.

The photographic work Summer Reds gives vision to the force of color in nature.   Red colors give enchantment and welcome glow to the usual blend of greens and browns that inhabit a garden with little to no flowering plants.  Indeed the artistic challenge of any gardener is to break up the consistent green that you ordinarily see from the sheer number of living plants.   This is where Japanese maple trees shine their best.  The natural red leaves only continue to darken to a crimson color as the year progresses on.


The value of such a colored ornamental plant is perfect for the shade.  In fact Japanese maples have to be shaded, or protected from the full afternoon sun in some way.  The delicate leafs cannot take the punishment doled out by the Texas summer heat and they will burn into a horrible garish brown.  This staying in the shadows works to a gardeners advantage however, as the deep reds and yellows that these plants grow will nurture an inspiring scene of bright colors and latent greens in a garden.


The other contrast that satisfies our artistic view in Summer Reds  in nature is the use of sunlight and deep shadow.  This flagrant battle between the sun-kissed bark and the deep dark shadows of the underside of various stems and limbs improve our attention to detail in the scene. We can sense the sunlight nurturing the red leafs in the early morning light.  Cultivation and nourishment for both tree and our own interests before the hard reality of the afternoon comes to envelop the tree in shadow and diminish the transparency  and bright glow of colorful leafs.

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Hidden Motives in “I Am Watching You”

The first people I saw in the hidden garden that morning was a boy and his father.  The boy, 5-6 years old, was all excited about the prospect of feeding the fish and ducks that live in the pond. He had already received a handful of fish pellets in his small hands and was running towards the water with his father right behind him


I quickly followed the pair to the pond where the boy proceeded to start throwing the fish pellets into the water.  When you attempt to take pictures of animals you have to look for any opportunities. Animals have a mind of their own, they will do what they want when they want.  Food is always an opportunity for great photography subjects.


It was like the child had rung the dinner bell,  nothing will attract koi fish and ducks like a free meal, and they were not going to be denied.  As soon as the ducks, this mallard in particular, saw the food he started swimming towards the excited child.


The mallard was nervous as could be.  He desperately wanted to make it to the little boy trying to feed the fish and ducks, but at the same time he was very unsure about the boy’s father and myself standing on the edge of the pond.


You can see the tension in his eye and the way he holds his head.  He has to get to the food before any other ducks in the area know what is going on and he has to beat out the faster koi fish.  Yet, he is easier to attack than the koi, so he has to go ahead with caution.


It didn’t take long for the koi to figure out what was happening and soon join the fray.  This particular koi was in the vanguard of the school of fish arriving on the scene for the serious chow down.


This koi fish, seemingly kissing the duck, is either a Butterfly Koi or a Ogon koi.  A butterfly koi is the result of a koi fish and an Asian carp being paired.  A Ogon koi,  Ogon is Japanese for “gold”, is usually either an orange or gold-colored fish.

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Wish to learn more about Mallards and Koi?  Try these sites