[Golden Fire by Makoto Fujimura]
I first discovered Makoto Fujimura's art in the pages of IMAGE. I found his work to be of exquisite beauty, and the more I followed his work and thought, I was intrigued and inspired.
....this afternoon I took an almost two hour nap - it was awesome. Afterward, still groggy, I perked up my brain by reading the newspaper, then a few blogs. While reading Jeremy Casella's blog, I found this link to a lecture by Makoto Fujimura. I haven't finished it yet because I kept rewinding to hear this quote:
"Art cannot be divorced from faith, for to do so is to literally close our eyes to that beauty of the dying sun setting all around us. Every beauty also suffers. Death spreads all over our lives and therefore faith must be given to see through the darkness, to see through the beauty of 'the valley of the shadow of death.'
Prayers are given, too, in the layers of broken, pulverized pigments. Beauty is in the brokenness, not in what we can conceive as the perfections, not in the 'finished' images but in the incomplete gestures. Now, I await for my paintings to reveal themselves. Perhaps I will find myself rising through the ashes, through the beauty of such broken limitations."
[that, and he referenced a book I've been wanting to read for a long time - On Beauty and Being Just by Elaine Scarry. It remains on my "to-read list."]
After listening awhile, I revisited a beloved essay by Fujimura ~ "Fallen Towers and the Art of Tea" (you can find it under "Essays" on his web site). An excerpt:
"Sen-no-Rikyu, the 16th century tea master who is mostly responsible for development of distinctively Japanese way of art of tea, lived and died at Daitoku-ji temple in Kyoto. His tea house still stands there. Tea was a form of celebration during a banquet in China, but in Japan, Sen-no-Rikyu and his predecessors refined tea as a unique form of communication and the tea house as a minimal conceptual space. In a war-torn period of cultural flux, Daitoku-ji became the center of activity, and Sen-no-Rikyu became this new culture's main voice.
His tea house had a distinct entry called 'nijiri-guchi,' built so small that a guest would have to bow and take his sword off. It is no coincidence (but a historic fact ignored by most in Japan) that one of his closest confidants, one of his wives, was one of the first converts to Christianity, the fruit of an influx of missionaries into Japan in the 15th and 16th centuries. He went to observe a mass being celebrated in Kyoto with his wife. There he saw the Eucharist being celebrated, with a cup representing Christ's blood being passed around. This experience affirmed his vision for tea. His tea would be an art form: and this art of communication equalized any who would stand in his presence, whether a shogun or a farmer, male or female. As a cup filled with green tea was passed, his tea room would become a place of Shalom. Five of his seven closest disciples were Christians. They were exiled by Shogun Hideyoshi who gave power and prestige to Sen-no-Rikyu, but who later hardened his heart. Hideyoshi realized, quite correctly, that the egalitarian nature of tea would be dangerous to his power, and he became, by no coincidence either, one of the greatest enemies of Christianity in history, ordering the execution of thousands of believers, and closing the country for several centuries. He ordered Rikyu to commit Seppuku at the end, the most cruel art form of suicide, at the very tea house of Shalom."
"Andras Visky, a Romanian playwright and scholar who was once imprisoned for his faith, told me that 'without Communion, there will be no community. Without Communion, there will be no communication at all.' Every time we break the Lord's bread and the wine, we affirm a foundation of Christ which was shaken but not moved, broken but not destroyed. He is the 'strong tower' we run to, and find true refuge in, even as our own towers collapse all around us. This refuge, this communication, this community was what Sen-no-Rikyu desired in his struggle to express humanity in a war-torn time.
With this Eucharistic foundation, we do not need to 'postpone' art because art flows, for us, right out of that Table, from the very heart of our universe. If we center ourselves there, then we can go as far as the end of hell and still return home. We can even dare to have the innocence of a child in a world filled with fear and darkness. Jesus' command not to fear flows out of that Table as our promise towards true Shalom. At the table the great sheep still resides, inviting us to enter the Beautiful through His suffering. No restraint is needed for expression of hope in that morning light."
[the entire essay is very worth the read. I'd love to read more about Sen-no-Rikyu, too.]
This probably won't surprise y'all, but I've always wanted to visit Japan (Johnny beat me to it) and participate in a traditional tea ceremony. I am certain I would fumble and mar the beautiful rituals, but if I heard/read Makoto Fujimura correctly, my "incomplete gestures", and my sipping of green tea, would be acts of beauty, and worship unto God.