I was introduced to Wabi-Sabi by Mwamba, who thought it might be of interest to me.  How right he was!

I have just read Leonard Koren’s Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers.  It is not a publication you read, so much as absorb.  As Mathew in his Pecha Kucha presentation on influence explained ‘Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness.’  His images eloquently supported that statement.

Wabi-Sabi is one of the core concepts of Japanese society, yet most Japanese will struggle to explain exactly what it means to western culture.  Koren profers ‘The Japanese language, or the conventions of its use, is good for communicating subleties of mood, vagueness and the logic of the heart, but not so good for explaining things in a rational way?  He continues ‘Almost since its inception as a distinct aesthetic mode, wabi-sabi has been peripherally associated with Zen Buddhism.  ….Since ideological clarity or transparency is not an essential aspect of wabi-sabi, to fully explain the concept, might, in fact, diminish it.

Metaphysical Basis

Things are either devolving towards or evolving from, nothingness.

Spiritual Values

Truth comes from the observation of nature

‘Greatness’ exists in the inconspicuous and overlooked details.

Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness.

State of mind

Acceptance of the inevitable.

Appreciation of the cosmic order.

Moral Precepts

Get rid of all that is unnecessary.

Focus on the intrinsic and ignore material hierarchy.

Material Qualities

The suggestion of natural process.







004 Ash

011 Bulb roots

022 Hydrangea leaf

Not a bad philosophy to live by in our over-stuffed, over-capitalist society.


Author: susanmilleruk

Watercolour painter living, working and loving Hastings and St Leonards on Sea. MA in Fine Art.

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