Slowing Time

Botanical art and watercolor have slowed me down. Drawing instruction at the Museum School was extremely fast-paced. The very short poses that models held forced us to see differently, to focus on line, movement, and weight, not body features so much. Botanical art demands long patience. Watercolor truly is a challenging medium, and it calls for patience in application, waiting as each layer dries before the next is applied, or for the paper to glisten exactly the right way to carry a wash. Slowing down has not been easy, but it has happened. There are many art-making aspects that I do quickly, because of my training--I feel secure in my drawing and painting. But, ultimately, "slowing time" needs to happen. Even in faster-paced painting, I was routinely lost in time. And, in a place of slower time, one finds beauty and peace.


I was interested to read The New York Times columnist David Brooks turning to art in his "Longing for an Internet Cleanse: A small rebellion against the quickening of time," (March 28, 2019). He introduces a magnificent painting by the Japanese-America artist Makoto Fujimara: "Golden Sea--A New Song."


Fujimara hands Brooks an ancient Kintsugi bowl, 300 to 400 years old, once broken into shards on its long journey, but rejoined and "healed" using lacquer and gold. "Veins" of gold make these bowls "more beautiful and more valuable than they were in their original condition."


Brooks senses time in this bowl, all that was experienced, and "hungers for timeless pieces like these...in the face of the pace of events [driven] to permanent frenetic, of people left broken with no one to glue them back together."


In Mako's paintings, "a slower dimension of time," in "the Japanese style Nihonga, he grinds as many as 60 layers in a single work." As Brooks notes, "Nihonga is slow to make and slow to see." He is astonished by what is revealed in patient looking. A quote from Frederick Turner follows:


"A beautiful thing, though simple in its immediate presence, always gives us a sense of depth below depth, almost an innocent wild vertigo as one falls through its levels."


Brooks seeks the Greek concept of Kairos time, "qualitative time: when you're with beauty, in art or in nature, you tend to move at Kairos time--slowly, serenely but thickly."


From there he goes to "the great philosopher of time," Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who points out, in a beautiful passage, that "the first sacred thing in the Bible is not a thing, it is a time period, the seventh day, a palace in time which we build. It is made of soul, of joy and reticence...not a rest from the other six days, but the peak experience they point toward, where in showiness one can glimpse the seeds of eternity."


Mako, Brooks observes, "has the sorts of thought one has when you live at a different pace." He "brings news from outside...replacing harsh works that flow from fear with works that are generous, generative, and generational."


I found peace just reading these reflections on time.



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