May 2018

It’s May and finally spring is here in Iowa!!!  I hope you’re all enjoying this nicer and warmer weather.  This month in Japan, there are a multitude of fun things going on such as Hanami (cherry blossom viewing), Kodomono-hi (Children’s day celebration), and Golden Week (a long Japanese holiday week).  Most of you are already aware of these famous activities, so I’ve decided to talk about Sumi-é (Black Ink Painting) this month.
Sumi-é is the Japanese word for Black Ink Painting.  The Japanese term “sumi” means “black ink”, “é” means “painting”.  East Asian Painting and writing developed together in ancient China using the same materials, brush and ink on paper.  Emphasis is placed on the beauty of each individual stroke of the brush.  The subjects are painted with black ink in all possible gradations ranging from pure black to the lightest shades achievable by dissolving ink in water.   
The Kamakura era (1192-1333), when the power of the nobility was taken over by warriors (samurai), the Zen monks to China allowed Chinese paintings and artifacts to be brought back to Japan.  This is how
Sumi-é was introduced into Japan and it then became rapidly successful because in this painting-method, as in Zen practice, reality is expressed by reducing it to its pure, bare form.  Just as in Zen, few words are enough to express the meaning of many hours of meditation; in Sumi-é, few marks of black ink painted with a brush on a simple sheet of white paper, can represent the most complex model.  One must learn to capture the essence in order to get to the heart of reality as it is.
Have a wonderful spring month everyone, and hope to see you at CelebrAsian!!
Chié Schiller
Board Chair / Executive President