‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’
– Leonard Cohen
Wabi-sabi is a feeling, an emotive journey that is difficult to articulate instantly. It is the art of imperfection or the appreciation of the transcending beauty of things as they are. It is a philosophy that is deeply embedded in Zen Buddhism and has no English word to describe it. It originated from the Tea Ceremony where handmade or crooked bowls were more favourable than unblemished ones.
Everything changes over time and what was once shiny and new will eventually become decrepit and decayed. That does not mean we should discard it or revamp it. We should instead honour it for what it is. Unwittingly wabi-sabi has always been my approach to life: finding beauty in imperfection. I naturally gravitate towards rusted antiques, dead tree branches, broken teacups and books aged with decades of yellowed dust and smoke. Perfection is not appealing to me. Even in the shape of things I draw, it is evident. I don’t present anatomically perfect structures, but rather a slightly oblique view with intentionally distorted proportions. My art should never be flawless, but instead, it should be, without doubt, wabi-sabi.
But wabi-sabi is evident in more than just art, and it spills over to everyday life. A fallen tree that has become a home to wild grass and all types of insects is so much more breathtaking than a square-cut pedigree lawn or the polished interior of a shopping mall. The same goes for people. There is nothing more striking than people with unique features. Unruly hair, extra freckles, textured and uneven skin, are a few imperfections that make us more attractive.
Artists love to portray the unusual-looking people more than the perfectly airbrushed variety. All our flaws fill the pages of our life books and write the story of our individuality. Whatever our perceptions, we are poetry in motion.
‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’
– Leonardo da Vinci