Mark “The Landscapist” Hobson did it again. He wrote one of his usual rants against what he calls the “pretty-picture crowd”, and as so often, I mostly agree.
He argues with the two Japanese concepts of “hade” and “shibui“. Both mean a form of beauty, “jimi” being a third one, with shibui being roughly the ideal middle between flashy, gaudy hade and dull jimi.
From “The pursuit of comparative aesthetics” by Mazhar Hussain and Robert Wilkinson we learn that
Restraint is one of the ingredients in shibui. Shibui art objects are unobtrusive, unostentatious and modest with understatement as a characteristic style. An underlying notion is, that the less powerful object will probably be the more artistically effective.
For Mark, the full saturation mindset of the “pretty-picture crowd” is of course hade, and he insists that hade, while not intrinsically wrong, is only endurable against a backdrop of shibui. So far, so good, and I agree, but it may be worth looking deeper.
First it is worth to notice, that hade and shibui are not necessarily connected to certain levels of saturation. Mark oversimplifies. Vincent van Gogh’s pictures probably have more characteristics of shibui than of hade, but when you see them hanging on a wall, you are almost blinded by the saturated colors.
Furthermore we can’t reduce hade and shibui to purely aesthetic categories, they are as much defined as behavioral concepts, as lifestyles, which probably best explains the attributed relative values, and as I understand Mark’s attitude, his gripes seem to be more with behavior and intent than with measurable physical qualities like (over-)saturation.
I guess what we artistically pursue, hade or shibui, it all boils down to why we do it. It’s not even a matter of being a leader or a follower, we all are always both of it to a certain extent. No, it’s a matter of why we pursue art. Do we do it essentially for ourself, meaning: are we free, or do we do it to impress, meaning: are we dependent upon positive feedback, do we strive for admiration?
The more we depend on others, the more we will compromise, the more we will try to please, and pleasing in a Koyaanisqatsi world always and at first means getting seen at all, something that hade perfectly accomplishes.
But even if it is shibui that we pursue, we must ask ourselves why we do it. Is it for us or is it to impress, because there can also be vanity in modesty. Less obtrusive, but only to a degree, and it does not even cater to a different crowd, only to a smaller one 🙂
I think another aspect of the same thing is, that we should realize we have time, how much time we have, and that it is OK to take time. When I begin to express myself in any creative way, I have all my life to fool around, to try things, to change, both myself and how I work, and I have the freedom to allow myself to do that.
I don’t mean to pray isolation here, that would seem quite ridiculous for a blogger, but I do pray being a little more relaxed. It’s OK when I don’t get raving comments on every photo, and it’s OK when some of my blog posts are met with indifference or are simply ignored.
Relax. Whatever the crowd does: keep doing what you do if you like it and feel compelled to do so.
I also don’t mean to play down the value of feedback, positive or negative. Feedback is OK and it is important as a means to determine where we are in relation to others. It only does not nourish us. What nourishes us, what gives our efforts substance, what gives us freedom, is to stand deeply rooted in our own experience and our own judgment. Other people can help us find out where we are, but it is up to us to know where we want to go.
Having said all that, I notice that my latest images were far from being public successes on SmugMug. Still, they indicate a turn from the playful experiments with Snap Art to an exploration that centers more around content and ambivalence, and this is exactly what I chose as my current side-project. At the moment I like it and feel compelled to do so 🙂