Tuesday, March 14, 1995

The Daybreak

12" x 42"

Before the daybreak, before the hustle and bustle of daytime activity, there are a few hours of stillness in the dark. The Novelist Inoue Yasushi describes it as follows: “The darkness before the daybreak… is like the darkness around the stage, where all is set for performance and filled with great expectation and excitement before the curtain goes up."

The night landscape in my mind was not the glitter and colorful like the one in Las Vegas. Rather, it was of a city like San Jose, surrounded by hills, unadorned, but pregnant with day’s excitement. I hope this painting conveys such feeling of a dawn.

Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Sundar Subramanian.

Summer's Shade

34" x 26"

In Haiku, the shortest poetic genre, the Kigo (a word that indicates the season) plays an extremely important role: It can incorporate several seasonal observations in fewer than five syllables!

For example, Ryokuin (a kigo for summer) means the shade that green trees create. It means cool air beneath the trees in a garden or a park, rather than dark shade in mountain depth. Essayist Yamamoto Kenkichi writes in his Haiku Anthology: “[It] signifies shadows that trees cast in the bright sunny spot in [an] early summer garden…. The sunbeams seep through the trees and display a beautiful tapestry woven in stripe in the air.”

On this canvas I tried to paint a cool, refreshing atmosphere of woods in early summer, as suggested by the above Kigo.
spread in the woods
tapestry of sunbeams…
summer’s shade

Sakura Banquet

48" x 30"

Sakura season… it’s party time! The air is warm, and the long winter is over at last. Everyone wants to enjoy life. Banquets are prepared in the buildings overlooking cherry groves; picnic blankets are spread under the cherry trees. It is a centuries-old tradition to gather with friends to admire Sakura. Haiku Master Basho once observed:
“Under the tree,
soup and salad
on the picnic spread,
covered with pale pink petals.”
What a joyful feast! I wanted to capture the excitement, perhaps by including the presence of children:
touch football
pink petals
on children’s hair

The Pink Cloud

28" x 54"

The Sakura season starts with Yoshino-zakura, pale pink with single petals. Yama-zakura follows, with its multiple petals of deeper pink. By this time it is April. The soft sun, hazy sky, and blossoming cherry-trees all melt into one.

The 17th century poet Basho wrote the following famous Haiku:
“In the pink cloud
traverses the sound of temple gong
Is it from Ueno or Asakusa?”
Using the sound of the gong and the names of two temple locations miles apart, the poet described the extent of the geography.

Inspired by Basho, and challenged by the same geography, I selected a narrow horizontal canvas. But I could not paint the sound of gong! Once again, I feel humble before the power of words. With the same humility, I present mine...
temple gongs
in the pink cloud
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick M. Overholt.

Scent of Apples

48" x 37"

Kitahara Hakushu, a poet of the Romantic School of the early 20th century, wrote the following Tanka:
“She is leaving…
thrashing snow on the pavement.
O snow, the falling snow,
embrace her, please,
with the scent of apples!”
Hakushu was known for his sensuous and rhythmical verses. This poem is no exception. Without using too many words, it tells us of the emotion and the movement of two lovers who spent a night together.

Morning came. The woman is leaving the house. During the night, snow started to fall… persistently and cheerfully it keeps falling, and the world stands still. He listens to her footsteps breaking into the fresh snow, and thinks of the sweet, refreshing smell of apples… and tells the snow to embrace his lover with the fragrance.

The unexpected combination of snow and apples stimulates my imagination. I sense that their rendezvous was a heart-warming one. In “Scent of Apples,” I wanted to express such a romantic, blissful feeling framed by the fresh morning snow.

Courtesy of the Princeton Review, New York.