The Beautiful Art of Simplicity

“Woman Waiting for the Moon to Rise” by Uemura Shoen. Silk painting. 86 cm wide x 73 cm high.

Set in a rectangular format a single female leans against a wooden rail. Her chin rests on her clasped hands as she gazes out into a void. Her head is set slightly above the centreline and slightly to the right of the centre. The wooden rail runs askew to the picture plane from left to right through the width of the image and gives the impression of continuing outside the picture frame left and right.

The space she gazes into is empty of any information. She is a young woman with almost white skin. Her jet black hair is precise and neat. Her hair is pinned into shape and fixed with what looks like bamboo hairpins and a hair comb with some colour decoration.

She wears a diaphanous blue garment over a red and white checked Kimono?. On the lower part, she has a light blue garment with paler blue/white leaf and swirl designs with a linear gold design near the edge.

The flat black hair is skilfully softened where hair meets the flat white of porcelain skin. There is a contrast of the flat black hair with the light wood hair accessories that sets up a dynamic that gently agitates with the flat black.

The black contrasting with white and the black against the lighter hair pieces draws the eye directly to the peaceful, thoughtful face and then the eye descends to the expanse of blue and the white motive on her back and then down again to the lighter blue where the eye picks up the lighter wood colour near the trim of the lower garment and picking up small sections of the wood rail creating a second dynamic to give a visual connection to the top of the head and back again, the eye flicks between the two.

The rising wooden rail cuts across left and right strongly suggesting the continuation of space beyond the picture frame expanding the void well beyond the edge of the painting. The slight diagonal rail goes against the diagonal of the figure that descends to the lower corner setting up yet another dynamic.

A further dynamic is set up with the use of minimal but strong points of red colour from the edge of the undergarment near her wrist, her red lips, some pink in the hair decoration, a thin slip of red at the back of the neck and even picks up on the artist red stamp mark on the far right. Within the head and body, there are more dynamics of a flow and rhythm of curves of the clothing and hair.

Compositionally a lot is going on for such an apparent simple image. The image is static, calm and peaceful but with enough passive dynamics to keep the image feeling alive. A dynamic is two or more related points or passages of painting that are visually strong or bold and grab the attention moving the eye around the painting with deliberate intention.

A passive dynamic is a visual dynamic which is subtle, a kind of gentle agitation on the eye, a murmuring rather than a bold, dramatic visual moment or bold statement.

Much of the painting is devoid of details or information causing a concentration on the single lone figure. It has a beautiful simplicity which evokes a feeling of a Zen-like meditation. With elbows on the wooden rail and her chin resting on the delicate clasped hands and fingers, this beautiful young woman peers into the distant void in which we can imagine the air full of thoughts, and a myriad of unspoken musings, conversations, dreams, remembrances and perhaps regrets as she calmly and patiently waits for the moon to reveal itself. Perhaps she thinks of the future and the past.
Perhaps the moon is a loving connection between an absent and distant lover simultaneously gazing upon the same moon and engaging in silent murmurings of love between the loving couple.

The painting does not show or indicate this so it is pure speculation and purely personal responses evoked from the known and suggested elements of the painting which brings the painting alive for the viewer in a meaningful way.


TALKING ART with Paul Woods


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