Technology vs Culture
Wabi Sabi - Leonard Koren 1994 
Walden - Henry David Thoreau 1854
Shibui - Anonymous

Technology vs Culture

Now for almost a century philosophers have been pointing out that the technological sophistication of modern humanity has vastly out-stripped its basic psychological and social capacity to deal with its creation. Although technologies have changed, our mindset hasn’t: clubs and spears have been replaced by the nuclear missile. Effectively, an imbalance has arrived between our ability to find ways to bring something into being and an understanding of why we have created it and how to deal with this creation.

Social and cultural development lies at the heart of bringing sustainable and sustaining human ecological systems, economies, industries and built environments into being. Without this development the redirection of human actions towards sustainment will not be possible.

More often than not, thinking can avoid a problem or deal with it before technology is needed.

Jim Gall


It is a Beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.
It is a beauty of things modest and humble.
It is a beauty of things unconventional.

Metaphysical Basics
Things are either devolving toward, or evolving from, nothingness

Spiritual Values
Truth comes from the observation of nature
Greatness exists in the inconspicuous and overlooked details
Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness

State of Mind
Acceptance of the inevitable
Appreciation of the cosmic order

Moral Precepts
Get rid of all that is unnecessary
Focus on the intrinsic and ignore material hierarchy

Material Qualities
The suggestion of natural process

Leonard Koren, 1994


"What of architectural beauty I now see, I know has gradually grown from within outward, out of the necessities and character of the indweller, who is the only builder, - out of some unconscious truthfulness, and nobleness, without ever a thought for the appearance; and whatever additional beauty of this kind is destined to be produced will be preceded by alike unconscious beauty of life. The most interesting dwellings in this country, as the painter knows, are the most unpretending, humble log huts and cottages of the poor commonly; it is the life of the inhabitants whose shells they are, and not any peculiarity in their surfaces merely, which makes them picturesque".

"A great proportion of architectural ornaments are literally hollow, and a September gale would strip them off, like borrowed plumes, without injury to the substantials. They can do without architecture who have no olives nor wines in the cellar. What if an equal ado were made about the ornaments of style in literature, and the architects of our bibles spent as much time about their cornices as the architects of our churches do? So are made the belles-lettres and the beaux-arts and their professors. Much it concerns a man, forsooth, how a few sticks are slanted over him or under him, and what colors are daubed upon his box. It would signify somewhat, if, in any earnest sense, he slanted them and daubed it; but the spirit having departed out of the tenant, it is a piece with construction his own coffin, - the architecture of the grave, and 'carpenter,' is but another name for 'coffin-maker' ".

Henry David Thoreau, 1854


Shibui is a broad term that can mean irregularity of form, openness to nature, roughness of texture, and the naturalness of daily life. Also known as Shibusa, it refers as well to the Japanese "Seven aspects of being," which are simplicity, implicitness, modesty, silence, naturalness, roughness and normalcy. It's seen in raku pottery, architecture, folk crafts, haiku, gardens and painting. Shibui is worth thinking about no matter where you are or what your art.

Fact is, perfection is boring. Shibui allows viewer participation in the artist's art. It's particularly valuable in an age of highly finished and sophisticated machine-manufactured products. Shibui comes naturally, shows the hand of the maker, and triumphs gesture and the vagaries of process. While there are hundreds of ways to bring shibui into your life, if you think you might include the idea in your painting, here are seven:

Use the whole brush--right down to the ferrule.
Have more than one colour on the brush at one time.
Hold the brush well up on the handle.
Work freshly and let intuition be your guide.
Feel the energy and direction of your subject.
Be not uptight, but relaxed.
Quit when you've connected and while the going is good.

In a way, the making of raku pottery is a good metaphor. In the fiery arms of the kiln god, work takes on a form of its own. Think of yourself as a kiln rather than a labouring artisan. Under the smoking straw of passion, work shapes itself and becomes its own statement. Shibui is all about trust--trust in your materials, trust in your instincts, trust in yourself, trust in the kiln. Shibui transforms frantic work into calm joy and subdues the creator with relative contentment. As well, viewers get a strong feeling they are looking at art.

In shibui, sheer ease is a virtue. Hours fly by as the creator becomes lost in process and the gentle curiosity of outcome. You never know what you're going to pull out of that kiln.

"Austere, subdued and restrained are some of the English words that come closest. Etymologically, shibui means 'astringent,' and is used to describe a profound, unassuming and quiet feeling." (Bernard Leach, "A Potter's Book" 1940)
I often wonder if the best art happens during some sort of self-hypnosis. In Japan, I once sat with a sumi master in lotus position in a particularly stark room with only three tatami, several sheets of rice paper and some simple tools. He could not, or would not, answer my questions as he worked. He was as inscrutable as a Buddhist monk, as if another power was guiding his brush and he was only a rapt observer, smiling with some inner expectancy, impervious to the outside traffic that rattled and drummed his paper walls.