Contemporary Japanese Artist and Buddhism: Nichiren in the Snow during Exile on Sado Island
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Nichiren (1222-1282) is one of the most famous Buddhist teachers to emanate from Japan. Yet, he was very outspoken during his lifetime and this led him to be exiled and embroiled in the political processes of his day – irrespective if intended or unintended. Therefore, the contemporary Japanese artist Sawako Utsumi focuses on a trilogy of Nichiren during his exile on Sado Island.
The wintry theme of the trilogy is meant to endorse the harshness of Nichiren’s exile. Despite this, it is clear that the first art piece is based on serenity and peaceful contemplation. Intriguingly, the second art piece focuses on the start of his bleak journey but solace can be seen in the background based on prior human contact. However, the third art piece depicts Nichiren against the harsh and bleak wintry conditions of Sado Island, whereby his exile looks treacherous.
Yet, if you go back to the first art piece titled Buddhist Cleric Nichiren in Exile and Homage to Yoshitoshi, then clearly Nichiren is at peace in the mountains. Hence, the second art piece titled Exiled Buddhist Cleric Nichiren in the Snow and the third art piece of the trilogy titled Buddhist Cleric Nichiren and Bleak Winter in Exile, are actually in the wrong order. This is based on Utsumi focusing on reality and unreality alongside the actualities of life itself. After all, often moving forward becomes firmly based on taking a backward step because the smaller things in life are now being negated based on greater ambitions. Indeed, many a politician, for example, succumbed to power and wealth – similarly, many families and friends become torn apart – or soon to be mere shadows – based on the natural causes and effects of capitalism, modernity, new relationships, and so forth.
Turning back to Nichiren, then I state in a past article that, “Nichiren, himself, was very independent because he believed firmly that the true path lay within his teachings based on his knowledge of the written word. This holy Buddhist cleric made many enemies based on rebuking other Buddhist schools of thought. Yet, passion, the search for truth, questioning concepts deemed false, challenging authority, equally adhered people to Nichiren.”
The Buddhist teacher Nichiren said, “Worthy persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honor, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure. They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline. The heavenly gods will surely protect one who is unbending before the eight winds.”
In the trilogy by Utsumi, her focus is on “the seen” and “unseen.” Likewise, the time of life is not based on natural phenomenon but the spirituality of Nichiren. Hence, the timeline is incorrect because like wisdom, knowledge, virtue, and other noble ideas, then these can come and flow from all individuals at such a short notice. In other words, many a bad person did good things – and many a good person did evil, and so forth. Therefore, moments in time, perceptions, cultural aspects to individuals, and other important areas, are really illusionary based on the multi-dimensions of this world.
Overall, Utsumi, in her trilogy of Nichiren and his exile on the beautiful island of Sado Island, is based on a complex approach to what is deemed to be the reality of life. Also, and especially powerful, even when a person is abandoned it doesn’t mean that weakness and decline will follow. Therefore, the wintry theme and the trilogy of her art pieces are focused on many dimensions that will have different meanings to the respective viewer of her art.
BELOW IS A NEW BOOK BASED ON THE ART OF SAWAKO UTSUMI
Book Review: Sawako Utsumi and her Kindred Spirit
European and Japanese Art: Buddhism, Christianity, Landscapes, Rinpa, Shintoism, Ukiyo-e, and Dutch Masters
http://www.lulu.com/shop/lee-jay-walker/sawako-utsumi-and-her-kindred-spirit/paperback/product-22830732.html – Please click on to order the book.
http://fineartamerica.com/featured/exiled-buddhist-cleric-nichiren-in-the-snow-sawako-utsumi.html – Exiled Buddhist Cleric Nichiren in the Snow
http://fineartamerica.com/featured/buddhist-cleric-nichiren-in-exile-and-homage-to-yoshitoshi-sawako-utsumi.html Buddhist Cleric Nichiren in Exile and Homage to Yoshitoshi
http://fineartamerica.com/featured/buddhist-cleric-nichiren-and-bleak-winter-in-exile-sawako-utsumi.html Buddhist Cleric Nichiren and Bleak Winter in Exile
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