Vincent Van Gogh took great inspiration from Japanese art. On September 24th, 1888 he wrote to his brother Theo:
“If we study Japanese art, then we see a man, undoubtedly wise and a philosopher and intelligent, who spends his time — on what? — studying the distance from the earth to the moon? — no; studying Bismarck’s politics? — no, he studies a single blade of grass.
But this blade of grass leads him to draw all the plants — then the seasons, the broad features of landscapes, finally animals, and then the human figure. He spends his life like that, and life is too short to do everything.Just think of that; isn’t it almost a new religion that these Japanese teach us, who are so simple and live in nature as if they themselves were flowers?And we wouldn’t be able to study Japanese art, it seems to me, without becoming much happier and more cheerful, and it makes us return to nature, despite our education and our work in a world of convention.”
Earlier this week I took a break from working at home to go for a walk at a close by conservation area. I was enthralled by the beauty of the tall grasses that had fresh green below the curving peaks of brown grass that had passed on from the year before. I was reminded of Van Gogh quote and Matisse’ line drawings and attempted to compose images that would fill the proportions of Japanese scroll art.
The practice of creating these images lifted my spirits and I could recognize the quality of abstract design that is perhaps the highest level of expression of emotion. As I photographed I felt as though I was scribbling lines onto a sketchpad.
In his seminal series titled Equivalents, Alfred Stieglitz made a point that the subtle difference in each image he made of clouds between 1925-34 communicated distinct emotional expressions in spite of being all of the same subject matter. In this work he demonstrated that photographs operate in a similar manner to written language where abstract letterforms are used to create discrete meanings based upon a unique combination of a limited set of letters within the alphabet.
With this work I am attempting to build a visual lexicon that transmits emotional energy into a room that inspires contemplation and deep satisfaction from the study of something as simple as blades of grass.
Here is a slideshow that reveals more of the details in each image.
Grass Studies$550.00 – $1,600.00