Refracted Beauty in the Art of Makoto Fujimura

by Guest Blogger May 31, 2011

By Richard Cummings

Beauty; 1. a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight  2. a combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense. Beauty is such a misunderstood concept, and I will not deny a certain subjectivity in its determination. The above Oxford English Dictionary definition points out distinct facets of beauty--namely, the beauty that appeals to our visual senses and the beauty that appeals to our mind or our hearts. A true experience of beauty, however, embodies both aspects of the word. In truly beautiful experiences we first enter by and engage with the senses, but we are transported by a revelation that points to something beyond the sensual, to something sublime and true. Extant examples abound--Mozart’s wrathful Dies Irae, Melville’s unsoundable Moby Dick, the profound, rhythmic simplicity of Dickinson, Grüenwald’s Isenheim Altarpiece with its explosive, resurrected Christ. Each is a physical manifestation and experience of a sublime truth that reveals but also humbly acknowledges the limited nature of the revelation. We are blessed in this age to find that beauty, though often panned and ridiculed by the cynical establishment, still has its champions and practitioners--voices still crying in the relativistic wilderness that there is more out there. There is something better to come. Charis-Kairos (The Tears of Christ). Mineral Pigments, Gold on Belgium Linen. 80 x 64 inches. Commissioned by Crossway for "the Four Holy Gospels" ESV. Created in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James  In his work, the artist Makoto Fujimura masterfully, yet humbly, unites a rich sensual beauty with a beauty that points to the eternal incarnate God. Using the primal materials of precious metal leaf, mineral pigments and the techniques of Japanese Nihonga painting, Fujimura creates abstract symphonies of color and texture that leave us longing for more. But these longings aren’t for a self-indulgent, sensual experience of visual pleasure. Instead, we long for what is seemingly lying just beyond the surface. We hear the echos and see the shimmers of what Fujimura calls “refractions.” These refractions are the felt moments of the revealed Divine who utilizes the precious minerals and metals of Fujimura’s work to point to something better, to the perfection to come. Fujimura’s work in referencing the materials of the Holy City of God calls to us and gives us dark glimpses of our restoration in the New Jerusalem. But art is not just a static object, a thing created and then left on its own like some quasi-deistic creative exercise. Music lives on each time it is performed, whether to a vast audience or merely hummed under one's breath. Reading poetry makes word pictures and thoughts live anew, rebirthed in the collective conscience of innumerable readers. So it is with the visual arts. Fujimura in his book, River Grace, eloquently states, “Every act of Creativity is, in some way, a response to offer back to God what has been given to us.” Fujimura's individual responses and offerings, through the broken beauty of shimmering, crushed minerals, metaphorically reference the refractions of the Divine seen darkly through nature but also the nature of the Divine refracted through those that are made whole through Christ’s sacrifice. To the Peter Pevensie in us, Fujimura’s paintings are the shimmering wall between the world in which we live and the mysterious realm of Aslan’s Country. We can imagine what lies beyond, but we are left with a healthy longing for the wholeness that is to come. Makoto Fujimura is an internationally recognized artist, writer, speaker and presidential appointee to the National Council for the Arts (2003-2009). His work is exhibited around the globe from New York to Tokyo, and he is the founder of the International Arts Movement (IAM), which seeks to act, “as a catalyst to inspire people to engage culture’s spheres of influence.” http://www.makotofujimura.com

 




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2 Responses

Richard Cummings
Richard Cummings

February 17, 2017

Thank you for your comment.

Worldview influences the art one produces. Mako, through his organization, I AM (International Arts Movement) brings artists together to be a voice of positive change in the world. This optimism is reflected in his artwork, though he does not shy away from nor deny the darkness that exists in this world. He, and I as well, believe that we can make a difference through our gifts.

Geoff M. Pope
Geoff M. Pope

February 17, 2017

Enjoyed! — continuing
to enjoy…especially
this line:

“We are blessed in this age to find that beauty, though often panned and ridiculed by the cynical establishment, still has its champions and practitioners—voices still crying in the relativistic wilderness that there is more out there.”

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