Have been considering wabi sabi

One of the best aspects of our global inter-connectedness is the broader sharing of cultural differences. Traditional ‘History of Art’ in the last century had to be prized open and away from the predictable canon of white Western males. The ‘new’ art history along with contemporary art criticism is more inclusive than exclusive. It encourages us to not only look at art from beyond the bounds of the Western tradition, but to try and engage with different aesthetics.


Wabi sabi is a centuries old Japanese aesthetic that arises from the spiritual work undertaken by Zen monks not to explain life’s mysteries, but to reach a state of enlightenment. It is not easy to define, but Andrew Juniper has written a small book – ‘Wabi sabi – the japanese art of impermanence’ in which he writes this moving explanation.

“Zen monks lead a simple and austere life constantly aware of their mortality. Wabi sabi art is a distillation of their humble efforts to try and express, in a physical form, their love of life balanced against the sense of serene sadness that is life’s inevitable passing.

Wabi sabi art challenges us to unlearn our views of beauty and to rediscover the intimate beauty to be found in the smallest details of nature’s artistry.”

In our hectic modern lives, pausing and consciously, actively looking at the often overlooked tiny details of our everyday existence could be very beneficial. A form of peaceful contemplation.

fading decaying flowers
Not balanced or serene. Just capturing the delicate fading moment of beauty into chaos.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

4 thoughts on “Have been considering wabi sabi”

  1. So interesting! I so often find that Japanese art defies all the rules we were raised with – a bit like the culture itself. Had never heard of this before.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. Since posting this I read somebody discussing 17th-century Dutch still life paintings and I think some of those works also show a similar ‘wabi sabi’ sentiment, but within the European context.

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