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A collection of essays, thoughts, and prayers from award-winning artist Makoto Fujimura, Refractions brings people of all backgrounds together in conversation and meditation on culture, art, and humanity. Tyndale House Publishers
Posted March 13, 2010
Refractions is a collection of essays that Fujimura originally wrote for his blog. Their quality makes their transition to the printed page seamless.
Throughout the essays we see a constant thread woven in and out of Fujimura's life as an artist - his quest for beauty and his celebration of his craft. Fujimura is an American of Japanese origin who chose to apprentice with a master painter in the Nihonga (Japanese-style) painting tradition.
Refractions uses words to flesh out the colours and textures of Fujimura's experiences. He paints with reverence - celebrating both the texture and quality of his papers and hand-crushed dyes - but also expresses his reverence for his Creator who his Christian faith allows him to celebrate through his art. While most of Fujimura's art is more about colour and texture than exact representations - his concerns see to it that his art reflects on the human condition - and the concreteness of history.
The major event resonating through this set of essays is the catastrophic attack on the World Trade Towers in New York City on Sept. 11 2001. Fujimura experienced this terror first hand - and many of his thoughts in this volume reflect back on the terrible events and aftermath. Faced with the chaos and hurt, with the swirling uncertainties and dust, Fujimura the artist responds with beauty and prayer and reaching out and creating safe places for the inner.
A second strand that is woven through the essays - and which appealed deeply to me - is the novelist's eye Fujimura shows when describing his travels - especially in the Japanese countryside. This delight in the beauty of things, the essential wonder of the material may have been accentuated for me due to its contrast to my dingy conditions during my second reading on the train. But Fujimura's faculty in distilling the essential - and instilling a rounded image in the mind makes the book worth a read in itself - even without his meditations around these images.
The final strand which stands out golden is that of Fujimura's ruminations on his Christian faith. As an artist Fujimura believes that the world is pregnant with meaning. As an adult follower of Christ he approaches life with the twin lenses of a faith the seeks to make sense out of chaos and one that seeks expression of his deepest issues through his understanding of the person of Jesus Christ. The fact that he expresses these aesthetically not in the classical tradition of representative western religious art - but through the his own Japanese-rooted Nihonga style makes it all the more refreshing to me.
If I have any bone to pick with Refractions as a book, it is in the visual representation of Fujimura's art. For one who makes such vivid images, the pictures in the small volume I have strangely small and dark - almost faded. I wish I could see more. Perhaps the publisher needs better paper? Or a more compelling layout designer?
I came away from the book feeling that I have nibbled a bit into the person who Fujimura is. His ruminations about image and meaning - and his taking me along with him through some of the fascinating circles he treads has stretched my world a little more.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision'
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Posted September 12, 2010
In his work, Refractions- A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture, a compendium of essays and art, Makoro Fujimura, correlates art with a spiritual experience. More specifically, Fujimura's art is a reflection of his own personal faith and spiritual observations- a reflection of the beauty of God. Furthermore, the author elevates art into a form of religion. He states that the desire for beauty is an inate, natural desire of all mankins, and that regardless of culture or religion, humankind has a shared appreciation for anything beauty- whether it is through art, poetry, or music. In fact, this appreciation of beauty has the possibility of creating a common bond or a common ground which in of itself can be a succeful outreach program by which to introduce people to the beauty of God, our creator.
For example, the use of gold and silver pigmentation and color in traditional Japanese art represents a significant Eastern culture, both socially and spiritually. Its use in Japanese art had more than asthetic purpose. When Fujimura uses gold and silver in his art, it is a conscious decision, not only for asthetic reasons but spiritual reasons. In contrast to classic Eastern religious idealology, the author feels that the beauty and transluscent properties of gold and silver reflect the beauty and glory of God, depicted in the New Jerusalem of the bible's book of Revelation. When he sees the brilliant pigments of gold and silver, he immediatly thinks of the glory, pwer and beauty of God reflected in a color.
At first glance, to the causal observer, Fujimura's art appears abstract. Nothing recognisable can be distinguished in the mix of colors and shapes. It may even appear random and haphazard. The special meaning behind his paintings and art is in his choice of colors, pigments and art mediums. The choice of colors have a greater symbolic meaning. In of itself, each piece of work represents a story or a journey in the author's own spiritual path. This book was very unique and was a pleasure to read. The idea of using artworld as a springboard for outreach to share one's spiritual beliefs is an effective idea. I believe this indepth book would make a perfect selection for any college philosophy, art or literature program. In conclusion, whether or not you are an artist is not what is significant. Rather, the author presents that there is a need in each and everyone of us for creative expression. In today's busy world, creativity is often overlooked. The author believes we should make a deliberate choice to set aside time everyday to get in touch with our creative inner beings whether through art, writing, music or any other hobby for that matter. God has given mankind a common appreciation for beauty, and if we have anything in common in our diverse cultures and beliefs it is the appreciation of anything beutiful. As a blogger of Navpress publishers I recieved a copy of this book.