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Stephen Addiss

Simply Haiku
March/April, 2004, v2n2

Artist's Statement:

I have long studied and practiced the art of the literati, the East Asian scholar-poet-artists who discovered that research and creative expression could deeply enhance each other. My early years as a musician traveling throughout Asia, Africa and Europe led me to a lifetime interest in how what we learn from other cultures can interact with our own traditions and values to create something bold and new. I have especially noted how the various arts were not completely separated in other countries, instead being considered to enrich and deepen the creative expression of the artist. In addition, I became aware that the study of the arts did not have to be separate from their practice; in China and Japan it is the poet-artists who have been responsible for the great majority of the historical and theoretical studies of their fields.

In my own case, even before my graduate work in ethnomusicology and art history, I began the study of calligraphy and ink-painting in 1969 in New York City with Wang Chi-yuan and Ishikawa Kako, subsequently studying in Japan and Taiwan with Mitani Chizan and Chiang Shao-shen. I have also been making ceramics since my youth, focusing my attention on wood-fired stoneware and porcelain since the late 1980s. Helping to build two anagama (tunnel-kilns fired four or five days and nights with wood) has also increased my fascination with ceramics in which nature plays an equal role with the artist in creating irregular ash-glazes and subtle fire-colors on the works.

It is natural that my work in brush-painting and calligraphy would influence and individuate my ceramics, both directly and indirectly. In some cases I do calligraphy or painting directly on the vessels before firing, either with a brush or other implements, while in all cases what I have learned about form and space, asymmetrical composition, and varieties of touch has influenced my creation of ceramic forms.

Another combination of arts that I find fascinating is haiga, where a haiku and a visual image can combine to reach a deeper expression than either one might alone. I have studied traditional haiga (and written an exhibition catalogue by that name) as well as creating my own works in this field. The opportunity to suggest rather than define, inviting the reader/viewer to complete the work, is especially challenging and gratifying.

I have continued to do research into various forms of art, particularly as practiced in East Asia, and have written a large number of publications. What I have found is that every different approach towards art leads to fresh insights and revelations. Everything I study helps what I create, while practice gives me more understanding of what has been done in the past. I hope that I can continue this multifaceted approach to the arts for many more years, because I am sure there are countless discoveries still to be made.