Tanzaku Sumi-e Steffen Diemer


Tanzaku Sumi-e Steffen Diemer. The available space is greatly reduced by the small dimensions of 8 x 36cm. The format is an extreme challenge and represents the highest form of the Sumi-e.
What is Sumi-e and where does it come from, here is a short introduction: In an old Chinese legend an artist named Zhang Seng You 張僧繇 was asked to paint a mural in a temple. He painted several dragons, but left the pupils out of their eyes. The abbot asked him why. Zhang explained that if he painted the pupils, the dragons would come to life. At the insistence of the abbot, Zhang continued to paint the eyes of the dragons. As soon as he had finished painting the pupils on one of the dragons, he came to life and flew away in a thunderous flash :-)
This story embodies the philosophy of Sumi-e. The aim is not simply to reproduce the appearance of the subject, but to capture his soul. To photograph a horse, you have to understand its temperament better than its muscles and bones. To set a flower in scene, it is not necessary to perfectly match its petals and colours, but it is important to convey its vivacity and fragrance. Sumi-e can be regarded as an earliest form of Impressionist art that captures the invisible.
In his classic book -Composition- the American artist and teacher Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922) wrote this about Sumi-e: "The painter ... put as few lines and tones on the paper as possible, just enough to make form, texture and effect perceptible. Every brushstroke must be charged with meaning, and useless details must be eliminated. When all the good points of such a method are brought together, one obtains the qualities of the highest art.

Dow strove for harmonious compositions through three elements: line, notan and colour. Dow strived for harmonious compositions through three elements: line, notan and colour. It is worth noting that the term Notan (often simplified with dark and light) is derived from two characters originally used in Chinese and Japanese sumi-e: no 濃 (dense) and tan 淡 (diluted). In its original context, therefore, notan means more than just a dark and light arrangement, it is the basis for the beautiful nuances in tonality. This age-old aesthetic concept of tonal balance appeals to me immensely and is also one of my working principles. Tanzaku Sumi-e Steffen Diemer