In the 25 years that I have been doing suiseki, I have not sold a piece of my work. Recently my artist friend, Tomas Lasansky invited me to put several of my pieces in his Iowa City Art Gallery for sale. Once the pieces were in place, he asked if I would write a short description of suiseki and my perspective to this old artistic tradition. Since the short summary was well received by a number of friends, I decided to post it, with the hope that it would extend the understanding of this curious art. In addition, Tomas Lasanskys Iowa City Art Gallery is truly a fantastic gallery; and I would strongly recommend it to anyone finding themselves in Iowa City.
Points of Interest: Tomas Lasanskys studio-site can be found at - www.lasanskystudio.com.
Just published - ICONS AND MUSES, by Tomas Lasansky; forward by William Webster.
Works of Art in Stone
These pieces are an evolution of work that I began 25 years ago in the area of suiseki (Japanese viewing stones).
Like much Japanese culture, beginning in the 14th century this tradition was imported from China. Suiseki is a
parallel art to bonsai, which came to Japan somewhat earlier.. Originally, these stone pieces made reference to
nature, e.g., mountain stones, plateau stones and puddle stones. My recent and preferred work has no identifiable
subject matter. Originally suiseki stones were of dark color and their geology was basalt. Most importantly, they
were "well worn" by nature—it is said that these stones were to come from "half way up the mountain"—they are
not "green" as they would be at the top, nor worn completely round as at the seashore. The tradition was that the
stone be rubbed daily with the oil from the side of your nose, which after 20 years would give it a great patina
and comparable value. Suiseki are mounted on custom crafted wooden bases called daiza which followed the contours
of the stone and presented it as an object of art. There was space beneath the daiza in order for the piece
"to breathe." Some stones in Japanese suiseki are modified by grinding and some Americans prefer to cut the bottoms
of stones to maximize their visual impact. Since my first trip to Japan and having seen authentic suiseki, I will
do nothing to the stones I find in nature except to wash them off, and gently at that.
During the past decades my suiseki have evolved to their present state (see the web-site above). These pieces are
at once 21st century American, and many are Post Modern. They depart from their predecessors in a number of
ways—they are often multiple stone pieces, which contributes to their artistic status. In addition, their daiza
may consist of planes with flat surfaces, straight lines and 90 degree angles. However, the species of wood I use
continue to be rare and exotic hardwoods, e.g., ebony, rosewood, winge and teak. As is the case with their cultural
cousins bonsai, the artistic essence of suiseki resides within the "spirit of the stone" which is both captured
and revealed by its artistic presentation on its diaza. The joke within the bonsai community regarding suiseki is
that "you cant kill a stone." As a matter of fact, this turns out to be false.
The stones should be dusted occasionally and the daiza waxed if desired.