Moon and the Tree, You and I：Yasuko Hayashi
Pictures of dreams and abstractness, her works are a portal for viewers to travel to a plethora of magical illusions she crafted. Amidst a shower of the silvery moonlight, Yasuo Hayashi illustrates her understanding of the universe, and praises an invisible power that shines within it.
I remember once I traveled with Yasuko Hayashi to Japan. We were chatting while relaxing in a hot spring. I looked up at the night sky and asked her: “What’s your dream?” She pondered and answered: “I don’t think I have a dream.” I said: “That’s not possible! Everyone has a dream.” She thought again and replied: “I think if I can draw for my entire life, that would be my dream.” That night, we stayed at Biei, Hokkaido, a small city with a beautiful sky, a place I dragged Hayashi to go with me. I love it. I can still remember her face when she said these words, in the middle of the moonlight shadow and the singing of bugs. I genuinely thought she was so great because her dream is simply and easy.
She has a simple character and leads a simple life. One can truly understand her by looking at her artworks: quiet and unobtrusive, soft and subtle. “A Night of the Moon Night” in 2000 depicted a spiritual landscape at a particular night in Vietnam. She captures a moment of serenity under the silent lapse of time and the moonlight. The blue of a natural mineral paint is mysterious, while the image gradually reveals a sense of tranquility. The air seems to be condensed, but with the sensation of the slow moving of time. Her pictures are mostly related to the moon which played the role of a guardian during her early ages. However, by chance, she read about Anderson’s “A Picture Book without Pictures” in her adolescence, and since then, the moon occupies an essential place in her creative life. She could deeply resonate with the story. I believe, the 33 short stories under the moon night have an incredible influence over Hayashi’s creations.
In the book, Anderson uses a tranquil and light tone to talk with the moon. Using texts and illustrations, 33 special nights are drawn, as if he is the moon. He uses the moon’s eyes and spirit to narrate all his feelings to the painter in the story. One of the stories begins like this: “One night I stood sadly in front of the window. I opened the window and looked outside. Ah! I was delighted! I could finally see an old friend: a round, kind face; I friend that I knew from my hometown. This is the moon. Dear old moon… Every time he’s here, he tells me about the things he saw last night or now… ‘Draw everything I told you!’ he said at his first visit, ‘so you can have a beautiful picture book.’”
That was the single encounter that buried the seeds of Hayashi’s infinite reverie towards the moon night. Of course, the moon is a beautiful existence for many people. I would also often raise my head and look at the moon outside the window during nighttime. I could always feel the moon instead of being speechless, actually whispering a lot. Tonight, when I drove home, I saw the deep full moon at the end of the road. With a misty yellow halo, it seemed to be bright and dazzling tonight. I suddenly felt a positive encouragement, no wonder many painters are inexplicably fascinated by the theme of moon night.
“Moon Shadow” (2003) The Burmese temple remains upright in the moonlight. The temples, with dark gray and black with a touch of silver light, have a transcendent momentum. Hayashi tried to capture her strange feelings while she was in the remains. She said: “the passing of the time and the weight, the architecture of the remains seemed to be different, a very special feeling… In such environment, the moon might reflect different things.” It’s a picture of larger scale. If you see it carefully, you could only see the rough strokes and be attracted by the delicate silver light. But, if you stand farther, you could see the remains right in the middle of the world, covered by a sacred force emitted from the intangible, and asking for consolation from the moonlight shadow. Another picture of the same period, “Moon Night Walk” (2004) has a similar temperament and connotation, with a touch more of delicacy and without the pride. Various monks walking through the night are hidden at the right lower side. The viewers can follow the paths of the pictures, and walked slowly in the middle of the moon night, being showered by the moonlight. The painting shows that the power of religion can lead us towards a more tranquil and comfortable universe.
Hayashi is a taciturn artist, and whether it is about her creative thinking or concepts of her pictures, she is often unwilling to explain. In Japan, students graduated from Arts would introduce themselves to art galleries in Ginza, looking for opportunities for possible collaboration. She said that she was afraid to go to the galleries, because when to bring works to art galleries, the owner of the gallery would ask the artists to introduce their works, and she mostly couldn’t say anything. The only words she could say were: “It’s all in the picture.” I still remember when she told me that in Japanese, I laughed when I heard it. That’s right! When everything she wants to say is embodied in the pictures, what’s more to be explained?
She is such an artist that fails to compromise on worldly matters, yet she is capable of depicting every memory that came out to her brain, every single good impression. We used to have many painting trips. Once at the seaside in Taitung, she was painting the sea in front of her, wearing a hat and an umbrella under the blasting sun. In the morning, she would get up early as to capture the sun rising. With her color pencils and sketch book, she would paint and paint. We were at Kenting, too, to see the sunset. And she could face the same scenery, only at different times and angles, and sketch without frustration to try and capture everything she believed to be beautiful. Regarding painting, she has a robust attitude and persistence. She once told me she would not change herself no matter what. She would only paint what she wants. She would only ever, be herself.
From 1997 to 2002, she had in-depth travels through Asian cultures, and went to Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma and many other cities in Asia, intermittently, all by herself. After she graduated with her M.A. in 2004, she began her extensive travel in Europe. “A Sleep” (2007), a picture of 500 cm shows her feelings of the Alhambra Palace, the Spanish historical site. The palace and the old castles are extended infinitely in the picture. We cannot look completely though it at first glance but can contemplate all clues hidden around. From the left, we seem to enter a forest… From the front, we see the standing castles and palaces afar, echoing with the sky high above. From the right, a pink moon hangs there… It magically illuminates a path below it, creating a spiritual world. The viewers can get into the picture and enjoy the pink world created by the painter, wandering in this cozy area where you are eased into relaxation and allowing your mind to rest. “Dream of Sea” (2008) is also a heavenly realm in pink. At a certain moon night by the seaside in France, the painter imagined this wonderful evening, whereas the moon illuminates the secluded coast and the castles at the shore and she sensed dreaminess. The artist seemed to be drunk in the moonlight, and everything was said without being said…
All of Hayashi’s works have a root somewhere in the real world, but her works are not a mere replication of the local scenery. She draws and paints a lot, keeping many of the sketches. She never takes photos because she observes and experiences the nature simultaneously at the moment of drawing, and listens to the sound of nature. For her, there is behind everything, a sleeping essence, so she spends quite a lot of time peering at nature, hoping to portray the true nature she feels. Her works consist of spiritual sceneries. She is passionate towards nature, because, without the inner feelings and reflections, the sceneries would not be perceived as beautiful. Japanese people are very humble and respectful in front of nature. With their unique feelings and respect, they advocate the spirit of harmony between man and nature as every single being has their own spirit.
The Haiku master Matsuo Bash (1644-1694) was a great influence on Hayashi’s philosophy and attitude towards life. Bash, who had traveled around Japan for half of his lifetime, pursued the beauty of calmness and gentleness, which is Zen. This beauty cannot be expressed in words as it grows inside one. Zen loves nature as it resides within it. Nature allows people to realize the pleasure of appreciating beauty, on the predisposition to not differentiate your objectivity and subjectivity; it discards utilitarianism and excessive thinking. Especially when you observe the sceneries, you may not only feel a unity between the self and nature but also feel a reasonable existence of a pattern in the universe. Zen takes nature as the appearance of “thusness,” every single grass, wood, flower and leaf. They all have their spirit. Thus, the poet cut down part of nature and inscribed into his poem, conveying the pulses of the universe and keeping the beauty of eternity. This is the true meaning of Bash’s haiku.
There are certain similarities between Hayashi’s paintings and Bash’s haiku, but their works carry it out in a different way. One can sense her respect towards nature in “Moon Night-I” (2012). The moon is hung over the sky, showing a sense of magnificence together with the waterfall of the valley. The ingenious blue phantom gives a touch of illusory ethereality, which is the Japanese perception of beauty. Meanwhile, the shadow of Bash’s renowned travel notes “Oku no Hosomichi” is also present in this artwork: the rugged paths that are extended to the skyline along the valleys and mountains, mirrors Bash’s unique outlook on life. Different from Bash, she used glued paints and brushes to keep that instant message of nature over the paper, pouring all her feelings through it. The nature we are talking about her is really the ideal nature that she saw through her eyes and felt by her heart, a poetic heart, clear and tranquil. Thus, her paintings are often profound and calm, purifying one’s soul and the viewers’ heart with the ethereal sense.
Hayashi’s style has not been influenced by academic professors as she strives to create a style of her own, which is different from the Japanese traditional style characterized by modern schools of art. In supporting her soul, in addition to the aforementioned Anderson and Matsuo Bash, the TV series that talked about the legendary Japanese painter Kiyoshi Yamashita (1922-1971) was also of great influence. Yamashita was known as the Japanese Van Gogh. He is mentally disabled yet is an ingenious artist. During the starvation that happened in the militarism period, he started to paint while traveling alone. Hayashi who also loved to paint since her early ages said that after watching the series, she hoped to be like Yamashita, to travel and to paint.
At about 19 years old, she was introduced to the works of the Japanese painter Tanaka Isson (1908-1977). Since then, she decided to become a Japanese painter. Tanaka Isson is as well-known as Van Gogh is to the world in Japan, but he had been in destitution his entire life. His works were never recognized until after his death when his friend organized a posthumous exhibition. Years later, he gained worldwide recognition and reached his final highest status. The mainstream art gallery didn’t approve his arts, so he left Tokyo with his paint brushes and began his painting trips. Finally, he settled down in Amami Oshima, at the southern part of Kyushu, Japan, painting mainly the flowers, birds, and sceneries of the place. His works are characterized by the great colors of the local island, which is bright and free. Although there might be some great differences between Hayashi’s and Isson’s works, she believes that she is influenced by Isson the most. I think it’s his insistence of uniqueness in arts rather than assimilating towards the mainstream as well as his life attitude and values of self-pursuit; It’s the passion toward the natural sceneries and folk customs, that all together has deeply affected Hayashi’s spirit. Today, she cares not about fame or money, and follows not the mainstream, but insists on her own personal style. All these are related to the precedents that she follows. The most profound motivation, however, is still that achievement the ultimate goal: traveling with a paint brush for her entire life and paint.
Only those who endures loneliness can create a quiet place without the temptation of outside world. It is in such environment that you can sincerely feel the beautiful realm of “Moon and the Tree”, a realization and understanding of Zen only a truly outstanding painter can reach. I believe she has achieved it…
The Japanese poet, Nakahara Chuya’s poem, has carved a spot in her stream of consciousness. It is a crucial poem of which she is deeply touched and influenced by its artistic conception:
The Seashore beneath the Moonlight
In the moonlight, a button
As the waves washes the shore, fell to the ground.
Picking it up, without any other purpose
But to not leave it there
I place it, in the long sleeves of my Kimono.
In the moonlight, a button
As the waves washes the shore, fell to the ground.
Picking it up, without any other purpose
But to not leave it there
Abandoned in the moonlight
fluttering in the waves
I place it, in the long sleeves of my kimono
On a moonlit night, the button I held
Cools my fingertips, and heart
In the moonlight, that button I held,
Why would anyone ever leave it behind?
Hayashi picked up a small button she cherished at the beach in a moonlight night. It may be a heart or a blur of the moonlight… this is Yasuko Hayashi, an outstanding Japanese painter.
About Author /
Founder and director of Han Art Agency, admires art that is especially sincere and mellow, art that embodies philosophical meanings and profound emotions with a tranquil ordinariness. Published works:”The Singer on the Top of Clouds”,”The Secret Place”,”Breeze Blowing through the Birch Forest”, “Dreamlike Journey” and “Cen Long and his Silver Age”etc.
Product Details /
Editor in chief：Metra Lin
Publisher：Breeze Publishing Ltd.
Publishing Date：First Edition in December, 2016
Specification：300×230 mm / 176 pages
Language：Traditional Chinese / English