Wabi Sabi
A definition

 

  Wabi-sabi does share some characteristics with what we commonly call "primitive art:' that is, objects that are earthy, simple, unpretentious, and fashioned out of natural materials. Unlike primitive art, though, wabi-sabi almost never is used representationally or symbolically.


Originally, the Japanese words "wabi" and "sabi" had quite different meanings. "Sabi" originally meant "chill:' "lean:' or "withered." "Wabi" originally meant the misery of living alone in nature, away from society, and suggested a discouraged, dispirited, cheerless emotional state.


Around the 14th century, the meanings of both words began to evolve in the direction of more positive aesthetic values. The self-imposed isolation and voluntary poverty of the hermit came to be considered opportunities for spiritual richness. For the poetically inclined, this kind of life fostered an appreciation of the minor details of everyday life and insights into the beauty of the inconspicuous and overlooked aspects of nature. In turn, unprepossessing simplicity took on new meaning as the basis for a new, pure beauty.


The term "aesthetic" refers to a set of informing values and principles-guidelines-for making artistic discriminations and decisions. The hallmarks of an "aesthetic" are(1 ) distinctiveness (distinction from the mass of ordinary, chaotic, non-differentiated perceptions), (2) clarity (the aesthetic point has to be definite-clear-even if the aesthetic is about unclearness), and (3) repetition (continuity).