The Suiseki Art of Mas Nakajima

The Suiseki Art of Mas Nakajima

First and foremost these photographs do not capture the beauty of this highly artistic display by Mas. So any distraction while viewing his work is solely our responsibility as we shot these photos under terrible lighting conditions.

To introduce you to Mas and his work it is simply better to use his own words which are located on his blog and that of his wife Janet. “My sculpture combines natural stone and wood to create harmony by integrating the life of wood with the simplicity and purity of natural stone. I begin by finding stones in riverbeds and mountains in California, and keep the stones until I am ready to integrate them with the chosen wood. The process of unifying these two materials, by specific selection and by accidental match, results in unexpected and endless possibilities.”

It is the last sentence that we wish to contemplate this morning.  The composition of this artwork is superb.  I only wish you could have stood before it, even in this horribly lighted room, and could experience the calm it brings to one’s own soul. Peaceful, thoughtful, imaginative are words that come to mind in recalling this experience from a week ago.  Is this suiseki? Let us respond on this issue with only this thought.  How many stones have you seen and a week later the intensity of the feeling is still evoked?  I would say for most of us an extremely limited number.  From this standpoint alone, to us this is suiseki.

The painting is in perfect harmony with the stone, the base, the sand and the dead wood.  We stood observing this display for about 10 minutes. The intrinsic value of this display to us was that it carried our imagination beyond the display, beyond the room to what our mind’s eye pictured.  That we will share in a moment.  As we spoke to others about what they saw in this display it became apparent that Mas had succeeded in the essence as to what suiseki represents. The ability through viewing stones to transport each of us to a place that we have seen and experienced, or hope to.  Each person we spoke to had a viewpoint of what was being represented.  To some it was an ocean scene with a towering stone formation surrounded by beach and a lonely and very old piece of magnificent driftwood.   To others it was the Jersey shoreline, to another a winter scene in the high desert where the sand was early morning frost with a sidewinder snake hurrying across the sand.

The Suiseki Art of Mas Nakajima

The Suiseki Art of Mas Nakajima

Truly each of the scenes were represented in this art.  I could appreciate that it might be a cool morning in New Jersey, or winter in the high desert. To us it was a coastal scene of a heavily worn rock formation with small undercuts where the sea continues to carve away centuries of God’s handiwork. The beach clean as if few humans were there to distract from its beauty.  A very weathered tree lying on the beach where many thinking its life’s purpose was at an end missed that even in death it’s beauty continued to add life and depth to this scene.

The Suiseki Art of Mas Nakajima

The Suiseki Art of Mas Nakajima (Click the photo and notice a few grains of sand in the crevice of the deadwood.)

Those are the things we saw that morning.  We returned on Sunday to the BIB show where this display was presented solely to have the opportunity to speak to Mas about his intent with this piece.  He described to us that he saw a beach scene. In many ways, his description represented many facets of what we in fact saw.  As our discussion deepened, it was clear however that Mas’ real intent was to immerse the viewer through the assembly of these elements into opening their eyes to the possibility of where this art could in milliseconds transport us.  There was no waiting for the “transporter” of Star Trek to fire up – it only took a glance, a quick thoughtful glance, to be transported to an entirely different location.  In our scene, and we dare say Mas’, we instantly left a room full of people, trees, and noise to appear on a  quiet beach, where we hear the lapping of the incoming tide but even that sound pushed quickly back into the sea by the heavy fog of the morning.

Let’s revisit what Mas stated earlier on his blog: “The process of unifying these two materials, by specific selection and by accidental match, results in unexpected and endless possibilities.” Well said.

The painting helps to unify the scene in many ways. It gives weight to the overall artwork.  Additionally, this excellent stone and its characteristics provides its own depth and texture to the scene.  The sand carefully placed into the scene in such a way as to not clutter through density or volume, but to add softness in similar ways as does the painting.  The composition could have stopped there but it’s brilliance is in adding the deadwood.  For us it just brings completeness to the scene.

As Mas and Janet and I spoke (different days), we spoke of how a single element could and would identify the scene and remove in many ways the more imaginative elements of the presentation.  Think if a small bronze turtle had been placed on or near the deadwood. Would this have changed the scene for you?  What if two small birds had been placed on the stone itself?

To some a turtle would have locked in the view this was a shore scene but one in a much warmer climate. So the desert scene, from our perspective, would no longer be capable of being viewed.  If we added birds, well yes this could still be shore scene – however would it break the harmony of the overall feel to this piece. We leave that to your interpretation.

Our perspective is that this piece is in such artistic harmony that nothing else was required to be added nor is there anything to subtract. Perfect harmony.  Isn’t this what we attempt to achieve in our suiseki display, our bonsai displays or our art displays.

This is a masterful achievement by Mas.  Need anything else be said?