"Water Veins"   Conceputual Water falls in Japan

Sea scapes in Japan

"The earth's blood is the veins of the waters."  Leonardo da Vinci

Approximately 11,500 years ago, the most recent ice age, the Pleistocene, ended and the warmer climatic epoch that has continued until the present day, the Holocene, began. Throughout Asia, people began to practice agriculture and live in fixed settlements. In Japan, a distinctive regional culture developed. At that time the archipelago was part of the Eurasian continent, and people are thought to have crossed land bridges to reach it. This period also marks the start of a nearly 10,000-year phase of Japanese culture called the Jomon period (although the period can hardly be contained in that archaeological category). The dawn of the Middle Jomon period approximately 4,500 years ago saw the emergence in central Japan of two highly distinctive styles of pottery decorated with geometric patterns, called kaen-doki (flame-patterned ware) and suien-doki (water-patterned ware). During this same period, the Great Pyramid of Giza was built in Egypt and Stonehenge was constructed in England. Perhaps it is in our DNA to thrill with excitement when we see primitive designs… in any case, I felt that vitality surge up within me when I visited the Tatsukushi coast in Kochi Prefecture and saw its ancient geological formations, evoking the swell of life within the unique coastal terrain. Looking out at them I felt an overwhelming sense of inspiration, and along it, a sensation of being strongly propelled forward. The Jomon period has been nearly obliterated from Japanese history, but at the very least it seems that the people of that era intuitively perceived something about the workings of the Earth and the universe—something like Leonardo da Vinci’s theory that the Earth works in a similar way to the human body.

As a child, I once dug up a shard of Jomon kaen-doki pottery and a stone tool from a river bed. I felt the warm hands of those ancient people reaching across countless eras to my own hands, and I was quietly but deeply moved and excited. I remember understanding in a flash that thousands of years were no more than an instant in the 4.6-billion-year history of Earth. Most people believe that the waves and swirls that comprise the primary patterns of Jomon pottery were created for use in daily life, most of all for ritual purposes. Yet it is also true that the multidimensional and multi-temporal movements of natural energy, as well as life energy and natural phenomena such as the flow of water, geological strata, and topography, are carved into this pottery in a manner that is devout, symbolic, powerful, and extremely direct.

I do not wish to seek too much meaning in the geometric physical patterns of nature, or to fall into simplistic theories of universality or mysticism. Yet I wonder if I am alone in being deeply stirred by the sensibility of our ancestors, who carved symbolic designs into the ceramics they used in their daily lives, taking the movement of natural forms as their metaphor. Even if they did not create their patterns as intentional works of art, can we not say that these ceramics, formed from earth, adorned with patterns, and handled day in and day out, may have helped them to feel respect and awe for the Earth, to understand its limits, to live as a part of it, and maintain a sustainable lifestyle? Can we call that “ritual” use? I would first like to propose that human beings are innately endowed with a fundamental, instinctive desire to express themselves aesthetically, which is strongly linked to being alive and embodied.

In the process of shooting long-exposure photography of mountain streams and waterfalls, I have observed the way in which water and light fuse together, and found that not just the amount of water, but also the form and characteristics of the bedrock exert an influence on the nature of the fusion. This is perhaps an obvious observation, but stated differently it means that each individual waterfall embodies the creation of the Japanese archipelago, and in more extreme terms, the story of Earth since its birth. Stone (bedrock) and water are closely bound together in the time-transcending phenomenon of kinetic energy that we call erosion, and as such they carry out one delicate part of the workings of the living organism that is planet Earth. The water that overflows without cease from the womb of the Earth takes on a multitude of forms depending on the form and nature of the rock below it. The rock, too, changes its form as a result of erosion caused by weathering and the energy of the water flowing over it. The reason that I—and all of us—are drawn to waterfalls and mountain streams lies without a doubt in the fact that the energy that molds nature moves so forcefully in these places, benefiting life all throughout our planet.

The point I wish to emphasize here is that landscapes are an expression of the unceasing action of the energy that shapes nature on planet Earth. Whether a landscape appears beautiful to us or not is a trick of chance and inevitability brought about by Earth’s moment-by-moment search for the optimal solution as it ceaselessly attempts to release the energy that moves within and across the planet. For the humans who were our ancestors, the landscape was literally a lifescape that they depended upon to survive. As da Vinci said, it is difficult to separate the flow of rivers on Earth’s surface from the flow of blood within our bodies; our ancestors most likely sensed instinctively the same connection expressed in the visual form of plants and lightning and other natural phenomena. In other words, the patterns inscribed in their ceramics were perhaps also expressions of their own bodies.

In Buddhism, Jodo, or “Pure Lands”, refer to the sacred realms inhabited by a buddha. The title of this project, Pure Land – Jokei, (meaning “Pure Scenes”) refers to this concept.Through this, I hope to continue an experiment in visual analogy to capture how, in an era without modern technology or precise computing, our ancestors perceived the vast natural world and how they intuited, understood, and gave expression to nature’s formative energies to communicate with it, as well as uncover what kind of world it is that we are living in now, at this moment.

All rights reserved (C) SENSEGRAPHIA FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY Eriko Kaniwa


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