Works in Sumi-e

Featured Artist Karen Kurka Jensen

Canyonlands, Ink & watercolor on Asian paper, 48” x 13”, 2010
All civilizations leave an imprint of their lives - figures on rock, stone or paper. Children leave their fleeting fingerprints in the sand, or a pen stroke on paper. Feeling for oneself what it is to leave a trace with just a brush dipped in ink is an endlessly amazing experience to me. It tells a little something about what the act of creation is all about. For centuries, sumi-e has been the medium of expressing marvelous beauty eloquently.
Sumi-e is the Asian word for “ink picture.” In sumi-e, the simplest of tools have been able to create outstanding beauty. Every sumi-e artist uses those traditional materials to create their work; sumi-e ink, bamboo brush and Asian paper. The sobriety of the form, black and white combined with the skillful brushstroke, continue, after countless centuries, to provide an insight into the imperceptible, ever-changing richness of life. I believe Sumi-e is an art form but also a philosophy and a feeling – it is about touching the world around us with all of our senses and in turn, letting the world touch us – then transforming that touch into the language of brush and ink. Sumi-e, like any art form, is about a sense of transitions, about transformations.
I have found freedom in the traditions of sumi-e and a voice for the love I have for life in all its varied forms. Learning to master your gesture, without apprehension or second thoughts, requires being at peace with oneself, and the desire to enjoy to the full that unique moment when the artist/self is animated by the creative urge. My art is largely abstract and impressionistic, derived from hours spent outdoors. I don’t always go to sketch but to simply drink in my surroundings, to be at one with the world around me, actively listening in quiet respect and reverence. I have always felt the power of the land, the beauty of the earth alive in God’s creation. My work reaches toward that fullness, representative of that wild peace and wonder.
Sumi-e brings the gift of making do with less, less emphasis, less indifference in the way we look at things, less pride in our fleeting successes. It is another example of an art that embodies the very essence of simplicity and yet is in practice complex and can take a lifetime to master. This aspect of the art of Sumi-e too is a metaphor for life: One never truly masters the art of life or achieves perfection. The pursuit of perfection is the journey, no matter what road we are on and the journey is what it’s all about. I am still on the path.

Canyonlands, Ink & watercolor on Asian paper, 48” x 13”, 2010 Grace, Ink & watercolor on Asian paper, 18” x 27”, 2009 Paradise Beach, Ink on Asian paper, 28” x 13”, 2009
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