Artist from Japan, Heptonstall Church, and Shintoism: Blurred Lines of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The contemporary Japanese artist, Sawako Utsumi, adores the visual reality of traditional villages and towns in the Calderdale area of West Yorkshire. This noticeably applies to quaint old Christian churches that have survived modernity, the rugged landscape of the surrounding area, the canal area that runs through Hebden Bridge in both directions, and quaint houses that exist near the main Christian church in Heptonstall. Equally dramatic is the changeable weather and diversity of thought patterns that runs through Heptonstall and Hebden Bridge respectively.
Indeed, one minute you can be walking in lowland areas of Hebden Bridge, then suddenly high up with the Pennine Way in easy reach. Or, alternatively, walking uphill to the delightful village of Heptonstall. On top of this, Hardcastle Crags and the Rochdale Canal are a treat to people who cherish the outdoors.
In the art piece by Utsumi titled Heptonstall Christian Church in West Yorkshire, the artist focuses on a more clear vision. This contrasts noticeably with the more blurred art piece titled Heptonstall in Silence.
Reasons behind this are multiple but with one noticeable concept behind this. In other words, the older art piece by Utsumi resembles the mystery of Shintoism compared with the later art piece. Therefore, the blurred dimensions of Shintoism and nature fuse within the troubled history of Heptonstall despite the continuity of Christianity in this part of West Yorkshire.
The troubled history applies to a battle that took place in 1643 during the English Civil War. Similarly, David Hartley, alias the King of the Cragg Vale Coiners, was buried in Heptonstall after being hanged in York in 1770.
This reality means that the blurred and intriguing painting of Heptonstall in Silence is fused with the mysteries of Shintoism – that remains outside the knowledge of most non-Japanese people. However, Heptonstall Christian Church in West Yorkshire resembles the influence of Buddhism in Japan and the familiarity of this faith internationally. Therefore, the clarity of the second art piece is based on familiarity and the right path, compared with the power of nature that burnt brightly in the soul of the poet Ted Hughes who hails from Calderdale.
Ted Hughes wrote:
When God, disgusted with man,
Turned towards heaven.
And man, disgusted with God,
Turned towards Eve,
Things looked like falling apart.
But Crow . . Crow
Crow nailed them together,
Nailing Heaven and earth together
Ultimately, the Crow may have been Ted Hughes himself, compared with the mammal Sylvia Plath who is buried in Heptonstall. These fusions of ideas, and intricacies, equally enter the mindset of indigenous Shintoism. Yet, this applies to different angles because the Crow was Buddhism during the Edo Period that often devoured Shintoism. This reality persists in areas of high culture and political significance despite the changing winds of the Meiji era.
Sylvia Plath wrote:
I have no wit, I have no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numbed too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
A lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is like the falling leaf;
Jesus, quicken me.
Overall, Utsumi is not only focused on the delightful setting of Heptonstall because this contemporary Japanese artist is trying to fuse this within her native land. Yet, unlike the sinister world of humanity and nature that awaits the Crow by Ted Hughes, in the world of Shinto nature is comforting and powerful. Equally important, it connects with the soul and ancestors. Therefore, Sylvia Plath may be buried far away from her native home but in the world of Shinto, her spirit is like a kami that awaits a new beginning – or, in the Christian trinity, a mystery remains where the Crow is defeated by the Lamb.
BELOW IS A NEW BOOK BASED ON THE ART OF SAWAKO UTSUMI
Book Review: Sawako Utsumi and her Kindred Spirit
European and Japanese Art: Buddhism, Christianity, Landscapes, Rinpa, Shintoism, Ukiyo-e, and Dutch Masters
http://www.lulu.com/shop/lee-jay-walker/sawako-utsumi-and-her-kindred-spirit/paperback/product-22830732.html – Please click on to order the book.
http://sawakoart.com – Sawako Utsumi personal website
http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/sawako-utsumi.html – Sawako Utsumi and where you can buy her art, postcards, bags, and other products. Also, individuals can contact her for individual requests.
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Some Japanese art and cultural articles by Modern Tokyo Times are republished in order to highlight Japanese culture to our growing international readership.