Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (4/07)
Once in a while I find it very helpful to venture outside of the realm of things that normally interest me and that I have some knowledge about. Learning about new things is a very stimulating experience and it seems to me that it keeps my brain in good working order. As far as the Japanese art forms are concerned, I am vaguely familiar with the flower arranging, but that is where my knowledge – and even real awareness – of such art forms end. Picking up H. E. Davey’s “Brush Meditation: A Japanese Way to Mind & Body Harmony” was a real eye-opener.
The author begins this book with explanation and history of shodo, continues with the complex connections of mind, body and brush, and finishes with simple step-by-step exercises for the basics of shodo. The illustrations and the photos would certainly be very helpful for anybody who intends to try their hand at this ancient art form.
Mr. Davey’s writing is fluid and engaging. He does not get overly technical and is easy to understand. The book kept my attention and made me wish for more balance in my life. Let me give an example of Mr. Davey’s writing here:
“The kanji, or written characters, used in both Japan and China have transcended their utilitarian function and collectively serve as a visually stirring piece of fine art. Shodo allows the dynamic movement of the artist’s ki (“life energy” or “spirit”) to become observable in the form of rich black ink. In great examples of shodo, you can sense both the rhythm of music as well as the smooth, elegant, and balanced construction of refined architecture. Many practitioners of this art feel that the visible rhythm of Japanese calligraphy ultimately embodies a “picture of the mind” – and accomplished calligraphers recognize that it actually discloses your spiritual state. This recognition is concisely summed up by the traditional Japanese saying: […] If your mind is correct, the brush will be correct. “
Although Mr. Davey stresses several times that one needs to find an instructor to truly begin the exploration of shodo, I found “Brush Meditation” to be an interesting book for anybody who would like to learn at least the basics of shodo as well as anybody who just wishes to become more familiar with the traditional Japanese arts and way of living.