The Art of Imperfection
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
We live in a society that demands perfection in every way – which translates into people wanting the “perfect” everything in a perfect world- being perfect in themselves, being forever youthful and flawless with the perfect face and body, having the perfect partner, family, friends, child, education, job, house, car, holidays, life etc- you get the drift! As we know, life doesn’t always work this way and the attainment of “perfection” is a futile exercise.
I recently learnt about the concept of “Kintsugi” , the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using gold (THANK YOU Yoko and Tomoko! ). It is interwoven with the Japanese philosophy of “Wabi Sabi”, the art of finding beauty in broken or old things (beauty in imperfection). Many years ago, Zen Buddhists postulated that accidentally broken ceramics should not be thrown away- but should be put back together with care and respect – despite their flaws.
Kin means golden and tsugi means joinery, therefore literally meaning “to join with gold”. They would use fine gold within the lacquer to intricately join up all the broken pieces- effectively honouring these natural breaks – as opposed to hiding the cracks. What a beautiful concept – to respect and revere what has been damaged and vulnerable; to envisage the cracks as a strength and not a weakness.
“We’re stronger in the places that we’ve been broken.” – Ernest Hemingway
This led to me thinking about the well–known sculpture entitled “Expansion”, a bronze sculpture of a naked woman sitting in a meditative pose, with light bleeding from within, through cracks in her body.
American sculptor, Paige Bradley’s story is inspiring. Briefly, it was a time in Manhattan when figurative art had declined in popularity and some sculptors were turning to other means like teaching.
In her own words, “The art world was telling me I had to break down my foundation, let my walls crumble, expose myself completely, and from there I will find the true essence of what I needed to say.”
“So, literally, I took a perfectly good wax sculpture – a piece I had sculpted with precision over several months – an image of a woman meditating in the lotus position, and just dropped it on the floor. I destroyed what I made. I was letting it all go. It was scary. It shattered into so many pieces. My first feeling was, ‘What have I done!?!’ Then, I trusted it would all come together like I envisioned.”
“We cast all the pieces in bronze and assembled the pieces so they floated apart from one another. Then I brought in a lighting specialist and we built a crazy lighting system to make it glow from within. It turned out even better than I thought.”
Both these great examples signify beauty with flaws. Perfection in imperfection. Whether we are talking about a ceramic pot, a sculpture or a person, the principle is that of acknowledging the trauma, confronting it and moulding it back to an even more beautiful, stronger and refined version, that could potentially withstand stronger forces should the situation arise.
From our perspective, this is about embracing emotional or physical trauma and not obscuring it nor being ashamed of it, but looking it in the eye and honouring it with dignity and respect. It is about letting divine golden threads weave the cracks together and mould the broken pieces into an even finer piece of art – under the vigilance and guidance of the Master Potter.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ― Rumi