Book Review: The Beauty of Everyday Things

I found this book by coincidence, when I stopped in a book shop in my walk to Hyde Park.

The cover took my attention, simple, humble, with an image of a modest teapot and above it, the title of the book: ‘The Beauty of Everyday Things’ of the Japanese author Soetsu Yanagui.

I thought that the book was going to be a reflection about a collection of objects used on the Japanese culture, and the beauty and poetry that you could find in them, like in the book  ‘In praise of shadows’, by Junichiro Tanizaki. Nevertheless, this book consists of a series of essays where the director of the Japan Folk Crafts Museum manifests a series of ideas about the beauty of the hand-crafted objects, made by the local population, who, without having a deep knowledge about art, made the most beautiful objects, objects that were adapted to the specific functions of their humble homes.

Mingei - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre
Ejemplo de Mingei

According to Yanagui, folk art or ‘mingei’, are objects made specifically for their use, ‘the practical purpose for which they were made’, where the material which the objects is made of has been carefully selected, and attention to detail has been paid. This are objects produced in large-scale, they don´t have high economical value, because they are objects made for the daily use of ordinary people. He also manifests the importance of ‘mingei’ for the development of the population, making a comparison with the society: ‘if society contains a few outstanding individuals but the mass of people is mediocre, society as a whole will not prosper’, stablishing that for the development of the population, these objects must be made of quality materials, so society can prosper and reach the Kingdom of Beauty. Yanagui also manifests that the aesthetic sensitivity of current population has become deteriorated, that we are surrounded by objects that are not beautiful, antiaesthetic utensils like our clothes, the dishes were we eat, objects we use for cooking or even our furniture, and without even notice, have made an impact on our sensitivity and on our sense of beauty: ‘In recent times, a shadow has fallen on our sense of beauty, on our aesthetic sensibility. There are undoubtedly many reasons for this, but one is certainly the fact that our everyday utilitarian utensils and implements have become so ugly. It is this ugly things that surround us during the day, the clothing we wear, the utensils we eat from, the furniture we make use of. Without realising it, these unattractive objects have had an enormous impact on our sensitivity to beauty’   

  

tea bowl by ogata kenzan | Tea bowls, Ceramics, Japanese ceramics
Tea bowl

Besides, he stablishes the idea that thanks to mingei, art belonged to everyone and not to just a few people. The objects didn´t have stamp or signature, they were beautiful pieces of art that allowed that beauty and quality of these objects was shared by the population. Now, art works, rare, with signature and with a high price just belongs to a minority and this, in the end, has an effect on the development of the population. ‘The ignorant masses, inferior in understanding were superior in the ways of creation. Now only the individual artist is alive; the age of the shared beauty is dead.’

In the book, it is also mentioned the beauty of muji, that which do not have any pattern or decoration, the beauty of naked objects with a simplicity on the design that makes it special. According to him, ‘roughness and quiet appreciation characterize this beauty’

This is not a book that gives a definition of beauty, nor it is a book that states that everything hand-crafted is beautiful, however, it is a book that makes us to think about the current situation of art, shared by everyone years ago, now belonging to a few. It is about the loss of quality, durability and beauty of quotidian objects and therefore, the loss of aesthetic sensibility and the impossibility of improve and refine everyday objects to reach the aesthetic perfection.

‘Beauty is beauty’

* * *

Di con este libro por casualidad, de camino a Hyde Park, mientras daba vueltas por una tienda de libros buscando inspiración.

Me llamó la atención la portada, sencilla, humilde, con una tetera de barro y sobre ella, el título ‘The Beauty of Everyday Things’, del autor japonés Soetsu Yanagi.

Pensé que el libro iba a ser una reflexión sobre una colección de objetos que se utilizaban a diario en la cultura japonesa, sobre la belleza y la poética de esos objetos, como en el libro ‘El elogio de la sombra’ de Junichiro Tanizaki, sin embargo, el libro son una serie de ensayos del director del Japan Folk Crafts Museum, que pone de manifiesto una serie de ideas sobre la belleza de los objetos realizados a mano por la población local, que, sin tener conocimiento sobre arte, realizaron los objetos más bellos, objetos que se adaptaban a su función en los humildes hogares.

Según Yanagui, el arte folk o ‘mingei’ son objetos que están hechos específicamente para su uso, ‘the practical purpuse for which they were made’ donde se ha elegido el material con cuidado y se ha prestado atención al detalle. Son objetos que se han producido en masa y no tienen un alto valor económico, ya que son objetos para el uso cotidiano. También explica la importancia del ‘mingei’  como un medio para el desarrollo de la población, haciendo un paralelismo con la sociedad: ‘if society contains a few outstanding individuals but the mass of people is mediocre, society as a whole will not prosper.’  Estableciendo que, para el desarrollo de la población, los objetos de uso cotidiano tienen que ser de calidad, para poder alcanzar el máximo desarrollo, ‘the Kingdon of Beauty’. Yanagi manifiesta que la sensibilidad estética de la población actual se ha deteriorado, que estamos rodeados de objetos que no son bellos, utensilios antiestéticos como la ropa, los platos donde comemos, los objetos con los que cocinamos, nuestros muebles, y que, sin darnos cuenta, han tenido un gran impacto en nuestra sensibilidad hacia la belleza: ‘In recent times, a shadow has fallen on our sense of beauty, on our aesthetic sensibility. There are undoubtely many reasons for this, but one is certainly the fact that our everyday utilitarian utensils and implements have become so ugly. It is this ugly things that surround us during the day, the clothing we wear, the utensils we eat from, the furniture we make use of. Without realising it, these unattractive objects have had an enormous impact on our sensitivity to beauty’   

Por otro lado, establece la idea de que, gracias al ‘mingei’, el arte pertenecía a todos y no solo a unos pocos. Las piezas realizadas no tenían sello ni firma, bellas piezas de arte sin valor que permitían que la población compartiera la belleza y la calidad de estos objetos y que, sin embargo ahora, el arte pertenece solo a unos pocos. Las obras de arte, escasas, de autor y alto valor ya no pueden ser compartidas por todos, solo por una élite y, al final, repercute en el desarrollo de la población.  ‘The ignorant masses, inferior in understanding were superior in the ways of creation. Now only the individual artist is alive; the age of the shared beauty is dead.’

En el libro también menciona la belleza de ‘muji’, aquello que no tiene estampados o adornos, un color sólido. Aquello que tiene una simplicidad en el diseño que lo hace especial. Según él, ‘roughness and quiet appreciation characterize this beauty

Es un libro que no explica cuál es la belleza de las cosas cotidianas, tampoco es un libro que establezca que todo lo hecho a mano es bello, sin embargo, es un libro que hace reflexionar sobre la situación del arte, antes anónimo, compartido por muchos como un oficio más, ahora, sólo compartido por unos pocos. Sobre la pérdida de la calidad y belleza de los objetos cotidianos que utiliza la población y por ende, la pérdida del sentido estético y la imposibilidad de seguir evolucionando y depurando los objetos cotidianos hasta llegar a la perfección estética.

‘Beauty is beauty’

Responder

Introduce tus datos o haz clic en un icono para iniciar sesión:

Logo de WordPress.com

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de WordPress.com. Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Google photo

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Google. Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Imagen de Twitter

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Twitter. Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Foto de Facebook

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Facebook. Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Conectando a %s