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Hiroshi Sengu's ethereal waterfalls (or how to cross the veil)


Hiroshi Sengu's ethereal waterfalls comprise a guide on how to cross through the veil.

Contemplation is a path that, if walked with honesty, can lead us to that archetypal journey, which can be defined as “crossing the veil”. In few words, it is an act of freedom, a sublime catharsis before the binds that belong to a determined sociocultural context: small units of consciousness subordinated to conventions that exile us from that demarcation we constantly try to map out: reality.

But if we remember that the key is itself an awareness of the door, then there is no better way to hack the obstacles that separate us from this ethereal effervescence —that feeling of heavenly lightness which Blake described as “living in an eternal dawn”— than to contemplate our own rampart.

Hiroshi Sengu (Tokyo, 1958) is one of the most distinguished artists of the last three decades. His arrival into artistic aristocracy was the result of a series of large format pieces that depicted waterfalls at the precise moment that water makes contact with the surface. Formed from flexible patterns that take us back to natural perfection, these cascades project a heavenly veil that may suggest a type of ontological solemnity, but also invite us to cross through them.

It is worth mentioning that Sengu’s work is part of the Nihonga tradition, a water-based technique that has been practiced in Japan for more than a thousand years. This technique stands out because of its canvasses —made of silk or washi, a special type of paper— and the use of natural pigments, while its textures are made with 16 gradations of sand. The virtuous confabulation of these variables derives in such a magnificent elegance that, if one happens to be at unease with one’s self, it can turn disturbing.

In 2011, the Hiroshi Sengu Museum opened its doors in the outskirts of Tokyo to pay tribute to his trajectory. The venue, designed by Ryue Nishizawa (Pritzker Architecture Prize 2010), evokes a sort of temple devoted to lightness: interior gardens, pristine white walls and a lighting technique that borders on perfection. A space of organic intimacy where visitors can enter into dialogue with Sengu’s artwork, and thus come closer to the only possible formula for crossing these veils: contemplation.

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