Hokusai sees how
The artist does not tire of giving his attention. And “how much attention one can give”, explains Eli Siegel in his lecture Art As Energy, “is a problem of energy.” How much attention I could give was a problem I had growing up in
“It takes energy to find energy,” said Eli Siegel, and Hokusai had that energy. Traveling across
“I have drawn things since I was six. All that I have made before the age of sixty-five is not worth counting. At seventy-three I began to understand the true construction of animals, plants, trees, birds, fishes, and insects. At ninety I will enter into the secret of things. At a hundred I shall certainly have reached a magnificent level; and when I am a hundred and ten, everything—every dot, every dash—will live.”
Hokusai left the world over 10,000 woodcut prints and some 30,000 to 40,000 drawings.
Under the Wave off Kanagawa, or The Great Wave is one of the most loved and reproduced works of art the world over because of the way it puts together force and accuracy, immense freedom and precision. Eli Siegel described it as having “neat frenzy,” and “the wild as shapely.” Like every person, I have wanted to feel swept by the meaning of things and also be orderly, in control. The Great Wave encourages this feeling.
A mighty tsunami rises from a tumultuous sea. As it crests upward, its massive curve rolling forward, it breaks into spiky fingerlets of water, then drops of foamy spray.
In the foreground are three yellow boats with pointed bows: one carried upon the wave, another plunging through water, as the third is about to be engulfed.
Hokusai’s dots and dashes do live as they precisely define the wave in all its power and delicacy. With economy of color—dark, middle, light blues, white, yellow and tan; and simplicity of line Hokusai sees it as exuberant force and graceful curve.
Everything in the composition brings our eye to the actual subject—Mt Fuji—rising calmly in the distance. The great wave seems to bow its frenzied crest to the mountain as its white foam appears to become snow falling upon the white capped
Hokusai shows us that the energy we most want in our lives is the courageous and lovingly keen attention to reality that is in art. In Art As Energy, Eli Siegel explains:
"The artist says, I must see what this is; a person not as artist says, I must use this or protect myself from this. The energy that insists on a thing’s having more meaning is deeply the true kind."