But is it Art?


But is it Art?

 Posted by Susan Shand on January 18, 2013 at 3:40 AM Comments comments (5)

But is it Art?



The popularity of haiga in the west owes more to the invention of the camera phone than it does to Japanese or western Art heritage. The sparse Zen-inspired sumi-e and haiku combination has given way to the snap with an explanatory verse.


This IS art http://tinyurl.com/ak3yckh particularly this one by Jerry Dreesen

which you can see here http://pinterest.com/jerrydreesen/haiga/



This is NOT art.



It is a nice snap of a sunset over the water with a haiku which references the image directly. On a surface reading, a comparison between the sun and a candle flame, day and night. On a deeper reading, we could take the ambiguity of “dying day” to lead us to the conclusion that the writer is suggesting that the soul (candle flame) continues to shine on after death; Which, even being generous, is a rather self-satisfied and preachy closed statement in which we cannot engage but must either agree or disagree.


This type of combination rests heavily on the graphic design and purpose of religious tract/image posters.






Here an emotional nature image is combined with a tract to reassure, edify or encourage. There is a moral, religious, or emotional message which speaks AT us. It does not invite us in to engage with the content but only to receive and to bask in the glow. There are examples of this style which draw from other types of religious art.


In contrast, this one,




… combines a well composed photograph to support a haiku. Linking through the rust, it tells us about something which isn’t shown in the image but which we are invited to imagine. We fill in the story in which our own childhood memories become an active and engaged co-operative creativity with Christine L Villa’s stimulus.



The debate about whether to add the text to the image or to place it separately on a border is one which also reflects existing cultural norms. The western Art world for centuries has separated text and image absolutely; this haiga reflects that Art-based position which gives primacy to image and secondary importance to words in their size and placing. We are no longer restricted by such separations and there are many examples of modern art where text is included as part of the overall composition. Good haiga should achieve a balance between the two without sacrificing either, nor the overall composition. These are aesthetic decisions. Decisions of design, composition, colour, shape, artistic quality, appropriateness, effect, meaning. They are also decisions of combination and linking; the image and text must work together to create a whole which is greater than its parts. It is not enough to just take a picture of your pet and add a haiku about your pet. That is not Art.



Haiga, is an Artform which demands that we have skills and knowledge about both visual arts and word arts. That we are able to synthesise the two to create a combined whole which engages us both in our creative co-operation and in our visual senses.




There is an excellent article by Jim Kacian herehttp://www.gendaihaiku.com/kacian/haiga.html which talks eloquently and helpfully about art and linking in haiga. Enjoy!




(stardate 20130118)




5 thoughts on “But is it Art?

  1. Reply
    sara winteridge 07:01 PM on January 18, 2013
    Another nice piece. Are you really keeping this up for a month? I agree with your examples as to what is art and what is schmaltz and cliche. But how I perceive things is so conditioned by all my experience/ education (average!) that it is too easy to decide what is .. less good based on certain prejudices. You know how pieces of art like paintings by Tretchikoff were ubiquitous post war and were looked down on, now it is retro and vintage and kitsch. They were a kind of revolution from what had adorned working class walls pre war, more joyful and bold and perhaps now in some communities and cultures there is a bigger need for the homey, religious,feelgood haiku and haiga than we have.
    So your deeper evaluation and that of Kacian was interesting. Achieving quality in ways that are pure, authentic and not rarified purely to establish one’s superiority is A challenge.

  2. Susan Shand 08:00 PM on January 18, 2013
    Well yes, I’m over half way through the month now and still going! Its good to hear that someone is still reading! Thank you.

    I think there is an element of fashion, a way of seeing which shifts to reflect other aspects of society. In the way that the New Look after the war emphasised women’s femininity as a response to years of dungarees, serge uniforms, austerity, and clothes rationing; through the social pressure to return women to a non-public and passive role with the return of the men and post-war austerity. Tretchikoff was part of 1950’s popular culture but by the early 60’s we had a return to the slim boyish profile and the active outgoing woman which suddenly pushed his images into “old-fashioned”. You can just about plot the economic temperature of any period using women’s fashions. What we find ‘attractive’ is socially determined. Having said that though, there is a skill element by which we can judge quality, even in the unfashionable. Over time it is that skill which endures the vagaries of fashion. I really don’t mind what people do as long as they are enjoying themselves. In a sense it doesn’t matter what people create, it is the act of creation which is meaningful. I do think that people can be aware of what they are doing though, that those decisions are made with at least some element of developing skill and awareness. Not everyone does their chosen creative activity in pursuit of excellence, some people just do it because they enjoy the act of doing it. That’s Ok too. Just as long as they know that’s what they are doing.

  3. Violette Rose-Jones 04:56 AM on January 22, 2013
    I love this post. A lot of people of people doing haiga have not grasped the idea that they should be illustrating the third essential thing in haiku, that which is implied. Props for an eloquent discussion.

  4. Rita Odeh 09:12 AM on January 28, 2013
    Being a haiga artist, I enjoyed reading your article, Susan.
    I think that Haiku is a poem of 3 lines which captures a meaningful moment in nature telling us something meaningful about human nature.
    Haiga is a haiku embeded on a meaningful photo.It provides a parallel image to it.Thus, enriching the poem by adding another layer/s to it.
    I invite you to visit my blog:

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