Boundless Expanses Likened to Visual Haikus

Lecturer at the Ecole du Louvre/Art critic
Eric Monsinjon

The paintings of Niwa Meiyu, rather than depicting the outward appearance of things, attempt to capture the inner reality of the world. What she creates are spiritually, sacred landscapes. Scenes of deep, blue seas bordering endlessly extended, golden, sandy shores express infinity and invite us to contemplate nature as our own internal experience.

To take an example, looking at “Beside the pond in Kinkakuji temple,” she doesn’t directly draw our line of sight to the sacred place. Instead, what first comes to our eyes is the temple reflected in the water’s surface. Our feet naturally stop in front of Niwa’s work and we cannot help but lose ourselves in contemplation for a moment. Here, we find the very essence of contemplation with its double dimension: on the one hand, the spiritual dimension that admires this sacred temple, while on the other, the purely aesthetic dimension which consists in contemplating the beauty of an instant of life. The world of Niwa Meiyu is interwoven with movements in the air, by ripples in water, and movements in the seas or rivers.

These landscapes are also examples of goldsmith work which burn with beaches of fire, with infinite surfaces captured in the folds of the earth. The paintings are so refined that one gains an infinite vision of expanse, drawing a spiritual lesson from them. With an economy of means, the artist succeeds in evoking infinite worlds, like true visual haikus.

The beauty of nature is at the heart of her work. Often inspired by the beauty of a crescent moon in the night sky, she attempts to immortalize a moment or condense the length of a season into a single image. This moment is sometimes brief, sometimes infinite. How can she convey the sensation of a breeze that on its own makes the leaves fly? How can she make us experience in the human soul the encounter between the waves of the ocean and those of the waters inland? Niwa Meiyu succeeds in this miracle of making us perceive the imperceptible in the world we perhaps no longer know how to look at, to reestablish a new contemplation of the universe and of life.