Sometimes perfection is the lack there of

Solutions vary to combat stress as it rises in students due to heavy loads of work. There’s a café with cats and kittens as company, pet therapy, enjoying a hobby, and just taking a break.

But from Japanese culture, with tweaks from Western culture to fit Canadians, comes Wabi Sabi meditation.

Suzanne Powelle is an artist and painting instructor in Ottawa who follows the Zen philosophy and has intertwined it with Wabi Sabi meditation for her paintings.

“(Wabi Sabi) is artistic principles. It ties in with Zen philosophy but it’s a way of channeling those ideas into visual art,” says Powell.

Ontario tuition fees average at $2,631 at their lowest in 2014/2015 and $7,539 at their highest. Scholarships can be enticing to many students as they strive to minimize the money lost to school.

“I’d say the workload can get pretty heavy with some classes,” says Simon Kadota, a University of Ottawa student in the international management commerce program. “Then there’s the issue that most of the stuff is group work. It takes a lot of time and effort just to organize weekly group meetings and stuff.”

Students spend day and night perfecting assignments and essays and spend more time looking for perfection in everyday life which is made easier by the boom in technology and mass production afforded to the average Canadian.

Suzanne Powell standing alongside a vibrant painting done by her. This painting follows her Wabi Sabi method.

Not all forms of painting are stress free however. Angela Hillier, a Visual Arts grad from the University of Ottawa focuses on geometric abstractions in abstract art.

“It can be (stressful), said Hillier. “When completing artwork on a deadline, unsure if it’s going to be good or not, if you’ll get it finished on time, and presenting it in front of your professor and class to get critiqued in front of you, aspects can definitely be stressful.

But even for the abstract artist, the process is the most important part of the painting. There can be mistakes but also happy accidents, intentions and successful experimentations.

“I feel that western society is very centered on striving for happiness and perfection and being very disappointed when that doesn’t happen,” says Powell. “Wabi Sabi art, in general, says it’s not an issue as long as you’re involved in what you’re doing and you recognize that you’re alive and having an interesting trip.”

Between Jan. 9 and Feb. 11, Powell set up a gallery in the Atrium Gallery on Centrepointe Drive.

The collection of artwork was intriguing. Some pieces were vibrant while others appeared duller in colour. Some paintings were completed the traditional method with paint and brush while others brought in a newer touch with twigs glued to the canvas.

“It’s about quieting the mind and being able to appreciate things for what they are,” says Warren. “In Wabi Sabi, it’s basically about not having too many set notions of what’s going to happen. The main important factor is that you be present. And actually the outcome is less important than your feeling as you’re producing a work of art.”


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