Bamboo: The Summer Gentleman

by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS

The loft-gallery space above Buck’s 5th Avenue is awash with ink in the form of an exhibition of sumi paintings by members of Puget Sound Sumi Artists. Calligrapher and sumi artist Sally Penley, whose studio is in the same loft space, is spokesperson for the show. “Sumi is the Japanese word for ink,” she explains. “The ink, a soot base, traditionally comes in stick form and is ground on an ink stone (or) suzuri. With the addition of water and a grinding motion on the stone, the soot’s rich black color is released and ready to be used in painting and calligraphy.”

Penley says members of PSSA are encouraged to branch out and experiment with sumi in new ways, so there’s much more to sumi painting now than the old, traditional methods. “This is how I got involved with the group several years ago,” she says. “They asked me to come and talk to them about my ‘contemporary sumi’ techniques.”

There are 21 artworks by 15 artists, including three by Penley and some by Andrea Erickson, Janet Fogle, Fumiko Kimura and Selinda Sheridan. These works range from traditional and realistic to highly abstract. Most but not all depict bamboo. Fogel’s “Roar” is a lion’s head in orange with its face created by the negative space of the white paper. Penley’s “Bamboo 7” is abstract to the extent that the subject matter is only implied.

Erickson’s “Misty Falls” pictures four towering mountains with evergreen trees on top, shrouded in mist. “I am drawn to sumi as a medium,” Erickson says, “because of its duality in both approach and results. Sumi is about clearing your mind and allowing the ink to flow in a free manner while also applying complex, practiced brush strokes. The resulting work is a display of contrast of black, white and multiple shades of gray and, while this approach can be complex, the subject matter is often very simplistic.”

Erickson’s statement applies to most of the 21 works in the show, which are quiet and contemplative.

What: Bamboo: The Summer Gentleman

Where: The Loft Gallery at Buck’s 5th Avenue,
209 Fifth Ave. SE, second floor, Olympia

When: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Tuesdays – Saturdays through July 29

How much: free

Learn more: 425-765-3033 | Puget Sound Sumi Artists

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