Karen Kurka Jensen - Into the Mystic - The Art of Brush, Paper, and Ink



What is spirituality in painting? Many have described it not in religious terms, rather in terms of connecting the viewer with the spirit and essence of what the artist is trying to convey.

There is more to painting than the visual essence of the paint on canvas. Many artists create visual pieces to speak to the viewer. This language of visual arts can take on many forms - energy, passion, spontaneity, and harmony. Different art-forms allow artists to convey their visual language in different manners.

Sumi-e is the ancient Chinese art of ink on paper or sometimes referred to as “ink wash painting.” Sumi-e uses the “Four Treasures” - ink, inkstone, bamboo brush and rice paper. Artists have used sumi-e for thousands of years to convey their soulful beauty, thoughtfulness and mindfulness to viewers throughout the ages. The spiritual connection that sumi-e provides between artists and viewer is what drew Karen Kurka Jensen to the art form.

“When I discovered the medium of sumi-e, where the importance is on connecting spiritually to your subject, I found the language of my soul” says Jensen as she describes the “journeys” viewers take while reflecting on her work.

Peacefulness and tranquility come to mind when viewing Jensen’s work. The artist’s intention of spiritually connecting the viewer to her subject is self-evident in the free flowing lines and calm, contrasting transitions of her pieces. The viewer can follow the motion of her paintings perception as it develops and evolves in an exercise of meditative harmony.

Jensen fell in love with Sumi-e the very first time she was introduced to the artform. “I studied with two teachers primarily for about 10 years. I met them at a Renaissance festival in Minneapolis, MN where I was playing the part of a gypsy. They invited me to one of their workshops, I went, and as soon as I touched that bamboo brush filled with ink to the rice paper I fell in love”, says Jensen as she celebrates that first encounter with her creative life-flow. “I literally fell in love with this art form and knew it was what I was supposed to do with my life” she says.

Sumi-e paintings transcend the ages and can be appreciated today. True to Sumi-e spiritual connectedness Jensen sought to create her own Sumi-e language to express herself emotionally with feeling, gesture and control.

Jensen uses a combination of traditional and non-traditional Sumi-e methods and styles with an impressionistic approach, sharing her sensitivity to experiences that have left memorable impacts on her. She views this exploration of impressions and feeling as a special spiritual connection that is embodied in a visual form. “The flow of ink on the paper brings insight into my world by inviting you in, to share in the moment or mood created by my work; magical, mysterious, ecstatic, or divine”, says Jensen.

Jensen’s Sumi-e paintings invite the viewer to see and more importantly feel what is being portrayed on paper. There is life in Jensen’s work. The natural settings of her subjects, mixed with the mystical elements of her ink-flows and colors allows the view to experience the spirituality within each piece.


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