Along the Kami Way

Along the Kami Way‭, ‬encaustic photos

‭(‬work in progress‭)‬

Kami are the spirits or phenomena that are worshipped in the ancient Japanese religion of Shinto‭. ‬It is an animistic religion that incorporates elements of nature‭, ‬animals‭, ‬creationary forces in the universe‭, ‬as well as spirits of the revered deceased‭. ‬

In Shinto‭, ‬kami are not separate from nature‭, ‬but are of nature‭, ‬possessing positive and negative‭, ‬good and evil characteristics‭. ‬They are manifestations of musubi‭, the interconnecting energy of the universe,‭ ‬‬and are considered exemplary of what humanity should strive towards‭. ‬Kami are believed to be‭ ‬‮”‬hidden” from this world‭, ‬and inhabit a complementary existence that mirrors‭ ‬our own –‭ ‬‮‬shinkai‭ (‬the world of the kami‭). ‬To be in harmony with the awe inspiring aspects of nature is to be conscious of kannagara no michi‭ (‬the way of the kami‭).‬

Though the word kami translates multiple ways into English‭, ‬no one English word expresses its full meaning‭. ‬Ambiguity in the meaning of kami is necessary‭, ‬as it conveys the ambiguous nature of kami themselves‭. ‬

In this series‭, ‬the interpretive nature of the imagery is meant to be‭ “‘read” as a cosmic message‭, ‬in the sense of seeing an omen‭.  ‬These kinds of messages from the cosmos mark one’s path through life and guide us along the way with an intuitive connection to a greater whole‭. ‬


This body of work is an experiment with the surface of a photograph‭.  ‬The surface of a photograph is an integral part of perceiving an image‭.  ‬Usually‭, ‬the surface is something that the viewer tries to see through in a neutral way‭, ‬such as with glass or a‭ ‬spray coating‭.  ‬It is something I always notice and try to look past the glare when appropriate‭.  ‬Here‭, ‬I am trying to include the surface in the mark-making process as an expressive part of the image‭.  ‬In this manner‭, ‬there is an awareness of the artwork‭ ‬as an object in itself‭.  ‬This‭ ‬‮!’‬objectness‮!(‬‭ ‬is apparent when the tactile qualities of the object become a part of the image‭. 

Most of these images combine the encaustic-wax process with the photograph‭.  ‬Encaustic has a sensual quality that seduces one to‭ ‬want to touch the surface and has a very unique way of reflecting light that one can easily fall in love with‭.  ‬It is a process‭ ‬that cannot be controlled completely but can be guided and directed with practice‭.  ‬The focus and‭ ‬‮!’‬depth of field‮!(‬‭ ‬in the photograph are also effected by the thickness of the wax‭, ‬giving it a very dreamlike quality‭.  ‬It‮!&‬s surface can be worked back into with encaustic oils and invites experimentation‭.  ‬In a few pieces‭, ‬there is obvious carving back into the wax‭, ‬adding yet another layer of mark making to the effect‭.‬

Related Work

Burnt Cactus

Drawings & Prints

Medusa Bones

Synapse Tapestries


    Copyright John Bonath 2019