Artist Rimi Yang Brings the “Song of the Reed Flute” to Life

Artwork: RIMI YANG, Rhythm of Nature, 2016 Oil on Canvas, 48 × 48 in

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, popularly known as Rumi, was a thirteenth century Persian poet and Sufi mystic whose work has been embraced for over seven centuries. One of the most-loved poets to grace the earth, his best known work, Masnavi, is a series of six books that is composed of 25,000 rhyming couplets of profound spiritual depth that have proven to be an infinite source of guidance, wisdom, and solace to people from all walks of life.

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Book 1 opens with “The Song of the Reed Flute,” setting the stage for a journey across time and space with God and Man. In a translation from Coleman Barks’s The Essential Rumi, the poem begins: “Listen to the story told by the reed, for being separated. Since I was cut from the reedbed, I have made this crying sound. Anyone apart from someone he loves understands what I say. Anyone pulled from a source longs to go back. At any gathering, I am there, mingling in the laughing and the grieving, a friend to each, but few will hear the secrets hidden within the notes.”

IMI YANG, Love & Muse, 2016, Mixed, Media on Wood Panel, 24 × 18 in

IMI YANG, Love & Muse, 2016, Mixed, Media on Wood Panel, 24 × 18 in

Rumi goes on to describe “The Song of the Reed Flute” as that of our heart wrest from the solace of our breast, driven out of Eden like Adam and Eve, searching in a lost world for truth. The depths of loss are matched only by the desire to be found yet somehow this will never happen outside of our selves. It is a beautiful ode to the call we hear, the longing of our souls for peace in this chaotic world.

This is the world of Korean-American artist Rimi Yang. Born in Osaka, Japan, she moved to the United States in 1986, and settled in California, where she lives and works today. Like Rumi, she brings together two halves of the whole and makes them one, embodying the space where dualities meet, intersect, and inform each other. Whether East-West, old-new, male-female, or high-low, Yang finds herself in the center of it all, comfortably blurring the lines so many wish to draw.

RIMI YANG, Geisha and Her Cat, 2016, Oil on Canvas, 36 × 24 in

RIMI YANG, Geisha and Her Cat, 2016, Oil on Canvas, 36 × 24 in

Yang observes, ““Mankind tries to order the un-orderable, explain the inexplicable.  Do we really always need to reason, understand and structure, or could we instead seek out the vibration that connects all life in an instant?”

Her quest for a higher frequency, one closer to the source, has resulted in a tremendous new body of work now in view in Song of the Reed Flute: New Works by International Artist Rimi Yang, on view at JoAnne Artman Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA, now through November 30, 2016. The exhibition features 12 paintings made in 2016, each a lyrical poem unto itself.

RIMI YANG, Colorful Bella, 2016, Oil on Canvas, 36 × 30 in

RIMI YANG, Colorful Bella, 2016, Oil on Canvas, 36 × 30 in

The paintings embody the spirit of Odilon Redon, Gustav Klimt, and Paul Cezanne with their fantastical colors and dense palettes, richly patterned backgrounds, and poetic depictions of beauty. There is a sense of history that pervades the work, both of art and Old Masters as well as the fairy tales of yore. Yang invokes an earlier age, both of the earth as well as ourselves, a depth of innocence where a thousand flowers bloomed in the dreams of life. Each painting is a path to the way home, a journey of a thousand miles through her brushstroke. It is a place we want—even need—to go, a journey we must take for our souls.

As Rumi understood, “If someone doesn’t want to hear the song of the reed flute, it’s best to cut conversation short, say good-bye, and leave.”

RIMI YANG, Garden Song, Oil on Canvas, 48 × 48 in

RIMI YANG, Garden Song, Oil on Canvas, 48 × 48 in

All artwork:Courtesy of JoAnne Artman Gallery.


Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.