“Uemura Shōen and Quintessential Bijinga, Paintings of Beautiful Women” at the Yamatane Museum of Art (29 August-22 October 2017)

“Uemura Shōen and Quintessential Bijinga, Paintings of Beautiful Women” at the Yamatane Museum of Art (29 August-22 October 2017)

Interview with Alice Gordenker by Eve Loh Kazuhara 

With special thanks to Minako Takahashi (Head Curator) and Yurie Noda (Press and Public Relations) of Yamatane Museum of Art

Uemura Shōen (1875–1949) was an enduring nihonga painter who had a successful career spanning the Meiji, Taishō and early Shōwa years. Specialising in a genre known as bijinga (paintings of beautiful women), Shōen wanted to portray women not only dressed in their finest, but to express beauty from the inside out, capturing grace and resilience of women.

From 29 August through to 22 October 2017, the Yamatane Museum of Art is showcasing 18 of Shōen’s paintings alongside 70 additional works by other famous artists.

In this interview, I speak to Tokyo-based journalist and translator Alice Gordenker, who on Sept. 22 will give a guided tour in English of the museum’s current exhibition, “Uemura Shōen and the Quintessential Bijinga, Paintings of Beautiful Women.”

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Hope by Yuriko Kitano

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Hope 2 希望2, mineral pigments 150 x 200 cm, Private Collection.

In the distance, the morning sun peaks over the mountains of Chôkai鳥海山, casting a warm blanket of sunlight across the horizon. The mountains, whose name suggests the resemblance of a bird in the sea, weave in and out of the painting like restless tides. Much of the landscape is rather sombre- enveloped in an elegy of grey and drowned in muted shadows. Some respite however, is found in the stirring of life in the light and what the snow-dusted peaks have come to reveal . The sun, an ever-reassuring presence, rises above and illuminates the heaving ridges.

Mountains have always been close to the heart of Japanese culture. Revered as sacred sites where Gods were said to dwell, they offer sanctuary to meditating priests and welcome thousands on arduous pilgrimages. As one of the most enduring symbols of Japanese culture, they have been admired, written about and painted. From the poems of hyakunin isshu (one poem each by one hundred poets) to Hokusai’s prints and the paintings of Yokoyama Taikan, mountains have soothed and inspired many. These are the feelings that stir when we encounter Hope, by Nihonga artist Yuriko Kitano.

In the aftermath of the Tohoku Earthquake, Kitano looked for ways in which she could help those who had lost their families and homes. In her search, she found the answer in her paintings and in the magnificent beauty of Chôkai (mountains that borders Akita and Yamagata in the Tohoku region). Just like Nihonga masters before her time, they too, used art to encourage and inspire. During Japan’s participation in the war in Asia and the Pacific, Yokoyama Taikan’s images of Mount Fuji and the symbolic rising sun served as encouragement for the conscripted. Post-war Japan found hope in Higashiyama Kaii’s country Path道  that veered into the unknown. Decades later, a young Nihonga artist working in Yamagata offers the same precious hopes and inspiration in her art.

In Hope, there is immense comfort in knowing that the sun will always rise and the advent of each new day continues to bring hope and symbolic new beginnings.  Kitano hopes that her work will encourage and inspire those who continue to face adversity and loss arising from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011.

Many of Kitano’s large-scale landscape paintings are inspired by the abundant nature of Yamagata. The artist’s respect for nature and admiration for harmony in natural environments has been a consistent theme in her work. Kitano’s works are opportunities for quiet contemplation — from pounding waterfalls to swirling river currents, and magnificent mountainous ridges. Each scene, an impermanent beautiful state is delicately captured and brought to life in her paintings. The piercing sunlight right at this juncture in the sky balanced by  stirring mist awakened from its slumber is an impermanent moment never to be seen again in the same way. From a culture that places much joy and appreciation in the impermanence, Kitano understands this well and successfully captures beautiful impermanence for our enjoyment.

Yuriko Kitano graduated from Tohoku University of Art and Design with a major in Japanese painting in 2012. Having held a solo exhibition earlier this year, Kitano hopes to continue her practice as a Nihonga artist and realise her childhood dream of exhibiting at the Inten *oneday.

*The Inten is an annual art exhibition organised by the Japan Art Institute. It is a prestigious art exhibition showcasing the country’s finest Nihonga artists.

Postnote: Just received news that Yuriko has been selected for the Inten! Congratulations!!

 

References and Further Reading

http://tinyurl.com/m9vyohg

http://tinyurl.com/kxwwcwo

http://www.tuad.ac.jp/2013/01/25286/

Peindre avec Ito Jakutchu 伊藤若冲

Ito Jakutchu (1716/ 1800) né à Kyoto, est un peintre qui a vécu au cours deuxième partie de la période Edo, une époque particulièrement riche en créativité. da2f7dd9ff3d76136716e18abcc7e4b7
Issu d’une famille de riches marchand, libre de toutes contraintes économiques et mêmes artistiques, sa formation a principalement dérivé de sources d’inspiration issues de la nature et de l’examen des peintures chinoises dans les temples Zen.

Il croyait que toutes les créatures vivantes avaient le «shinki» (Esprit de Dieu), et il a commencé à peindre pour le capter.

Certaines sources indiquent qu’il a peut-être étudié d’après l’oeuvre de Ooka Shunboku , un artiste connu pour ses peintures de fleurs et d’oiseaux. Bien qu’un certain nombre de ses tableaux représentent des créatures exotiques ou fantastiques, telles que les tigres et des phénix, il est évident à partir du détail et l’aspect réaliste de ses tableaux de poules et d’autres animaux qu’il a basé son travail sur l’observation réelle. Ses modèles sont des oiseaux qu’il élève dans son jardin dont un paon et un perroquet, très rare à cette époque, et diverses sortes de coqs.
Daiten Kenjō, supérieur du temple Shōkoku+ji, qui entretint une amitié profonde avec le peintre, nous transmet dans le texte «Ketsumei» gravé sur une stèle à la mémoire de l’artiste: «Il n’y a rien qui surpasse le fait de regarder les choses directement, et de faire fonctionner son imagination sur ce qu’on va peindre. C’est cela le plus important»
Par ailleurs , il est amusant de constater que certaines oeuvres plus fantaisistes ont pu être inspirées par des albums à dessin alors que la technique de l’estampe était en plein essor. En effet , dans sa série “le monde coloré des êtres vivants” on peut découvrir la représentation de coquillages étalés sur le sable dans une disposition loin d’être réaliste. Elle pourait avoir été inspirée par l’album “Dessins pour ranma” publié en 1734 par Ooka Shunboku, alors que Jakutchu avait tout juste 20 ans.
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Jakutchu travaillait donc en observant minutieusement la nature , mais il développa son style si original grâce également à la copie de peintures anciennes, en déformant les modèles et en les personnalisant.

Il est également tout à fait possible que le modèle, avec sa facture liée étroitement à la gravure sur bois aie facilité la stylisation de certaines des oeuvres de Jakutchu.

On peut d’ailleurs penser qu’il en fut autant pour un grand nombre d’oeuvres réalisées par les peintres de cette période, qui sont paradoxalement très souvent des copies de maîtres anciens. La raison est que les techniques de reproduction (l’estampe) ont contribué à l’apparition de nouveaux styles de peinture, grâce à une large diffusion des modèles, qui furent accessibles aussi bien aux autodidactes qu’aux étudiants des écoles, et aux artistes professionnels; mais aussi grâce à l’obligation pour le peintre de “copier sans copier”, de donner un caractère physique au modèle issu de procédés mécaniques, et donc de trouver des solutions plastiques pour transcender le modèle. C’est alors qu’apparaitra entre autres, la peinture au doigt (Shitogâ) et la peinture sous l’emprise de l’alcool (Suisaku).
Pour revenir au peintre Ito Jakuchu, j’ai pu découvrir grâce à mon amie Emiko un très intéressant documentaire qui lui était consacré sur la chaine japonaise NHK.

On découvre dans ce très beau documentaire, une exploration microscopique de quelques oeuvres de Jakutchu. En effet au Japon, pays à la pointe du point de vue technologique se trouvent les outils les plus perfectionnés du monde comme j’ai pu le découvrir lors de ma visite de l’Université Kibi .
Instantané 7 (22-02-2013 16-59)Instantané 11 (22-02-2013 17-05)
Pour commencer, l’étude de l’oeuvre “Érable et petits oiseaux” rouleau peint sur soie, montre grâce à l’observation avec un matériel de haute technologie, le procédé que le peintre a utilisé pour obtenir une vibration des couleurs.

Le peintre a utilisé le procédé “ura-gu” (coloration inversée):

L’application de l’ura-gu est limitée à la soie et principalement aux thèmes des figures, fleurs et oiseaux. La même couleur est appliquée sur l’envers puis sur l’endroit. Habituellement la même couleur est utilisée sur l’endroit et l’envers, mais cela dépend de celle utilisée sur l’endroit; une couleur différente peut être utilisée. L’application de l’ura-gu est considérée comme un style de peinture.

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Après avoir reproduit le procédé, on constate en comparant deux modèles peints avec coloration unique et coloration inversée, la manière dont se reflète la lumière sur les particules de couleurs.
Instantané 2 (22-02-2013 16-54)

Instantané 6 (22-02-2013 16-57)

Il en résulte une vibration et une luminosité augmentée sur le modèle en coloration inversée.
Des années plus tard les impressionnistes et les pointillistes utilisèrent d’autres procédés dans leur quête de la lumière.
Instantané 3 (22-02-2013 16-55)

Une autre oeuvre est ensuite l’objet d’une étude approfondie: “Le vieux pin et le phoenix blanc” est une peinture qui fait partie des 30 rouleaux de la série “le monde coloré des êtres vivants” comme le précédent.
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Cette fois l’arrière de l’oiseau au verso de la soie est recouvert de feuille d’or pour obtenir un effet translucide grâce à la finesse de la trame.
Instantané 19 (22-02-2013 17-14)

Dans le cadre d’un cours j’ai proposé à une élève de travailler à partir d’une oeuvre d’Ito Jakutchu.
Mouki a choisi “les coqs”
Ce n’est pas réalisé sur soie mais sur papier japonais, les pigments sont des pigments suihi.
C’est un bel exercice et une occasion d’apprendre à travailler le plumage façon “écailles de poissons” comme le représentait le peintre.
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Quelle est la plus grande difficulté que rencontrent les élèves?
Ralentir, prendre le temps, laisser au pinceau le temps de déposer les pigments, ne pas s’inquiéter du temps que cela va prendre.
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Souvent dans le cadre d’un cours je réalise de petits modèles pour montrer comment je procède par exemple ici avec les plumes. Pour ce cours, j’ai séparé les deux coqs du modèle original.

Sources:
– Les peintres de Kyoto au XVIII siècle ou la peinture à l’époque de sa reproductibilité technique – SATO Yasuhiro
– An Illustrated Dictionary of Japanese-Style Painting Terminologie
– Kyōji TAKUBO,conseiller culturel du sanctuaire de Konpirasan – Osamu IKEUCHI

Tatum Wulff: An Apprenticeship in Japan

Tatum Wulff is an extraordinarily talented artist now residing in Vancouver, British Columbia.

In this guest post, Tatum shares with us her time in Japan where she was an apprentice of notable Nihonga artist, Atsuko Miwa.

I instantly fell in love with the unique qualities of the Japanese pigments. The application process was initially challenging but with patience and repeated practice, I felt I had fortuitously stumbled across a medium I could explore for a lifetime.

Enchanting Night

Click  to read more.

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Paul Nolan, a Nihonga painter in Australia

While it is well known that Nihonga has travelled overseas and has been enriched by external influences in Asia countries, we know far less about western artists who have dared expatriation to absorb the influence of the visual language of Nihonga, so profoundly Japanese. Their subsequent challenge has been to return to their home country and appropriate this language, practising the principles of this new art in their own work.This challenge is being met successfully by Paul Nolan whose work sublimates the nature of Australia, his home country.

When I look at his paintings, I have a beyond-the-cultures sensation, which reminds me of a journey in Australia in 1987. I felt again a very strong presence of Nature and the Earth I’ve encountered in Central Desert, or along the beaches of Magnetic Island. By discovering Paul Nolan’s work, I recovered that very physical sensation and aesthetic emotion, close to the Quebec expression “être en amour” (being in love) with the earth.

What could be better than mineral pigments and the Nihonga Spirit to celebrate this generous and sensual nature, stark at times. Paul Nolan knew magnificently how to renew the Nihonga in presenting Australian sceneries. By investigating into another culture, he then knew how to give us a fresh look on his own Australian culture.

Valérie Eguchi

His Site extract:

About Paul Nolan

On first encountering the original paintings of Ono Chikkyo, a modernist master of Japanese painting (Nihonga), I was deeply moved and wanted to learn about the method which was so suited to the kind of landscape and nature paintings that I am moved to produce. In particular the purity of the colours – the blues, green, ochres and whites, and the soft rich textures, seemed to resonate with my spirit. The materials seemed so well suited to celebrating nature. These include hand made Japanese paper with its strong natural fibres, sumi, seashell white, earth and semi-precious, mineral pigments and gold and silver leaf.
The aesthetic principles of Japanese Art which are said to have developed from profound contemplation of nature, also greatly appeal to me. Such principles as “wabi” and “sabi”, for example, belong to Japan’s unique culture, but can be understood by people around the world, as expressions of mans relationship to nature.
Paul Nolan

Paul was awarded a scholarship in 1982 by the Japanese Ministry of Education and Culture. He completed his studies in 1986 with a Masters Degree in Japanese Painting (Nihonga) from Tokyo University of Fine Art (Geidai). He was one of the first foreigners ever to graduate in Nihonga and the first Australian to do so.

Actuallity


Paul has been invited by the selection committee to exhibit at the 2011 International Biennale of Contemporary Art to be held in Florence Italy in December 2011. This event is an opportunity of a lifetime for Paul to display his unique Australian art on the world stage. Paul has selected his depiction of Gymea Lillies, a truly iconic plant of the Australian bush, as one of the paintings to be exhibited.
How you can help
Paul is seeking assistance through donations to help cover the cost of entry, travel, freight and exhibiting at the Biennale in Florence.
Australia Business Art Fondation

Texte en français

Artist Feature: A Gentleman in Kyoto- Akazawa Yoshinori 赤沢嘉則

Akazawa Yoshinori lives and works in Kyoto, Japan.

Artist Feature: A Gentleman in Kyoto- Akazawa Yoshinori 赤沢嘉則

My first impression of Akazawa was that he was very modest and gentle. When I met him at his atelier in Kyoto, he spoke little but with great thought behind each word.

Hailing from an artesan family where his father is currently the 4th Roseki Akazawa, it seemed befitting that he would pursue a career in the arts. Akazawa studied Japanese Painting (Nihonga) at Kyoto City University of Arts, one of Japan’s oldest and most traditional art university. After his graduation in 1995, he continued his studies in ceramics at Kyoto Municipal Institute of Industrial Research.

In 1999, he held his first solo exhibition in Kyoto exhibiting the Nightscape夜 景series. He worked on them upon return from a trip to India. Back in Kyoto, he was again reminded of how beautiful the Japanese nightscape was and set out to work on the series.

People’s Night and Moon人々の夜と月 (1993)

Arguably one of his best works, People’s Night and Moon人々の夜と月 (1993) depicts places and things close to his heart- the schools he studied in, friends’ houses where he hung out at, shrines and mountains that have been drawn from his hometown in Kyoto. The work is a remarkable comment on the harmonious relationship between nature seen through the vast expanse of sky and mountains and the sprawling urban landscape. Street lights lead you into the background and along the length of the painting, ever so subtly yet assertively reminding us what is man-made and what is from nature. When I saw this work, I felt the harmony that has managed to co-exist so well, particularly in the Japan that I know and now miss.  In 2005, the artwork was featured on the cover of Plato’s Cosmology and Its Ethical Dimensions by Dr. Gabriela Carone. On the work, she commented, “I was struck by the intensity and depth of the painting. It seemed to capture the cosmic dimension and its integration with the human sphere very powerfully. “

Nova, Akazawa Yoshinori

Since his first solo exhibition in 1999, Akazawa has participated in group exhibitions all over Japan including several more solo exhibitions. His ceramic works have also taken him to international Biennales in Austria and Slovenia and are collected by the Museum of International Ceramics of Faenza, Italy, and Kapfenberg Museum, Austria. Back in his home country, Akazawa exhibits regularly at the annual Japanese Traditional Art Crafts of Kinki area exhibition. He has also appeared on TV and conducts workshops on Nihonga.

Fusuma Painting, Soken-ji, Azuchi Castle Ruins

In 2007, he was commissioned to work on a fusuma painting 襖絵 (traditional Japanese sliding door that partitions rooms )at Soken-ji 摠見寺currently located at Azuchi Castle ruins in Shiga prefecture. The result of the laborious two-year project is a stunning painting of light cherry ink blossoms 薄墨桜. Videos capturing Akazawa at work reveal his sensitive and contemplative approach. Each stroke is carefully planned and gently applied. He then steps back to assess what he had just done. This is repeated again countless times with genteel patience.

Every Nihonga artist studies nature and animals as part of their academic training.  In his flower series, Akazawa shows strength and mastery that can only be attained after diligently observing and sketching meticulously from nature.

Hatsuse 初瀬(Cherry tree at Hase temple, Nara Japan) is an example of attention to detail in depicting a cherry tree in bloom. Akazawa has treated each blossom meditatively and as though they were uniquely different. The end-result is simply breathtaking.

Hatsuse 初瀬

Akazawa’s recent activities centre around ceramic-making and understandably so as he has been enjoying international recognition and success with his works.

It has been a long time since that hot Summer day at his atelier. As we said goodbye, he gave me a small Nihonga painting that I have kept on every desk in every country that I have moved to.  He might not have known this but for most people this side of the world, it is their first encounter with Nihonga.

Akazawa’s winning ceramic works from the 57th Premio Faenza are on exhibition at the MIC (Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza) until September 25, 2011. Thereafter, the exhibition will travel to Japan to the Institute Italian di Cultura di Tokyo Exhibition Hall from September 2 – 23.  From September 17 to October 30, his winning work, Nova, will be exhibited as part of the 12th International Ex-tempore of Ceramics Piran 2011 at Galerija Herman Pečarič.

Akazawa can be reached at his website and email.

(Eve Loh)

Click here for French translation (Valerie Eguchi)

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