Friday, 7 February 2014

My Own Journey Through the Floating World

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There is a very special exhibition on in Tokyo at the moment called "Ukiyo-e: A Journey Through the Floating World". It covers the Edo period in japanese art (pronounced ed-oh and not ee-dough like I keep saying) which went from roughly the 17th to the start of the 20th Century and was formed from, initially, hand coloured woodblock prints before later incorporating more modern printing methods. Probably the most famous of this style is one I am sure you are already familiar with.
This is "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa" and despite the number of times I have seen this image, I don't think I ever noticed Mount Fuji there in the middle, behind the second boat. What I didn't know until today is that this is from a series by Katsushika Hokusai called "36 Views of Mount Fuji" and that each of the views is an equivalent masterpiece. You can see them all on Wikipedia here. What I also didn't know is that although this image and others like Red Fuji (second in this series and below) are so iconic, this style of art was restricted to actors and beautiful women only until the Edo period was almost over - this series is from the 1820's. Landscapes were real late comers on the scene.
The majority of the exhibition was therefore people and, this being polite japanese society fodder, there was none of that enormous phallus type stuff the dastardly europeans put in their exhibitions. Therefore this exhibition was really delightful from beginning to end. There were more than 300 pieces on show so I've picked a few artists and images out that I made a note of as I went round.

Kaigetsudo Ando 

This gent painted rather than doing woodblock prints.

This is of a courtesan but the one I saw was called "Beauty in the Wind" and you can see it here. He really captured the movement of her silk kimono in the air.

I couldn't help noticing that all the figures in these early pictures have either no or rather flabby chins. Proves my theory that flabby chins are the most beautiful. Moving on.

Isoda Koryusai

As I was walking round the exhibition I found myself wondering whether, when so many pictures are available online, exhibitions like this are becoming unecessary. But then I look at this and remember what it looked like in person, and realise that I am a muppet for even thinking such a thing. The texture of the paper and the ink just doesn't come across, or the delicacy of the print or the colour.

It is rumoured he was a samurai who gave that up for art. Can't help wondering what his parents said.

Kitigawa Utamaro

This is the guy who influenced the french impressionist painters and is generally considered one of the all time greats of the genre. There was a rather sweet statement introducing his section of the exhibition, saying that he managed to capture the different facial characteristics of women of different classes!

This is "Three Beauties of the Present Day". I became incerasingly fascinated by the hairdo's as we went around and that crossed swords in the backcombed fringe thing of the one on the left is something I will be attempting shortly.

Toshusai Sharaku

He was a great creator of portraits of Kabuki actors of the age, who were always pictured in make-up for a specific role. These were often available at the theatres - possibly a bit like flyers or perhaps more like a souvenir program. When first published his portraits upset some people as they were realistic rather than showing a more photoshopped view of the actors.

Like original Shakespeare, female roles were (and in fact still are) played by men.

Hashiguchi Goyo
My final selection was one of my favourite pictures from the whole place. Possibly because it is something I seem to spend a lot of time doing as well as for its beauty.

This is called "Woman in Blue Combing her Hair" and was created in 1920 when Edo was coming to an end as the style changed and became more realistic.

Pooch claims that I have too much time to think now that I'm not working. I suspect this has something to do with my telling him at some length why he was like a cat, and how that explained why I liked him.
"Smart" Muta
However, as I walked back to the station (and shortly before getting on the wrong train again) I did think about how a lot of my favourite paintings feature women with long, dark hair, like what I have. Would this be something true of most people? That they prefer art that reminds them either of themselves or people they care for. Or am I just a real narcissist? The colour course I am doing at the moment is talking about the emotional response we have to colour. I suppose it must be easier to have an emotional reaction to an image you can relate to rather than one you can't. For instance, I've never really felt anything about Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" but then I've never used one. All in all, I might spend a bit more time pondering that one. Although not thinking about urinals in particular.

(All the japanese images in this post are from Wikipedia and are licensed under creative commons. Although I now see I've screwed up the linking thing that makes the creative commons thing valid. God. I can't be bothered going back and linking them all. Take it from me these were all on wikipedia under the various artists' names and this isn't me trying to do dubious things.)

1 comment:

LJ said...

"Woman in Blue..." is so lovely. I only wish I had hair half so wonderful. Relating to art because it reminds youself of yourself doesn't fit in with least, I don't think so. These are all gorgeous and I'd love to see them in person but...they are certainly totally out of my frame of life.

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