Divides in the Pure Land

Apr 29, 2011

Divides in the Pure Land

The portrait of Honen Shoin (13th century) is known in Japanese as “Kagami no Miei” (mirror portrait) and shows the famous Buddhist priest seated on a mat, slightly slumped and holding his nenju (rosary). For the title of another famous 13th-century depiction of a ...

It's a fine line between the eccentric and the experimental

Apr 15, 2011

It's a fine line between the eccentric and the experimental

Implicit in the idea of the “eccentric” painter is that the artist’s style seems to have come out of nowhere, breaks all the conventions, and stands alone as an example of unparalleled individuality that cannot be repeated. All the better if the painter’s biography ...

'Paul Klee: Art in the Making 1883-1940'

Apr 8, 2011

'Paul Klee: Art in the Making 1883-1940'

The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto Closes May 15 The American critic Clement Greenberg called the Swiss-born painter Paul Klee (1879-1940) a “small master” owing to his miniature formats. Synonymous with Klee’s increase in scale in the last decade of his life is ...

Conceptualizing old ideas into 'new' art

Apr 1, 2011

Conceptualizing old ideas into 'new' art

A persisting fear with conceptual art is that you are being made a fool of. Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook’s 2008 video works are ostensibly about cultural preconceptions and the difficulties of interpretation, but her participants are often left looking ignorant and unsophisticated. For the videos, she ...

Should Japanese-style painting represent the nation as a whole?

Feb 11, 2011

Should Japanese-style painting represent the nation as a whole?

Mise Natsunosuke has been drawn into the fold of neo-nihonga (new Japanese-style painting) practitioners, a pigeon-hole he happily investigates but is also troubled by. In earlier exhibitions he has shown complicity with both the destruction and the resurrection of nihonga, which he pursues in ...

A tricky postscript on the art of abstraction

Feb 4, 2011

A tricky postscript on the art of abstraction

Gauging Torawo Nakagawa’s art in “postscript” at Kyoto’s Kodama Gallery is no easy undertaking. His paintings resist narrative cohesion and cultivate a certain hermeticism, all the while preserving an attractive visual dimension. Concerned as he is with a distinctive process of painting — a ...

Saving the individual in times of conflict

Jan 28, 2011

Saving the individual in times of conflict

The Japanese Western-style painter Saburo Aso (1913-2000) came of age as an artist during Japan’s crescendo of militarism that began with the Manchurian Incident of 1931 and came to an ignominious end in 1945. But he refused to be drawn into the officially promoted ...

Spelling out China's calligraphic influence

Jan 14, 2011

Spelling out China's calligraphic influence

At the end of the Edo Period (1603-1868), as Japan began to change its long-held cultural reference point from China to the West, a strong Sinophile interest was maintained by the nation’s cultural and political elites. From the late 19th century, however, the cultural ...

Fill up on Morimura's unusual 'side dishes'

Jan 7, 2011

Fill up on Morimura's unusual 'side dishes'

Some artists are accorded such historical importance that virtually everything they do or have done comes under close scrutiny. Other artists are effectively known for a single thing, such as the nominal Italian Surrealist, Giorgio de Chirico, who is primarily known for his so-called ...

A figure outside the nihonga box

Dec 24, 2010

A figure outside the nihonga box

“Depicting the Human Form: From Natural Sight and Sentiment to Modeling” at the Insho-Domoto Museum of Fine Arts, Kyoto, jumps around. It is evidence of the constantly searching temperament of the nihonga (Japanese-style painting) painter Insho Domoto (1891-1975), who refused to acquiesce to the ...