TAASA Review issues

Bodhisattva ascending towards the Mandala Hall (detail), Taimadera, Japan. Photo: Everett Kennedy Brown. See pp 7-9 of this issue.
September 2018
Vol: 27 Issue: 3
Japan
Editor/s: Judith Snodgrass
Cover Image

Bodhisattva ascending towards the Mandala Hall (detail), Taimadera, Japan. Photo: Everett Kennedy Brown. See pp 7-9 of this issue.

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Editorial

My thanks to this issue’s contributors for sharing their knowledge and passion for various aspects of Japanese art. They were not given a theme to address, but one or two have nevertheless emerged. The first is the living vitality of Japanese arts. The cover shows Everett Kennedy Brown’s photograph of the performance this May of a Buddhist ritual that has been taking place at the same temple for over a millennium. This is not simply a nostalgic replay of the past, but as Andrew Thomas’s article explains, a sacred ritual that remains of relevance to local parishioners. The heritage of the distant past persists through to the present. A similar dynamic is apparent in the AGNSW’s exquisitely lacquered inkstone case by contemporary artist Unryūan, discussed by Melanie Eastburn. They exemplify the continuing vitality of artistic heritage in Japan.

Other articles offer a different manifestation of heritage, heritage transformed. Edie Young speaks with Hiroe Swen, whose ceramic works are well represented in our national and state collections. Hiroe describes her apprenticeship in traditional Japanese ceramics and the development of her distinctive style, first in Japan, and then through living in Australia. Jenny Hall talks with Kyoto yūzen textile artist, Mori Makoto, on his use of computer software and digital printing to produce contemporary kimono. How can a kimono produced with these new technologies be considered ‘authentic’, she asks. The answer is in the artist’s understanding of the requirements of traditional aesthetics, and I would add, in the fundamental aim of yūzen: using whatever means are available to most efficiently control the placement of colour on the fabric. Martha Chaiklin explains the origins and meanings of wrapping and decorating gifts in Japan. Here, too, we see heritage both continuing and adapting to new ways. John McBride interviews leading 20th c. Japanese garden designer Shigemori Mirei on his contemporary renewal of garden design, which came after years of intense study of historic gardens. His designs are innovative, as the garden at Kozenji shows, but based in a heritage of symbolism and aesthetics.

Chiaki Ajioka writes of the transnational origins of the Japanese Mingei (folk art) movement, which was particularly influential among Australian ceramicists. Again, it is based in Japan’s artistic heritage, but the form it took was the result of the meeting of likeminded artists, from East and West, in the
early 20th century. The art islands of Japan’s Inland Sea described by Roman Goik is a further example of the emergence of a new artistic heritage in response to contemporary contingencies.

Peter Armstrong’s and my own article talk principally of the past, but a past that is important to contemporary Japanese cultural identity, and whose legacy is evident today. Peter’s article on the town of Hagi alerts us to the way that the built environment can reflect social structures and therefore artefacts of history. Murōji and Daihōonji, the subjects of Sherry Fowler’s books I review, are sites of contemporary Buddhist practice, and their past functions that she documents alert us to the meaning of Buddhist icons to practicing Buddhists: Buddhist images are more than works of art.

A second theme is simply the rewards of moving a little beyond the standard itineraries. The art islands of the Inland Sea have been successful because of the richness of the experience they offer. Daihōonji is often overlooked in the richness of Kyoto’s sights. Beyond the city, places that were logically connected to the capital when people moved along rivers, are not necessarily well served by modern transport systems. They are, however, far from inaccessible. John McBride makes Kiso-Fukushima an enticing destination for garden enthusiasts. Greater nara, including Taimadera and Murōji, is well worth the extra effort—even of hiring a car—and is particularly rewarding for those interested in Japan’s Buddhist heritage.

One TAASA Review issue can’t cover all of Japan’s great arts. For those interested in ceramics, this one offers Chiaki Ajioka’s article on the Mingei movement, Edie Young’s interview with Hiroe Swen, and in Peter Armstrong’s paper, the history of Hagiyaki— the ceramics of Hagi so prized by tea masters. Jenny Hall speaks to textile enthusiasts, who may also enjoy the brocades in the ceremonial robes of the Nerikuyo, and the history of furoshiki and fukusa in Martha Chaiklin’s piece. Melanie Eastburn covers lacquer ware; Peter Armstrong architecture, and John McBride, gardens. Andrew Thomas, with Everett Kennedy Brown’s splendid photography, reveals the importance of performance in Japanese Buddhism. My own offering invites you to discover some magnificent buddhist art and architecture, and to learn a little more about the significance of dragons.

Table of contents

3  EDITORIAL - Judith Snodgrass, Guest Editor

4  GLOBAL MINGEI: ITS PRE-WWII ORIGINS - Chiaki Ajioka

7  THE PARADE TOWARDS PARADISE: TAIMADERA TEMPLE’S NERIKUYO CEREMONY - Andrew Thomas

10  ARTIST PROFILE: AN INTERVIEW WITH CERAMIC ARTIST HIROE SWEN - Edie Young

12  DISCOVERING JAPAN THROUGH RECENT ART HISTORIES - Judith Snodgrass

15  DIGITAL TRADITIONS: THE FUTURE OF THE KIMONO - Jenny Hall

18  THE MATERIAL CULTURE OF GIFT GIVING IN JAPAN - Martha Chaiklin

21  IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: UNRYUAN’S INKSTONE CASE WITH DRAGONFLIES AT THE AGNSW - Melanie Eastburn

22  SHIGEMORI MIREI:  SCULPTING IN STONE AND SAND - John McBride

24  HAGI AND THE NEW YEAR CEREMONY OF THE MŌRI: SOWING THE SEEDS OF REVOLUTION - Peter Armstrong

26  SETO INLAND SEA AND THE ART ISLANDS: A FIRST ENCOUNTER - Roman Goik

28  RECENT TAASA ACTIVITIES

30  TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY: SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER 2018

31  WHAT’S ON: SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER 2018

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