Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yoshitomo Nara 

Yoshitomo Nara is a contemporary Japanese pop artist, who derives his style from magna and anime, much like Takashi Murakami. His characters are often large-eyed childlike figures, but also possess dark characteristics. These children, who at first glance appear to be cute and vulnerable, sometimes brandish weapons like knives and saws. His work expresses the "alienation and fierce independence of childhood." Nara's intriguingly bizarre works have even gained him a cult following around the world. 


Light my fire, 2001

Little Ramona, 2001
Acrylic on cotton

Edo Period (1615 - 1868)

The arts began moving away from the aristocratic background and showed scenes from the life of common people. Also, new art forms like kabuki and ukiyo-e became very popular, especially among the townspeople. 

Woodblock print, 1794
Two Kabuki actors, 
Bando Zenji and Sawamura Yodogoro

Kabuki is a traditional Japanese form of theater, best known for the stylization of its drama and elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers. Kabuki plays are about historical events, moral conflicts, love relationships and the like. The actors speak in monotonous voices accompanied by traditional Japanese instruments. 

Ukiyo-e is translated as 'paintings of the floating world' in English. Ukiyo-e paintings are made by the technique of woodblock printing featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, kabuki actors and pleasure quarters. This form of printing was used to produce small and cheap art prints as well as books. 

Woodblock print, (1760-1849)
The Great Wave off Kanagwa by Katsushika Hokusa 
Takashi Murakami

Jellyfish Eyes - Black 4

Takashi Murakami is a contemporary Japanese artist who tries to blur the boundaries between high and low art, and uses both painting and digital techniques. He uses popular themes from mass media and pop culture, then turns them into large sculptures, "Superflat" paintings, or marketable commercial goods such as figurines or phone caddies. 

Flower Matango, Fiberglass Sculpture

Murakami has even teemed up with Louis Vuitton to create a special edition of bags. 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Momoyama Period (1573-1615)

The decorative style that is the hallmark of Momoyama art had its inception in the early sixteenth century and lasted well into the seventeenth. The art of this period was characterized by a robust, opulent, and dynamic style, with gold lavishly applied to architecture, furnishings, paintings, and garments. 

Wine container, Momoyama period 
 Lacquered wood

However, the military elite supported rustic simplicity, most fully expressed in the form of the tea ceremony that favored weathered and imperfect settings and utensils.

Orbie Ware Ewer, Momoyama period
Stoneware with overglaze enamel 

The Kano School of Painting was the longest lived, and most influential school of painting in Japanese history, which was founded during the Momoyama period. The greatest innovation of the period was the formula, developed by Kano Eitoku, for the creation of monumental landscapes on the sliding doors enclosing a room. 

Chinese Lions, Kanyo Eitkou, At the Museum of Imperial Collections

Contemporary accounts indicate that Eitoku was one of the most highly sought-after artists of his time, and received many wealthy and powerful patrons. Eitoku was able to secure a steady stream of commissions and an efficient workshop of students and assistants. 

His signal contribution to the Kano repertoire was the so-called "monumental style" (taiga), characterized by bold, rapid brushwork, an emphasis on foreground, and motifs that are large relative to the pictorial space.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Japanese Calligraphy

Japanese calligraphy is an 
artistic form of writing that shares its roots with Chinese calligraphy, and many of its principles and techniques are very similar. It is most often written with ink on washi paper, and it recognizes the same basic writing styles. 
Japanese calligraphy has three basic styles: kaisho, gyousho and shusho. 

Kaisho - block style with few movements.
Gyousho - median style that is not as stiff as kaisho or as sweeping as sousho.
Shousho - flowing style composed with swift strokes. 

Japanese calligraphy is given merit not only for its style, beauty and meaning, but also for the character of the calligrapher. 

From the descriptions above, can you determine which one of these is kashio, gyousho and shousho?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Muromachi Period 1392-1573

From the world of passions
I return to the world beyond passions,
A moment of pause.
If the rain is to fall, let if fall;
If the wind is to blow, let it blow.
 - Ikkyu Sojun

Ants Hauling a Pumpkin | 1988.16
Shoto Bokusai Ants Hauling a Pumpkin
Hanging scroll; Ink on paper
Muromachi Period (ca. 1400)

The ants seem to be participating in a familiar kind of Japanese festival procession, complete with music, dancing, and a float - which strongly suggests a Zen parable turned into a picture. Zen emphasizes intuition over rationality in spiritual instruction. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kamakura and Nanbokucho Periods

This wooden Kongorikishi statue originally guarded the gate to Ebaradrea, a temple in Sakai, Oska. 
A notable shift in Japanese aesthetic occurred during the Kamakura and Nanbokucho periods. Patrons were no longer interested in the cultured tastes of the upper class. Instead, they began favoring artists who treated their subjects with a direct honesty and virile energy that matched their own. What followed was an age of realism unparalleled before the late eighteenth century.