Video: Hairstyles from the Floating World

 

The exhibition entitled Painting the Floating World – Ukiyo-e Masterpieces from the Weston Collection, which I blogged about here is ending on 27 January.

According to the website of the Art Institute of Chicago the courtesans, geisha, and actors depicted in the ukiyo-e paintings of the 17th -19th centuries were the beautiful people of Edo-period Japan. “The world they moved in, the “floating world” (ukiyo), was all about glamour, sophistication, and style. The fashions they wore reflected not only class and occupation but also trends and individual taste, all of which were focused on the attempt to create an ideal picture of beauty. 

Though the overall look of each individual bijin (beauty) was created by the combination of cosmetics, clothing, and hairstyle, this video focuses on the complicated process and elaborate result of hairstyling. Filmed in a shrine in near Kyoto, the 90-year-old Minami Tomiko, one of the few living masters of the art, recreates three intricate hairstyles”. These are the Kamome tabo or seagull’s tail, the Tōrōbin or lantern locks, and the Yoko hyōgo or butterfly.

It’s amazing to see just how much work went into creating these elaborate styles, and this really brought the world in which these women moved to life.

Click here to view the video.

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Video: Fabric Pieces – Honouring the Past

 

This video was first broadcast by NHK World – Japan as part of its Core Kyoto series on 12 December 2018.

“Kyotoites in days of old valued high quality fabric and woven textiles from abroad like gold. Pieces of these fabrics have been handed down and continue to fascinate people today. Their eternal beauty is preserved through repurposing as tea utensil pouches, tobacco holders, obi sashes and even as works of art. Weavers strive to learn the techniques used in days gone by in order to reproduce them.”

Part of this video looks at the influence of Indian chintz on Japanese design and features an amazing scrapbook of fabric pieces. The problems of recreating different colours – especially red – are also discussed.

Another section of this video examines one man’s passion for kogire, as these old fabric pieces are called. Teiichiro Saito has over 1,000 of these small scraps, which he studies and tries to reproduce, or use as inspiration for new kimonos. Sometimes he adds small pieces of ancient fabric to modern designs. His most prized possession is a piece of Japanese fabric from the 1500s.

Please not this video is only available to view until 26 December so why not make a little time for yourself and watch it now – highly recommended viewing!

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News: Textiles from the Silk Road in Museum Collections – Scientific Investigations and Conservation Challenges

 

On 10 December 2018 a Symposium in Conservation Science was held at the British Museum in London, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Department of Scientific Research of the British Museum hosted this symposium about the scientific investigation of Asian textiles in museum collections. There was a particular focus Chinese textiles, but there were also contributions covering other geographical provenances along the Silk Road. The symposium featured scientific research recently carried out on Dunhuang textiles from the British Museum’s collection. The focus of the workshop was the importance of different scientific approaches and analytical techniques to the study of weaving, fibres and dyes in Asian textiles. Comparisons between the information that can be obtained with non-invasive and invasive approaches were encouraged, as well as how this information relates to conservation challenges and display decisions.

The programme covered such diverse topics as Silk Road Thangka Textiles from the Sven Hedin Collection, Investigating Asian colourants in textiles from Dunhuang in the British Museum, and Silk, wild silk and half silk textiles from Palmyra – New scientific approaches. The full programme can be viewed here 

Book of Abstracts for the event has now been made available for download. These abstracts should certainly whet the appetite of textile enthusiasts and scholars alike!

 

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Event: Costumes and Culture of South West China

Event date: Saturday 15 December, 14:30 – doors open at 14:00

Many ethnic minority groups live in the South West regions of China, often in remote villages far from the explosion of modern Chinese city life. Here in the beautiful mountainous region each village continues to wear distinctive costumes, all hand woven, batiked and embroidered by the women of the area. This talk by Jill Salmons will illustrate the lifestyle of these people and show the various techniques used in order to produce the spectacular, colourful costumes.

Jill will also take a large collection of costumes and textiles from the region to study and enjoy. This will include burnished indigo and embroidered costumes.

This event is £7 for members of selectnetwork (a Stroud-based group) and £10 for non-members. Tea and cake will be served!

For more information click here

Location: Centre for Science & Art, Lansdown, Stroud GL5 1BB

 

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Exhibition: Jomon, The Birth of Art in Prehistoric Japan

Tanabatake Venus, terracotta, Middle Jomon period

Exhibition dates: 17 October – 8 December 2018, 12:00 – 20:00

Closing soon – this is your last chance to see this rare exhibition exploring the art and culture of the Jomon era (11,000-400 BC) in Japan. It is 20 years since the last exhibition was held in Paris in 1998. The show comprises 64 pieces, including six National Treasures and 33 Important Cultural Properties.

The Jomon period began to develop about 13,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period. Around this time, early man had chosen to settle in one place rather than being continuously nomadic, which encouraged the development of hunting and gathering, the creation of utensils for daily use – in terracotta to cook food, and in stone and bone for hunting and fishing. In pottery of the Jomon period, there is an innovative and powerful aesthetic in dogu figurines that is both mysterious and yet full of humour. These pieces are remarkable evidence of the sophistication of the people who created them.

The ice age had ended shortly after the beginning of the Jomon era and the Japanese archipelago enjoyed a mild climate where hunting, fishing and gathering and other settler activities were able to develop. It is the appearance of pottery that marks the beginning of age and the period takes its name from the motifs that were made by pressing ropes into the clay.

The first section of the exhibition explores these 10,000 years of plastic arts through their evolution of shape and the distinctive pottery patterns: nail, finger, rope and shell markings, along with the application of clay and engraved drawings on pots.

The second section is devoted to objects that explore the beliefs and spirituality of the Jomon people. Anthropomorphic dogu (baked clay figurines) are a remarkable example of the aesthetics of the spiritual realm. The majority of the figures are in feminine form, the oldest representing simple busts with generous breasts and are probably related to fertility, harvesting, or food resources.

While infant mortality was high, dogu of pregnant, breastfeeding or childbirth-giving women, as well as children’s handprints on clay plates, seem to express the intense desire of parents to see their offspring to thrive and remain healthy. Other figurines were used in funerary rites or used as ossuary offerings, which shows the relationships of the Jomon people with the afterlife.

Hunting scenes adorning jars and zoomorphic dogu are also thought to be related to certain belief systems. The wild boar occupies a large place in their prehistoric bestiary due to its importance in daily life and survival. Even everyday objects such as pottery for cooking and food storage, axes, wicker baskets or hooks have a striking beauty beyond their functional use.

Equally surprising are the lacquered vessels presented in the last section: it is hard to believe that the use of lacquer dates back to such a remote a time.

Location: Maison de la culture du Japan a Paris, 101 bis, quai Branly, 75015 Paris

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Exhibition: Waves of Renewal – Japanese Prints 1900-1960

Exhibition dates: 6 October 2018 – 6 January 2019

To celebrate the Year of Japan in France, the Fondation Custodia in Paris presents an important retrospective exhibition of early twentieth-century Japanese prints.

Waves of renewal. Modern Japanese Prints 1900-1960 offers an exciting opportunity to discover, almost for the first time in France, the work of artists who bear witness to the twentieth-century modernisation of Japan. It explores the twin movements of shin hanga and sōsaku hanga through more than two hundred prints – the work of about fifty artists.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, two movements were born in Japan, each representing a different response to this new deal and of fascinating diversity. The printer Watanabe Shōzaburō (1885-1962) became anxious about the flow of prints to the West, and also by the dwindling of the technical skills required for the production of high quality prints. He decided to seek out artists capable of reviving printmaking and of creating a new style, without dispensing with the traditional division of labour – in other words, four people working in collaboration, the artist, the engraver, the printer and the publisher. The movement inspired by Watanabe is called shin hanga, or ‘new print’. The subject of these ‘new prints’ remained within the traditional categories – landscape, portraits of women and actors, flowers and birds in innovative styles.

Inspired by western practice, and keen to raise the status of printmaking, the partisans of sōsaku hanga wanted to give back to the artist control of all the stages of production, without the intervention of specialised craftsmen such as the engraver or the printer. The mark of the chisel on the block of wood became the expression of the artist’s personality, as was the calligrapher’s or painter’s brushstroke on paper. By comparison with the prints of shin hanga, the results can be of rougher quality and can be marked by a feeling of spontaneity, of the impromptu – sometimes seeming unfinished.

For further information visit the website of the Fondation Custodia

Exhibition: Enchanting China – Costumes, Jewellery, Utensils and Accessories from the Miao and Dong

Exhibition dates: 13 November 2018 – 27 January 2019, Tuesdays to Sundays

This exhibition at the Museum Rijswijk, near The Hague, is showing objects from the collection of Mieke Gorter. For years, together with her ethnic Dong tour operator and guide Wu Zeng Ou, Gorter has organised cultural tours through south-western China where the Miao and Dong people live. She has always kept her eyes open for hidden treasures and has built a beautiful collection of costumes, jewellery, accessories and utilitarian objects.

Several ethnic minorities live in the mountainous southwest region of China, in the province of Guizhou. The Miao are one of the largest groups (9 million people) and live throughout this area along with other minority groups like the Dong (3 million). Over the centuries the Miao migrated throughout the southern part of China and in all of the different villages where they settled they developed their own form of dress. There are some 175 to 200 different kinds of traditional Miao costumes! The groups are often named on the basis of their clothing. For example, there are the Long-horn Miao, the Long-skirt Miao, the Red-embroidery Miao and the Tin- embroidery Miao. While the Miao usually live in the mountains, the Dong can be found near the rivers. They are renowned for their beautiful wooden bridges and towers.

Among the Miao and the Dong there is always a reason to celebrate something – a wedding, the birth of a child, a finished house – and they wear their traditional clothing on these occasions. The women are prolific in their artisanal crafts, such as weaving, painting with indigo dyes, batik techniques and embroidery (this is what they are most famous for). Headdress, collars, jackets, skirts, aprons and baby carriers, everything is extravagantly embroidered. The festive garb is then lavished with ornate silver hairpins and necklaces.

For more information visit the website of the Museum Rijswijk

Exhibition: Painting the Floating World – Ukiyo-e Masterpieces from the Weston Collection

Exhibition dates: 4 November 2018 – 27 January 2019

Although this exhibition doesn’t feature textiles themselves, the textiles depicted in the paintings are fascinating.

In the 17th century, Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo (now Tokyo) were Japan’s thriving cities, complete with bustling entertainment districts where ukiyo, or the “floating world,” was born. People of all ranks shared in the enjoyment of the floating world’s attractions—brothels, kabuki theatre, and seasonal festivities. Artists of the period captured this popular phenomena in ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world.” Over the last 25 years, Roger Weston has assembled an outstanding collection of ukiyo-e paintings—masterpieces by the most famed artists of the day. This exhibition at the Art Institute Chicago, the first public showing of his comprehensive ukiyo-e painting collection in the United States, showcases the sheer beauty of floating world painting and offers an exclusive view of the urban amusements of early modern Japan.

Accompanied by a 350-page catalogue that includes major new essays by leading scholars, Painting the Floating World features over 150 works from the 17th through the 19th century. Each painting offers an exquisite glimpse of the past; as a whole the exceptional collection reveals ukiyo-e’s rich connection to trends in fashion, beauty, and cultural life over centuries.

A very interesting article on one of these masterpieces – Hell Courtesan by Kawanabe Kyosai – can be read here
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Exhibition: Meiji – The Splendours of Imperial Japan

Exhibition dates: 17 October 2018 – 14 January 2019

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Meiji era (1868-1912), this exhibition at the Musée Guimet, Paris, highlights the explosion of creativity in Japanese arts at a time of transition in the country’s history. The period  when Japan opened to the West, and swift modernisation, industrialisation, and militarisation followed, which consequently brought growth in the cities.

Over 350 works of art are on view, on loan from French and international institutions, such as the  Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Musée d’Orsay, Victoria & Albert Museum, and the British Museum, as well as the Khalili Collection of Japanese Art.

The Meiji was a time of great change for Japan, which used its artistic heritage, as one response, to help the country move forward to meet the  challenges and demands of the new century. The Meiji period transformed Japan from a medieval, feudal past  to a modern, international country, equipped to meet and compete in the modern increasingly globalised world, without entirely giving up its own identity.

An excellent in-depth article on the exhibition can be found on the website of the Asian Art Newspaper.

Location: Musée Guimet, 6 place d’léna, 75116 Paris

Article: Rediscovering a rare Japanese painting by Utamaro

 

Tim Clark, Head of the Japanese section in the Department of Asia, British Museum, recounts the discovery of a previously unknown painting by Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro. In this article he takes a closer look at this rare artwork, recounts how he examined its authenticity, and how it found its way into the Museum’s collection.

Courtesans (high ranked sex workers) were expected to provide glamorous and cultivated company, as well as sexual services, to those wealthy clients who could afford the extravagant expense. In reality though, their lives could be harsh. In Utamaro’s art this exploitation was only rarely alluded to, although it was significant at the time that he represented it at all.

To read the full article visit the website of the British Museum