Exhibition: Red – Culture, History and Craftsmenship

MEAA - Red

Exhibition dates: 25 June 2016 – 12 February 2017

The colour red has a strong affiliation with China and has played an important role in Chinese culture for centuries. The colour remains significant to the Chinese today. It is the primary colour on the flag of People’s Republic of China, and is seen everywhere during the Lunar New Year.

Most objects in the collection at the Museum of East Asian Art are of Chinese origin. Many are decorated with red colours, including ceramics, lacquerware, prints and paintings. This exhibition presents the materials used to produce red colours, explains the symbolism of the colour red and explores the rapid advancement of red wares during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).

For more information, visit the website of the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, UK.

Exhibition: Japan – Modern. Elise Wessels Collection

Rijksmuseum - Japan. Modern. Elise Wessels Collection

Exhibition dates: 24 June – 11 September 2016 

For the first time ever, the Rijksmuseum will be presenting 170 Japanese prints from the Elise Wessels Collection, picturing Japan’s rapid modernization during the opening decades of the twentieth century. Alongside prints, the exhibition will feature kimonos and lacquerware from the Jan Dees and René van der Star Collection and posters on loan from the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.

In the early 1900s, Japan was booming. Its modern urban centres offered a fertile climate for burgeoning industries and gave rise to new forms of leisure. As in Europe and America, women were pushing back old boundaries, forging a new model of the ‘modern girl’. Alongside optimism, there was also a prevailing sense of nostalgia, fed by feelings of uncertainty. In this era of vast change, the past was glorified as an ideal.

With Japan in the midst of this whirlwind development, a devastating earthquake struck in 1923, ravaging the city of Tokyo and many towns and villages for miles around. Work immediately began on reconstruction of the country’s capital, putting the pace of modernization into an even higher gear. Synthetic fabrics made clothing, including kimonos, more affordable, and in their window displays the new department stores showcased the latest fashions to tempt shoppers. By 1930, Tokyo was a modern world metropolis that bore little resemblance to the city it had been just a few decades earlier.

Dedicated to Japanese prints from the first half of the twentieth century, the Elise Wessels Collection is unique in the Netherlands and among the best in the world from this period outside Japan. The collection currently contains some 2,000 prints of exceptional quality, collected over a twenty-five-year time span. With a large selection of prints in both the Shin hanga and Sōsaku hanga styles represented, the collection is furthermore unusual in offering a virtually comprehensive overview of Japanese printmaking during this period.

For more information, visit the website of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Exhibition: Bliss – Gardens Real and Imagined

Textile Museum, Canada - Bliss, Gardens Real and Imagined

Exhibition dates: 4 May – 18 September 2016

From the legendary ‘winter carpets’ of Persian kings, embellished with spring blossoms of rubies and diamonds, to a simple quilt composed of floral fabrics, flower iconography has been a continuous element of textile design, bringing echoes of lush gardens indoors to transform interiors from grand palaces to modest homes. The very ubiquity of textiles and their universality provides a unique lens through which to explore the iteration of beauty in a single form – the flower – and the endless exploration of the abundance of nature by artists and artisans who have transformed its sensations in vast and varied colours, shapes and textures. Their visual language has persisted across nations and generations, imbuing everyday lives with inspiration and delight.

Drawing from the Textile Museum of Canada’s rich international collection, ‘Bliss’ encompasses a world of floral design, exploring the age-old theme of gardens, real and imagined, that has nurtured textile arts for centuries. Bringing together a variety of aesthetics, techniques and styles, the exhibition offers insight into cultural and historical nuances produced from a single design source – from Persian wall hangings and Ottoman rugs to European printed fabrics including iconic prints of the nineteenth-century English designer William Morris, Indonesian batiks, Central Asian embroideries and Japanese and Chinese garments. The work of three Canadian artists further extends the investigation of the garden’s symbolic power in the twenty-first century; Zachari Logan, Joanne Lyons and Amanda McCavour explore the concept of beauty and our relationship to nature in their mixed media work, resituating traditional imagery in a contemporary context.

For more information, visit the website of the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto, Canada.

Exhibition: Scenes of Last Tokyo – Japanese Creative Prints from 1945

Ashmolean Museum - Scenes of Last Tokyo

Exhibition dates: 2 February – 5 June 2016

In the early twentieth century a new artistic movement emerged in Japan: the Sosaku Hanga (Creative Print) movement. Breaking away from traditional printing methods, which involved a division of labour in publishers’ studios, Creative Print artists designed, cut and printed their own work. The Scenes of Last Tokyo series, a collaboration between nine of the leading print artists of the time, was published in 1945, shortly after the end of the Second World War. The series shows nostalgic views of fifteen famous places in Tokyo as they were before wartime air raids destroyed much of the city.

Although not explicitly textile-related, the prints inevitably form a record of contemporary Japanese fashions, and will appeal to anyone with an interest in Japanese design across all media.

For more information, visit the website of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Exhibition: Treasure Ships – Art in the Age of Spices

Art Gallery of Western Australia - Treasure Ships

Exhibition dates: 10 October 2015 – 31 January 2016

Although this is probably a little too far away for most of the OATG blog’s readers, I like to try and keep this blog as international as I can. So here is an exhibition in Perth, Australia, in case any of you can make it in the next two months!

The much-anticipated ‘Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices’ is a highlight for the Art Gallery of Western Australia. This is the first exhibition in Australia to present the complex artistic and cultural interactions between the East and the West from the 1500s to the 1800s – a period known as the ‘Age of Spices’.

Demand for spices spurred on the great voyages of exploration and the establishment of vast empires across Asia. ‘Treasure Ships’ presents the stories of the spice markets, slave trade and shipwrecks, as well as illustrating the astonishing beauty of Chinese porcelain, known as ‘white gold’ and celebrating vibrant Indian textiles created for export around the world.

This exhibition includes 250 outstanding and rarely-seen examples of ceramics, decorative arts, furniture, maps, metalware, paintings, prints and textiles from public and private collections in Australia, India, Portugal, Singapore and the United States. A highlight of the exhibition is the shipwreck artefacts retrieved from the Batavia and the Gilt Dragon, which sank off the Western Australian coast in the seventeenth century.

Presented in collaboration with the Art Gallery of South Australia.

For more information, visit the website of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.