11/01/2019

2019 i-no-shishi



Wishing you a Happy and Peaceful New Year.
My greeting is somewhat belated, for which I apologise.

Unexpected meeting
People in Japan who, for one reason or another have not been able to send New Year greetings, instead send their best wishes in a formal way by recognising January as midwinter and a time of the year that may well bring on illness.

寒中お見舞い申し上げます Kanchu Omimai Moshiagemasu

This midwinter greeting is inquiring in the hope that the recipient is in good health and that they will get through what is perhaps the beginning of the coldest time of year without any poor health.

2019 is the Year of the Wild Boar—the twelfth symbol of the Oriental Zodiac.

Here in the UK Wild Boar became extinct in the 17th century but today there are small colonies mainly across the south of England and especially in the Forest of Dean some 210 kilometres (130 miles) west of London and close to the boarder with Wales.

I had never seen a wild boar in the flesh until last June, when I was in Noto.  I was travelling with the architect Shinji Takagi on our way to see a wonderful traditional building.

We were on a narrow mountain road which threaded its way through a dark stand of cedars when, up ahead in a pool of scarce dappled sunlight, we spotted a large adult wild boar with three piglets.

With their rough hair and unforgiving stance, they really did look ‘wild’ and the tusks of the adult strengthened that impression.

Know in Japan as i-no-shishi they have also acquired the title of ‘mountain whale’—literally yama kujira.  In Japan they spend much of their time out of sight but when they emerge from the forests and begin rummaging through fields of vegetables there is no mistaking their presence.

To the Japanese the i-no-shishi  is recognised for its reckless courage and it figures strongly in literature, folklore and art.  It is even mentioned in Japan’s earliest literary work, the Kojiki, dating from A.D. 712.


I think Shinji was as surprised as I was to see a family of Wild Boar.  Perhaps I should go on an expedition to the Forest of Dean to see one on home ground.  One thing for sure,  they will look just as wild as the one I saw in Japan but quite possibly not so large.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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21/12/2018

Guardians From Beyond the Stars?


Manga Heroes?
Deep in the verdant forest-dark countryside of the Noto Peninsular is the secluded district of Mii.  Here can be found the hamlet of Honko where paddy fields occupy any level ground, while the hill- and mountain-sides are covered with trees.

On the edge of this community among tall cedars is the Ohata Kamusugi Isumu Hime Shrine.

Conventional Komainu
The walkway up to this elderly well kept shrine is straddled by a typical torii gateway beside the road.  After passing through it the path is flanked on either side by lion-dog statues, steadfast guardians of the shrine.  They follow a convention in character and form that dates back centuries.

These lion-dogs or komainu in Japanese, are a development of lion guardians found in China but, over the years, they have morphed into a hybrid creature.  The one on the left of the paved approach is male, the one opposite female.  How do we know?  Usually from a very simplified representation of genitalia.

In Okinawa a similar beast called a shisa may be found on the roof of a house above the entrance.  The mouth of the one to the left is closed and is said to be a sign that it is keeping good spirits in.  The mouth of the one opposite, however, is open and traditionally thought to be a sign that it is warding off evil spirits.

Mouth closed to the left and....
For Buddhists the open mouth represents the pronunciation of “a”, the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet.  Similarly the closed mouth is how the last letter of the alphabet, “um”, is pronounced.  Hence the beginning and ending of everything is represented.

.....to the right with open mouth.
There is, however, no mistaking the hereditary of the two lion-dogs at this shrine just a few steps beyond the torii—a fierce countenance, teeth which would certainly bite if they could, and a stern presence.  If they jumped jumped down and began snapping at your ankles it would not be a surprise.


Unusually in this case, a little further along the path to the shrine there are two more lion-dogs that are certainly different.  

Gruff looking, for sure, but if they were to jump down off their plinths it would not be a surprise if they assumed parts in a manga, ready to fight off the baddies and to make the world a better place to live in.

There is no provenience as to when they were sculpted or by whom.  In fact, they are so curious and as far as anyone knows unique, that it has been suggested they were created by a visitor from another planet.


A more likely explanation is that they were created by someone from another region of Japan or even another region of Asia in exchange for the kindness they were shown by the local community.

Manga characters or not, they are heroes of Honko.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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03/12/2018

Exhibition Notice


There will an exhibition of lacquerwork which is a collaboration between the artist Miwa Komatsu and Hikoju Makie as well as other pieces of contemporary art by Komatsu from Wednesday 5th to Tuesday 11th December at the Nihon Bashi branch of the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo.


三越日本橋本店美術画廊(新館)2018125日~11
今最も注目されている現代アートアーティスト小松美羽さんの個展に小松美羽×彦十蒔絵のコラボ作品を出品します予定。
Photo Courtesy of Hikoju Makie


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17/11/2018

Fine Work

  This double page spread is particularly interesting for its use of bokashi—graded colour:  green in the foreground, blue for the sea and a reddish hue in the sky.The intense black is achieved by double printing the areas of black and then burnishing them.
A steady hand....
Recently I had occasion to go into a Charity Shop.  These days there are one or two in any big town and even in some smaller communities, too.  I was, however, not prepared for such a surprise.

There on a revolving bookstand were some Japanese books.  And old ones to boot.

A night scene at Miyajima’s Itsukushima.
The book that caught my eye first was a pre-war English language guidebook on woodblock prints.  I already have a number of these comprehensive volumes, some of which contain delicately coloured illustrations—the impression is of a well crafted book, not just a tourist publication.  The booklets published in the 1930s have a semi-transparent glassine wrapper, not unlike greaseproof paper or a medium grade of tracing paper.

The title of this unexpected find is Japanese Woodblock Prints, published in 1938.  It is number 24 in the “tourist library” collection and presents a number of black and white illustrations of woodblock prints as well as some in colour.  I am guessing they are lithographs.

In essence the booklet traces the history of this consummate Japanese art form.  One of the prints depicted is captioned “Ethereal Beauty of Itukusima Under the Starlight” based on an original print dating from 1928 by Hasui Kawase.  Many will recognise the Torii gate of the shrine at Miyajima, unusually depicted at night using blues and greys as well as an aptly identified ethereal pale green for the sky and the surface of the sea.  I just had to have this volume.

Text falls like rain on this double page spread, and becomes part of the overall composition.
Alongside the tourist guidebook was a storybook with the most exquisite illustrations and with text often completely filling the spaces around the images.  Dating from the 1870s, it appears to be a collection of tragic tales illustrated in black and white with occasional double page spreads in colour.

The tasteful colour palette is as interesting as the composition.  The pattern of the woman’s kimono is expressed by over printing.
At the collar there is an example of blind printing to produce an embossed effect.
Are the images printed from a wooden block?  I do not have the knowledge or skill to be able to answer that question.  However, Steve, a friend who dealt in woodblock prints for many years, feels certain that the illustrations are woodblock prints.  This includes the colour images.  The existence of what is known as gauffrage or blind printing on one of the colour spreads would at least confirm the use of a block of some kind.  But how much of the writing and black and white illustrations are from woodblock prints is unconfirmed at present.

Figures and pattern tumble across pages and foster a feeling of tension and drama, the like of which can be found in modern manga comics.
Steve also pointed out that although such illustrations were the work of an original artist—in this case Kunichika—it is the cutters of the blocks who are the unsung heroes of this art—the fineness of the lines even on a bigger print are perfect.  And, what would they have done without wild cherry wood from which to make the blocks.

Examples of fine lacquerware decoration from Wajima.  A steady hand and highly developed hand and eye skills needed.
What does all of this have to do with the Noto Peninsula and Wajima’s famous lacquerware.  Surely the connection is the delicacy of the illustrations in my purchases and a similar display of outstanding hand-and-eye skills that are employed in the decoration of pieces of lacquerware.  Both are fine work.

Example of bokashi effect on a piece of lacquerware.
Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright
Do feel free to pass on the address of this blog to anyone you think will be interested.  Or share it on a social media site.  Should you wish to leave a comment, please do so by clicking on the comment mark at the bottom left of this or any of the other posts.   If you have found this blog interesting, why not become a follower.  Thank you.


14/11/2018

Exhibition Notice



Lacquer Friends of the World

This exhibition will be held at The Museum of Lacquer Art Münster in honour of Dr. Monika Kopplin who will be retiring.

With contacts across the world, Dr. Kopplin has seen some of the best pieces of lacquer ware and art, and a number of piece will be on show, including some by Takashi Wakamiya and Hikoju Makie.

Private View by invitation only on November 25th.
Open to the public from November 26th 2018 to February 24th 2019


Hikoju Makie Photo © Copyright


Do feel free to pass on the address of this blog to anyone you think will be interested.  Or share it on a social media site.  Should you wish to leave a comment, please do so by clicking on the comment mark at the bottom left of this or any of the other posts.   If you have found this blog interesting, why not become a follower.  Thank you.

29/10/2018

Old or New?



A tea caddy with age
When I first saw this tea caddy I was confused.  “Is it old or is it new” I thought. Knowing that it was going to be exhibited at an antique fair in Hong Kong, I began to think it was old.  Nevertheless I decided that it was not ‘old’ as in antique but old enough to be called ‘vintage’.

It was the colouring, the design of the flowers and their rendering, which made me think it was a piece from the 1920s or there about.

This was a period in Japan when ideas from the West were still very fashionable but somehow had an awkwardness that traditional Japanese art and craft did not have, displaying instead a confidence and unshakable authenticity.

This eclectic and uneasy balance continued until the 1940s and 50s when Japan more readily embraced Western culture but this time with a confidence to display a homegrown vitality instead of something rather artificial.

On reading the notes Takashi Wakamiya had sent me, however, I soon realised that this caddy was new and of considerable interest.  It was made and decorated by Takashi’s workshop, Hikoju Makie in Wajima.

The way the lacquer was applied also seemed to be saying ‘vintage’.  And then there was the ‘glitter’.  And the combination of colours, too, I thought gave it a very particular character—ever so slightly dusty but gleaming nevertheless.  The blue was certainly a surprise.

It is not unusual for a very old piece of Japanese lacquerware to look ‘new’, simply because the finish is so perfect and the motifs are timeless.  But this caddy has a very particular presence.  It was not a surprise to hear that it was snapped up by a hungry collector on the first day of the fair in Hong Kong.

Although the glitter was reminiscent of the kind of gold or silver makie work that is often seen on traditional true lacquerware emerging from Japanese workshops, this was different.

Samples of finish using Kyocera gemstone grains.Photo Copyright © Bill Tingey

Takashi made use of Kyocera’s artificial gemstone technology to obtain the look he wanted.  Fine grains of opal were used and then, a number of samples were made culminating in this tea ceremony tea caddy—looks vintage but is consummately new, expressing more than just the present.

Do feel free to pass on the address of this blog to anyone you think will be interested.  Or share it on a social media site.  Should you wish to leave a comment, please do so by clicking on the comment mark at the bottom left of this or any of the other posts.   If you have found this blog interesting, why not become a follower.  Thank you.

10/10/2018

Exhibition Notice


The Artistry and Craft of True Lacquer  Exhibition at Takashimaya in Osaka

Hikoju Makie, Takashi Wakamiya:  The Artistry and Craft of True Lacquer
For the past 12,600 years the art and craft of true lacquer has developed along with the people of Japan.  But what of the future?  Our aim is to create works symbolic of the present while linking the past, present and future of this truly remarkable material.  Please take this opportunity of seeing some of our work at this exhibition, which is being staged at Takashimaya in Osaka.

This incense clock is a devise for measuring time with incense.  As the incense smoulders and turns to ash part of one’s like is gone.  This “fragrance time piece” helps us to become more aware of how long we are alive and how time is passing.

Takashi Wakamiya, Hikoju Makie

The incense clock measures 24x24cm and stands 29cm high.  The panels represent the four seasons with appropriate landscapes rendered in a traditional makie technique.

The Artistry and Craft of True Lacquer
6F Gallery, Osaka Takashimaya
5-1-5 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka 542-8510

The exhibition runs from 17th to 23rd October
On Friday 19th and Saturday 20th the gallery will be open until 20:30 but will close at 16:00 on 23rd.
From 14:00 on Wednesday 17th, Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st some of the work on display will be explained.

彦十蒔絵(Hikoju Makie)
企画・広報・海外窓口(Planning, public relations and overseas window
高禎蓮(Wawa / Kao, Chen-Lien)
Mobile:+81-90-2375-9093
Address: 1-188, Kekachidaira-machi, Wajima City, Ishikawa, Japan

彦十蒔絵 若宮隆志展 ~漆芸の可能性~

漆は12,600年もの昔から日本人とともに今日まで発展してきました。
その漆を未来へ繋げるために平成の時代を象徴するような作品を目標に取り組んでおります。
大阪での初の個展となります。どうぞこの機会に御高覧賜りますようお願い申しあげます。

香時計は香りで時間を計る道具ですが、お香が燃えて灰になる事で自分の生きる時間が消えて無くなると感じました。今生きている時間を再認識する為に制作いたしました。
「香時計」/四季山水図 布目象嵌蒔絵 24 ×24 ×H29.5cm

会期:20181017日(水)~23日(火)
場所:髙島屋大阪店6階美術画廊
542-8510 大阪市中央区難波5-1-5
営業時間:10:00am~20:00
1019日(金)、20日(土)は20:30まで
*最終日は16:00まで

*列品説明:1017日(水)、20日(土)、21日(日)各日14:00~