7junipers.com | Asian Art and Culture

7 junipers home

Entries Comments



Category: modern

Daido Bunka enso

12 July, 2010 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

daido bunka enso

This unusual enso based on the character for heart/mind was made by Daido Bunka in the first half of the eighteenth century.

*

The Character for ”Heart/Mind” as an Ens?, 18th century, by Daido Bunka (Japan, 1680-1752). Hanging scroll, ink on paper, image 11 3/16 x 21 in. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Edwin Janss, M.84.211.1.

*

Indra’s lute

6 August, 2009 (05:00) | modern, paintings, southeast asia | By: xensen

Indra, a major Hindu deity, also figures in the Thai Buddhist belief system, where he seen as powerful but limited and subservient to the Buddha (and sometimes as one of the four guardian kings of the cardinal directions). He is recognizable by his green skin.

The image shown is a detail from a large painting of the story of the life of the Buddha in the collection of the Asian Art Museum (Scenes from the life of the Buddha, 1800-1850. Thailand; paint and gold on cloth. Gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection, 2006.27.122.15).  The painting will be displayed during the museum’s upcoming Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma exhibition

In an essay I wrote on the subject of translation, I talked about the “middle way” of the Chinese translator Xuanzang (who lived in the seventh century but may be most familiar from his role in the Ming dynasty “Monkey” stories). Xuanzang insisted that translation be both “truthful” and “intelligible to the populace.” In the essay I go on to discuss other advocates of the middle way, such as the Mexican poet Octavio Paz.

In this detail Indra makes a case for the middle way in a charming manner. The Buddha-to-be (shortly before his enlightenment) has been troubled about whether to give up the extreme austerities he has been practicing. Here Indra appears to him and plucks three strings of a lute-like instrument. One string is too slack, and it makes only a dull sound. One string is too tight, and it breaks when plucked. Only the properly tightened string makes a beautiful sound.

Photo Wednesday: Wat Rajabophit

29 July, 2009 (05:00) | architecture/public, modern, southeast asia | By: xensen

Vajrabhairava’s war dance

9 February, 2009 (05:00) | himalayas, modern, paintings | By: xensen

Dancing Vajrabhairava

I love this very blue blue meanie from The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan, a show that’s about to open at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

Despite appearances, he’s not really a meanie. He’s a wrathful deity and — so long as you are on the side of the true dharma — he’s your friend. Wrathful deities protect against malevolent forces. As a result, few images of wrathful deities were allowed to be removed from Bhutan for the exhibition, for fear of leaving the country unprotected.

Read more »

The jester Togog

21 July, 2008 (05:00) | literature/performance/film/music, modern, southeast asia | By: xensen

wayang golek clown puppet togog

A couple of people were asking for more images of Indonesian jester puppets. Here’s another one from the Asian Art Museum (where the puppets are difficult to photograph because they are displayed in very low light). His name is Togog.

Earlier I posted an image of the jester Semar. There is more information about Indonesian clown puppets at the Museum of Folly.

.

The jester Togog, ca. 1800-1900. Ondonesia; Bandung, West Java. Wood cloth, and mixed media. Asian Art Museum; From the Mimi and John Herbert Collection, F2000.85.33.

.

The jester Semar

7 July, 2008 (05:00) | literature/performance/film/music, modern, southeast asia | By: xensen

the clown semar, a rod puppet from java

Many people are familiar with the shadow puppets that are a popular court art of central Java. Rod puppets (wayang golek) are a puppet form that is popular among nonartistocratic audience in western Java and the northern coast of central Java. The puppets perform tales from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, as well as other Hindu and Islamic texts.

This figure is Semar, a jester. Jesters are a popular element of rod puppet performances. This puppet is part of a large collection at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. The is more information about Indonesian rod pupet jesters at the Museum of Folly (and some more images).

The jester Semar, ca. 1800-1900. Ondonesia; Bandung, West Java. Wood cloth, and mixed media. Asian Art Museum; From the Mimi and John Herbert Collection, F2000.85.29.

.

Japanese cloisonné

7 April, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, japan, modern | By: xensen

japanese cloisonne vase

Cloisonné is a technique of decorative enameling. Sections of the object to be enameled are defined with wires and areas of color are laid down. The term comes from the French word cloisonner, to partition. Examples of Chinese cloisonné date as far back as the 1200s, I think; perhaps it originated in West Asia and spread along the Silk Road.

The development of cloisonné as a major art form in Japan is traditionally attributed to a daimyo artist named Kaji Tsunekichi of Nagoya in Owari Province (modern Aichi Prefecture), who deconstructed a Chinese example to analyze the technique. In part to satisfy Western demand after the opening of Japan, schools of cloisonné artists were producing large numbers of very fine examples by the end of the century. The period from 1880 to 1910 is sometimes called the golden age of Japanese cloisonné.

Shown is a lidded copper-body cloisonné enamel vase with a dragon motif from the collection of the V&A. Probably from Nagoya, it is dated to 1880-1890 (museum no. M.205-1917).

.

Torei Enji enso

19 March, 2008 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

enso, or zen circle, by torei enji

Here’s another enso, or Zen circle, by Torei Enji (1721-1792). Compare this to the Torei enso posted 12 March. Here his brush is more unevenly inked, creating a range of grays, with the darkest areas either on the inside or outside of the line. As the brush approaches the top of the circle its pressure is lightened, then reapplied for the swooping downward motion. For this enso Torei adds a dot in the center.

The calligraphy is translated by Stephen Addis as “The images presents itself, nothing more.” This work, from the Gitter-Yelen Collection, appeared in an exhibition at the Asian Art Museum.

.

Hakuin enso and Daruma

18 March, 2008 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

hakuin enso

Here’s a delightful enso by the Rinzai Zen master Hakuin Ekaku Zenji (1686-1769). Unassuming and unaffected yet not at all reticent, it displays an exceptionally even and steady hand, with only a hint of the beginning and end at bottom left.

As a bonus, here’s a Hakuin Daruma, which reveals some of the same qualities.

hakuin daruma

.

Torei Enji enso

12 March, 2008 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

zen circle by torei enji (1721-1792)

This enso is by Torei Enji (1721-1792), who excelled at the Zen circle. Torei began this one by pressing his brush down hard at the lower left and swiftly continuing around the circle while lifting the brush.

The calligraphy says “In heaven and on the earth, I alone am worthy of honor,” lines attributed at birth to the historical Buddha.

Yoko Woodson, curator of Japanese art at the Asian Art Museum, thinks that the curious smudgy echo of the enso at the lower left represents a shell.

Chinese botanical motifs: peanut

4 March, 2008 (05:00) | china, modern, paintings | By: xensen

chinese painting, peanut

This late eighteenth- or early nineteenth-century painting by an anonymous Chinese artist is in the collections of the V&A in London. According to the V&A entry,it was probably commissioned from a Chinese artist by a European botanist, and it does have something of the precise quality of a European botanical painting. At the same time, it does not quite have a European sense of perspective.

In the Chinese tradition the peanut plant is associated with longevity. Its name, changsheng guo, sounds like the words for “Live forever and never grow old” (changsheng bulao). Moreover, the plant’s extensive root system suggests an impulse to survival. Eating the peanut fruit was thought to improve longevity.

.

Soga Shokaku Daruma

27 February, 2008 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

daruma image by soga shohaku

Keeping on our Daruma theme, here is a standing version by the Kyoto painter Soga Shohaku (1730-1781). While Shohaku sometimes produced paintings of the greatest care and precision, he also worked in a freer style, as in this example.  Bodhidharma’s body is quickly outlined in broad strokes. His face, which turns back to the viewer, brings the painting alive through a few masterfully rendered strokes that produce a typically enigmatic expression.

Shohaku’s sprawling inscription informs us that the work was painted in a drunken state, and no doubt this contributed to the painting’ spontaneous quality. The attitude is consistent with a Zen value of freedom from restraint, which is seen in many eighteenth-century works from Kyoto. The painting is about four feet tall, and it was probably painted with a large straw brush.

.

Yoshitoshi Daruma

27 February, 2008 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

daruma by yoshitoshi

Moving on with our Daruma week, here is an image by the great 19th-century printmaker Yoshitoshi. Yoshitoshi produced this woodblock print in 1887.

Yoshitoshi is famous for his images of ghosts, gruesome images, and battle scenes. As a result, like his near contemporaries Baudelaire and Poe, he has been dismissed as an artist of the macabre. In fact, he was a great artist who witnessed and chronicled the painful transition of Japan from a feudal to a modern society.

His Daruma is a somewhat rough-looking, battle-scarred fellow; there is a degree of weariness in his meditative post under the full moon.

Tribes of Burma

22 January, 2008 (05:00) | literature/performance/film/music, modern, southeast asia | By: xensen

tribes of burma: tai

This image is said to represent costumes of the Tai people of Burma, according to A Hand Painted Manuscript, in Color, of the Kaw, Lahu, Kwi, En, Ahko, Hpin, Tai-Loi, Yang Hsek, Palawng, Kachin, Wa Lu, Lem, Tai-no, Lisaw, Hkun and Tai tribes. Hand drawn, hand colored ethnographic manuscript showing people from various ethnic groups in Burma at their daily chores and in their native costume, ca. 1900. It has been slightly cleaned by BibliOdyssey, from which I have taken it; on that site several more examples are presented.

The manuscript comes from the South East Asia Digital Library at the Northern Illinois University Libraries, Special Collections. The paintings are charming in themselves, and also provide a valuable ethnological record.

BibliOdyssey notes “The 60th anniversary since Burma achieved independence from Britain passed by on 4 January 2008. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal to celebrate.”

.

Tatsuzo Shimaoka, 1919-2007

3 January, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, contemporary, japan, modern | By: xensen

tatsuzo shimaoka

Japanese ceramics artist Tatsuzo Shimaoka died a few weeks ago of a stroke. He was a proponent of utilitarian pieces, or mingei (a term derived from minshuteki kogei, “craft of the people”). He was designated a “living national treasure” by the Japanese government in 1996.

In an article in Clay Times (November 2001), Richard Busch reports Shimaoka’s recollections of his developing interest in mingei and the apprenticeship process.

One day, at the age of 19 and a freshman at the Tokyo Industrial College, he wandered into the Nihon Mingeikan (Japanese Folk Crafts Museum), which had been started by Soetsu Yanagi and several friends, including potters Kanjiro Kawai, and Shoji Hamada, and was struck by the simple, unpretentious pots and other historical items that had been made by anonymous craftspeople for everyday use. It was a turning point in his life.

“Yanagi called these items the people’s craft or Mingei,” explains Shimaoka, “and he believed that they represent what is truly beautiful — not the highly refined work made by top artisans only for the wealthy few. He claimed that good craft must be convenient and comfortable to use because they are necessary every day. Mingei works must be durable, made in quantity, and affordable. Materials used must be natural and indigenous. At the basis of the Mingei philosophy lies the supposition that the craftsperson lives a healthy life, has a healthy mind, and is always sincere in the pursuit of utility.”

The philosophy hit the young Shimaoka hard. “When I was lost at what to do in the future,” he recalls, “Yanagi’s theory was like fertile rain on barren soil. With my mind decided, I went to Mashiko to visit Hamada, an alumnus of my college, and he agreed to accept me as an apprentice after I graduated. He told me that the basis of ceramics is the wheel, and advised me to learn how to throw pots on the wheel while in school. I did as I was told.”

After graduating from college, and following a stint in the Army during World War II (during which he spent time as a prisoner of war), he apprenticed with Hamada for three years. “In retrospect, those years studying under a great teacher were the basis for my career as a potter,” he says. “He would tell us apprentices to leave aside all that we had studied — as he had done when he left school — and to start with a new slate. Handmade work, he explained, is not to be learned by intellect, but with the body. Technique is not to be taught, but to ambitiously acquire.

“This is the traditional way master artisans always treated their apprentices, and how apprentices gained good craftmanship. I now understand that that was the most effective method for acquiring potting techniques. Today I always have a few apprentices in my house, including students from abroad. I teach them just the way Hamada tought me.”

The image is the main page from one of the artist’s exhibitions at Galerie Besson in London’s West End.

  • Left: Pot, 2005, stoneware with rope-inlay pattern 22.7 cm (h) x 18 cm x 13.9 cm
  • Right: Pot, 2005, stoneware with rope-inlay pattern, 26.4 (h) x 23.3 x 22.5 cm

.

Glossary of Chinese ceramics: sancai

2 January, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, china, medieval, modern | By: xensen

sancai plate

Sancai wares were low-fired lead-glazed ceramics with color decorations. The colors were mixed to produce a great variety of shades. According to He Li, the colors and decorative patterns of sancai ware were influenced by Central Asian textiles.

Sancai literally means “three colors,” just as wancai, the last glaze we looked at, means “five colors.” As in the case of wancai, however, the term should not be understood literally – three-color sancai do predominate, but two- and four-color glazes may also be termed sancai. Common colors were green, yellow, and white, and common coloring agents were iron, copper, and manganese compounds. Sancai wares were first fired at 1000ºC., and then refired with the glaze at about 900ºC. Sometimes a white slip was applied before the decorations were added in order to produce clearer final result.

Sancai is usually associated with Tang dynasty wares, but the technique was equally popular during the Song. The style spread west along the Silk Road and east to Korea and Japan. In China it enjoyed a revival during the Ming dynasty.

Sancai was employed in animal forms (especially camels, horses, and dogs), often created as funerary pieces, as well as various types of vessels and other articles of daily use. Objects such as alms bowls, incense burners, and candlestick holders probably had ceremonial uses. Sancai wares were also popular trade and tribute items.

.

Shown: Sancai Plate, 907-1125, Manchuria, Khitan Liao Dynasty, Musée Guimet (via wikipedia)

.

Glossary of Chinese ceramics: wucai

19 December, 2007 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, china, modern | By: xensen

wucai covered jar

With this post I initiate a new series that will run here at 7 junipers intermittently over the next few months (as I find time to work on it). The goal of the series is to create a glossary of terms relating to Chinese ceramics and their glazes. The variety of glazes in traditional Chinese ceramics can cause confusion, which is compounded by an equal variety of foreign terms used to describe them.

I believe, therefore, that the best approach is to use the native terminology: words such as dehua rather than blanc de chine and qinghua rather than blue-and-white, for example.

The glossary will not go into great depth on any of the subjects but instead will aim at providing an introduction and a basis for further investigation. Perhaps it will be of some use to collectors or owners of traditional Chinese ceramics.

Let’s begin with wucai, a kind of ware that was especially popular in the early and middle Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The Chinese words can be translated literally as “five colors,” but in fact the number of colors can vary — the phrase “five colors” is applied loosely to convey the impression of multiple colors on such objects.

To produce wucai ware an underglaze of cobalt blue was laid down, and then three or more lower-fired, fairly pale, transparent enamels were painted on top of the glaze. This was a laborious process that required a second firing. The overglaze colors were applied in more or less equal proportions so that no one color dominated.

Wucai colors tend to be bright and flat (rather than gradated). Ming wucai typically combines underglaze blue with red and yellow or red and green. During the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) a more varied palette was developed. The use of underglaze blue gradually gave way to blue overglaze enamel, the enamel colors became more opaque (yielding stronger yellows and greens), and underglaze blue was used as an outline for solid opaque enamel masses of color. Qing dynasty wucai may also employ black to define outlines, and may include gold decoration.

Shown is a covered jar decorated with goldfish and aquatic plants, Ming dynasty, reign of the Jiajing emperor (1522-1566). Porcelain with overlay enamels, H: 46 cm. National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing.

Fish appear frequently as a decorative motif in Chinese art. The Chinese word for “fish” (yu) is a pun for “abundance” (yu), so fish are an common auspicious symbol in Chinese art.

.

Image source: http://www.saturn-soft.net/Gallery/Gallery1/China1/menu.htm

.

Buddha’s-hand citron

17 December, 2007 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, china, medieval, modern | By: xensen

jade buddha;s hand citron

This nephrite object from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) may be my favorite jade from the collections of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (the image is from the “search the collection” feature on the AAM website).

This lemonlike citron (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylus) is not usually eaten (although the rind may be candied and is sometimes used for zest), but it’s fragrant and said to have some medical qualities. It is said that the fragrance of a single fruit can perfume a room for weeks.

According to Flavor and Fortune, “Gary Palm of The Mission Inn in Riverside, California chops up pieces of rind to add a slightly bitter citrus tinge to fish marinades. Lindsey Shere, pastry chef of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California uses the candied peel in Italian desserts, such as pane forte. Allan Susser of Chef Allen’s in Adventura, Florida bakes pieces of candied rind in biscotti; it adds flavor that he describes as “kumquat-tangerine,” distinct from the more lemony flavor of regular citrus.”

Traditionally, the fruit was prized by the Chinese for its resemblance to a hand with the fingers outstretched. The buddha’s-hand citron was a popular plant motif in the art of the Ming dynasty. Besides its association with the Buddha the plant suggested wealth because of its resemblance to an outstretched hand. It remains popular at New Year’s and is said to bestow good fortune. Below are some thumbnails of images.

buddha's hand citron thumbnailsbuddha's hand citron thumbnails

.