Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Small But Perfectly Formed

Yesterday I went to see Crafting Beauty in Modern Japan at the British Museum. It was a small exibition but fantastically beautiful. It was a really nice group of pieces actually, enough for a 'wow' factor but restrained enough not to be over-doing it, as if saying "we're really proud of these pieces, but of course there's a lot more where that came from". Which I've no doubt there is. A place where creative and craft skills and pure hard work are rewarded as much as concept and delivery, Japan seems to be really good at nurturing its artist community, designating the most accomplished Living National Treasures.

I found the Kimono/textile artists particularly inspiring. In a short interview one of them explained that he had considered what he could do with a kimono to make it different, more special. He realised that he shouldn't change the simple shape because that is part of why it's special - if you change the shape once then you will change it again and again striving to make it better, and it becomes like any other clothing. The simple shape of the kimono lets the textile speak for itself. Texile designs are produced by various laborious methods, including woodblock printing with a 2" square block, dyeing individual strands of hand-spun silk and then weaving together to create complicated (and perfect) geometrical patterns, and stencil dyeing, all done completely by hand.

Tokuda Yasokichi III
Tokuda Yasokichi III - Bowl, 'Genesis' (Sosei), porcelain with vivid coloured glazes (yƓsai), 1991. On loan from the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
This was beautiful - a coloured glaze bowl that apparently went wrong, so the artist then re-fired it at higher temperature and the stripey effect appeared - "a gift from the gods. Or an accident." Luminescent, and perfect. Perfection seemed to be a theme that runs through each and every piece actually. It's the only word for it.

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