Month: June 2015

Finding beauty

Maybe I embody that instinct in Europeans that caused the great flurry of japanoiserie in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century – an innate recognition of aesthetic values relating to nature, and not necessarily evident in one’s immediate surroundings. Whatever, I have always loved Japanese style, from childhood through art school and beyond.

After a successful solo exhibition in February this year, I returned to a blank studio and settled down with a few books, one of which related to a kimono collection, and through a series of strange and serendipitous events that followed I found myself last month in Tokyo.

The exhibition Simple Forms: Contemplating Beauty at the Mori Art Museum was a timely reminder that all that is simple and beautiful isn’t necessarily Japanese. Co-organised with Centre Pompidou-Metz, this show was a breathtaking collection of objects old and new, natural and human made, indigenous and otherwise, that effectively demonstrated a “tranquil and lyrical, universal beauty” (Nanjo Fumio, Mori Art Museum Director).

From Tokyo I went to the mountains near the small town of Fujino to attend a ten-day workshop on Japanese textiles and the art of indigo dyeing.

Occasionally it happens that an experience gives everything you had hoped for and more. Eight of us had signed up, from the US, Canada, Switzerland, France and Australia (all women) and we were joined by one young Englishman who had come to an earlier workshop and wasn’t quite ready to leave.

Workshop leader Bryan was a deeply knowledgeable, generous and gifted teacher. Hiro provided us with delicious and nourishing food, beautifully presented, and gave us joy through his ikebana.

To try to describe our journey together would not do it justice, but maybe some photos will give an indication.

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near Fujino

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lunch

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rinsing in the river

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reeling silk

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Ogata-san makes udon noodles

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indigo vats

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indigo dyed fabric

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tea fields

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hung out to dry

From Fujino to Kyoto, where I rejoined Neil who had been on a guided walk following Basho’s Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Pilgrim sees a holy shrine.

Elsewhere a woman

Stains her fingers blue.

(Although, haiku never sound quite right in English).

We were met by our eldest daughter, who has a personal history of her own with Japan. Five days more of extraordinarily wonderful experiences followed.

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little shrine down from our ryokan

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mossy hillside above the Silver Pavilion

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foyer, Miho Museum

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dandelion on the Philosopher’s Walk

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home of potter Kawai Kanjiro (now a museum)

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his kiln

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kiln wall

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above the desk: “I want to see a new self. I work”