Artist Spotlight

A New Look for Tokyo Jinja

My dear readers, I’ll assume you already know what this post is all about, as you are looking right at it. If you are an email subscriber, please be sure to click into the post and view it on your browser. Welcome to the new Tokyo Jinja, which is the same as it ever was, but all wrapped in a brand new package. It’s been a very long time coming and I know I have talked about it before, but the redesign turned into a slow journey I couldn’t have made on my own. I could not be more excited to be shedding the skin of my old dated blog format!

Setting out to convey a bit of where I have been, coupled with where I am now, I am so lucky to have two wonderful artist friends, one steeped in the motifs and designs in Japan, the other new to the desert here in Doha and willing to embrace it. George of papergluebamboo can paint karakusa, the scrolling arabesque vine pattern found on Japanese decorative arts and dear to both our hearts, like no one else. How proper and perfect then that she painted the blue and white karakusa pattern for my new banner.

George Fukuda papergluebamboo

George has been hard at work for an exciting new project we are both involved in – you’ll be hearing about that in my very next post – on some fresh new colorways for her ikkanbari and Japanese shopping baskets.

papergluebamboo shopping basket lime ume

Isabelle Caraës, a French artist and illustrator, is a new friend here in Doha. She creates beautiful finely drawn images and is masterful at their digital manipulation. How proper and perfect that she created the Islamic arabesque pattern found in the mashrabiya, the lattice-work screens, seen all over Qatar and The Middle East. I am just obsessed with them and have mentioned them briefly here and here, but there is sure to be a full post on them soon. You’ve also seen a glimpse of her fantastic house and some of her small works here.

Isabelle Fromaget

L’arbre, a new mixed media piece, digitally arranged, is a perfect example of her whimsical work.

l'arbre Isabelle Caraes

So not to make too much of it, but I love the way the banner is symbolic of my experiences, my friendships and my life over the past ten years.

Saraswati Venkatram, better known as Saras, of SV3 Designs has been an outstanding Web Master, professional and impossibly quick to deliver. She transferred my 326 posts (!!!) and thousands of comments over from my old blog format without losing a letter and was invaluable help in the design process. The new format has larger and wider photos, simpler navigation and offers options for the future.

Now for some technical notes…I’d say we are about 85-90% finished so don’t be surprised if you notice little tweaks over the next few weeks. Please let me know if you notice any problems, glitches or have any constructive comments. If you are an email follower, hopefully your subscription has transferred over. If you are a follower via WordPress.com, I think you will need to resubscribe, but I am not entirely sure. I am really looking forward to hearing from you all and hope that you like this new and improved Tokyo Jinja reading experience.

And for a last goodbye to that street scene at the Saturday market in Azabu Juban…

Tokyo Jinja old blog format azabu juban

I’ll also have some other very exciting news coming out on Thursday, so be sure to keep your eyes open for my next post.

Artist Spotlight…Inlay and the Orientalist Painters

Lawrence Alma-Tadema? The Drawing Room, Holland Park 1887

Lawrence Alma-Tadema? The Drawing Room, Holland Park 1887, Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum (Bournemouth)

The Alma-Tadema painting from my last post is just one of many late 19th century works that feature an item of inlaid furniture. In that case, an inlaid Syrian chest figures prominently in a British home elaborately decorated in the style of the ‘the East’. Such furniture was also found in 19th century European paintings from a movement called Orientalism, which idealized views and scenes of the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. Wildly popular at the time of their creation, these paintings fell out of favor, much like the Pre-Raphaelites, only to be re-appreciated at the end of the 20th century. Along the way they have stirred up much controversy about the patronizing nature of Orientalist views, but I am going to leave the politics aside and just share the decorative aspect of the paintings.

John Frederick Lewis’ Intercepted Correspondence from 1869 was a painting I looked at and perhaps should have included in my post on Iznik ceramics and the language of flowers. In it, a young woman is caught before her master with a bouquet from her lover. Much can be said about this work, but it is the elaborate mashrabiya, the dowel latticework covering the window openings and the small inlaid table on the bottom right side that catches my eye today. Over and over again, the key props in the work of the Orientalists are these types of screens, Iznik tiles, elaborate carpets and textiles, pipes, musical instruments and of course, inlaid furniture. In all of the paintings below, each one has the ubiquitous inlaid side table somewhere – be sure to spot them.

The 19th century painters aren’t the only ones to have a fascination with the east, for example 18th century Swiss-French painter Jean-Étienne Liotard visited Istanbul and painted numerous scenes like the one below, a formal precursor to these later works.

monsieur-levett-and-mademoiselle-helene-glavany-in-turkish-costumes-jean-etienne-liotard

But the advent of easier travel and discovery created an insatiable desire for the exotic and painters were happy to comply. Lewis spent ten years living in Cairo, which gives his work a very authentic feel.

'Interior of a School, Cairo', by John Frederick Lewis, watercolour. Museum no.68-1890, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Arthur Melville, a Scottish painter, also traveled in Persia, Egypt and Turkey from 1880–82.

Arthur Melville, An Arab Interior, 1881, courtesy National Galleries of Scotland.

Austro-French painter Rudolf Ernst traveled to the Middle East in 1885. I am particularly intrigued by the bench in this painting as it is so reminiscent of the ones I recently purchased here. To see Ernst reusing his inlaid props over and over again, click here.

Rudolf Ernst

In 1858 English painter Frederick Goodall spent eight months in Egypt, and he returned in 1870. He continued with Orientalist themes throughout his very successful career.

Copt Mother and Child', by Frederick Goodall, 1875, watercolour. Museum no. 517-1882, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

One of the most common scenes painted was the interior of the harem and Lewis wasn’t the only one to paint it. These are clearly a fantasy view of the harem as the male painters would never have actually been able to enter the female spaces.

Frederick_Goodall_-_A_New_Light_in_the_Harem 1884

French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme visited Egypt for the first time in 1856. He too became fascinated with orientalist themes.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Pool in a Harem c. 1876

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Pool in a Harem c. 1876

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Orientalists and I only included paintings with inlaid furniture in them for the sake of brevity and cohesion. I’m sure I’ll be returning to the subject sometime in the not so distant future.

If these richly adorned spaces have caught your eye, you must take a look at Bill Willis’s work in the 1960s and 70s for Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge amongst others in Marrakech. There is a great piece in the The Wall Street Journal really worth perusing and exploring for anyone interested in design related to the Middle East and North Africa. The late Alberto Pinto has some amazing rooms (including this lavender one I am always going on about) in his portfolio and his hard to find book Orientalism. More recent fantasies include Veronica Webb’s Key West home in Architectural Digest and Howard Slatkin’s extraordinary Orientalist library in New York City.

And as for the actual painter of the Alma-Tadema painting at the very top of the post? I was utterly sure I was on to something and that his daughter Anna had painted it, so I dug deep and came up with this great post. It always feels good to be right! I also think I need to get the book she mentions, Artistic Circles: Design and Decoration in the Aesthetic Movement.

Related Posts
Artist Spotlight…A Final Dose of Japonisme for the New Year
Artist Spotlight…William Merritt Chase’s Japonisme Interiors
Artist Spotlight…An Impressionist Feast of Fans
Carnation Fixation…Iznik Pottery
Thoughts for 2012…We Are The New Victorians
Then and Now…Howard Slatkin’s Fifth Avenue Style
Trifore…Magical Triple Windows in Lebanese Houses
Divide and Conquer…Thomas Hamel, Jalis and Shoji Screens

 

 

Inlay Then and Now…Syrian Dowry Chests

In addition to checking out housing and schooling, I was busy checking out the antiquing here in Doha on my ‘look-see’ (expat speak for a pre-move approval visit) last spring. I trolled the alleys of Souq Waqif, the central marketplace selling everything from delicious Iranian bread to stacks of cushions to tie-dyed baby chicks but not much in the way of antiques (or so it seemed at this first perusal). I turned a corner and under a colonnaded walkway stood this inlaid chest on triangular legs. These Syrian wedding trunks or sunduqs are highly decorated with mother-of-pearl inset between fine tin wires and sometimes additionally ornamented with brass or bone. They are one of the more common shapes found among antique inlaid furniture and you can see, while their ‘official’ use is as part of a bridal trousseau, they can obviously be useful to store just about anything.

Credited to Dutch born, but lifelong English resident painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema, this 1887 watercolor of his Drawing Room at Holland Park is a painting I have long had in my inspiration files. Alma-Tadema was famous for his hyper realistic oil paintings of Ancient Rome, Egypt and other Orientalist subjects – he was called the ‘marbelous’ painter for the perfection of his technique in depicting said stone. His own home in Regent’s Park was decorated in the high Aesthetic taste, an amalgam of styles and objects referencing Ancient Greek, Pompei, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires as well as Asian countries such as Japan. This still life of the drawing room is a quintessential example of the artistic taste of the period, with its exotic objets, portiere and Pre-Raphaelite portrait, and its main highlight – the inlaid Syrian dowry chest. [As an aside, I think this was actually painted by his daughter Anna, as she painted the other watercolor interiors of their home and this is not at all in the style of his oils. Take a look here and here at works credited to her and here for a large catalog of Alma-Tadema’s classical paintings. Let me know if you agree with me.]

Lawrence Alma-Tadema? The Drawing Room, Holland Park 1887

What I love about the next image is how it shows on one hand, how much has changed in interior design, while on the other, how little actually has. While the overall look and palette may have simplified, the main players are the same in this bedroom designed by Windsor Smith for Veranda‘s Greystone Estate showhouse. The portrait above the sunduq is now an antiqued mirror – still in a luscious gilded frame. Exotic Asian objects line the top of the chest, in this case Buddhas, and the luxurious bed hangings stand in for the portiere.

In an even more paired down interior by Gerri Wiley in Traditional Home, the mother of pearl inlay sets a luminescent theme that is echoed in the chandelier, painting and soft silvery grays. I’m sure my Japanese glass fishing float junkies will notice the one bit of accent color.

inlaid trunk via veranda house

Los Angeles based designer Anna Hackathorn uses one to add texture to a grouping in a very California bohemian great room. I think the raised legs of these pieces are what make them so useful and easy to work with.

Anna Hackathorn inlaid dowry chest

Back on my home front, an artist friend here in Doha has created a modern still life with a Syrian dowry chest and her own work hung on a vintage wine bottle drying rack.

Inlaid syrian dowry chest

If you like the Alma-Tadema painting, be sure to watch for my next post featuring the 19th century Orientalist painters. They used inlay pieces as props all the time.

Related Posts
Thoughts for 2012…We Are The New Victorians
Is Blanc de Chine Chinoiserie?
Provenance: Inlay
Inlay All Over the Map…A Peek at my Collection

Artist Spotlight…Mariana Heilmann and the Art of Energy

Energy exists within, between and around everything from the infinitesimal to the astronomical. It seems to have tendencies that manifest itself in similar ways at all scales, a common language.
– Mariana Heilmann

photo

I had both the visual pleasure and an amazing hands-on experience with Colombian born artist Mariana Heilmann’s Resonance exhibit at Katara Art Center this week. Heilmann is a Doha-based contemporary artist who is delving deeply into matters of energy, time and space through a technique of perpetual motion and the innate tendency that chaos has to bring order to itself. Her long-term interest in science feeds and enriches the visual vocabulary of her work as she explores dispersion, connection, repetition and sequence in a variety of mediums.

The Resonance exhibition actually stems from a continuation of her earlier 2005-6 Energy series, which was an epiphany moment for the artist. By releasing her energy through music she found a universal message:

It was a process of sustained repetitive mark making, involving a suspension of thought and a spontaneous release of energy; an attempt to witness and record how continuous, random and chaotic movement tends towards order. The resulting image was like looking through a microscope and a telescope at the same time.

Number 37 21:07:2005

Using one print from the earlier series as the basis for all the work in the exhibition, Heilmann has created a mixed media show, featuring prints, collage, string and some more unusual materials. By manipulating the original image in a variety of ways, she ruminates on the cosmic and the microscopic. The show-stopping piece in the entrance, 4 floor-to-ceiling panels – a blow up of the original work divided and hung randomly – sets the tone for the beautifully arranged exhibition. Of course, I had visions of an amazing loft designed around these monumental prints…

photo

A smaller monoprint has one quadrant repeated as mirror image fourths and reads as a kaleidoscope or stained glass or perhaps even neural pathways in the brain. It reminded me of a more visceral version of these from the Damien Hirst exhibit earlier this year. And the church-related analogy turns out not to be very far off.

photo

Other works featured map-like collages which are actually enlargements of small fragments of the original drawing fleshed out by cut up x-rays. The light and dark spaces have been reversed in these lucite sandwiched pieces and the cut up x-rays are fragmented and ghostlike.

Thanks to scanning facilities and large scale digital printers I am able to feed off the image and explore how manipulating scale can reveal layers of similarities with the natural world. (neurons, bone structure, surfaces of a leaf, skin, road systems, city layouts, etc.)

My immediate visual connection to these pieces was seemingly unrelated to Heilmann’s references as I saw the traditional architectural jali screens so common to this region. But my comment sparked a larger conversation about the nature of Islamic ornament – so often geometric – and its relation to god. From there we touch on the perfection of the universe, which brings us right back round to the works being a meditation on the universe and the interconnectivity of everything. Functionally, Heilmann has dreams of these pieces being used in just the manner I suggest, as large-scale panels or dividers, perhaps quite apropos in the entryway of a hospital. I love that you can see our engaged conversation as a reflection in the photo.

photo

Also included were some elaborate two-dimensional works made from string. The photos cannot begin to do these pieces justice, making them look just like drawings, but take my word for it, they are spectacular.

The thread pieces have come from a very different tempo than the fast and chaotic energy of the drawings.  Nevertheless, they are still an exploration of repetitive movement and the resulting web that emerges from this.

1-Thread piece

Earlier work, from an exhibit at Virginia Commonwealth University last year, was a meditation on similar themes, in this case using end of life materials like milk cartons assembled into mysterious landscapes.  This last-gasp final dispersion of energy from these disposable objects is about as good of an end game as a milk bottle could ever hope for. The link between this piece below and the one above, while reversed in color, is a  similar examination of the microscopic versus the cosmic.

DSC_1374TT_lowres

All of her work has a luminescent beauty, but nowhere more so than in these translucent collages. Again, are we viewing moonscapes or cellular bodies?

DSC_1321T_2 DSC_1298T1_2_5

On Saturday night I participated in her Action Drawing Workshop, which “allows the participants to embark on their own exploration of how energy manifests itself.” We rocked out to techno music while allowing our conscious minds to let go – basically a rave for the artsy set.

The piece I made to the song in the video was my best attempt and I am thinking of grabbing an IKEA Ribba frame and hanging it – not for the long-term, mind you, but as a placeholder until I find something I really want.

photo

As I am finishing up writing, my mind leaps ahead to my upcoming trip back to Japan (yes!!!!) and it occurs to me that the x-ray collages are also reminiscent of resist dye techniques like tsutsugaki and batik. The indigo variations in this piece look hand-dyed by a master!

photo

If you are in Doha, the show runs through March 8 at the Katara Art Center. Don’t miss it. And if you see Mariana around, be sure to introduce yourself – she is absolutely lovely! If you are interested in contacting her, feel free to drop me an email at jacquelinewein[at]yahoo.com.

All images copyrighted by Mariana Heilmann. Please do not re-post without writing to me for permission. Thank you.

Not Just for Grown Ups…Buying Art for Kids

Tami Ramsay girls bedroom

As many of you know I have been writing a column on another blog called Cloth & Kind which is the brainchild of a wonderful pair of designing women. Tami Ramsay, the half of the duo that lives in Athens, Georgia just had her lovely bungalow featured in Lonny Magazine. The entire house is just beautiful (take a look!), but I paused and returned to her children’s rooms as she has highlighted work by local artists in both of them. Real art too, not just kiddie stuff to fill the walls. Pieces that could travel into adulthood with them.

tami ramsay boys bedroom

I’m a huge proponent of buying art for kids. Frankly, I’m a huge proponent of taking them to museums, in small bites at first, but slowly developing a sense of what interests them as well as giving them a chance to stretch their patience. I have a similar theory about art as I do about antiquing with kids, which is everyone gets interested when purchases get made. Art is horizon expanding, question provoking  – whether representational or abstract – and a sense of ownership makes anyone, even children, more interested.

One of the strengths of this year’s CWAJ Print Show is the number of prints that will appeal to kids while having long-term lasting power – call it an investment – in their memory and decor. How amazing would it be to leave home and go off to your first home of your own and actually have some pieces with meaning to take with you? I’m using the Print Show to highlight this particular post, but it would hold true no matter where in the world you are. There are always artists and they are always making work.

The Print Show is full of sweet and obvious prints with childlike appeal, such as CLARK Kevin Lee’s Koinobori. You get Mount Fuji and the fish – two for the price of one – all in the same print. Traditional woodcut technique adds to this Japan memory print.

CLARK Kevin Lee

Nothing cuter than the Small Hairpins seen when little girls dress up in kimono for special days. OHTSUBO Kazue’s silkscreen will charm your daughter now and look wonderful as part of an art wall or in a powder room when she is older.

OHTSUBO Kazue

And SOMEYA Mayumi’s etching is just so cute I could eat it up. This could hang anywhere. Ageless!

SOMEYA Mayumi

But let’s talk about some of the less obvious choices. Instead of brightly colored alphabet blocks, what about learning your kana (Japanese letters) the old-fashioned way? ARAI Yuko’s I-RO-HA-ORDER is based around the traditional syllabary in which each character appears only once based on a 1000 year old Buddhist poem. Animals starting with each syllable help to illustrate the sound and the details grab attention.

ARAI Yuko

GYOBU Fumi’s “P” of print studio–composition for an artist book has a similar graphic quality and is quite question provoking. What does the letter mean? Do the objects in the print start with that letter? Why are things upside down? I see endless questions yet there is nothing juvenile about the work at all.

GYOBU Fumi

Sometimes you need to be literal, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be subtle. Have you a little girl who loves ballet? KIRIZUKI Saki’s dramatic woodblock print Weightless Dance-g

KIRIZUKI Saki

…or WATANABE Kanako’s Red Shoes 2 would satisfy that girlish interest, while their monochrome palette and dynamic woodblock technique give them long-lasting maturity. I bought Watanabe’s moody and mysterious print Road last year and it is hanging in my elder daughter’s bedroom now.

WATANABE Kanako

There is so much hidden fantasy in Japanese prints, particularly the monochrome mezzotints, etchings and lithographs with their fine details. Do you have one that loves to read? This lithograph from MISAKI Akihiro has the kind of surreal realism kids love to examine and if you look closely, there is a little hidden surprise. The artist had much the same idea; “The person might serve as a bookmark, who seems as if waiting for someone to open the pages. He is probably waiting to be freed. I hope this work of mine will free you into a world of imagination, as one usually does when travelling and visiting historical places. Old remains might undoubtedly inspire you and make you dive into a world of history.”

MISAKI Akihiro

In NAGANO Junko’s It is Beginning to Tell the Story, the fantasy grows larger, much like the magical stag’s antlers do. It seems to me as if the reading boy’s imagination is driving the story forward, but that is my version of the tale. One of the things I remember loving as a child was searching images or wallpaper around my home and others for pictures, shapes and hidden images that would feed my imagination.

NAGANO Junko

And what about the deep inky black tones of RISHO Shigeo’s aquatint?  They make for a very mysterious castle.

RISHO Shigeo

Rather than a Disney icon, consider TOKITA Yuriko’s Infant of Margarita (bee). Your little princess may think of her as her princess picture now, but I guarantee she’ll love the reference back to Velázquez and Las Meninas later.

TOKITA Yuriko

Quite a bit of Alice in Wonderland can be found this year. NEMOTO Kana’s garden–mushroom– provides a charming toadstool with a single bite taken out of it…

NEMOTO Kana

…while IKUTA Koji’s A Cat Called Alice is a picture play on the story.

IKUTA Koji

No need to be limit oneself to black and white either. NISHIDA Tadashige’s The Town of Stars (6) Departure would satisfy any dreamer who longs to be an astronaut or play soccer in a giant stadium.

NISHIDA Tadashige

And can’t you see FUJIMOTO Keizo’s giant silkscreen Watch-BR anchoring a teenage boy’s room and then later, his first “man-cave” apartment?

FUJIMOTO Keizo

And my hands-down favorite? It has to be newcomer ITO Ayami’s Tyrolean Japanese fantasy called Friends to Walk With. I love the charming floral design, the sweet mermaid and the seal, but mostly I am obsessed with that onigiri (rice ball) with its matching patterned nori (seaweed). Obsessed!

ITO Ayami
Prints and other works on paper tend to be eminently affordable. So think about birthdays and holidays and consider the difference between another toy, another dress, those things that are easily outgrown. And if you are in Japan right now, take the opportunity to visit the CWAJ Print Show.

Related Posts:
A Little Bit of Tat is a Good Thing…Tips on Antiquing with Kids
Artist Spotlight…58th CWAJ Print Show

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