J-style painting

  What's Jpanese style painting ?

The name of gJapanese style paintingh is coined by the inflow of Western painting after the period of Japanfs isolation 130 years ago to distinguish Japanese traditional painting from Western painting. Historically, gJapanese style paintingh can be defined as a unique painting style developed in Japan which originally came from China.

Japanese style painting is basically drawn with Indian ink (black), shells (white), powdered mineral pigments (blue, green), clay (ocher), mercurial compounds (red), gold and silver leaves, etc. We use glue solutions as the medium to draw on the canvas by techniques such as painting, piling, absorbing, etc. Such pigments are so different that it is difficult to mix and pile up the colors. Besides, the numbers of colors are very few. It might be a simple way but it can be the system for mutual sympathy between nature and human-beings.

Several thousand years ago, regardless of East or West, ancient people were drawing paintings in a simple way. They did not have clear concepts of the paintings, it seems that there are many examples that were drawn on walls or containers. But after the Renaissance, Western people invented an oil painting developing the drawing skills and pigments to pursue rationality and realty. What was there after the development of Realism? The style of Realism became merely a name at last, it lost the free spaces for the pulse of the colors and the shapes, it remained only a gloomy screen. When Westerners rediscovered Asian paintings and African sculptures, which have plenty of freedom without being restrained by space and time although they are quite simple, their style began to change.

After that, Western artists created the styles of Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, etc., as the result of pursuing free expression, and finally it broke the border between paintings and sculptures.

But sadly speaking, there has been little opportunity to learn the Japanese traditional style painting in schools after opening the country 130 years ago. Many respective traditional works are flowing out of Japan. Japanese style painting also loses the power of free expression because of the westernisation of the paintings.

As the definition of the painting has been broken, so it might not be suitable to separate paintings in genres nowadays. It might be separated by the intention of each painter, but I call my paintings Japanese style painting because I would like to confirm the genealogy of my paintings clearly as a painter living in the contemporary world.

My expression is not a mutation. I try to create my paintings through my perception and what I am influenced by as a person who lives on the edge of this long history.

  The history of Japanese style painting.

In 5th century, Chinese style painting at the time took roots in Japan with the inflow of Buddhism from China. The mural paintings of Horyuji-temple in Asuka era (6th-8th centuries) retain the influence not only from China but also from India. It teaches us the depth of Buddhist Art roots.

In 10th century, Japanese style painting began to take on the strong influence of Chinese style; we created a new style called gYamato-eh(Japanese painting in old words) connected with our own sensitivity. One of the remarkable works is the picture scroll of Genji tale in Heian era (8th-12th centuries). The unique style of picture scrolls developed with literature in the next Kamakura era (12th-14th centuries). And gYamato-eh demonstrates the decorative feature as depicted in the Shohei-ga painting on the walls of castles and temples in Momoyama era (16th-17th centuries).

In Edo era(17th-19th centuries), the style of Rinpa school was formed by excellent artists such as Honami Koetsu, Tawaraya Sotatu, and Ogata Korin, which interweaves the feelings of Japanese in the decorative and splendid expression. The color expression called gTarashikomih which utilizes the blur and the sense of beauty called gYohaku no Bih, which regards the not-drawn spaces as most important, are firmly established as one feature of Japanese style painting, influencing each other with other genres such as lacquer art, ceramic art, dyeing art, etc.

On the other hand, gInk brush paintingh was introduced from China as Zen sect culture after 14th century. Zen sect culture known by the strict spirits was supported by Samurai in Muromachi era (15th-16th centuries), and became the main stream in the field of culture. gInk brush paintingh was also established as big school of Japanese style painting in the effort by Sesshu who studied in during the Min era.

So Japanese style painting has two elements. One is to use the colors with pigments like gYamato-eh and the other is to draw with Indian ink like gInk brush paintingh.

It is worthy of mention that gUkiyoe printh influenced Impressionism although it is not categorized in Japanese style painting. 

Finishing the national isolation policy by Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan also joined the international scene, and Western painting flew into Japan one after another. Maruyama Shijo school made the basic structure for Japanese style painting by studying the rules of perspective and the method of realism.

Comparing the solid structure of oil painting piled over with colors, the structure of Japanese painting drawn with Indian ink and a few pigments was weak. Japanese style painters tried to strengthen the power of expression adopting Western painting in the terms of molding, colors, pigments as well as keeping the foundation of painting like gYamato-eh and drawing like gInk brush paintingh. It was as if the painters were in defiance of Western paintings under the crisis of Japanese traditional stylefs annihilation. The paintings by Yokoyama Taikan and by Tsuchida Bakusen reflect such strong spirits.

After World War II, Japanese style painters were devoted in studying the structures of Eastern and Western mural paintings and the molding idea of Western style paintings. After such efforts, Japanese style paintings gained the power of expression by developing the skill to pile over the powdered mineral pigments made with synthetic compounds. It became to look as good as Western style painting even in terms of strength.

But the style developed from gYamato-eh oriented painting began to occupy the main school ofJapanese style painting, while gInk brush paintingh oriented drawing grew weaker little by little. It is only the painting developed from gYamato-eh which is regarded as Japanese style painting and now gInk brush paintingh is out of the main school of Japanese style painting circles.

The confrontation between Western style painting and Japanese style painting still continues and painting exhibitions are normally held separately for each genre. The categories of Japanese style painting exhibitions are:

(1) Inten Exhibition (Inten school); for paintings of traditional motifs such as flowers, birds and historical topics, etc., drawn in a traditional way

(2) Nitten Exhibition (Nitten school); for paintings of contemporary customs and scenery drawn by powdered mineral pigments

(3) Souga Exhibition (Souga-kai school); for paintings of a contemporary theme in an experimental way

(4) And other exhibitions and groups which do not belong to any of the above schools

Also there are many contemporary artists who try to create sculptures and environmental arts by developing the way to use natural pigments as they are.