12/08/2017

Izumo Taisha



An exception and exceptional
Symmetry figures quite strongly in western design, whereas in Japan it is asymmetry and a much looser sense of composition which characterises much of the nations design thinking.

In ikebana—Japan’s own version of flower arranging—three main elements are ideally placed so as to form a balanced and yet asymmetrical arrangement.  The sense of perfection which many people find desirable in a symmetrical arrangement is nowhere to be seen.

The tokonama—the alcove of a traditional house in which a hanging scroll, flowers or a cherished art work are displayed—forms the major part of one end of a reception room.  This alcove will often overshadow the space next to it, in which an arrangement of shelves and small cupboards are artfully placed.  An abundance of space is paired with an abundance of detail.

Dating from 607, the plan of Horyuji Temple in Nara, is often cited as displaying an arrangement that was much more to the liking of the Japanese people.  Early Buddhist temples in Japan followed the strict symmetrical arrangement of buildings found in continental Asia, from where Buddhism was introduced.  It was as if the proffered model was respectfully spurned in favour of a homegrown solution.  Symmetrical arrangements were, however, sometimes honoured.

At Horyuji the overall arrangement is symmetrical but although the Pagoda and Golden Hall sit either side of a central axis, the effect is one of an harmonious juxtaposition—a tall narrow building (Pagoda) balanced by a low structure with a large footprint (Golden Hall).

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Izumo-taisha_scale_model_121281969_6127ff6b17_o.jpg
At Izumo Taisha, one of Japan’s most iconic Shinto shrines, there is once again an asymmetrical arrangement, which actually may not have been intended but was accepted.

Standing close to the Sea of Japan, Izumo Taisha is even today an imposing structure.  Its original form, however, was nothing short of staggering.  At one time it is thought to have stood 48 metres (about 160 ft.) tall.  Recently the remains of massive pillars have been discovered.  Whole trees or perhaps trees shaped and banded together may well have been used to raise the building to this prestigious height.

This was not done without problems.  It seems that the building collapsed seven times during the eleventh and twelfth centuries.  Subsequently a more stable construction of reasonable dimensions was used.

The present building is a shadow of its former self and yet still of an impressive size.  It was built in 1744.  The plan is very unusual and essentially speaking is thought to maintain the layout of the original building.

日本建築士図集、編者:日本建築学会、発行所:(株)彰国社
History of Japanese Architecture, Edited by Architectural Institute of Japan, Published by Shokoku Co. Ltd.

With a square plan of some 11 metres (36ft.), the four corner pillars are structural—helping to raise the building off the ground—and mark the extent of the walls along with two others on a line bisecting the square laterally.  The pillars on the central axis running from the front to the back of the building are structural and also support the roof ridge.

The stairs up to the shrine are located in the bay to the right of this central axis.  This results in what would appear to be an inescapable asymmetrical arrangement, given that the building is approached from under the roof gable.  Two sets of stairs could have been located either side of the central axis but were not.  So either by design or inevitability, the ensuing asymmetrical arrangement within the building means that the approach to the object of worship facing the left-hand wall can only be achieved by making three right angled turns.  Very unusual.

All in all, Izumo Taisha is an exceptional building.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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03/08/2017

Exhibition Notice—FunaAsobi Gallery


Ceramic Art Exhibition—Arata and Atsuko Anzai
Open everyday from Friday 11th August to Sunday 20th August 10 am - 6 pm

Arata and Atsuko Anzai are both potters living in Kaga City in the south of Ishikawa Prefecture.

Their taste in ceramics ranges from the pottery and porcelain of Korea as well as to pieces from much further afield.  It is from these roots that they take their inspiration to make items that fit their own particular live style.

The pieces they make might be celadon or white porcelain, ash glazed, moulded or highly decorated.  A visit to the show, therefore, will be a glimpse of the wares they surround themselves with on a daily bases.

Photo © Copyright FunaAsobi Gallery

安齋新・安齋厚子陶展
2017.8.11(金)~ 8.20(日)会期中無休 10:00-18:00

石川県加賀市に在住の安齋夫婦の陶芸展。
李朝時代の陶磁器や外国の美しい器など、自分たちの好きなものを、
自分たちの暮らしの中に取り込むように作られた器です。
青磁、白磁、灰釉、型打ち、染付など、お二人から生まれた日々の器をご覧いただきたいです。



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25/07/2017

Sumiyoshi Shrine,Wajima



In tune with the spirit or Nature
The orientation of buildings in their environment in Japan was important from very early times.  Even simple dwellings were erected with functional considerations very much in mind.  A doorway, for example, was positioned to take advantage of summer winds from the south or south-east, while avoiding typhoons winds from the south-west and cold winter winds from the north-east.

The development of buildings to satisfy a spiritual need was also very early.  It is most likely that the earliest people to inhabit the islands, which came to be known as Japan, were animists and therefore trees, plants, animals, rocks and other natural phenomena such as seas and waterfalls were thought to have a spiritual energy.

A place of worship might be a spring where pure water could be found, a tree that was considered to have supernatural powers and, of course, mountains were kami or deities resided.

Originally the worship of mountain deities involved lining up with the mountain at a place marked by three trees or another natural feature.  This kind of engagement with “nature” was gradually rationalised and sometimes replaced by a combination of natural symbols and a built shrine.

The form of such shrines gradually made a division between deity and worshipers by using separate buildings—an Oratory and the main Shrine, which might only house a large stone or nothing at all.  It was a space for the deity.  At the very least spaces were separated from each other under one roof.

There are now a number of different types and styles of shrines in Japan and it is these which represent the Shinto religion.  What is common to almost every shrine is the existence of a torii gate. Often red in colour, sometimes made of stone and occasionally made of bare wood, they mark the entrance to the grounds of a shrine and are common to all, large or small.  They are also lined up with the main shrine building and that may also be lined up with a mountain or some other honoured or deified feature.

In Wajima at the Sumiyoshi Shrine the Oratory has been rebuilt and resembles some of the coastal buildings, which housed places of work as well as dormitories for those who were engaged to work on the boats and ships that plied the seas around the Noto peninsula.  In both case a building of volume with a prominent gable in the rear dominates the lean-to style frontage.

At this shrine in the Fugeshimachi district, the main shrine is completely hidden by the Oratory.  The open lean-to frontage and Oratory provide shelter from the rain or snow for worshipers or even for a Wedding or other celebration.

One thing for sure is the fact that all Shinto shrines seem to be invested with a feeling of peace and tranquility, a sense of spiritual energy in harmony with all about them and to many Japanese their local shrine is a focus for the whole of their lives.

Infomation on Shinto:


Coastal Architecture:  Similar pattern of lean-to building—Hamaya style



Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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12/07/2017

Rustic is good!

Old Goroku bowls on display at Fukushouji Temple.
A bowl from Goroku
This is a goroku-wan, a bowl said to have first been made in the Goroku area close to Wajima, in the north of the Noto Peninsula.

Its shape is similar to the red lacquered bowl featured in the last blog—http://urushitanteidan2014.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/a-matter-of-taste.html.  But in character it is more like that bowl in its unfinished state.

As noted before I would be happy to see that soup bowl finished much more simply—not just in red lacquer—and completed with a ‘folkcraft’ character, so that it would command a dining table, whatever the surroundings or style of cuisine.

The Goroku bowl has a similar authority, tenor and unpretentious folkcraft air.  Its large size contributes to its character in no uncertain way and the high foot helps to cement its overall style, despite not having the highly appealing rustic air of the unfinished bowl from Ryuji Ikehata’s workshop.

A high foot on ceramic and lacquerware bowls commonly found in Japan make them easier to pick up in one hand, so that they can be raised to the mouth.  Admittedly, with a high foot there is perhaps less need to pick up the bowl.  The elevation provided by such a foot, however, also contributes to the air of offering or prasad as it is known in the Hindu faith—a devotional offering to a deity.  

We could even say, for example, that the way that the Japanese hand over even a business card in the politest way with both hands is all part of an attitude of respect shown for people and things by the Japanese.  By being raised up by a high foot, the food is presented well and in a sense respected.  Is respect expressed and is a devotional offering made?.  How similar and how different are they?.

Well used bowls of the same type, even used to hold true lacquer.  The bowl is big enough for a whole meal.
With western food presentation, it is now common to have a large charger plate onto which a slightly smaller plateful of food is placed.  Doing so spiritually elevates the food and the presentation is more appealing.  I would suggest, however, that it falls short of having the charisma of a devotional offering.

The Goroku bowl is said to be similar to those of the Muromachi era, spanning the period from the very end of the 14th century until the 1570s.  It therefore pre-dates Wajima lacquerware.

The shape and style of the Goroku bowl have become more popular in recent years, so perhaps it will become a must-have item of tableware.  But let’s hope that it remains unpretentious in its demeanour and does not become gentrified.  After all, rustic is good!

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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30/06/2017

A Matter of Taste



A bowl…
When I visited Ryuji Ikehata’s workshop in Wajima, my eye immediately fell on this half-finished soup bowl, seen here upside down.  The colouring looked good and the fact that some of the wood of the carcass was showing really appealed to me—as I thought highly unusual for a piece of Wajima lacquerware.

The adapted drill on which to turn a bowl so that the ground can be applied also intrigued me.

The black foot and lip are covered with a loose material fixed to the carcass with lacquer.  This is done so as to strengthen the weakest points.  I assumed that these areas would be finished with glossy black lacquer and that several applications of raw, moderately transparent lacquer would be used on the body of the bowl to highlite rather than hide the grain and tooling.

I was interested to see just how the bowl turned out and asked Ryuji for a photograph.  What a surprise it was to see it finished in red.

The somewhat rustic appearance of the bowl in its half finished state had vanished under the red lacquer, giving the bowl a lighter and unexpected elegant appearance.

Ryuji Ikehata Photo © Copyright

Ryuji was unsurprised by my suggestion that it would look better in black with the wood grain exposed.  But he says that he sells three times as many red items as black ones.  Why?  Well, for one reason, red is a colour of celebrations in Japan.

“It’s a matter of taste” is something we often hear.  “Each to his own” in other words.  These are usually expressions of personal taste but here it could perhaps be termed “national taste”.

The unfinished black bowl has a “folkcraft” character and in conducive surroundings could look wonderful.  The red bowl to me is a trifle characterless and yet beautifully finished.  The carving of the body is somehow wasted but made the most of in the unfinished bowl.

I suppose there  is no right or wrong answer to this dilemma.  Make both!  Well yes but the manufacture of a piece of lacquerware is costly in both time and money.  Ryuji feels it might have been better to have decorated the bowl more, thus justifying the price.  I feel that more options should be offered so as to perhaps attract a younger buyer, for example.  After all, the “vintage look” is popular at present.  Although a stressed finish would certainly not be acceptable for a car, for some tableware and interior decorating items it is highly fashionable.  Whether or not it is your taste is a different matter.

I just feel that it is a pity that lacquerware does not try to break into this area of market trends and offer more options.  But in the end its all a matter of taste.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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Exhibition Notice—Taiaki Yano Exhibit at FunaAsobi Gallery


Taiaki Yano works in a number of different mediums including glass, ceramics, and fresco painting.  His work in glass alone is extensive, covering mosaic glass, blown glass, and something called core-formed glass.  This ancient method of working glass is combined with other techniques to form items with lids and glasses with feet.  He uses mosaic glass techniques for plates and platters.  He has even combined glass and terracotta in pieces of sculpture.  We are also privileged to see new fresco work in the not-be-missed exhibition.

The exhibition runs for Friday 14th July to Sunday 23rd July.  Open from 10:00 to 18:00

Photo Copyright © FunaAsobi Gallery

矢野太昭展
7/14(金)~7/23(日)
Gallery Funa-asobi  10:001800

矢野太昭のガラス・陶彫・フレスコ画の個展です。
モザイクガラス、吹きガラス、そしてコアガラスといった、古代のガラス技法を
組み合わせて制作した蓋物、足付の杯。そしてモザイクガラスのプレート。
テラコッタとガラスを使った彫刻作品etc.
また今回、新しくフレスコ画も制作してくださいました。


Photo Copyright © FunaAsobi Gallery


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21/06/2017

Exhibition Notice—Takashi Shinohara



Takashi Shinohara Exhibition—New pieces of Suzu Ware from the Noto Peninsular

5th Floor Gallery, Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Department Store, Tokyo
Open from 10:30-19:30 Wednesday 21st June to Tuesday 27th June

珠洲焼 篠原敬展
6/21(水)~27(火)
日本橋三越本店 本館5階 Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi 10301930
今年の新作をご覧いただけたら幸いです。
Photo Copyright © Takashi Shinohara


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11/06/2017

Exhibition Notice—Funa Asobi Gallery


Funa Asobi Gallery—Porcelain by Kenji Nishida


Friday 23rd June to Sunday 2nd July—Kenji will be at the venue on Friday 23rd June

Kenji gained vast experience at a wheel producing the body for pieces of porcelain while working at the Kutani kiln.  He has also produced slab built pieces, boxes and more delicate items as well.  HIs work is special in that it allows flowers in a vase or food on a dish to look their best, without stealing the showa harmonious ensemble.  The fine pieces on show are likely to take us on a new uncharted path of excellence.





Photo Copyright Funa Asobi Gallery

Do feel free to pass on the address of this blog to anyone you think will be interested.  Or share it on a social media site.  Should you wish to leave a comment, please do so by clicking on the comment mark at the bottom left of this or any of the other posts.   If you have found this blog interesting, why not become a follower.  Thank you.