Norihiko Saito: A Hill in His Heart / 2007 / 70 x 165 inches / mineral pigments on screen panels / © Norihiko Saito. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of the artist and Dillon Gallery
I was able to run down at lunch today to the Dillon Gallery to catch the Ma: New Traditions in Nihonga exhibition before it closes on 4/22. While I can’t speak to the history of Nihonga painting, I thought the work was excellent with both strengths and weaknesses. As a painter when I look at paintings I look at a number of things, first what is the space depicted by the artist, how are they create space in their work, what are they spacial divisions? Is it flat, is it a deep space, perspective, overlapping planes? What are the major shapes and forms and how do they move in space. For the most part the paintings in this exhibition were very flat, relying more on elegant divisions of the surface – positive and negative spaces, contrasts of intense pigments or metal leaf with the airy quiet of the washi paper or silk support – to move the eye and create a sense of mood or drama. At notable exception is Asami Yoshiga’s Invitation Pond, a stunning piece of sumi ink on multiple layers of translucent silk, that moves your eyes into a deep atmospheric space. All of the pieces, use beautiful and luscious pigments that sing and sparkle on the surface and almost appear to be woven in to the silk. It made me lament our over ground tube paints that tend to be more filler than pigment.
The show is a visual treat for the eyes offering a wonderful play of colours, textures, and light. While satisfying my hunger for visual stimulation the works incline toward the decorative and leave weighter issues and ideas aside, but then again there more then plenty of conceptual work to go around. Ma: New Traditions in Nihonga Painting is a fabulous little show not to be missed.
Nihonga is a technique whose roots extend back more than a thousand years. The term, created in the 19th century to distinguish traditional painting methods from Western-influenced art, has often been synonymous with art of the past. Its practitioners incorporate time-honored materials such as silk, rice-paper, ground semi-precious minerals as well as gold and silver leaf into their paintings. Nihonga artists have tended to look to the visual forms and conventions of the past during most of this century. The most recent generation of Nihonga painters, however, has reinvigorated the style in an attempt to change the way the practice is perceived. For a preview click here.
Tags: shapes, exhibit, paintings, metal leaf, exhibition, Nihonga
Asami Yoshiga / Invitation Pond / 33 x 47 inches each, 2 pieces / sumi ink on silk / © Courtesy of the artist and Dillon Gallery