Into the Woods
Some years ago Kaikodo presented The Magic of Trees inspired by the Japanese practice of 'forest-bathing,’ going into the woods to recalibrate body and mind, the practice proven efficacious enough to move the Japanese government to promote its practice. The Chinese and Japanese landscape paintings shown then and now allow virtual travel, a time-honored means of escape from the dusty world when an actual foray is impossible. The Magic of Trees II focused on lacquer, progeny of the miraculous lac tree, whereas now we present works of art whose subjects manifest our theme along with creations from wood itself.
磁州窯. 石竹三. 彩釉瓷枕
Length: 48.5 cm. (19 1/8 in.)
Width: 23.0 cm. (9 in.)
Height: 14.9 cm. (5 7/8 in.)
Late 12th-13th century
an American collection
The shape and uncommonly large size, distinctive palette and florid style are the diagnostic features of this pillow, features shared with a small number of other pillows held in such collections as the Tokyo National Museum in Japan and the Guangdong Provincial Museum in the PRC. They are members of a tightly knit family likely produced at a kiln in the region of Jiyanxian, Henan, where remains of such pillows have been excavated. The slight concavity of the headrest with its bowed edges softens the basic rectangular form while the incisions delineating the pictorial images serve to hold the lead-based colors roughly within prescribed districts. The thicket against pale green at the center contrasts with the lotus sprays against yellow outside the frame while more abstract designs occupy front and back and the two ends of the pillow.
Such pillows were not only useful household accoutrement but powerful aesthetic statements and decorative accessories as well.
今井 応心 (1880-1951)
Lotus-leaf Form Wooden Tray for Incense 蓮葉木香盆
Length: 53.5 cm. (21 in.)
Width: 35.0 cm. (13 3/4in.)
Height: 6.5 cm. (3 in.)
Signed: “Oshin carved.” 応心刀
Taisho-early Showa era
First half 20th century
a Japanese collection
The tray is carved in the form of a large lotus leaf from caramel-brown colored wood, the upper side with incised veins radiating from the center and the irregular edges of the leaf furled, curled up and folding over completely in some areas. Perforations suggesting insect nibbles are visible and a tiny frog with legs splayed crouches to one side. The surface undulates naturalistically while the wood grain and carved texturing also add a sense of naturalism. On the reverse the realistic treatment of the leaf continues with its thick stem extending in a graceful curve from the center, while towards the side, the signature, Oshin tō, “chiseled by Oshin,” is deeply carved.
Oshin’s creations in burl wood for use by sencha practitioners were known for their naturalistic flare along with hidden treasures inspired or suggested by eccentricities in the wood itself, as seen here in the depiction of a small frog. Although the wooden box describes the piece as an incense tray, such trays were also used for fruit and even for the display of flowers, leaves, or some other harvest from nature. The artist was considered a master of the craft in Kyoto where he worked, achieving recognition and earning fame, until falling on hard times from the 1940s onward because of the ravages of war and the economic constriction of the post-war era in Japan.
朱昂之 (1764-1842 or later) color & kanji?
“Enjoying One’s Will” (early 19th century)
Handscroll, ink and slight color on paper.
26.8 x 135.0 cm. (10 1/2 x 53 in.)
Inscription: “The retired scholar Xingyan wrote out the ‘Essay on Enjoying One’s Will’ for Master Lingbo and asked Angzhi to add a picture.”
Artist’s seal: Angzhi
Two colophons: mounted following the painting; the first by Xingyan writing out the “Essay on Enjoying One’s Will” followed by one by Zhu Angzi dated to 1836.
In a colophon following the painting the artist, Zhu Angzhi, notes that he is viewing this handscroll, one that he had painted some thirty years before. The painting had been requested by Xingyan to go along with a 3rd- century text describing the ideal life of a scholar recluse that Xingyan had copied for a friend, that mounted as the first colophon following the painting. In his colophon, Zhu notes with some sadness that the calligrapher and recipient of the painting, perhaps depicted among those gathered together and discussing the Dao in a rustic hut by a bamboo grove, had sadly passed on, or returned to the Way of the Mountains.
Zhu Angzhi, from Wujin in Jiangsu province. lived in Suzhou and the lyrical flavor of the painting brings to mind the earlier Suzhou or Wu school of painting, transmitted into the Qing by such masters as Wang Hui (1632-1717), whose works Zhu had studied, likely when he was residing in Beijing. The delicacy of brushwork and restrained use of ink and color contribute to the serious, reflective mood of the gathering.
Although not unprecedented, it is rare to see an artist responding to his own painting decades after its execution, adding another level of importance to the work here.
“Landscape in Autumn” 秋景図 (d. 1802)
Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper
121.4 x 39.7 cm. (46 3/4 x 15 5/8 in.)
Inscription: “On an autumn day of the year 1802, painted by Shukuya”
Artist’s seals: Shukuya; Shoshu Sanbō
the Iwasaki collection, Tokyo
This work, graceful and also exhibiting great mastery, was painted by Shukyua during the last year of his life. Although it was very likely inspired by late Ming-dynasty painters of the Suzhou school, Shukuya’s painting is colored by his own vision and aesthetic inclinations, which are expressed in more abstract pictorial patterns than found in Chinese painting, a more formalized composition, and a texturing of the natural forms in a very unnaturalistic manner. A single figure views a waterwall tumbling from the heights of a mountain crevice as he wends his way into the woods, inclining us to follow him into his imaginatively created word.
Aoki Shukuya was born in Ise, perhaps of Korean parents surnamed Yo. Shukuya was adopted by the Aoki family in Kyoto and was probably introduced by an elder cousin, Tenju, to his close friend Ike Taiga (1723-1776), who became Shukuya’s teacher and exerted profound influence over the later course of his life, during which the three masters worked together on a number of occasions,