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NEW ASIAN TEXTILE TRADITIONS 


CAVIN-MORRIS GALLERY 



13 TH ANNUAL SAN FRANCISCO

ARTS OF PACIFIC ASIA SHOW FORT MASON CENTER • FESTIVAL PAVILION

FEBRUARY 6-8 2009

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NEW ASIAN TEXTILE TRADITIONS

CURATED BY RANDALL MORRIS & MARIKO TANAKA TEXT BY RANDALL MORRIS CATALOGUE DESIGN BY ALLISON TEPPER & TATIANA OUDINE © 2010 CAVIN-MORRIS GALLERY

Reproduction of any text or illustration, in whole or in part, is forbidden without the publisher’s prior written permission

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Right: Shihoko Fukumoto The Moon Shadow, 2006 Indigo-dyed hemp 56 x 12 inches 142.2 x 30.5 cm Front Cover: Shihoko Fukumoto The Moon Shadow, 2006 (detail) Indigo-dyed hemp 56 x 12 inches 142.2 x 30.5 cm

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NEW ASIAN TEXTILE

TRADITIONS

BY RANDALL MORRIS

Asia seems to constantly inspire both its own artists and other artists around the world to absorb old forms, and breathe new and different lives into them without losing the quintessence of history and place. We have seen this phenomenon in the way Japan began introducing themes and ideas of the West into its longtime traditions of Ukiyo-e and the development of Western influence into patterns and ideas in design concepts, and eventually into an avant-garde that continued to meld visual ideas into distinctive artistic identity. We have seen this cross-fertilization of cultures with ceramics; an art form which is still evolving and fusing concept and idea with Nature; from the Wabi Sabi essence of the tea ceremony to the melted burnt books of Yohei Nishimura and the fierce volcanic terracotta-scapes of Akiyama Yo. Yet in the same exhibition of the above might appear the meditational updated homage to tradition by Mihara Ken or the streamlined futuristic porcelain perfections of Fukami Sueharu. There are also Western ceramists who forge new parameters but still maintain homage to Japan where they are respected and accepted as legitimate makers. Some of these are Jeff Shapiro, Tim Rowan, Robert Fornell, Malcolm Wright and John Dix among others. We have also seen an evolution of bamboo art in Japan. Witness the evolution of idea from the utilitarian grace of traditional country baskets to the old master receptacles for ikebana to the edgy beautiful constructions of Nagakura Kenichi and the almost fractally modulated geometrics of Yamaguchi Ryuun. There are, of course, non-Asians who participate in these fields, sometimes by permission of intensive training or apprenticeship within the cultures themselves or from a materials or philosophical viewpoint without the immersion. The challenge with the latter is to be relevant without imperialistic overtones and the consequent mistakes of Primitivism, which can be so filtered through the Western maker’s eye that the intent is diluted in process and lukewarm in presentation. However, rather than discount the efforts of those not born in Asia who work in these mediums we became more intrigued by the idea of seeking out those who succeeded in making successful art in the Asian textile medium. We used excellence and respect for traditions as a guiding line. As curators we began researching textile artists and before too long we gathered enough positive results to start to conceive of an exhibition that has Asian traditions at its core, but mixing Asian and Western artists. We were particularly drawn to this quote from the catalog to an exhibition from the Museum of Modern Art in New York called; Structure and Surface-Contemporary Japanese Textiles, MOMA 1998 which reads:  

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“Japan’s indigenous religion, Shinto, centers on the worship of and communion with the spirits of nature. This, coupled with the country’s paucity of natural resources, has instilled in its people a heightened respect for all materials, natural or synthetic. An ability to maximize limited resources and to revere the inherent character of materials is a deeply embedded aspect of Japanese culture.” The statement, written by Cara McCarty was strong enough to serve as part of the theoretical skeleton of this exhibition. The seven artists in this exhibition all depend on manipulative processes with cloth to achieve artistic goals whether by spinning, dyeing, weaving, juxtaposing, shaping and/or finishing fabric in expansive stylistic ways. Only the kimonos of the Matsubara family come in contact with the body in a functional way, and even then the body serves as a staging area for the finished performance of the piece. The edge in their conception comes from the obsessively time-consuming perfection of their process. They are completely the opposite of the intricate, intellectually nomadic histories pieced by Lidia Syroka of her internalizations of Tibetan and Mongolian patinated surfaces where an artwork is ultimately collaboration between time, weather, potentially a number of deities and the artist. Within the borders set up by the intentions of these artists exists the main body of this exhibition. We chose to show work that best demonstrated that process is not subordinate to the ultimate incarnation of the artists’ intentions. The work moves on multiple tiers; each artist has developed and mastered one or more traditional processes to bring about the manifestation of the artwork’s idea. The artists’ focus ranges from the traditional virtuosity in the Matsubara family’s ‘aikatazome’ process kimonos to the silent creation of sacred space and light in Rowland Ricketts III works to the restless movement of ageing and time in Lidia Syroka's pieces. At the core of each is the tremendous influence and breadth of Asian traditions’ permission to expand on its own organic sense of design. Several of the artists in this exhibition are abstractly linked by the relationship of their work to the indigo plant. Toshio and Nobuo Matsubara are from three generations of a family of dyers and kimono makers who made and still produce traditional textiles in a complicated procedure using a paste resist made from rice flour and bran and are applied to prepared cloth. Traditionally, intricately cut stencils, often themselves beautiful works of art, are fabricated from four or so layers of Japanese paper laminated and strengthened with the juice of unripe persimmons. The resist paste is pushed through the stencil onto the cloth and the stencil then peeled off. Ground soya beans are soaked in water (gojiru) to use as sizing. Then the fabric is dyed. Thirteen yards of 23-inch wide cloth is needed for a single kimono. Half the cloth is rolled while the other half is stretched over boards half the length of the yardage. 
 The above process was established as a technique by the end of the 16 th Century in Japan. Today’s practitioners are still faithful to the original process. This branch of the Matusubara family’s particular version of the ancient tradition is a very complex form of the katazome process described above with indigo-dyed pictorial patterning 
 


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set against a white ground. This is called ‘chugata’ or middle-sized pattern and requires that the resist paste be set on both sides of the fabric and the patterns perfectly aligned. The technique can also use multiple stencils. Because of the organic bridge between tradition and the present, nearly all the artists we have chosen to exhibit in this show create a sense of sacred space with their work. It might be more accurate to say they ‘host’ sacred spaces. In some it is more obvious. In other forms, for example the ‘chawan’ or tea ceremony bowl can be seen as an aesthetically pleasing form that fulfills its utilitarian mandate or, with the proper appreciation and contemplation, it can be a doorway onto a transcendental plane, intimating a symbolic sacred space while offering up its service. By the same aesthetic view the space around the textile adds to what the textile is. The ‘norens’ (space dividers) of Rowland Ricketts lll, the next artist in the exhibitions indigo chapter, especially have the effect of shaping contemplative space. The previously quoted statement about Shinto and Nature is especially apt in regard to his work. This came home to me when on a warm beautiful Spring day I saw one of his pieces teased into motion by a flirtatious breeze from a nearby open window. It was primal, a collusion between textile, color and Nature completely independent of audience. Rickett’s involvement with indigo is visceral and direct. He studied the farming of the indigo plant in Japan and grows it now in the United States. His intimate knowledge of its life cycle adds to the aura of complete but empathetic control in his artwork. His minimal aesthetic interpretation of the ‘noren’ is so subtle that it is easy to miss the amount of control put into the process. Rickett’s work emphasizes what appears to be a major commonalty among artists using indigo. There is a visceral engagement with the quintessential experiencing of the essence of color. It is not only blue in Rickett’s work, it is the history of the dye, the history of the human perception of color, the ramifications of the interactions of humans with the color and the color with Nature, Time and Space that also pervades the work. I struggled last night to try and come up with a phrase or simple idea that might accompany me through some of this work. I believe I found it in regard to Rickett’s work especially and to some degree the work of the next artist in the exhibition working with indigo: Shihoko Fukumoto; if the desire and compulsion to fill every square inch of space can be labeled Horror Vacuii, then I would posit that there can be a valid reaction against it, a desire and need for the purity and emptiness and immanence of that space; Amor Vacuii. Both Ricketts and Fukumoto were in the recent Textile Museum exhibition, BLUE in Washington DC. It was an historical exploration of the meaning of indigo and its color resonances. Shihoko Fukumoto’s perception was that the search for certain aesthetic precepts is essentially a cultural engagement. This idea struck her during a visit to New Guinea where she saw how the making of indigenous objects did not rely on Western influence as her training as a painter had infused her with, but instead rose up from the very energy of vernacular Place. She withdrew from a preoccupation with painting and searched for expression that would come from her 
 


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acting upon her Japanese culture and that culture acting upon her. Her concerns could be said to have grown from that same statement about Nature posed in the Shinto quote. Water and the moon are constant presences in her work and meet us couched in the vocabulary of indigo. A great deal of her work uses the ‘bokashi’ technique of graded shading executed by controlling the dyeing and dipping of a piece sometimes through as many as thirty immersions. It is obvious then that a primary concern of hers is the way light interacts with her pieces as well, providing luminosity for some surfaces and great intimations of deeper space in others. The next three artists in the exhibition respond to different Asia in different ways and could not be more different from each other in style and intention. Paola Moreno and Hiroko Takeda are also weavers. Takeda is an experimentalist who received formal training in traditional Japanese weaving, dyeing and surface designs such as kasuri, shibori, katazome, and rozome at Tokyo’s Joshibi University. She then earned her MA in woven textiles at London’s Royal College of Art. Takeda has a restless style that is influenced often by a combination of her eye abstracting what she sees around her and the challenges of new and unexplored materials. In an artists’ statement Takeda says “I have a continuing interest in expressing incongruous harmonies: a balance within an imbalanced space, an organic element arising from a synthetic structure, a ruin in stormy seas. This leads me to experiment endlessly with materials and techniques.” ‘Honeycomb Kasuri’ by Takeda perfectly demonstrates this with its three dimensional honeycombing and almost industrial sober colors. It rides a constant tension between organic and mathematical. Takeda has an amazing sense of contrasts and this piece reflects roughness and delicacy at the same time. It isn’t unusual to come close to one of her pieces and find incredibly tiny details repeated hundreds of times even though they are almost invisible to the naked eye. A major link between Paola Moreno and the rest of the artists in this exhibition is in the way she, like those using indigo, uses the idea of color saturation. Her Asian connection owes much to an appreciation of Japanese and Central Asian shibori technique. She uses color as a painter does, to create a way of softening and interrupting the rhythms of the actual weaving. The result is poetic and burning. She states that there are three main characteristics of her work; first there is integration and formal coherence in the construction of the pieces. Second, the weave itself evolves to create various surfaces that become a narrative element in the piece and third, the delicate relationship of the physicality of the piece and the idea it projects balance each other. Moreno’s work is some of the more conceptual in the exhibition. Lidia Syroka’s work is on the other side of ‘Amor Vacuii’, back to its cousin Horror Vacuii. Though completely conscious of Nature’s effect on the planet, she takes her interpretation of that effect to another place. Rather than the reduction inherent in the Shinto tradition, Syroka’s works deals with accretion of experience and the way time changes and patinates the world, from its living creatures through age and 


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wear to the venerable surface of the planet itself. She pays close attention to ceremonial objects as they grow new surfaces by collecting the sacrificial offerings put upon them by worshippers. Her work is expressionistic and obsessive, her colors muted andhand-dyed, and of the earth. They reflect the windswept landscapes of her Tatar blood and the landscapes she likes to travel now in Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia and Siberia. Syroka pays close attention to the material cultures of those places and instead of using cloth to interpret them she utilizes handmade Nepali paper which she dyes, distresses, beats, cuts, sews and stitches together in myriad evocative ways. Perhaps the one place where her work does touch upon Japan is its distant relationship to the ‘boro’, indigo patchwork textiles either worn by poor Japanese farmers and fishermen or made into futon covers for adults and children. Patches are added to these hoary textiles sometimes over the course of a hundred years causing them to become repositories of time’s intrepid path over remnants of family history and memory. For Syroka making art is another form of shamanistic travel between travels. The artists in this exhibition maintain complex worldviews and concerns no less energized than those in other forms of Contemporary Art. As the hegemony of Western concepts of art breakdown work like what has been presented in this exhibition finally gets its long deserved recognition from the public eye. 


PUBLISHED IN THE SAN FRANCISCO ARTS OF PACIFIC ASIA SHOW EXHIBITION CATALOGUE SAN FRANCISCO, 2009

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Right: Hiroko Takeda White and Blue Honeycomb Kasuri, 2005 Cotton/linen 55 x 10 inches 139.7 x 25.4 cm Left: Hiroko Takeda White and Blue Honeycomb Kasuri, 2005 (detail) Cotton/linen 55 x 10 inches 139.7 x 25.4 cm

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Left: Hiroko Takeda Multi-Colored Udon Kasuri, 2005 Cotton/linen 63 x 7.5 inches 160 x 19.1 cm Right: Hiroko Takeda Multi-Colored Udon Kasuri, 2005 (detail) Cotton/linen 63 x 7.5 inches 160 x 19.1 cm

 

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Rowland Ricketts Untitled Noren, 2004 Indigo dyed hemp kibira, katazome 60 x 60 inches 152.4 x 152.4 cm

 

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Rowland Ricketts Untitled Noren , 2006 Indigo dyed hemp kibira, katazome 60 x 60 inches 152.4 x 152.4 cm


 


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Shihoko Fukumoto Morning Mist (Asa Giri II) , 2001 Indigo dyed silk, abaka 42 x 30.75 inches 106.7 x 78.1 cm





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Shihoko Fukumoto Time Space (Jiku), 1994 Indigo-dyed linen 79 x 71 inches 200.7 x 180.3 cm

 

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Left: Lidia Syroka Papier Fils, 1998 Handmade Sewn Paper 65 x 52 inches 166 x 133 cm

Right: Lidia Syroka Papier Fils, 1998 (detail) Handmade Sewn Paper 65 x 52 inches 166 x 133 cm

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Left: Lidia Syroka Papier Fils, 2002 (detail) Handmade Sewn Paper 59.5 x 24 inches 151.1 x 61 cm Right: Lidia Syroka Papier Fils, 2002 Handmade Sewn Paper 59.5 x 24 inches 151.1 x 61 cm

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New Asian Textiles