Modern Japanese Lacquerware at Japan Museum SieboldHuis

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From September 16 to November 26 eleven renowned Japanese artists will display a selection of their works depicting the adaptation of this classic lacquerware technique to contemporary art. The display is part of a new exhibition: Modern Japanese Lacquerware.

These artists have established names in the Japanese art world and their works reflect the lacquerware culture in Japan today. Many are eminent lecturers at Japanese art academies dedicated to training the next generation of artists who will determine the future of urushi.

The art of lacquerware is still an integral part of the curriculum at Japanese art academies in Tokyo, Kyoto and Kanazawa. Students undergo rigid teaching methods where they are taught to apply the costly material meticulously layer by layer and to polish the object to a perfectly smooth and even surface. The artist then specializes in one of the following traditional decorative techniques: maki-e (application of gold powder), chinkin (engraving), or raden (mother of pearl application). It can take months even years of hard work, precision and perseverance to complete one lacquerware object. Nowadays these traditional techniques are also applied in contemporary art and the lacquerware craft is slowly transformed into an independent art form. In addition to the traditional bowls and lacquerware boxes, enormous paintings and tall sculptures are now being produced using these techniques.

The objects on display illustrate the tension between the traditional lacquerware methods and techniques and the search new ones.  Classical motifs, techniques and materials are clearly visible in the modern works. The traditional red/black colour combination in the lacquer sculpture by Kawaguchi Mitsuru and the use of shell-designs and gold powder in the works by Mitamura Arisumi as well as the subtle sparkling of mother-of-pearl in the tiny box by Sasaki Tatsuro and the wall panel by Murata Koken all reflect the influence of the traditional lacquerware methods. This exhibition complements the existing permanent display of lacquer ware in Japan Museum SieboldHuis and gives an outstanding impression of the versatility and the future of urushi, making this a ‘must see’ exhibition for lacquer ware enthusiasts.

Running parallel to Modern Japanese Lacquerware is the exhibition Mapping Japan.

Source: Japanmuseum SieboldHuis

Francisca Hagen

Started with AVO in 2003. Now active as writer, reporter, reviewer, promotor, photographer and tries to rule the world with a forum. Can be found regurarly at conventions and concerts in the Netherlands and sometimes Belgium. Big passion for Japan and music. You can follow me on Twitter: @Seraphinne

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