I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

葛飾北斎(Katsushika Hokusai) 1760-1849

I'll be many of you are quite familiar with the woodblock paintings (浮世絵)paintings of probably Japan's most internationally-known artists, Hokusai. Images from his "36 views of Fuji" are probably iconolized in many people's minds and mislabeled "Japan" (just like lacquerware was called "Japan" by the Dutch for a long time because it was so associated with the country of it's origin).

But beyond the revered, towering Hokusai waves, cresting above us like the slopes of Fuji over old Edo, there are magnificent scroll paintings and sketches seldom experienced. I just want to share a few of the ones that most impressed me from the exhibit I recently saw at the Shiga Modern Museum of Art.

http://www.kokusho.co.jp/cover/hokusainakami.jpg http://www.sanjo.co.jp/hum/hokusai/kohada.jpgYokai (妖怪), hobgoblins, were some of my favorites. What strikes me most in these is the way that he blends the ordinary with the grotesque. I see these laterns everyday, but Hokusai sparks the hope in me that one day I will do a double-take and something like this will be staring back at me. Life is so dull without the desire for insanity.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/44/Dream_of_the_fishermans_wife_hokusai.jpg I've never understood the strange octopus fetish--maybe that's the beauty behind his craft--but it's a theme that recurs throughout Japanese art, not just in Hokusai's era, but currently in 'hentai' (Japanese animation porn--don't make that face, who hasn't seen it by now...and if you haven't, you're probably looking it up right now). I don't know know where this whole thing started, but when you have an abundance of 8-tentacled sea creatures it was bound to happen sooner or later.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/53/Katsushika_Hokusai_001.jpg"The Boddhisattva's (Amida) Waterfall" actually didn't get the chance to see this one up close, but I found it when browsing through Hokusai works online, and I found it captivating.

That's all for now. It's important to note that some of Europe's greatest Impressionist/Post-Impressionist painters were influenced by Hokusai's style. I'm not an expert on the matter, but I think his paintings were a brilliant mixture of a fine-tuned hand and other-worldly visions--something I think every artist strives for yet few acheieve.


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