Friday, July 15, 2011

Japan - In Search of a Folk Artist (Part 2) -Found

My first outing in search of Shiko Munakata (1903-1975) which I wrote about last month was one of mishaps. In retrospect the day now seems like a fortuitous adventure which led to a trip to Northern Japan a beautiful area I might not otherwise have visited. We took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Munakata's hometown of Aomori and the location of the museum dedicated to his work, the Munakata Shiko Memorial Museum of Art.

We visited this lovely museum on a gray day in late October.

A closer view of the museum whose interesting architecture I'll write about another time. Note the sculpture of a woman looking into the pond.

Munakata Shiko. A picture of Shiko Munakata taken from outside the museum. As with most museums photographs aren't allowed in order to preserve the art works.

The museum's excellent English language brochure shows examples of the different styles and techniques Munakata worked in. The museum exhibits about 40 of his pieces at a time as Munakata strongly believed this was about the maximum number people could carefully look at at one time. The museum rotates the exhibition four times a year. However a few major works like the Ten Great Disciples of Budhha seen at the bottom of the above photo are on display all year long.

Munakata is know for his woodcuts which he did in the sosaku hanga and mingei style. The sosaku hanga movement emphasized the artist as the sole maker of the wood cuts. Instead of the traditional system which included the artist, a carver of the wood block and a printer of the wood block Munakata embraced a style where he himself was the artist, the carver and the printer of his works. To him the woodblock not the artist was of major importance. Also Munakata's subjects were not traditional ones.

In Praise of Kanjiro Kawai's kiln, 'Shokei', Japanese Cherry Tree. 1945. One of a series of wood cuts I saw as I entered the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo last fall. My initial reaction was I want to see more of this artist's work. The above photo is from a postcard that I purchased in the museum's gift store. Unless otherwise noted the below photos of Munakata's work are from postcards and reproductions I bought in Japan.

Aomori. My favorite of the artist's work. The photo is from a book of the artist's works I bought at the museum in Aomori. Munakata was inspired by poetry so sometimes includes it in his works.

Mount Fuji. Woodcut. Hand colored. 1965.

Birds. Woodcut. Hand colored.

Photo from the internet. The artist at work. Munakata had poor vision which further declined as he aged. The Aomori musuem shows an informative and interesting documentary about the artist and his life. As he aged he literally got closer to his works.

In Praise of Flower Hunting. 1958. Woodcut.

The Sutra of Kannon, Compassionate Goddess of Mercy, Ashura, a Demon God. 1938

Portraits of Male and Female Deities. 1941. Woodcuts.

Wood cut. Hand colored. 1965

An example of Munakata's calligraphy.

(to be continued)


YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

Interesting -- and amazing -- to think that someone with poor physical vision could come up with such works of art. Kinda like how a deaf composer (Beethoven) could produce such great pieces of music. :)

Anonymous said...

Munakata Sensei, like Enku Sensei exudes a thousand percent art and zero artifice.

sbk said...

Hi Anonymous,

Totally agree.