Style Court

Nine Years of Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

4.10.2013

The Power of Myth

[Ehon kyoka Yama mata yama by Katsushika Hokusai (1760—1849). Japan, Edo period, 1804 Woodblock printed; ink and color on paper H x W x D): 26.7 x 17.5 x 0.6 cm Purchase - The Gerhard Pulverer Collection, Museum funds, Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Harold P. Stern Memorial fund in appreciation of Jeffrey P. Cunard. Freer Gallery of Art Study Collection FSC-GR-780.236.1.]

[Taisei shinsha fu by Kondō Hideari Japan, Meiji era, 1888 (Meiji 21) 2 thread-bound books; woodblock printed; ink and color on paper; paper covers H x W x D (Vols. 1, 2 each): 30.7 x 21.3 x 0.9 cm Purchase - The Gerhard Pulverer Collection, Museum funds, Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Harold P. Stern Memorial fund in appreciation of Jeffrey P. Cunard. Freer Gallery of Art Study Collection FSC-GR-780.372.1-2.]

[Onna sanju-rokkasen by Hosoda Eishi (1756—1829). Katsushika Hokusai (frontispiece only) (1760—1849) Japan, Edo period, 1801. Woodblock printed; ink and color on paper H x W x D): 25.1 x 18.7 x 1.9 cm Purchase - The Gerhard Pulverer Collection, Museum funds, Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Harold P. Stern Memorial fund in appreciation of Jeffrey P. Cunard and his service to the Galleries as chair of the Board of Trustees (2003—2007) Freer Gallery of Art Study Collection FSC-GR-780.99.1-2.]

Strange, not-of-this-world creatures, illustrated stories and legends -- a sense of fantasy is something I'm still sensing at museums and public gardens this spring. The V & A has David Bowie Is and the power of myth is a theme running through several new U.S. exhibitions. Last week I mentioned the de Young's upcoming show devoted to European textiles, From the Exotic to the Mystical. Other exhibitions include the Freer and Sackler's Hand-Held: Gerhard Pulverer's Japanese Illustrated Books and the Atlanta Botanical Garden's Imaginary Worlds.

Hand-Held opened earlier this month and will continue through the summer. Aptly titled, it focuses on those very portable, modestly priced paperbacks designed for the general Japanese public during the Edo period (1615–1868). Pictured above are examples of the then-revolutionary woodblock-printed books, which curators compare to today's digital media, in terms of impact.

Recently, interior and textile designer Zak Profera bridged these realms, tapping Canadian animator Jodi Sandler to help him re-tell an old Japanese folk tale in a contemporary, scrolling online format.

[Images courtesy Zak + Fox]




For the launch of his latest fabric collection, inspired by the legend of Kiyohime, they created a dynamic web feature that introduces viewers to the story and main characters, Anchin, a devout Buddhist monk, and Kiyohime, the daughter of an innkeeper. (Note the subtle changes in Kiyohime's styling, from the look we've previously seen in 19th-century prints?)

[Kesa]

[Click to enlarge and appreciate the details of Zak's made-in-the-USA collection.]


I asked Zak to share the details. Here's what he had to say:

"Uroko was born from a pattern I saw on an antique kimono, and I loved it for its total simplicity and scale; as I began to explore deeper into the concept of what the locked triangle pattern meant, I discovered the tale of Kiyohime and everything stemmed from there.

[19th-century Japanese woven manilla hemp kesa via Sarajo.]

[Detail: 18th-century Tibetan silk robe from Kathleen Taylor.]

"Kesa [also a term for a Buddhist priest's robe] was a minimalist (if you can go even more minimal) invention of a vestment, to symbolize the character of Anchin...


[Circa 1800 Japanese silk applique kesa via Rug Rabbit and Dennis R. Dodds.]

...and Hidaka was adapted from an antique katagami -- I thought its lines referenced a sort of  'shimmer,' and it made sense to connect it to the river in the fable."

[Again, image courtesy Zak + Fox.]

[Hidaka]




[Kiyohime transforming into a serpent-like creature by legendary Japanese print artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. (1839-1892).]

[And here again in a 19th-century woodblock print by Yoshitoshi from the series One Hundred Tales of China and Japan. The Pacific Asia Museum notes that Yoshitoshi was very skilled at rendering textiles and deftly suggests reptile-ish scales in the pattern of her robe. Image via the Museum.] 

Zak continued, "The cut S shape was a happy coincidence and quiet gesture to Kiyohime's transformation into a dragon. The intention behind these three designs is multifaceted; I want people who are afraid of patterns to dip their toes into the water a bit. These are thoughtfully simple but still have enough nuance in the repeat and color to keep it interesting -- they can read as texture from afar (for Hidaka and Kesa specifically).


The other idea is that these geometrics can be easily mixed and matched with more complicated patterns or within the collection itself because of the variety in scale and the harmonious palette. And of course, Uroko can easily be used as a statement piece -- either backed and installed as a wallcovering, or as a dramatic wall of curtains. The great thing about geometric patterns is that they can add a lot of dimension to field of neutrals and solids, which can sometimes steer flat if there isn't enough texture or contrast."

[Additional colorways]



More on Zak's process here.

2 comments:

Emile de Bruijn said...

Love that Zak+Fox animation, and how you scroll through it on the screen just like a traditional Asian handscroll. And that Yoshitoshi print with the trompe l'oeil 'distressed' is very interesting too - and I suppose it is a visual reference to Kiyohime's distressed emotional state. Yoshitoshi is a curious artist, with some very intense imagery, reflected in the searing and dramatic colours he used, which were often aniline dyes then newly imported to Japan from the west.

Style Court said...

Fascinating about the dyes and distressing. Thanks for bringing that to my attention, Emile. I thought you would probably appreciate the use of horizontal scrolling in the new animation!