Japanese sumi ink & acrylic
Japanese traditional art began to cause ripples in the West at its first international Expo participation in Paris, in the mid 19th century. At this time, the fact that the wrapping paper used to package exhibits for delivery featured ukiyo-e prints created a "boom" for all thing Japanese among the contemporary new wave (to some, heretical) French impressionists. Interestingly, this ultimately led to the wave of "Japonism", which spread throughout western Europe.
As a Japanese artist living in the UK, I feel a constant longing, passion and love for all things Japanese. This is a different emotion to the admiration felt by Japanese people for the Western culture. It seems to me that Western art has always based itself on a meta-narrative, and always tried to reinvent itself in order to move forward from the current meta-narrative, and as a result modern art as it has emerged in the West has become a highly theoretical practice. In comparison, traditional Japanese art has been created in a unique environment (despite the fact that it takes significant influence from China). Japan lived through 700 years of the rule of the sword, which includes 300 or more years of complete closure to the outside world, during which it prospered. Perhaps this unique history explains why Japanese art has established its own style, focusing on surface beauty as if picking up the essence of historical drama, landscapes and natural beauty as its motifs, by avoiding the speculative aspects of thought and philosophy. These things are indescribably beautiful, and also frail. Their beauty, in fact, is closely linked to the Western philosophy and historical artistic concept of "memento mori" (remember your mortality). In the very concept of Japanese art, we can find the key to how humans see.
Of all the animals possessing eyes, only humans are knowledgeable of the fact that they themselves are the person doing the looking. I believe that Japanese traditional art could sublimate this perception, with such self-awareness, resulting in looking at only what the human wants to see, into a symbolic and stylised form of art, whether the depiction of the age, or a landscape, or natural beauty. This minimal, simple stylistic beauty appears to be what created waves in the West 150 years ago. I am attempting to work in a "Japanesque" style as a means of paying homage to traditional Japanese art, and questioning the significance of contemporary art.