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and Bashō:
Walking Poets

Itami City Art Museum Kakimori Bunko (Hyogo, Japan)
→ 17th September ~ 3rd November 2016
Walking Poets

     Over the past decade Sobue has developed an original new brush hatching technique, using Japanese sumi ink and acrylic, which is inspired by the concept of disegno, a term from the Florentine Renaissance derived from the Italian word for drawing or design. This is an approach he has combined with his ongoing interest in neurological studies. Sobue’s aim is to create a platform bridging east and west and delving into the core meaning of the human act of seeing.

     For this project, Sobue has created a quadriptych work using four aluminium plates, representing a Japanese traditional fusuma-e (sliding door painting). He has portrayed Wordsworth and Basho facing each other across time and space, culture and language. As a way of visually linking the two poets, he has depicted a maple tree. The maple appears in poems composed by Bashō and it was a tree loved by Wordsworth too; indeed he planted Japanese maple trees in his garden at Rydal Mount.

     In order to get a true likeness of Basho, Sobue referred to a number of paintings of him but found that none had pictorial authenticity. However, he eventually discovered that one of Basho’s favourite disciples, Kyoriku, had left a portrait of Basho with his disciple Sora on the trip for the ‘Narrow Road to the Deep North’, which Sobue believed to be the most authentic Likeness of the poet.  With regard to his posture, Sobue referred to the work of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, the prominent Ukiyoe artist working at the end of Edo period. The gold colour in the background was, however, inspired by Japanese traditional paintings. Gold leaf was often used to express the importance of a patron, but Sobue has used gold acrylic paint instead to portray the two poets’ humble and naturalistic lifestyles which were reflected in their poetry. (Excerpts from the exhibition catalogue )

     The curated exhibition "Wordsworth and Bashō: Walking Poets" was held at the Itami City Museum Kakimori Bunko (Hyogo, Japan). The exhibition assembled some of the original manuscripts of national poets: William Wordsworth in England and Matsuo Bashō in Japan, alongside artworks created by over 20 contemporary artists from UK and Japan. Kakimori Bunko is a museum-library for the Kakimori Collection, one of the world's three major collections of haiku poetry and painting including original manuscripts of Matsuo Bashō.

Special thanks to: 


     I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Mr Peter Elkington, the former director & curator of Rydal Mount. Peter provided the special event for the unveiling of the work before it was shipped to Japan to raise fund for my travel. 

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