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exhibitions
 ARTIFACTS

Since the late 19th century, Japanese art has been schizophrenically split into yoga (Western-style) and nihonga (Japanese-style). The latter arose as a self-conscious response to the inroads of the former. Nevertheless, when nihonga took up the challenge of Western art, it was unable to avoid borrowing some of its ideas, most notably the romantically inflated concept of the “divine” artist. But instead of Michelangelo or van Gogh, nihonga found its role models in the elite artist/craftsmen of the Rinpa school. The Yamatane Museum of Art’s exhibition What Did Nihonga Learn from Rinpa? uses 50 mainly large works to look at echoes of the school in the works of 20th-century nihonga artists. Particularly worth seeing is Kaii Higashiyama’s vast seascape Rising Tide and Gyoshu Hayami’s Falling Camellias.

Through Dec 25. See exhibition listings (Ginza/ Kyobashi/ Tokyo) for details. CBL

Giveaway!
Metropolis is offering readers ten free tickets to “What Did Nihonga Learn from Rinpa?” For your chance to see this excellent exhibition, email the following information by Wednesday, December 17, to editor@metropolis.co.jp:

1. Name; 2. Address; 3. Age; 4. Home country; 5. Last exhibition you visited

Include the text “Nihonga” in the subject line. Winners will be selected at random.

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763: Treasures by Rinpa Masters
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By JEFF MICHAEL HAMMOND

TAKESHI TAMAI: TILL MOSS GROWS ON

A CLIMBER AND ARTIST EXPLORES MAN IN his natural surroundings
Snowpeak, 2005, Lambda print, 58x38in

Compared to shows at Tokyo museums, gallery exhibitions often have short runs, which means they rarely make it into these pages. But if you’re quick, you can catch a quirky show down in Roppongi at the Rontgenwerke gallery before it closes on April 2. “Till Moss Grows On” may not be the best the English language has to offer, but artist Takeshi Tamai is more eloquent when it comes to his photographic expression.
Three large color prints on the Rontgenwerke walls, taken in Japan this winter, all share a nebulous, indefinable and stark beauty. Whether the hazy aura results from mist, snow or water, the effect is always compelling. In Snowpeak, a ridge of snow is placed low in the frame even though it is geographically high in altitude. On top of the peak sits a barely discernable fence, oddly out of place and yet looking proud and almost resembling a crown.

Nature holds interest for Tamai not as a thing of beauty that is, or should be, unspoiled by human contact, but rather it’s the communication between man and nature that gives him inspiration.

The fence’s alien presence in Snowpeak is due to the artist struggling to carry it there and serves, in a way, the same purpose as a flag placed on a peak by climber. So it comes as little surprise to learn that Tamai is an avid mountain climber, perhaps more than he is a keen photographer, and his works often involve him undertaking an arduous task in order to complete them.

Gig Advent, 2005, Lambda print, 38x58in
PhotoS BY Takeshi Tamai

The fence motif, in fact, inspired a whole series of pictures taken in Japan and across America, in which Tamai photographed the fence in unlikely places, such as Las Vegas. Also in the room is a very small photo taken of a different view of the mountain and fence in Snowpeak, but this time at night. Merging with the rich blue of the sky, the blurred outline of the fence becomes an almost ghostly abstract pattern.
Arasaki cabbage shows a tiny outcrop of barren rock near the coastline of Yokosuka. For Tamai, the shape of the rock resembles a wave, and the fact that the rock is so small and low that it is often entirely submerged under waves also appeals to him. The artist place a pile of vegetation on the rock before shooting it, again as a mark of his presence but also as a way to return life to the dry landscape. Although much could be read into such works, it is difficult to see some of his others as anything other than Tamai simply having a bit of fun.

A playfulness, increasingly common among younger artists today, informs an installation work of a glass table that, it turns out, was used at the exhibition’s opening party to serve salad to the guests. Recipes for the different dishes Tamai served are written (on the underside of the glass, for some reason) in his hand.

Although there is a grand total of only seven works in the exhibition, Rontgenwerke is located in the Complex building, which houses a number of established galleries that are also worth checking out.

Rontgenwerke gallery, until April 2. See exhibition listings for details.

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