Notes on Urushi/ Japanese Lacquer

A translucent material – but innumerable layers create a surface of seemingly impenetrable darkness.

The tiniest speck on the skin capable of causing violent physical reactions – yet of extreme beauty.

Images are ‘trapped” between layers – like forms in amber, prints in ice.

Used to illuminate dark spaces – damaged by the brightness of natural light.

Hardens not by drying – but by placing in a warm, humid environment – like the moist darkness of the tree from which it is taken.

Dusted with metal powder – the last layers applied in the dust-free environment of a boat rowed to the centre of a lake.

Used for over six thousand years – long after it is taken from the tree, continues to “heal” itself when scratched.

Ingested by some of those working with it in an attempt an attempt to gain immunity and form a special bond with it.

Click on the images below for larger versions.

Sian Bowen preparing lacquered papers   at the V&A, 2008 Sian Bowen preparing lacquered papers   at the V&A, 2008 Sian Bowen preparing lacquered papers   at the V&A, 2008 Sian Bowen preparing lacquered papers   at the V&A, 2008

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