Tag: word and image

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Back in Japan again… In Praise of Shadows?

Back in Japan again… I stepped into the workshop of one of the country’s most respected lacquer artists, National Living Treasure, Shosai Kitamura. The walls were lined with shelves on which were placed examples of his workmanship. Draped across the length of one wall was a knotted straw garland sent by Ise Shrine – to bless the artist’s current inlaid mother-of-pearl lacquer work. He opened drawers slowly to reveal cut shells.

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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.

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Layers of Lacquer and of Ice

The stacks of Renaissance prints that were held in the Arctic ice for three hundred years (see previous posting), led me to think about the possibility of using of Japanese lacquer (urushi) as a medium for new drawings. This was for a number of reasons -At about the time that the attempt was being made to carry the prints to the Far East, cultural artefacts in the form of export lacquer were being brought from Japan to Europe.

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The Temporary Refuge – Again

Amongst the thousands of books and albums held by the V&A, I have discovered that there is one in particular that I have been searching for. “The True and Perfect Description of Three Voyages, so Strange and Wonderful That the Like Hath Never Been Heard of Before,” was written at the end of the 16th century and relates three attempts by Dutch explorers to reach China via the North East Passage.

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The Temporary Refuge

The temporary refuge as a metaphor for the fragility of the human condition. I seem to keep returning to this idea in my work – during the 1990s I explored cocoon and hive forms and, more recently, the 18th century Japanese paper folding teahouses that I have mentioned in previous entries. So an appropriate starting point for the second phase of my residency period seems to be Herbert George Ponting’s photograph “Cavern in an Iceberg” (Museum no. E.1320-2000).

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New Works into the Collection

Another outcome of the residency so far is that three works from my installation in Gallery 102 earlier this year are now held by the Word and Image Department.

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Pausing for Thought – and the Residency Extended until December, 2008

A pause, not a full stop – the residency period was due to end after my last posting. However following a number of discussions and meetings, I received an invitation from the Word and Image Department and the Paper Conservation Studio to continue working on the residency until the end of 2008.A wonderful opportunity and second phase of the journey! There are certain ideas that I now want to focus on – and the last few weeks have been spent trying to “unravel” some of these.

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“Sian Bowen: Gaze” – The Book

“The book is a beautiful production. I’ve just seen Gaze at the V&A: marvellous!

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Time Has Passed By…

Time has passed by since my last posting. The weeks have been filled with activities of a different kind – with a different focus. A move from private to public domain. In the months that I spent developing the drawings, time often seemed to be suspended as I attempted to resolve a range of issues in the work.

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Some Thoughts and Responses

Some thoughts and responses to the installation of residency drawings and selected objects:As part of the ‘stepping back’ process in order consider the installed works, I thought that I would ask some of the curators and conservators at the V&A for their thoughts. No single response to a work of art can be identical to another as we each carry with us our own individual life histories and cultural and social experiences.

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