20 June - 22 August, 2018
Welcome to Kaikodo’s summer garden. We have chosen a number of paintings that reflect the gifts of nature and have paid homage to these selected works with floral arrangements steadied in handsome baskets and ceramic vessels.
Presenting each painting in such a manner here online was inspired by Japanese tokonoma arrangements, where a single painting hung on the back wall of the shallow alcove is joined by a floral arrangement placed on the tatami mat covering the floor of the alcove. This architectural feature and its use for the display and appreciation of paintings, floral arrangements, and various works of art has been current in Japan since the 15th or 16th century and remains to this day an effective way to experience a world of art and artistry in a private and intimate setting.
The anonymous painting, “Thrush on a Magnolia Branch,” datable to the 12th-13th century, has an old attribution to the 10th century master Xu Xi, which is not surprising given his status as paragon of early bird-and-flower painting (no. 1). Later painters worked in Xu’s style, or his perceived style, and collectors would add his name to a work to give it legitimacy and authority. A painting with snow clinging to the branches of plum with the sparrows puffed up against the chill is accompanied by an icy blue-colored yingqing porcelain vessel produced only slightly later than the painting itself, supporting and enhancing the winter theme (no. 2). An anonymous Ming dynasty painting follows the naturalistic renderings of precedent paintings whereas the symbolic nature of the gathered birds and decorative power of the painting become its defining features (no. 3). In contrast to the naturalism and realism of these Song-Yuan paintings and their successors in which color played an important role in the messaging, the 17th-century painter Xu Yu captures the strength of pine and plum with powerful calligraphic brushwork in an ink-only presentation of his subject (no 5). Fang Luo of the early Qing might have painted his “Banana Palm, Bamboo and Camellia” on the Big Island of Hawaii, where all are flourishing together throughout the year in a truly seasonless clime (no. 8). Fang maintains in his inscription, however, that he painted these “elegant colors through a winter window.” Xi Gang’s “Spring Rain on Apricot Blossoms” evokes the freshness of the season (no. 10) while Okamoto Shuki summons “The Flowers and Birds of the Four Seasons” in a handsome pair of six-fold screens (no. 13). A delightful pouch-shaped underglaze-blue decorated porcelain vase, the last in this online presentation, was fashioned in China for a Japanese aesthete to hang on the wall of a tokonoma, a vessel both to hold grasses or flowers and also to provide a winning pictorial image (no. 14).
We will let these and other images on view in the gallery speak in greater depth for themselves. Sometimes it’s good, as the saying goes, to stop and smell the roses. Sometimes it’s good to think less yet grasp more. We hope that a jaunt through this garden will therefore provide not only a bit of joy but perhaps some insight as well and also a welcome respite from the dusty world.