The exhibition “Parallel Lives,” KAIKODO JOURNAL XXXIV, is organized to highlight the parallels that exist between works of art and, more generally, the temporal, technical and aesthetic correspondences and analogies between works of art. We have included Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese works or art and have presented them as The Ancients (1-4); The Three Religions (5-7); The Purity of Stonewares (8-11); Dark Stonewares (12-14); Blue on White (15-20); Florid (21-25); and Rock (26). In the world of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean painting, parallels lives can be traced in shared subject matter and style, which can be recognized and understood even though the paintings here are presented chronologically rather than thematically.
However, whereas parallel lines never meet or cross, parallel lives in art can and do, and these parallels might exist within a culture or cross-culturally. For example, the parallel lives of Chinese and Japanese pottery of the Neolithic period, or Chinese Yue ware and Japanese Sueki, are evident in the similarities of their materials and basic techniques, but observing their parallelism serves to highlight their dramatic aesthetic differences. The parallel lives of Daoist, Confucian, and Buddhist beliefs intersected as the Chinese sought to understand and explain the world around them and it was not unusual for all three of these distinct philosophies to be embraced and espoused together during the lifetime of a single individual. The underglaze-blue decorated porcelains of China, Japan, and Vietnam followed their own paths of development while also displaying significant interdependence. A colorful kyō-yaki fan-shaped dish is delight to behold in its own right. However, its life becomes even more compelling when parallel lives—that of Rimpa paintings for example—are brought into focus along side of it.
In the world of painting, Chinese and Japanese works from the Ming dynasty and Muromachi period exist in parallel worlds as independent entities, whereas each relied on earlier Chinese achievements, and sometimes the same ones, to arrive at their destinations. Paintings of ducks or geese by Chinese and Korean artists appear to have more in common than subject matter alone, but if one looks long and hard and deeply, significant differences and idiosyncrasies reveal themselves. It is hoped that this exhibition, aside from introducing works of art and paintings that stand as individuals to be appreciated in their own right, will inspire the kind of observation and thinking that lie behind the origin of “Parallel Lives.”