Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Giant Wave

Recent disastrous events in Japan, a major earthquake followed by devastating tsunamis, a volcano and then finally the terror of exploding nuclear power plants brought the whole world's focus to the island nation. Here in Katsushika Hokusai's The Great Wave at Kanagawa, we see a quintessential image of Japan that seems to foreshadow the coming deadly wave. 

The Great Wave at Kanagawa, Katsushika Hokusai 
Color woodblock print, 1830 - Edo Period

Japan is no stranger to the real danger of tsunami waves but the wave Hokusai may have sensed approaching was the inevitable entry of a reluctant Japan into a world of global trade. In Hokusai's time Japan was still a closed system. People were forbidden to travel on pain of death and only the Dutch and Chinese were allowed in to trade, and only in Nagasaki. Yet here it comes, the irrepressible wave of modern global trade. 

Culturally the change had already begun. Hokusai painted his Great Wave using Prussian blue, a European color (possibly produced in China) and his take on perspective, Mount Fuji in the distance, was influenced by Dutch copperplate prints that he'd seen. The influence was then returned when Edo period prints, ubiquitous and inexpensive when they were produced in Japan, became popular in the west. Artists Monet, Whistler, Cassatt and Van Gogh are among those profoundly influenced by these Japanese woodblock prints.

It is a small world. Please help if you can.
Link to: Japan Red Cross

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Henry Street Pub - Helena Korpela

Someone asked yesterday, "What do you do on Saint Patrick's Day?" Without giving it a second thought I answered, "Drink and pinch." The pinching of course refers to what you get for not wearing green. At least that's the custom I grew up with here in the Northwestern corner of the United States. As for the drinking, I could fore go the American custom of drinking green beer! 

Surfing the Internet for a piece of contemporary Irish Art to feature for Saint Patrick's Day led me to the work of Finnish born artist Helena Korpela. I fell instantly in love with her work. Kopela studied in Boston and emigrated to Ireland in 1996. She says in her online bio, that much of her current work "is commentary on Ireland's vanishing heritage - natural and built." Celebrate Ireland today by enjoying her work. (Then go out and drink, and pinch.)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Happy New Year of the Female Iron Rabbit

Happy Iron Female Rabbit Year

Today is the Tibetan New Year, called Losar. The year of the Tiger comes to an end as we welcome in the year of the Rabbit. Bhutanese painter Phurba Namgay's painting, Happy Iron Female Rabbit Year, is painted in the traditional Thanka (Buddhist sacred art) style. It is currently up for auction with the book, Married to Bhutan: How One Woman Got Lost, Said 'I Do' and Found Bliss, by Namgay's wife Linda Leaming at Writers for the Red Cross, a month-long fundraiser for the Red Cross.

Trained in the the tradition of Thanka painting Phurba Namgay's keen attention to detail is evident in his explorations of contemporary styles including superrealism. To explore his work further (and see how he makes his own cat hair brushes) please visit his blog.