Recently BlueboardArt was very fortunate to catch Idumi Art Gallery of Nagoya’s 50th anniversary exhibition of Nihonga in Tokyo’s vibrant Ginza district. It was only the third time that Idumi Art Gallery has exhibited in Tokyo and it was a privilege to be able to make it to the wonderful open space nestled in the basement of a backstreet building within very close walking distance of the Ginza Subway line. It was an amazing backdrop to this traditional form of Japanese art that I now have a brand new appreciation for.
With the warm welcome of both Koyama sans, father and son, I was able to enjoy and learn quite a lot about the artists, the techniques and the years it takes to master the craft, which does not simply involve squeezing paint out of a tube and painting something you may or may not have seen or experienced before. Rather the Nihonga is a skill developed over time which involves preparing the painting surface and mixing ones own paints as described here:
“Nihonga are typically executed on washi (Japanese paper) or eginu (silk), using brushes. The paintings can be either monochrome or polychrome. If monochrome, typically sumi (Chinese ink) made from soot mixed with a glue from fishbone or animal hide is used. If polychrome, the pigments are derived from natural ingredients: minerals, shells, corals, and even semi-precious stones like malachite, azurite and cinnabar. The raw materials are powdered into 16 gradations from fine to sandy grain textures. A hide glue solution, called nikawa, is used as a binder for these powdered pigments. In both cases, water is used; hence nihonga is actually a water-based medium. Gofun (powdered calcium carbonate that is made from cured oyster, clam or scallop shells) is an important material used in nihonga. Different kinds of gofun are utilized as a ground, for under-painting, and as a fine white top color.” (Source: Wikipedia)
Talking with Mr. Koyama (Senior) was a pleasure and he told me the stories of artists mixing their own paints as well as really experiencing the places they were painting. He explained how important it was for the artists to experience all the seasons in the places they painted, to feel the cold, smell the air and trees, get wet in the rain. These experiences and the life long dedication to their craft is the real message and beauty that is felt when enjoying these wonderful pieces. For me that was a great takeaway and an amazing story to hear.
Please visit Idumi Art Gallery’s website to see learn more about what they do for Japanese art.