Tanioka Shigeo (b.1949) "Wind from a Long Distance" Flower Basket 2007 CCJAC (2008.016)
Contemporary Japanese Bamboo Art
January 29 – March 19, 2011
Originally from China, bamboo baskets have been made in Japan since the 8th century, from which time they were used for holding flowers for scattering in Buddhist rituals. Bamboo objects became intimately connected with the two forms of ceremonial tea presentation, each defined by the type of tea used, that developed from the 9th century. For chanoyu, powdered green tea or matcha is whipped in tea bowls with a bamboo whisk. The sencha tea ceremony, which is perhaps less well known in the West, uses green leaf tea (sencha) in Chinese-style teapots and teacups. Flower arrangements in bamboo containers play a role in both traditions, particularly in sencha. Baskets imported from China became popular for sencha tea ceremonies, and during the 19th century Japanese artists were predominantly engaged in reproducing the most complex forms.
Compared to other decorative and applied arts of Japan, such as ceramics, textiles, and lacquer, bamboo art is a small field. Despite its low profile, it has received local and international recognition. Bamboo works are accepted into the two main annual competitive expositions of new works by living artists, the Japan Fine Arts Exhibition (Nitten) and the Exhibition of Japanese Traditional Art Crafts, as well as to other regional competitions and shows.
Bamboo works remained predominantly utilitarian in nature until the mid-20th century, when a small number of artists began to experiment with nonfunctional, sculptural forms. Since then, bamboo artists have proven to be highly creative by challenging the conventions of basketry and pushing their medium to new conceptual and technical limits. Because of a strong interest abroad, many artists are now also active in creating bamboo sculptures, which have become an important source of income for them.
Bamboo is a highly demanding medium that requires a long time to master. In general, bamboo artists acquire their skills by apprenticing with senior artists for several years. Whereas an artist of any medium could use bamboo in his or her art, a “true” bamboo artist knows how to harvest bamboo and masters numerous plaiting techniques. A bamboo artist must first learn how to process and manipulate the material, as it cannot be simply bought in a store. An elaborate, high-quality basket will take a trained artist three to four months to make. Solid technical knowledge and skills are therefore vital, but to succeed as an artist, creativity and innovation are essential as well.
The artistic forms that emerged beginning in the mid-20th century have influenced “traditional” baskets, which have become increasingly sculptural in form. Modern Twist: Contemporary Japanese Bamboo Art presents 26 bamboo artworks by 12 different artists of which all but one are still actively designing and creating new artworks. The unique exhibits date from the mid-1960s to 2010 with a strong emphasis on works made during the last ten years.
For more information please visit: The Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture