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Tradition in Practice: how the detail of Japanese artistry is keeping tradition alive

Posted By admin On May 30, 2013 @ 2:22 pm In Abstracts for 2013, Literature and the Arts | Comments Disabled

Olivia Meehan Olivia, Ph.D.

Assistant Curator in Asian art

National Gallery of Australia

This paper focuses on Japanese artists who have lived and worked outside Japan: I believe these artists all indisputably carry ʻJapan-nessʼ within their work, and that their practice offers invaluable clues for the active preservation of intangible heritage, not only in Japan but also in other cultures.

It is often thought that following two hundred years of closure, once opened, Japan quickly became ʻWesternisedʼ. I maintain this is not the case: Japan cleverly went through successive waves of Modernisation, but not ʻWesternisationʼ. A lack of clarity around this point continues to be a source of misunderstanding of Japanese culture. If resilience is defined as ʻthe ability of a system to absorb disturbance without wholly changing its nature and functionʼ, then Japan is the most resilient of cultures, having survived attempted colonisation by China, Portugal and the United States of America, conversion by Christianity, nuclear devastation and a series of vast natural disasters, still with centuries-old tradition alive, intact and in the hands of popular and successful artists abroad.

While working at the edge of 20th and 21st century art, in a vast global diaspora, Japanese artists continue to redeploy a wide range of traditional concepts and practice. This paper entails the profiles of outstanding 20th and 21st century Japanese artists who have chosen to develop their practice outside Japan. The designer Akira Isogawa now based and practicing in Sydney Australia, will be the key point of focus in this presentation.

The study is less about genre and more about the intangible heritage, which artists have continued to safeguard. The means whereby this guardianship of enduring aesthetic concepts and practice has occurred provide multiple clues for other peoplesʼ pursuit of the protection of intangible heritage in their own cultures. In this instance, the heritage is not fenced or museologised, but embodied in artistic practice which continues actively to thrive, develop and attract new audiences.

The basis of the research for this paper ʻTradition in Practice: how the detail of Japanese artistry is keeping tradition aliveʼ is founded in the historical study of Japanese artistic workshop practice from the late 16th century to now. To date, there has been no thorough investigation into the documentation produced by traditional Japanese artistic workshops to culminate in a direct comparison to the artistic development of the modern and contemporary Japanese artist.

By focusing on the practice of Japanese artists living and working outside of Japan I wish to demonstrate the way in which external factors influence their work and focus on the role tradition plays in their practice. I intend this paper to highlight the nature of artistic practice, the importance of process and the representation of engagement between Japan and the rest of the world on a cultural and intellectual level.

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URL to article: http://www.najaks.org/?p=1007