Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gang-Gang Cockatoos - Sadly Misunderstood

I am thinking about my next works and would like to try and dye some Gang-gang Cockatoos. They are the "faunal emblem" of Canberra and feature also in the ACT Parks and Conservation Service logo.

They are such gorgeous birds to look at; the male has this fantastic red hairdo while the female is completely grey with specks of orangey-red. Whilst pretty they are also famed for their "unique" call. The ACT government website speaks fondly of its faunal emblem, stating "Their call is a distinctive sound resembling the sound of a squeaking gate." Others describe it as a squeaky cork coming out of a bottle.
Male Gang-Gang Cockatoo
Here's a little snippit I found in an 1887 London publication called "Parrots in Captivity". This is an excerpt by the snooty sounding F.G. Dutton about his lacklustre encounter with his first real Gang-gang.

"The most rasping and aggravating of all Cockatoo cries.." Ah-hah-hah! I can just see him choking on his cup of tea as he heard its cry for the first time. I think its a charming little voice that they have and SO much less aggravating than the flocks of screaming Sulfur-crested Cockatoos.

Detail of painting by Shimomura Kanzan. "Ancient Pine Trees and White Wisterias" 1921
In terms of scale, I am trying to make bigger works but its always so daunting on how to go about filling such a large space. I saw some of Shimomura Kanzan's paintings last week at the library and like his use of framing. He tends to cut off the tops and bottom of the frame and focus on a central horizontal plane. I'd love to do a long horizontal piece with a slither of gum tree showing, full of birds. My next challenge...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Works! 完成したばかりの作品

Last week I finally finished two of my initial 'trial' artworks. They've been a way to get back into the swing of Katazome again but I also wanted to try out a few new techniques, including coloured resist paste and using a paper cone (づつ) to apply resist paste. Of course, they are also depicting Australian birds, in keeping with my research here in Kyoto.

First up is a linen Noren curtain dyed using Katazome technique. It shows the Kanji for Australia, "Go" 豪 and Australian flora and fauna.

「豪」'Australia'. Linen Noren. Katazome. 2011

Detail of Wattle.
Close up of my Crimson Rosella
 Second is this piece depicting a male King Parrot and Blackwood Wattle. This piece incorporates both katazome (resist paste applied with a stencil) and tzutsugaki (resiste paste applied with paper cone). I'm really happy with how this combination turned out.

King Parrot & Blackwood Wattle. Katazome and Hand-drawn resist technique on cotton. 2011
You can see the white lines which is where resist paste was applied with the cone. It gives a very different, drawing-like feel compared to stencil resist.
I have two more bird pieces *THIS* close to being finished. Once those are complete, I'd like to see what's been most sucessful in terms of technique and move on to making one or two much larger pieces.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kyushu & A Japanese History Lesson 九州に行って来た

In mid October I took a little trip with my parents down to Kyushu for the first time where we spent a day in Fukuoka and two visiting Nagasaki.

My research here in Kyoto revolves around the depiction of foreign birds in Japanese art and part of that has involved looking into the history of international trade with Japan. Nagasaki has been an important link in this research as it was the location of Dejima, a manmade island off the harbour of Nagasaki where Dutch were given exclusive trading rights in the 18th century.
Going to Nagasaki I was interested to see how much of the old trading area still existed and hoped to read more about the history of the Dutch trading presence in Nagasaki.

Some beautiful karakami 唐紙 block printed wall paper in one of the rooms at the Dejima replica museum
What we found in Nagasaki was a beautiful and historically rich city. It has had brushes with Portuguese missionaries, Dutch merchants, Scottish entrepreneurs and Chinese merchants. These periods of its history are still visible in the city; Chinese style temples, Cathedrals, rows of beautiful arched stone bridges, Western style homes and buildings.

Meganebashi 眼鏡橋 The eyeglasses bridge, so called because the reflections cause the bridge to look like glasses
As for Dejima itself, there has been activity in recent years to reclaim the original Fan-shaped land of the small island which has been swallowed into the modern city of Nagasaki. Today you can visit a museum on the original site with reproduction buildings and a lot of very detailed and interesting information about what took place there. Its a little bit touristy of course but great to see.

Dejima Museum, a reconstruction project still in progress on the original site of the trading post of Dejima Island
From my research so far I knew about some of the things the Dutch had contributed to Japanese society already (coffee drinking, red bricks, mechanical clocks, beer, billiards potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate, glass making practices, medical knowledge, exotic animals…) but was surprised to learn of Scottish Entrepreneur Thomas Blake Glover’s (in Japan from 1859-1911) contributions. He was a clever business man, sinking money into whatever he saw to be profitable at the time, including shipbuilding, tea-roasting, coal-mining, beer brewing…you name it, if it was a business in Nagasaki, Glover probably had some share in it. He played a big part in establishing what are now Mitsubishi and Kirin Brewing Company and even received an Order of the Rising Sun for his contributions!

Thomas Glover certainly knew how to pick a good spot to build his house.
It's surprising to see how great were the contributions of non-japanese to the development of Japan. I don't think many Japanese people know very much about it. Maybe if they did, they wouldn't still have this tiny niggling anti-foreigner thing in the back of their collective psyche. Look how much people from other countries with other sets of knowledge and expertise can do for you country if you let them!

Anyway, it was great to see new parts of Japan, so very far removed both distance and history-wise from Kyoto. (And to go by bullet train was nice too!) Thanks Kyushu!

View over Nagasaki by night from the top of Mt Inasa. Pretty speccy!