by Michael Dunn

Japan's Traditional Arts

© The Japan Times June 2005

Book Review by DONALD RICHIE

One might say that, traditionally, the Japanese are a patterned people. They live in a patterned country, a land where the exemplar still exists, and there is a model for everything. It is, more than most, a place where the shape of something may be as important as its content, and where the profile of the country depends on the contour of living.

This profile still exists. To think of Japan, even now, is to think of form, of design. Patterns are made for eyes, names are remembered only if read. It is home of the calling card, country of the forests of advertising. One might call this appreciation natural, except that in Japan the natural is never enough.

Woodlands become parks, trees are dwarfed, cut flowers are arranged and called living. Yet the Japanese designer does not go against nature. Rather, advantage is taken of it. Nature is only potential, still necessary is the shaping, the smoothing, the embellishing.

But because the crafts that create this design do not reveal their layers of meaning, their nuances of hidden beauty, a certain intuition and sensitivity is required of those who view and handle them.

Here, Michael Dunn, author of this excellent book, is highly qualified. Coauthor of "The Art of East Asia," guest curator of the Japan Society of New York's major exhibition of traditional Japanese arts, "The Five Tastes," Dunn also writes for the Asian Art Newspaper, and has appeared as reviewer-critic on the pages of this newspaper.

In his introduction Dunn writes that he intends his approach to be nonacademic and hence something of a corrective. He aims to explain why the Japanese applied arts are unique, how they evolved, and how the Japanese themselves see beauty.

His approach is, thus, entirely aesthetic. "One may look at the historical background, or at materials, or at how things were used. But for me it is the beauty of objects that is of primary consideration, and so this book attempts to introduce Japanese applied arts from the viewpoint of taste and design. As such, it is essentially a very personal view."

And one for which we can be grateful. To this strong, personal sense of beauty Dunn then adds the various aesthetic justifications of Japanese connoisseurs. He introduces the four "design rules" of Soetsu Yanagi: "Honest use, that is, design following function; sound quality; nothing forced, artificial, self-imposing; made with the user in mind."

Also considered are the seven necessary qualities of design identified by the Buddhist scholar Hisamatsu Shin-ichi: asymmetry, simplicity, astringency, naturalness, reserve, non-attachment, tranquillity. In addition, Dunn discusses the five aesthetic considerations recommended by Teiji Ito:

anji, "suggestivity"; 暗示
kanso, "simplicity"; 簡素
fukinkoo,"asymmetry"; 不均衡
hakanasa, "transience"; 儚さ, 果敢なさ
ma, "space."  間

Of their selection, the author says that nearly all the objects illustrated date from the pre-industrial age, before the 20th century, simply because they are so much better than those made later. He also remarks that today it would cost rather a lot of money to live as a simple farmer did before World War II.

Yet the future of Japanese design is not dark.
"Since ancient times, Japan has been an experienced master of adopting and adapting imports . . . so that they eventually appear to be completely native. One senses that such a synthesis is under way again today, with the artifacts and ideas of Westernization being carefully sifted in order to choose which to retain, or modify, in the crucible of Japanese culture."


The Aesthetic Feeling of the Japanese

「暗示」... 「簡素」 ... 「不均整」

transient, mujoo 無常, similar to
hakanai 果敢無い・儚い


CLICK for original LINK

Designer Daruma Papermachee Doll デザイナーズだるま

Asti, Sergio and his Daruma Design (Sergio Asti) セルジョ・アスティ. Italian Design

Table, Dharma Table Design

Norakuro and other designer Daruma のらくろ だるま Shin Tsuzuki

And the export version of Japanese art
Japonism and Daruma

Daruma Design of the Edo and Meji Period
Edo Kakakuri Zuan 江戸からくり図案, 上下絵 (じょうげえ jooge-e)and more


1 comment:

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Japanese Aesthetics エスセティクス - Nihon no bigaku 日本の美学

and design !