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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Utamaro --- Japanese Lautrec

Have you ever enjoyed looking at "Ukiyo-e," and a famous artist, "Utamaro"? "Hymn to Beauty," NSW Art Gallery is now exhibiting Utamaro's many interesting and astonishingly beautiful works till May.

I have to confess.
When I was at primary school, I fell in love with Vermeer at a first sight. Ever since, I was soaked into Western art and tried to catch "light and darkness," in another word, "value."
Little Sadami pursued very traditional realism and never paid a heed to Japanese Ukiyo-e and could not get why it was appreciated so much.

But when I was grown up and moved into Australia, I had a great interest in Japanese language and art.

Today, in my eyes, Ukiyo-e is so fresh and sensational, because it does not have so-called "value" in Western art.
Amazingly and shockingly beautiful!! I'm sure other French artists--Impressionists-- should have got this feeling. My feeling is, as if I were standing on another planet and looking at totally different awesome landscapes. Revolution it is!!

Lines in Utamaro's Ukiyo-e are so fascinating. They simplify subjects and send very strong messages. But also very sensitive. Take a close look at hair of women or drawings of insects . You'll find very delicate and meticulous lines that show his deep knowledge of nature and good observation. Much like obsession with accuracy and elegance. Wow...that's also a great job done by a sculptor for wood printing. In limited colors, Utamaro is very successful to illustrate subjects.

Utamaro's women and face expressions are very clever! It shows me each person's emotion very well. Sad, happy, lonely, mischief, cheeky, etc, etc.

I understand Japanese writing and know kimono wearing rules and hair styles. The women with specific hair styles and widely opened kimono neck eloquently tell me their job--sex workers. It was surprising that Utamaro made so many Ukiyo-e on prostitutes wearing
expensive kimono with big hair styles with extraordinarily luxury hair decorations. I imagine...those women brought up to become "high class whores"...could be sent from poor families in a countryside, far away from City, Edo.

The Art Gallery's explanation tells the sad reality that
many prostitutes suffered in sexually transmitted diseases and tough work...
I imagine... so, they
asked Utamaro to make their beautiful portraits. They might have wanted to get a day dream of happiness and forgot agony for a while.Utamaro's work reminds me of Lautrtec.

The Gallery sets one section for Utamaro's work on insects and flowers in Japanese lovely four seasons. Over there, I enjoyed reading old Japanese love poems. This poem on a butterfly makes me smile... .
"夢の間は蝶とも化して、吸いてみむ、恋しき人の花のくちびる。 "
= In a dream, I wish I could become a butterfly and would kiss my sweetheart's petal lips.

Regarding love and romance, nothing is different between West and East, men and women, past and present.

I will come again and ponder about women's lives and Utamaro more.
I behaved a very good girl. I never did any graffiti on displayed works.


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