Fine art

Japanese scroll paintings on view

Scrolls are from Buddhist, Daoist, Shinto and more traditions

By Virginia L. Clark
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 9/13/18

I cut my artist teeth (literally sometimes) on Japanese scroll painting as a child, so my heart skips a beat when I see Asian imagery, though there's precious little to …

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Fine art

Japanese scroll paintings on view

Scrolls are from Buddhist, Daoist, Shinto and more traditions

Posted

I cut my artist teeth (literally sometimes) on Japanese scroll painting as a child, so my heart skips a beat when I see Asian imagery, though there's precious little to speak of in Taos.

All that is going to change Friday (Sept. 14), from 4-6 p.m., at the opening reception for the "Fine Japanese Scroll Exhibition and Sale" at the Stables Gallery, presented by Japanese scroll collectors Frank Oatman and Jon Wood of Arroyo Hondo, both members of Taos Center for the Arts.

After Friday's reception, the two-day show and sale will be Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 15-16), open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. located at the Stables, 133 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, next door to the Taos Community Auditorium.

A short art talk on the history and cultural significance of scroll painting will be presented by Oatman Saturday morning (Sept. 15) at 10:45 a.m., followed by show assistant and paper specialist Janie Farmer, who will speak briefly about Japanese paper, including the clay papers used in the mountings of several scrolls on display.

"Since the early 1980s, Frank Oatman and Jon Wood have collected Japanese scrolls," Oatman says in press materials for the show. "Via a personal connection to a 90-plus-year-old Japanese gentleman of a once-noble family, a family who'd collected scrolls for at least five generations, (Oatman and Wood) recently bought 69 fine scrolls painted on paper or silk and beautifully mounted, most on silk brocade. The 40 or so scrolls that Jon and Frank are retaining are pledged to the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. All those will be on display as well as 20-plus scrolls from the 17th to 20th centuries that will be available for purchase at very reasonable prices."

The scrolls Tempo viewed last week were from the early 1500s through the first half of the 20th century, simply exquisite black-and-white or full color works, and all in a vertical scroll orientation.

"Our elderly Japanese friend and his wife have no children, and nieces and nephews have taken all the scrolls they can use," what with increasingly smaller Japanese houses and apartments, Oatman said. "Our friend has now closed his website as they've sold all the scrolls they care to."

Oatman and partner Wood are still a bit amazed that because of this fortunate connection they've acquired such fine scrolls, noting, that except for a few American museums, it's very difficult to see truly fine Japanese scrolls and almost impossible to find them for sale.

"The few fine scrolls offered for sale (via Christie's and Sotheby's for instance) are at far higher prices than those available at this show," Oatman stressed.

The scroll paintings of protector energies - the tiger and lion (Shi Shi) imagery - and the protective Shouki entity are outrageously presented in both plain black ink and detailed, multihued, arresting images. Japanese imagery, and its parent Chinese tradition, seem to invoke every aspect of life and society, from the most religious to the most mundane, celebrating life in all its glory.

Symbology is the predominant motif: red-crowned cranes and pines for long life; a waterfall for fecundity and wealth. One scroll featuring the waterfall, pines and the cranes, Oatman says is an expression of a happy, wealthy and loving, long life.

He pointed out another entity often featured in Japanese scroll paintings, who represents the embodiment of longevity, Jurojin. Jurojin, bamboo, pines, crane, deer and turtle are all symbols of longevity popular in the early 1600s, he said.

While hundreds of scroll paintings are available for sale on the web, they are of mixed quality. Traditionally, they were the main wall decoration in Japanese homes. Those with nature scenes changed seasonally. The scrolls typically are hung and viewed for an occasion or a season, say, in the case of a nature scene, then rolled up and replaced with another one quite easily. People frequently own a number of scrolls, but only have two or three unrolled and hanging at any one time. They store easily.

The scrolls are priced in a range from $85 to $295, but of course there is absolutely no obligation to buy. Oatman said that this exhibit is mostly to share with the community. Of the 60 scrolls that will be on display, 25 will be for sale. Local checks and cash are required for any purchases, but no credit cards accepted for this one-time event.

For more, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

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