Businessman and writer. Peter nurtures a special interest in Korea and Japan.
Ukiyo-e - The Cult of Celebrity in Early Japan
A blockbuster exhibition of Japan's most popular art form is on show at the Shepparton Art Museum (SAM). It features wood-block prints by three of Japan's most famous artists - Torii Kiyonaga, Kitagawa Utamaro and Toshusai Sharaku - and is drawn from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston's collection.
A trip to Shepparton's Japanese sister city by SAM Director, Kirsten Paisley, to see the world renowned collection led to the coup. Fate intervened. Japan was in the midst of a national disaster and the prints from the Museum of Fine Arts needed a home to end their world tour, and so, a path was open for Shepparton to host the only Australian showing.
Kirsten Paisley, Director of SAM, opens the Golden Age of Colour Prints
Wood-block prints - Ukiyo-e - are stunning to look at. Standing in front of one ... it seems to summon you. You can find yourself staring for minutes at the precise lines and vivid colours that combine to create images of beauty - images that leave you with a sense of wonder.
With a hundred on show, expect to spend a little time at the gallery.
Thankfully, SAM have produced a coffee-table book of the prints on sale at their gift shop. It's priced, very reasonably at just over twenty dollars.
It was a triumph of commercialism in seventeenth century Japan that gave us this spellbinding art form. A wave of affluence had swept over the Japanese middle-class keen to spend their money on kabuki theatre, kimono fashions, sumo wrestling, sensual pleasures and the outdoors - not unlike our sports-mad, celebrity culture today.
Publishers of the time were only to happy to satisfy the growing demand for popular images.
In their day, the wood-block prints were not expensive, perhaps the cost of a meal out. A family might want a print of their favourite actor to decorate their home and commercial printing houses pushed artists for even more refined pieces.
The events coinciding with the exhibition are also exciting. They alone, are worth the two hour drive up the Hume Highway. On opening night, for instance, one hundred lucky guests were treated to a dinner informed by Tokyo at the time of Ukiyo.