The Modern Tokyo Times

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Japanese art and Ogata Korin: tranquility and the Gods of Thunder and Wind

Japanese art and Ogata Korin: tranquility and the Gods of Thunder and Wind

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ogata Korin was a painter of art and he was born in 1658 and died in 1716. Korin had a lucky upbringing because his father was a successful merchant and wealthy.  Also, his father had a strong soft spot for the arts and he nurtured Korin and gave him basic training.

Korin was greatly influenced by Hon’ami Koetsu and Tawaraya Sotatsu but despite this he developed his own distinctive style. This applies to bold designs, utilizing contrasting colors, usage of space and at times he disregarded realism and the conventions of the day. Therefore, despite the nurturing and the powerful influence on his art, he still managed to overcome this because Korin created a new spark.

However, in the history of art the “shadow of time” nearly bypassed him after his death because Korin was becoming a forgotten artist or at least on the periphery. Sakai Hoitsu would change this because he brought Korin back “from the cold” and “into the light” once more.

Therefore, with Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1828) reviving the interest of Korin he once more became remembered and interest grew because of this factor.  Hoitsu also reproduced some of the best work of Korin and this was a timely reminder to all lovers of art in Japan that Korin played his role when it came to creativity and expressing serenity.

The White and Red Plum Blossoms painting by Korin is very fascinating from a neutral point of view. This applies to the two folding screens of this piece of art because unlike conventional thinking in Western art in this period you have a different thought pattern.

Korin visualizes this image from a different vantage point because he shows the two plum trees from a different angle. This applies to a position on the ground when viewing the two plum trees and this style is appealing in its own right.

The website comments that Ogata Korin used none of these Western perspective conventions. He showed the two plum trees as seen from a position on the ground, while viewers look down on the stream between them from above. Less concerned with locating the trees and stream in space than with composing shapes on a surface, the painter played the water’s gently swelling curves against the jagged contours of the branches and trunks. Neither the French nor the Japanese painting can be said to project “correctly” what viewers “in fact” see. One painting is not a “better” picture of the world than the other. The European and Asian artists simply approached the problem of picture-making differently.”

Korin may not be the most famous Japanese artist but he left his mark and thanks to Hoitsu many people came to view his artwork and appreciate this talented individual. Also, Watanabe Shiko (1683-1755) deeply admired Korin and you can see the linkage of compositions in the earlier period of Korin.

Shiko, just like Korin before him, may have admired individuals but he also was individualistic. Shiko was also an important bridge because Hoitsu benefitted from this continuity.

Overall, Korin is a very interesting artist and he leaves a rich legacy and today he is rightly remembered in Japan for innovation and creating a new dimension.  Korin’s art can’t be overlooked because he was unique and his art enhances the richness of Japanese art.

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