Saturday, August 17, 2013

D Minus 31 Days

I'm leaving Japan on September 17, arriving back home in Nelson on the 18th. The South Island had better stop shaking by then; Nelson hasn't been affected much in the recent shakes, but Seddon (part of Marlborough) and Wellington have been, a little. And not around here in Yokohama, but yes further north.

I've tried to keep myself busy, weaving when it's tolerably hot (i.e. cooler than, say 32C?) in the mornings and up to a couple of hours. I've also dabbled in dying, using up Mom's gazillion dye stuff and scrap/leftover fabric. The first batch came out a fabulous indigo by mixing three partly-used Dylon tins, (more saturated than in this pic;) alas a color never to be repeated. The second lot, I mixed two blues and one green, hoping this, too, would turn out indigo-y but it was much greener. Most of these, I've twisted the fabric using chopsticks or rubber bands; instant, painless, but kind of fun.
The one with the visible pattern was "natural" color with translucent check and floral print; I've always been interested in dyeing fabric with visual interest already, e.g. embroidery, nearly-invisible print, or different fiber contents, and this one worked well. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all these scraps; I'll take them home and will make something; these are cold-dyed with fixative, left outside in the sun/heat in a metal urn for a day, and rinsed, rinsed, rinsed, but not exactly color-fast. 

I've been stitching one piece of fabric for a while, (handwoven undyed Indian cotton check; stitching is a slow process, isn't it?). I want to dye it, take out/add stitching and dye again, and apply perhaps three colors. I'm not sure how it'll work out, but I'm trying not to plan/predict much and just work, as with my collage postcards. There is also a hand-woven plain Indian cotton shawl Mom was going to throw away; I saved this, too, but because stitching takes so long, I think I'll go with twist-dye.

I've been avoiding the "Cubism" conundrum. I have to go to Session 4 tomorrow, and I'm not sure what I'll do; I'll have to look over my notes and do some more practice tonight...

I went to a couple of interesting "art"/architecture places. The first is Maruki Gallery, of which I had never head until I learned of the Yamamoto Sakubei exhibition. It was out in the boondocks and with one big and one minor train accidents en route it took me six hours. But Marukis' anti-war (not just Hiroshima) paintings were SO big and impressive. I didn't like the horribly dark, (both visually and in theme,) Hiroshima panels, but sat with The Rape of Nanjing (right top) and Auschwitz/Oświęcim (second from the top) for a while; both had some colors and "space" where the eyes could rest rather than just be bombarded by painful images.

Yamamoto's coal mine paintings were registered as UNESCO Memory of the World a while ago; I only heard of Yamamoto a month ago. His work, along with several other painters and photographers, were more like picture records, brightly colored paintings/illustrations with descriptions of the mining process, equipment, social context, etc. He painted the same scenes over and over to improve the text and graphics. I've recorded a doco on Yamamoto I haven't watched, but I'm not sure if he considered himself an artist; I get the feeling he saw himself, a former miner, more as a witness.

I also went to this architecture park. A few years ago when Ben and I went to this museum, I found a postcard of House W7 to my surprise; it was just one of the many houses I walked past every morning on my way to school in the 60's and 70's. I love architecture parks, (Meiji Village is the most famous in Japan - I went there in the mid-90's,) and in the scorching sun I walked around and went into every house we're allowed to, for four hours. Not a lot of pics, I'm afraid; it was really hot and terrible, but here are a couple of storage solutions used in a stationary shop from the 1870's.
And the inside of a rebuilt public bath, the women's side. Mt Fuji is always on the men's side!
I've been reading about van Gogh. I got one version of his letters, in Japanese, but I found another, newer translation, and will probably get it before I leave. Then, at the architecture park, what did I find?
An exhibition in Hiroshima, 52 works, from his "missing" Paris years. Goodness, Hiroshima is, oh, perhaps five hours away from my house and Ben and I didn't go into the van Gogh Museum when we were in Amsterdam a decade ago because we were flabbergasted by the admission fee translated into NZ$. It was probably less than a round-trip Bullet train fair and one night's accommodation, but I'm going; it's less expensive than going to Amsterdam after the museum's refurbishment.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Since the Last Post - Part II - Revised

I went to a workshop which was supposed to be about watercolor pencils techniques. We learned two: draw-then-wash and wash-then-draw, and the remainder of the time was spent drawing still-life-on-bad-tablecloth in that fiddly, fussy, color pencil way. Yikes. I could have asked for help; the teacher was a lovely young chap, but I didn't know what to ask. I did spot his brush that contained oh-so-much water, though, and proceeded to the art supply shop to get one; I can justify it because we do washes in Ronette's class.

Meguro Art Gallery, a small Tokyo public place Ben and I fell in love with in November 2011, had another small but worthwhile exhibition on paper and shapes, which I enjoyed; I also found out about a calculated and folded paper exhibition, (in the vogue now, yes?) now on my list.
I went to another small gallery, Matsuoka, for supposedly a small Impressionist exhibition; this was ho-hum for me; too few artists represented, (almost) all landscapes in dark colors, blah blah, but there was an unfinished Monet that had a few colors of undercoat in shapes which we could see would have turned into sea/sky/cloud/cliff/trees. Their Vessels and Shapes Permanent Collection exhibition was more interesting and I was attracted to the old Persian ware.

I've received some kind emails about my collage postcards from some of the recipients. They are simple and unplanned and I'm not sure what I'm doing but then I don't worry about them, either. I usually work on them in two sittings, then look over each one on the third and either address them right away or work a tiny bit more then send them. Most have no themes or messages, but once in a while something pops up.

There seems to be a problem with the glues I've tried, so I got this gel medium, but I've never used these and the art supply shop manager warned me this is sticky. Yikes.

And the rest of the time, I've been working on and worrying about my Cubism class project. Now I've got to go look at my notes to see what's what there.

* * * * *

Forgot to tell you I went to another session of figure drawing croquis on Monday. I still love the class format: the model poses, we draw, and in 150 minutes class time, we get 120 minutes, (4 * 20 min, 2 * 10 min, and 4 * 5 min,) of drawing time, with one 20 min break. The teacher is groovy, but he's gung-ho on us drawing proportionately and accurately; he actually told one student she's just "making things up," so I'm glad I didn't sign up for the weekly class. Still might go one more time on the first Monday in September.
See what I mean? It's so wrong when drawing after drawing I get from head to toes on one sheet of relatively small, (called F6 around here,) paper, though he did catch me reluctant to draw the head with this model.

Since the Last Post - Part I

By which I mean, since the second last post... But in no particular order...

Ben had a gum infection which first manifested itself as a headache, near-40C fever and shakes on the weekend. Luckily, his gum was inflamed by Monday morning so he went straight to the dentist, who prescribed him a five-day course of two antibiotics. (I've never two at once; you?) Things were iffy until yesterday afternoon but today he says he's well, and is back at work. Phew. If it's true.
I finished my two navy pieces and dislike them. The main reason is the bad warp tension, which I was aware of winding and rewinding thrice on the soft loom sans a raddle with various ad hoc, not-so innovative tension systems. I wind back-to-front at home, originally because of how the looms are set up and where the space is in the workshop, but now out of habit, but I never realized how much I owe the humble tool that is the raddle. I've been genuflecting in my mind ever since.

Because of the inconsistent warp tension, I wove the two pieces under much lower tension than I normally would, (same cashmere yarns and the same EPI as home), and beat much lighter. All this, mixed with the drafts I concocted, (shafts lifted come in clusters, so greater draw-in,) resulted in selvages no self-respecting weaver would photograph or post; warped, "un-true" appearance of the squares of the design, and, get this, an staggeringly soft and airy hand that should come with all of my cashmere pieces. The teal weft is a much thicker cashmere, (I daresay of inferior quality to their other yarns,) which wove quickly and added heft; the contrast in the sheen in the blue cashmere and white cash/silk worked well. I'm trying to figure out how to keep this hand, while weaving unwobbly-ly (??) on my looms in the future.
 I wanted to weave another with the Mame/Pea Shibori draft, so I tied my next, white, warp and am weaving with a light gray warp. My kind of combo. Plus, tying-winding gave the warp more even tension, so this one is weaving more quickly and evenly so far. I shall rethread to weave the Snowflake draft after this. 

* * * * *

Forgive me, friends, It's been thirteen days since my second last post, and in that time I didn't weave or get involved with weaving much. And I blame the Cubism class, but more on that in another post as I have to figure out what I have learned and how to describe it/them.

I have been to a few exhibits and floor talks, read two books, and studied several artists' paintings in some details, (i.e. better than just glancing,) thanks to's used book section.

By far the best, and so unexpectedly good, exhibition has been the Surrealism exhibition at Sompo Japan/Togo Seiji Art Museum. This museum was founded when Togo Seiji donated all his artwork before his death, which numbered over 800. Togo was famous in Japan in his lifetime, among other things for his female figures used in packaging for a Yokohama bakery, (the current one is "sharper" with more hues than the wrapping paper I collected in the 60's,) and later for his leadership in the Japanese art (painting) community. Sompo Japan, an insurance company, made world (art) news when they bought one of the Sunflowers in 1987/8 and this is what I wanted to see, but here, you have to go into the "main" exhibition at the end of which are their small permanent collection room. (Not sure why they don't show more of Togo Seiji paintings.)

So, Surrealism. Dali. Yikes. But their admission isn't expensive. I'll live. I thought.

I think Sompo aims to interest the young without patronizing them. The exhibition was organized by techniques used in the first instance, and by clusters of friends and regions in the second and the  blurbs on the walls were intelligent, informative, but not overlong. I was surprised how many Surrealist names I recognized, (Japan loves Impressionism, but we must, Surrealism, as well;) most pleased most of the artwork were owned by smaller regional galleries in this country, and that they had only one Dali as far as I can recall. It wasn't a big exhibition, but I spent two hours reading everything and trying to understand.

And then I sat and gazed at the Sunflowers for three-quarters of an hour. I don't know what it is about Vincent van Gogh's paintings, but I'm now "getting" that one can sit in front of one and be transported to an unknown place. There was a Gauguin and a Cézanne, too; Gauguin looked good from some distance; Cézanne was too dark and sad.

I was hoping to go see a fashion award exhibit near Sompo, but ran out of time and so I ran through the underground passages to get on the metro and get to 21_21 for a lecture.  It was supposed to be about colors, but in fact, was about how Vincent admired and copied Millet. Perfect for me; I jumped up and down in my mind. Coincidentally I had been reading a less convincing book on how Vincent admired Rembrandt and tried to "reveal the soul in self-portraits, like the older master, using different techniques." The author is a literature specialist first, and then a writer on Rembrandt, so I can't help feeling a bit suspicious he used the Dutch link to sell books. Old Vince has always been tremendously popular in Japan.

The third time I went to 21_21 was with Mom and two of her students, to hear Dai Fujiwara speak. He appeared to be a lovely, energetic man, but this was a exhibit tour, and having seen it in detail twice already, I didn't learn a whole lot of new or background stories. Still, it was lovely to be in the presence of the man who brought so many different techniques and people together. He stuck around for quite a while afterwards, but I was too chicken to speak to him. I couldn't think of anything. And I didn't want to ask a question for the sake of asking questions, you know.
He's very animated, the venue was dark, and I'm short. LOL. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Everybody Needs a Fish Purse

Especially during a hot, humid summer.
Though you don't have to don a wavy blue top and navy shoes, just for me, like this young woman.

I haven't been too slack, all things considered, but have been too hot and bothered to stay near a laptop for long. I promise I shall update you soon, more for my record than for your weaverly interest, about a bad warp done, another one started, and all the funny goings-on in the new faux-Cubism universe.For now, I'm off to draw more naked ladies, though on days like this, naked is not a bad idea.