Category Archives: Art

Parasophia: A Major Festival of Art & Culture in Kyoto Starts this Week!

parasophia

Well, this looks interesting, doesn’t it?

Parasophia: Kyoto International Festival of Contemporary Culture 2015
March 7–May 10, 2015

Parasophia: Kyoto International Festival of Contemporary Culture 2015 is the first large-scale international exhibition of contemporary art to be held in Kyoto.  Approximately 40 artists from around the world will participate in the two-month exhibition at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, the Museum of Kyoto, and other locations. Many of these artists will also have taken part in the 700 days before the exhibition, making extended visits to Kyoto for site visits, collaborations, and other research for new works that will be presented at the first exhibition in 2015.

To find out more about the schedule and location of events and exhibitions please visit the official Parasophia site.

Parasophia is also on, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram.

Kyotographie 2015 Crowdfunding Campaign Now Open!

kyotographie 2015

The crowdfunding campaign for Kyotographie 2015 has now begun. This has become a major art event in Kyoto over the last two years. Please lend your support if you can! Here’s the link: https://motion-gallery.net/projects/KYOTOGRAPHIE2015

About Kyotographie:
KYOTOGRAPHIE is a high-end photographic event that runs annually in Kyoto (Japan), for over three weeks during the height of the spring tourist season. With a unique approach in Asia to traditional exhibition, KYOTOGRAPHIE presents world-class photography with original scenography in Kyoto City’s unique traditional and contemporary architecture. Recognized as a distinguished photographic event, the festival successfully proved its significance in 2014 with around 40,000 visitors coming from across the country and overseas.

KYOTOGRAPHIE 2015 – 3rd EDITION, April 18th – May 10th, 2015. Exhibiting widely recognized and celebrated Japanese and international photography from 9 countries in 14 iconic venues.

KYOTOGRAPHIE aims to foster an appreciation of photography as a medium and art form. The festival brings together the international arts community and creates opportunities and events that generate quality exchanges for people of all ages and cultures. In addition to the major festival program the festival also fosters opportunities for emerging photographers through its satellite event KG+.

LINK: http://www.kyotographie.jp

Sumi Workshop Article in Kansai Scene

KS articleThis month, Kansai Scene have been good enough to publish an article I wrote about attending Christine Flint Sato’s sumi ink workshop. In her workshops Christine teaches neither calligraphy nor sumi-e ink painting, but breaks down the techniques used in both of these arts to their simplest and most abstract forms. With a uniquely meditative teaching method she helps her students gain familiarity with the materials and having gained confidence first with essential techniques they can then go on to  tackle more advanced designs. Here’s a clip from the article:

Our lesson did not begin with Chinese characters. “I don’t intend to teach shodō calligraphy, or sumi-e in this workshop, ” Christine said, “It’s more of an encounter with sumi, to see how it reacts with the page…” Then we did stretches, for Christine says that relaxation is key. Having loosened up, we began with the simplest of abstractions: the line. Take a breath, she told us and then as you breath out, let the brush move across the page: “The breath tells us how long to draw the line.” And so the whole room fell into a quiet meditative focus, as each student drew repeated lines across the page. Christine moved among us, offering tips: “Don’t grip the brush too tightly. Relax with the ink.”

Next, we moved onto circles, then squares, then triangles and dots. By focusing on these simple abstract shapes, we were able to familiarize ourselves with the spring of the brush held in different positions and with different pressures and speeds. And when we had fully practiced these basic shapes in different shades of ink, we were given free rein to play with more complex designs and combinations. All the while we were encouraged: let the breath be the brush’s guide. Christine told me that this method of using the breath was something she intuitively came up with. “I wanted to relax into it and get away from the pressure of doing it right”.

Kansai scene coverTo read the full article you can pick up a free copy of Kansai Scene at any of the locations listed here: Kansai Scene Pick-up Points

Or you can wait till next month when the full magazine will be available as a downloadable pdf: Kansai Scene Back Issues

To find out more about Christine Flint Sato visit her website here: http://www.sumiwork.com/

See also my review of Christine’s Sumi Workbook for Kyoto Journal.

The Heiji Monogatari Emaki – Interactive Scroll Now Online

“Few paintings of the period capture the force, confusion, and terror of battle as effectively as does the episode of the burning of the Sanjō Palace in the Heiji monogatari emaki.” – The Encyclopaedia Britannica

Sanjō Palace in flames - a detail from the Heiji Monogatari interactive scrolls from Bowdoin College

Sanjō Palace in flames – a detail from the Heiji Monogatari interactive scrolls from Bowdoin College

One night in January 1160, a band of 500 men stormed the retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa’s palace at Sanjō, took the former emperor captive, killed most of his staff and set the palace ablaze. Go-Shirakawa was carried off to join his son, the reigning Emperor Nijō, who was being held prisoner at The Great Palace. Meanwhile the rebels continued to eliminate their enemies. The coup was brief, effective and bloody.

Soldiers blockaded the [Sanjō] Palace on all four sides and set fire to it. Those who fled out they shot or hacked to death. Many jumped into the wells, hoping that they might save themselves. The ladies-in-waiting of high and low rank and the girls of the women’s quarters, running out screaming and shouting, fell and lay prostrate, stepped on by the horses and trampled by the men. It was more than terrible. No one knows the number of persons who lost their lives. – From “The Burning of the Sanjo Palace” translated by Reischauer & Yamagiwa

Kyoto, in the 12th century, was the setting for an intense power struggle between two samurai clans: the Minamoto and the Taira. The leaders of these clans, Minamoto no Yoshitomo, and Taira no Kiyomori, had once been allies in putting down an earlier rebellion, but a bitter rivalry had developed between them. When Taira no Kiyomori left the capital on a pilgrimage, Minamoto no Yoshitomo saw his chance to seize power, and launched his attack on the Sanjō Palace. Ultimately however, the Taira would return and exact their revenge…

This, in short, is the history of the Heiji Rebellion, a brief civil war that resulted in Taira no Kiyomori’s victory over Yoshitomo and the establishment of Japan’s first samurai led government. History buffs and art lovers alike will be delighted to learn that Bowdoin College has now put online the illustrated 13th century Heiji Monogatari scrolls which depict these events, and in a fully interactive format.

From the Bowdoin website:

“A Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace” provides an excellent introduction to the genre of picture scrolls. The scrolls read from right to left, and all action flows to the left. A few people hurrying flow into a confused throng of warriors and nobles, epitomized by a wayward bystander being crushed by an ox cart. Out of the confusion, attention shifts to the palace, where Fujiwara Nobuyori can be seen ordering the retired emperor into the cart. Wisps of smoke appear, leading to a conflagration at the palace, with hapless supporters of the Taira being killed, and women of the palace attempting, with mixed success, to flee. Gradually order is restored, and a band of warriors, including Fujiwara Nobuyori and his co-conspirator, Minamoto Yoshitomo, surround Go-Shirakawa’s cart in a triumphant procession.

tosa

A detail from the Bowdoin College interactive scroll.

The scroll itself is beautiful. The commentary buttons that explain both the narrative flow and specific images are very helpful. There is also a translation button for the opening portion of the scroll, (quoted above) which introduces the unfolding events. The Bowdoin College site is a great learning tool and a fantastic introduction to this dramatic episode in Kyoto’s history.

You can find it here:
The Heiji Scroll
The Interactive Scroll Viewer

Images from Sanka’s Winter Ritual

On January 25th I attended Sanka’s Winter Ritual; a performance at Urbanguild by the mixed media collective Ensō Watt. Just as  when I attended the Autumn Ritual in October, I was completely enthralled by the mounting energy of this show. It really is a treat to see talented artists from so many varied disciplines blending their abilities so successfully.

At an Ensō Watt performance there are two screens, one poet, and musicians positioned around the room... The audience is bathed in light and sound.

At an Ensō Watt performance there are two screens, one poet, and musicians positioned around the room… The audience is bathed in colour and sound.

Of course, it could have all gone horribly wrong. On the one side you have a classically trained composer and conductor (Yannick Paget), and on the other you have an unruly bunch of experimental musicians, video artists and soundscape technicians (everybody else). You might assume that their natural instincts would pull them in two mutually incompatible directions, and you can easily imagine the resulting riotous blasphemy of chaotic sound and colour that would result. Ensō Watt manages to keep the balance between order and liberty just right however, and I think it is that fine balance, that tension between two compulsions that makes their performances so thrilling.

A limited score gives some structure to the performance, but the rest is improvisation...

A limited score gives some structure to the performance, but the rest is improvisation…

Those experimental artists who are used to playing with complete fresdom, are given a structure in which to contain their genius. The composer/conductor Yannick Paget, who by his training has always played completely fixed and rigid compositions, is suddenly set free to improvise at will. Everyone is playing outside their comfort zone and this provides a sense of adventure.

Yasutaka Okada on contrabass

Yasutaka Okada on contrabass

And all of this is inspired by the mystical refrains of Chris Mosdell’s poetry. His words conjure visions of a people (the semi-legendary Sanka tribe) who are swept up in both dread and ecstatic passion at the most elemental forces of life.

Poetry assaults the senses!

Poetry assaults the senses!

Clearly he is in his element, and  it must be a great joy for the poet that his words have inspired the other artists to produce for this one night a magnificent shimmering sanctuary of light and sound.

The poet too is caught up in the magic of the moment.

The poet too, is caught up in the magic of the moment.

Meanwhile, Yannick Paget throws himself into an enraptured percussive performance, while simultaneously (and most wondrously!) maintaining control over the ritual’s flow by conducting the other musicians. How he does all this is a mystery, but as he banged out the final crescendo of rhythm on the drums, it was all I could do to stop myself from throwing up a horny handed salute! The man might be a classical musician by trade, but at heart he is a rock star!

Yannick in the dark.

Yannick in the dark.

It is unfair though, to single out individuals for special praise in this collective. All of the members are brilliant, and their seamless collective pooling of their talents a remarkable phenomenon that I would encourage you all to see. The next miracle from Ensō Watt, the Rite of Spring will be performed at Urbanguild on April 29th. Mark it down in your diaries.

The ring leaders, left to right: Samuel André, Yannick Paget and Chris Mosdell.

The ring leaders, left to right: Samuel André, Yannick Paget and Chris Mosdell.

To learn more about Ensō Watt and their seasonal rites, visit their website here: http://ensowatt.org/

Stu Gibson Photo Exhibition @ Cafe Foodelica; January 15th – 25th

Our friends at Cafe Foodelica will be hosting an exhibition of Scottish photographer Stu Gibson’s Kyoto images from January 15th to the 25th.

stu

Here’s the schedule of special events:
17th January from 7pm: Stu Gibson Solo Photo Exhibit Opening Party
24th January from 5pm: Stu Gibson Solo Photo Exhibit Meet the Artist event.

Cafe Foodelica is situated near Shugakuin station. Here is a MAP.

For more images of closely observed Kyoto, check out Stu Gibson’s portfolio here: Life Through A Lens.

Sanka’s Winter Ritual: A Mixed Media Performance by Ensō Watt @ Urbanguild; January 25th

I am very excited to learn that Ensō Watt’s Rite of Winter will be performed at Urbanguild on January 25th 2015! This is the third in Ensō Watt’s series celebrating the 100th anniversary of Stravinski’s Rite of Spring.  I attended the Rite of Autumn in October and it was fantastic. Be prepared to be thoroughly immersed in a world of intense colours, poetry, music and myth!

Sanka's winter ritual
Date: Sunday, January 25th
Doors Open:
19:30
Show Starts:
20:00
Tickets on the door:
2600 yen
Tickets in advance:
2000 yen
Student Tickets:
1500 yen
(all tickets include one drink)

About Ensō Watt:
Initiated in 2014 by the sound designer Samuel André, the Ensō Watt artist collective is born in Kyoto from the encounter of artists coming from different countries and raised in entirely different artistic universe, from classical music to electro, improvisation and sound design.

The Seasonal Rites:
A hundred years after Stravinsky’s revolutionary “Rites of Spring,” the members of this artistic collaboration pursue the experience-cum-experiment by focusing on Japan’s seasonal cycles, especially celebrated by the little-known mountainous tribe, the Sanka.

The Show:
The music is inspired by the poetry of Chris Mosdell; it navigates between improvisation and conducted improvisation live by Yannick Paget, based on scored music’s elements. The performers, positioned in the audience, generate an immersive, musical surround-experience (broadcast on 4 speakers). More than just a musical experiment, the event is also shot live via a series of 6 cameras, and is processed and projected on 2 screens during the performance.

city that silk builtThe Poet:
Incidentally, the poet Chris Mosdell has just released a wonderful bilingual book of poems written in Kyoto entitled The City That Silk Built. Chris was kind enough to send me a copy and though I haven’t had time to look at it properly yet, what I have seen looks marvellous. I shall review it in good time, but for now, you can take a look at it on Amazon.co.jp.

For more information on the show:
Press contact: Marguerite Paget: mgtpaget[at]gmail.com / 090 6556 1974
Event coordination: Samuel André: sandre.constellation[at]gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ensowatt?fref=ts

See also the following sites:
Chris Mosdell: http://chrismosdell.com/
Yannick Paget: http://www.yannickpaget.com/
Samuel André: http://p0llenrec.tumblr.com/ https://soundcloud.com/ieva
Ensō Watt: http://ensowatt.org/
Urbanguild: http://www.urbanguild.net/ 

And my short review of the last Ensō Watt performance here: Pictures from Sanka’s Autumn Ritual by Ensō Watt

Handel’s Messiah ~ The 50th Christmas Concert from Doshisha

Every year Doshisha University puts on a Christmas performance of Handel’s masterpiece, “Messiah”, at Kyoto Concert Hall and this year is the 50th!

Messiah
The annual All Doshisha Messiah Concert is hugely popular with members of the local community, as well as with the students, graduates, teachers and staff of Doshisha…. All the performers do their best to make it a Christmas to remember.

All Doshisha Messiah Concert 24th December 2014
Doors open: 17:00
Show begins: 18:00
(B seats open from 16:30)

Place: Kyoto Concert Hall [Access]
Tickets:
S seats [Should be reserved in advance]:2000円
A seats [Should be reserved in advance]:1500円
B seats [Can be bought on the day]:1000円

Tickets can be bought via
Ticket Pia: TEL 0570-02-9999 http://t.pia.jp/(Pコード 243-954)
Kyoto Concert Hall Ticket Agency: TEL 075-711-3090
Doshisha University Co-operative: TEL 0774-65-8376
Or reserved online: here.

Inquiries (in Japanese) to:
All Doshisha Messiah Concert Committee (全同志社メサイア演奏会実行委員会) TEL 080-3864-2412 (Ibuki)
E-mail: doshisha.messiahconcert2014@softbank.ne.jp

Please check the Christmas Concert website for further details (Japanese): https://alldoshishamessiah.net

Bliki Circus Are Back on Stage at Urbanguild on December 18th!!

After a two year hiatus – Bliki Circus are back!

Bliki flyer

Bliki Circus is an acoustic gypsy/punk group in Kyoto, Japan. Their music is reminiscent of traditional folk music from Japan, Eastern Europe and Russia, spiced with touches of Klezmer, tango, jazz, rock, and punk, and whatever else comes up.

If you have seen Bliki Circus before, you know you are ensured a great night out! If you haven’t, take my word for it! Don’t miss this show if you get the chance!

Date: Thursday December 18th
Doors Open: 18:30
Show Starts: 19:00
Charge: 2000 yen
Tickets in Advance: 1800 yen
All tickets include one drink order.

Location: UrBANGUILD. From Sanjo Dori go down Kiyamachi Dori. This is the narrow street running alongside Takase stream. Urbanguild is on the east side (left hand side as you walk down from Sanjo). Walk approximately 150 metres. Its on the 3rd floor of the New Kyoto Building – access by elevator or stairs. Here is a MAP.

bliki flyer reverse
See also: Images and Sound from Bliki Circus

Whisper of the Land – Visions of Japan: Ed Levinson Talk & Book Signing

Here’s an upcoming event of interest hosted by Cafe Foodelica.

kyoto-event-1

Edward Levinson is an American photographer and writer living in Japan for 35 years. He will be speaking about his approach to photography, writing, and life with visual examples and readings from his new book of essays “Whisper of the Land”. The talk will be mainly in English with a little Japanese as necessary. Signed copies of his books will be available for purchase. http://www.edophoto.com/

Date & Time: Sunday December 14th 16:00–18:00
Admission: ¥1000, including coffee or tea and snack.
RSVP to 075-703-5203 or foodelica[at]gmail.com by December 13th, 8pm please.
foodelica.com

ed pic