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Exhibition Closing: Journey to the Interior: Ink Painting from Japan

  • Saint Louis Art Museum 1 Fine Arts Drive St. Louis, MO 63110 (map)

Last Day to view Journey to the Interior: Ink Painting from Japan | Galleries 225 | FREE

Journey to the Interior: Ink Painting from Japan is a spotlight installation of six works that illustrate Zen and literati painting. Ink, from compressed wood soot and glue, is a fundamental medium in East Asian painting. The absence of colored pigments challenged the artist’s ability to express form, depth, light, shade, and a sense of movement. Ink painting demanded a steady hand; unlike oil painting, once a stroke is executed, it cannot be wiped off. Established in China from the second half of the eighth century, ink painting did not take root in Japan until the late Kamakura period (1185–1333) with renewed exchange with continental Asia.

Buddhist monasteries incorporated calligraphy and ink painting into their religious and vocational practices. The installation will feature a pair of six-panel folding screens by Zen priest Kakutei Jôkô (1721–1785) painted with flowers and plants of the seasonal calendar in striking monochrome. This screen demonstrates the instrumental role of the artist in the transfer of idealist paintings from China to Japan. Journey to the Interior will also feature three landscape hanging scroll paintings which illustrate the development of literati ideals mid to late nineteenth century. Fascinated by China but forbidden by law to travel abroad, Japanese painters prided themselves on their mastery of Chinese calligraphy, poetry, and brushwork techniques. Literati culture extended into other forms of Japanese culture well into the twentieth century as illustrated by the Flower Basket in the Form of a Boat by Maeda Chikubōsai (1872-1950). The works of art featured in Journey to the Interior have never been on view together and some pieces have not been on view in over a decade.

Journey to the Interior: Ink Painting from Japan is curated by Rhiannon Paget, A.W. Mellon Fellow for Japanese Art in the Department of Asian Art.