Japanese wood-carvings on display

Update: January, 25/2018 - 09:00
Tactile: Mindscape
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — A unique exhibition will introduce Japanese contemporary wood-carvings in the netsuke tradition, a technique used since the Edo period (1603-1868).

Entitled Contemporary Wood-Carved Netsuke, the exhibition presents 65 works by contemporary netsuke carvers and artists. A netsuke is a non-slip toggle that has long been used to secure the small personal items such as money pouches, inro-medicine containers or tobacco containers worn suspended on cords from the obi sash worn with the kimono.

The exhibition is co-held by the Japan Foundation Centre for Cultural Exchange in Việt Nam and the Japanese embassy in Việt Nam in celebration of the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Việt Nam this year.

Small: Untitled

These practical objects were created by and for the common people. As Western clothing was adopted from the Meiji period (1868-1911) on, however, netsuke disappeared from daily life in Japan.

Meanwhile, with the interest in Japonisme in Europe and America in the late nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, netsuke came to be exported in large numbers and were highly regarded as art or craft objects in other countries.

In Japan, meanwhile, some netsuke enthusiasts and carvers managed to keep the tradition alive. Since the 1970s, a new genre, contemporary netsuke, has taken shape, inspired by new sensibilities and ideas.

Smell ya later: Tengu’s nose

Today, contemporary netsuke carvers continue to ply their craft, steadily producing new works. This exhibition focuses on contemporary netsuke. The exhibition organisers hope that visitors will explore the subtle and highly artistic skills and playfulness embodied in netsuke and consider the practicality and charm of netsuke today.

The netsuke has been called a tactile craft. The Japanese word nare refers to changes that arise over time from actually touching the netsuke; the nare are regarded as a distinctive resonance that makes netsuke rich and vital. To communicate the essence of the netsuke, this exhibition also includes works that visitors can actually pick up and hold in the palms of their own hands.

She’s a lady: Woman entertainer. Photos courtesy of Japan Foundation Centre for Cultural Exchange

"It is our hope that visitors will experience the warmth characteristic of natural wood and the beauty lodged in netsuke with the passage of time," said Cao Huy Miên Nhã, an organiser.

"This exhibition is designed so that people, regardless of time or place, can savor tactile encounters with others and think of them through these works. We hope that as it tours, netsuke will take on a new practical role as a ‘toggle’, connecting Japan and the world".

The exhibition’s curator is Taishu Komatsu, director of Akita Senshu Museum of Art in Japan. The exhibition will run until March 15 at 27 Quang Trung Street, Hà Nội. — VNS