Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The work of a geniune Master

This is a very special piece of work in iron. The maker, Kano Natsuo, is one of, if not the, most celebrated of Japanese artists who worked in metal. He was the first professor of metal work at the Tokyo Art school and was appointed as an artist to the Imperial Court. He died in 1898.

This little treasure is less than 4cm across and is carved in iron with the little bird inlaid in gold. The bowl is lacquered zitan wood. There is an almost identical version held by the Boston Museum of Fine Art. The design shows a partial view of the head of the great Buddha at Kamakura. I still marvel at the gentleness of the modelling and the serenity that the face conveys...and all that in such a reduced space.

If you stop and consider that this is entirely carved and finished by hand I hope you can begin to get a sense of just how masterful these great artists really were. As is often the case with these miniature masterpieces, photographs present but a pale imitation of the real thing.


Lorenzo said...

Can't stop to watch the upper part of that eye. About past times artist, i usually wonder if part of their talent or of the quality of the pieces produced was because they had more time to dedicate to jobs. Nowaday everything is just to run and make it cheap; what will happen to us going on this way?

Ford Hallam said...

Hi Lorenzo,

you've hit the nail on the head... time is exactly our biggest obstacle. We need to learn to work in our own sense of time rather than have even our own heartbeats controlled by someone else's rushing timetable. I don't mean that we must all slow down and act like we are on holiday but that we must be in control of the whole area surrounding what we are trying to create.

Often, when I'm deeply involved with a job I get so intense that I have to calm the passion and control that drive, so it can work the other way too.

We need to find that delicate balance of concentration, dedication and passion.

In answer to your last question, I'd say that we will end up living in an ever more superficial and ugly world. We need to regain those very qualities that make us most humane...perhaps our work here can show one way to get in touch with that.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion an artist can only respond to his audience and the society he lives in.
The audience will get the artwork and artists which it had deserved. Its all a matter of taste. From that point of view it seems the audience in past times had a better taste.

Ford Hallam said...

Oh Bugger!, Karl. I knew I was born too late...:-(
I must believe though, that it is possible to work from within one's own vision, perhaps stand outside of the mainstream contemporary art scene and still manage to engage with people. These "people" would then be your audience, the people who can understand, or at least appreciate the language you choose to communicate in.

I refuse to have my personal aesthetic dictated to me by an "art establishment" that has stolen control of our choices in this regard. I think we live in unique times in that we have so much of an overview of the planet, it's history and cultural trends etc, that we can, each of us, claim our own space, make our own references and decide for ourselves exactly what our artistic concerns are.

We are sovereign individuals and we can claim the autonomy that comes with that status.

Anonymous said...

Of course you are right, no one dictates what kind of art you (or myself) should do.
There were always artists off the mainstream.(often regarded later as "the real artists") While taking time and patience in producing such like works it might be seen as a statement for a somewhat more human world.
But in respect to the fine work of Natsuo one must admit that he was welcomed by his clientele and such encouragement might help the artist in doing what he does. Do you think Michelangelo would ever had produced masterpieces like the Medici tombs or the Sistine Chapel without being welcomed by his clients?

Ford Hallam said...

Hi Karl,

That's it really...we're all looking for our Medici's. A patron who will allow us to realise our fullest expression. Well, we can dream...and hope;-)