11 Dec 2008

Last days

To close this period of the blog, here are some photos from Kyoto.  This is the Golden Pavilion.

This is the famous Zen garden, called Ryoan-ji and surrounding gardens.

This is the budo centre in the centre of Kyoto and I was very pleased to see many people wearing hakama, obviously on their way to training.  From the kit bags that were being carried, I suspect naginata training was about to start.

Here are some images from the side streets of Kyoto.

Here is the ryokan I stayed in, which beats a Western hotel any day.  There is something quite unique about sleeping on tatami mats and after a long day walking around in the rain and biting wind, the cosiness and austerity of the ryokan was exactly what was needed.

On Sunday I went to Shukoin Temple which is part of Myoshinji Temple.  Myoshinji Temple is where Suzuki had many discussions regarding Zen buddhism and is seen as the place Rinzai Zen emerged from.  This is Takafumi Kawakami, the vice abbot of the Temple who showed me Rinzai Zen's way of doing zazen.  Here he is holding the kaiseki, which is used to strike monks on the shoulders at certain pressure points if they are getting sleepy, or their posture breaks during zazen.  I enjoyed my time at Shunkoin as I was the only one there, which made it feel even more special. 

Here is the Temple's garden.  This garden, as with any proper Zen garden is a direct reflection of something in nature.  This particular garden is a reflection of Heian shrine. It also has two bushes within the garden which represent the two Shinto creator gods, Izanami and Izanagi. He also explained how Shinto and Buddhism merged so well; Shinto did not have any standard ethical or moral precepts, whereas Buddhism did.  So, when the two 'religions' met, they married together quite easily.

He then showed me a room which was painted about 350-400 years ago, representing the four virtues of Confucianism.

I spoke with him about my interest in wabi sabi and he then led me into a room which was not usually shown to the public.  Here we did a very informal tea ceremony, or chado, which was very beautiful and profound. I feel that this time at the Temple has been one of the most personally transformative moments of my time in Japan and seemed to concretise the trip.

So, today is my final day on Awaji island.  I sat and watched the sunset and reflected on my experience, both in learning moku hanga and also how philosophically my ideas have shifted since leaving London.  I will be sad to leave, but am now part of the 'Nagasawa family' as Keiko-san said earlier today.  I have also been invited back in 2010 for a conference on moku hanga, which I am excited about.  I am now looking ahead to the future and am excited about the potential for moku hanga in my work.  It will be interesting to see how the next year or so unfolds.

4 Dec 2008

There and back again..

After a radical re-think of the triptych, I decided that what had been printed so far was too based in representation and in a sense not at all the meditative images I wanted to achieve [not as a triptych anyway].  It was as if I was resolving the work for the viewer. I wanted to remove my 'opinions' from within the work and make it more reflective.  So, here are the finished pieces, which I am happy with.  I created two more kimonos and then inspired by the tokonoma zen scrolls, which hang in alcoves during the tea ceremony and other places such as ryokans, mounted them on paper with three different, barely visible landscapes sitting at the bottom edge.  I like the geometry of the final pieces and look forward to seeing them framed. They will be in a show in Japan next year and then maybe Russia the year after that.

Tomorrow I am going to Kyoto for four days.  On Sunday I am going to Shunkoin Temple to do zazen meditation and take part in the tea ceremony. I am really looking forward to this and it will be a nice personal farewell to Japan.  I have decided to not plan very much apart from that one trip and instead let Kyoto itself guide me round.  I am not going with any expectations and I think this is a good plan.  That way, anything can happen and probably will.

My mind is starting to think about home once more and hopefully inspiring people at work and elsewhere to try moku hanga.  Out of all the printing techniques I have learnt, this is by far the most challenging, but, I think, the most diverse in terms of end result.  The iridori inks I have been using are very different to regular watercolour pigment, so that has provided an extra challenge. It will be interesting to see what happens when I get back to the Royal Academy after Christmas and I look forward to seeing everyone there again.

29 Nov 2008

Autumnal shades

Asa and I went for a quiet walk today, to take in the Autumnal shift in colour.  It was a reminder that I do not have long left in Japan and the chill in the air reminded me of home. 

27 Nov 2008

Kokoro 2

Here is the last image in the tryptych.  This one is number two.  First, I started with a grey square double printed.

I then added a second layer, which had two colours.  A strip at the top, two blocks of grey and a bokashi-like element halfway down.

I then added a third layer, which had three colours.  Firstly, the gold kanji running down the centre. I also embossed this layer.  A blue layer which went over the grey layer, two silver squares which are also embossed and finally a gold line at the top within the blue block of colour.

All very mysterious, until it is folded into a kimono. Then the colours make sense.  This was a bit tough to work out technically, but it seems to capture the austerity I was after with this final image.  The kanji reads 'mime yori kokoro', or in English, the spirit [or heart] is more important than appearance.

26 Nov 2008


I have recently been taking pictures of the sunsets here in the mountains for documentary purposes as living in London doesn't provide anywhere near this kind of colour array. The sun is at its most spectacular at 4.30pm, when it starts to sink down over the horizon.  The days here pass so quickly that it is important for me to not only notice my progress in printmaking, but also the surrounding environs.  Winter has arrived, the nights are drawing in and over on the far mountain a shower of red is emerging as the maple trees start their descent into sleep. Over the last three days I have taken 150 pictures of the sunset.  Here are a few of these beautiful, temporal moments that I hope will stay with me for a long time. These are all taken from my view out of the studio window.