Transcending the Past
Kokyo Hatanaka, a Japanese Nihonga artist, has brought a 1,000-year-old art tradition to India to commemorate 60 years of India-Japan relations.
When 65-year-old Japanese artist and historian Kokyo Hatanaka says that he makes paintings from natural pigments, one cannot help but take them for something similar to cave paintings of the prehistoric era. Stylised figures of humans and animals, these paintings are still found deeply set in the cavities of caves, characterised — among other things — by colours made of natural pigments such as flowers, mud, stones and so on.
The art form that Hatanaka indulges in is called Nihonga and appears to be an extension of the practice. Yet, as Hatanaka takes out transparent bottles full of glittery colours, they appear nothing like what the cavemen would've used. Instead of the rough smearing or dabbing, the works project delicate specimens — ethereal as the natural colours shimmer in light, with fine lines. Commemorating 60 years of Indo-Japan diplomatic relations, Kyoto-based Hatanaka has brought more than a 1,000-year-old art tradition of Nihonga to India for the first time at an exhibition titled "Kokyo Hatanaka: Japanese Style Paintings Exhibition", which opened on Monday at All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS).
The two galleries that house 23 works by Hatanaka, resonate a sense of peace: there's Mother Teresa, a young Dalai Lama in 1981 in a piece titled The 14th Dalai Lama, Gautam Buddha looking on at a distant sun, and even Mahatma Gandhi's The Salt Satyagraha, sprawled across a 165 x 1092 cm wide Japanese screen. "I'm a Buddhist and hence, one can spot a constant message of peace and non-violence in my works," says the artist.
The term Nihonga was coined during the Meiji period in Japan (1868-1912) and involves use of natural pigments, a lot of which are made by Hatanaka at home. For instance, a work titled Scattering Flowers is made on a Japanese screen and has celestial nymphs dressed in white saris , who are scattering flowers. With carbon black for hair and agate powder for skin, they sit against 24-carat gold leaf dusting on silk.
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