Japanese Ink Paintings

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Japanese Ink Paintings: Descriptions, Distinctions and Culture

All cultures throughout time and history have the important role of art playing out the identity of the culture and the experience of that moment in time. Impressionism, surrealism and realism, among numerous other types of art forms have all played a role in history along with its significant artists behind the art. Looking at Japan, who was greatly influenced by art from China and its significant ink paintings of its past, a whole culture and society, is unraveled through it. Materials and Distinction

Japanese arts have the distinction of being distinct because it uses absolutely identical materials, implements, and media for both drawing and painting (Bowie, 9). Therefore, it is arguable whether Japanese drawings and paintings are either the same thing or, that there is no such thing as a Japanese drawing (Bowie, 9). Either way, these drawings/paintings represent a distinct art form and era in Japanese history as well as art history. The art of these ink drawings involve the use of sumi, which is a charcoal precipitate that is mixed with water and can create visual and textual effects to an unlimited range (Bowie, 10). These ink paintings can also be referred to as sumi-e. The kind of brush that was used was also a wide variety of brushes from large, small, flat or round (Bowie 10). Sumi-e's encompassed a wide variety of materials in which it was presented on. They were seen on whole walls of a reception hall or temple, on sliding door panels known as the fusuma, as well as the hanging scroll that was known as kakemono (Yasuhiro 17). Along with those items, less elaborate items were used such as the hand scroll, makimono, fans, senmenga, and albums, gacho (Yasuhiro, 17). Along with these material items that were used in this art form were also the non-material aspects of the art; the artists' intent and planning of each painting. Subjects were transformed in the mind of each artist using interpretations and feelings that were expressed in each brush stroke (Yasuhiro 18). The artist was known to hold on to his brush until he had determined the intention, composition, and position of each stroke as well as how each stroke would function (Yasuhiro 18). These aspects of the art form truly distinguish Japanese ink paintings. These material and non-material items both work together to create specific and intricately thought out pictures of balance and perfection in Japanese art. Influences from and Differences between China

Although, when looking at a Japanese painting and/or drawing, one can easily lump them into the category of general far east art, since they all gain great influence from China. Japanese art differs aesthetically from that of China and its surrounding neighbors. Japanese paintings show a distinct stylistic perfection that is reflected in balance and asymmetrical compositions (Yasuhiro 13). These characteristics developed with influence from Japanese Buddhist monks who traveled to China (Yasuhiro 20). There was also a flow of Chinese monk refugees who fled to Japan in the 11th century during the Mongol take-over of China (Yasuhiro 20). This also had a huge impact on the development of Japanese paintings in relation to China. The fact that the beginnings of ink painting had the foundation of monks also sets the back drop for the simplicity and the presence of nature and space in much of these drawings; the Zen aspect. The distinction with Japan was that paintings were also focused on Zen patriarchs and famous monks rather than solely focusing on nature as the Chinese did (Yasuhiro 21). When nature further came in to play in the early 15th century, there was presence of strong asymmetry in branches and cliffs, emphasis on image of space as well as height using cliffs or trees (Yasuhiro 23). Yasuhiro emphasizes techniques used and its relation to China:

The sharp definition of the trees and more muted forms of the bamboo...
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