Nagatoshi OHNISHI (Japan)
Professor Emeritus at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music
For the Ishikawa International Urushi Exhibition 2023
I have been involved in this International Urushi Exhibition as a juror for 34 years since its inauguration, and I would like to express my thoughts about this exhibition and its history in the midst of social changes.
When this exhibition was established, one of the main topics of discussion was how to deal with countries that did not have a lacquer culture. For Japanese people, ‘lacquer’ means urushi, coating/varnishing with the sap of the lacquer tree. For countries without the lacquer tree, where there is a culture of coating objects as a technique, that can be considered as a type of lacquer culture. There are many different types of coating materials, which shows that the act of applying coating layers to objects has a human meaning that has significance particular to its culture. I think, for instance, of the potential in the African continent. This technique is a spiritual act which represents the expression of a specific culture. This aspect was a strong influence on modern artists such as Picasso and Braque.
Unfortunately this year no works have been submitted from Russia, reflecting the international situation. In Russia the Byzantine as well as later Christian cultures have been widely and deeply established since the Byzantine Empire. The tradition of painting icons with layers of varnish spread throughout Eastern Europe to this day. Thus, this technique has had a profound influence on the formation of each culture in terms of both artistry and spirituality. We are very fortunate to be able to receive works from all over the world that have inherited the technique of coating from a variety of cultures. In this way the Ishikawa International Urushi Exhibition serves its purpose. We must expand this initiative. Works submitted from Russia are imbued with their traditional culture and I hope to see Russian works at the next exhibition.