Traditional Japanese ink-wash painting at the Adamson-Eric Museum

Art Museum of Estonia
Adamson-Eric Museum

Press release no.43
21 March 2013

From Friday, 22 March, the exhibition Sumi-e. Traditional Japanese Ink-Wash Painting will be on display at the Adamson-Eric Museum. The exhibition introduces one of the most ancient and delicate forms of Japanese traditional art: ink-wash painting. The exhibition presents the works of Japanese artists who are members of the International Sumi-e Association, and includes both the enchanting developments of classical thematic approaches and interpretations of the modern world. The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue, a series of events to introduce the various facets of Japanese culture, and an educational programme for students.

“It is a great pleasure to continue the Adamson-Eric Museum’s tradition of introducing Japanese art with the opening of this exhibition,” said Kersti Koll, one of the curators of the exhibition. “Since 2000, five different projects have taken place here, and they have been extremely well-received by the Estonian public.”

Ink-wash painting (sumi-e) is one of the principal and most characteristic forms of Japanese art; it is born on paper through the combined impact of ink and water. By executing numerous shade nuances in ink using masterful brush techniques and playing with the contrasts between images and shadows, as well as the eloquent emptiness on the surface of the pictures, the sumi-e artist creates a sensitive field of meaning, which also leaves the viewer with ample room for thought. The specifics of ink-wash painting do not allow that which has been created to be changed or reworked. Technically, this requires great skill and mental concentration on the part of the artist.

The ancient painting technique, which arrived in Japan from China along with Zen Buddhism as one of the components of its cultural influence, was quickly adapted to the Japanese aesthetic and became one of the principal forms of expression of Japanese art. The early sumi-e masters were Zen Buddhist monks, who practised ink-wash painting primarily as a form of spiritual meditation. The Zen masters dedicated years to this art, which requires very intensive mental concentration to achieve supreme clarity. In time, sumi-e became more worldly and decorative. In the 20th century, many of the principles of sumi-e served as sources of inspiration for Western modernist art.

“Everyone is capable of learning the basic techniques of ink-wash painting, but even drawing one line requires concentration and attentiveness. A master’s brush stroke is like the stroke of a sword: sensitive and precise, beautiful in its completeness,” added Taimi Paves, the other curator of the exhibition and a representative of the Ars Orientalis Society.

The purposeful preservation and development of ancient art traditions and skills as national treasures, and passing them on from master to student, are characteristic of Japanese culture. For the promotion and popularisation of this ancient art idiom of East Asia, the International Sumi-e Association was founded in 1999 in Tokyo, on the initiative of Katori Kinsui. Its members can be found in Japan, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea and other Asian countries, as well as in Africa, Australia, the United States and Europe. The network of the Association’s branches and members is constantly expanding. The Association operates a school that teaches ink-wash painting and organises exhibitions, workshops and courses in Japan and elsewhere in the world.

On 22 March at 2 pm and 5 pm, sumi-e workshops will take place at the Adamson-Eric Museum, and they will be supervised by the Japanese artists Katori Miho, Sekiguchi Mariko, Tahara-Lundh Yumiko, Kamataki Emi and Motoyama Michiko (of the International Sumi-e Association).

The exhibition is accompanied by events introducing various aspects of Japanese culture:

Educational programmes for children will take place throughout the exhibition period.

Sumi-e. Traditional Japanese Ink-Wash Painting has been organised in cooperation with the International Sumi-e Association, the Ars Orientalis Society and the Adamson-Eric Museum. The exhibition is sponsored by the Estonian Ministry of Culture and the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

The designer of the exhibition is Andres Tolts, the graphic designer is Külli Kaats, and the masters are Uve Untera and Aleksander Josing. The exhibition catalogue was designed by Inga Heamägi.

Sumi-e. Traditional Japanese Ink-Wash Painting will be on view at the Adamson-Eric Museum until 2 June 2013.

More information:
Kersti Koll
Exhibition Curator
Adamson-Eric Museum
Tel. +372 5813 6012; +372 644 5838

Taimi Paves
Exhibition Curator
Ars Orientalis
Tel. +372 5667 3448
Adamson-Eric Museum

Lühike jalg 3, Tallinn 10130