Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Katsue Inoue III

To my mind her work has become more cerebral and perhaps more serious but in her conversation she was the same woman we had always known, a littlesaddened by the death of fine fellow artists such as Mr. Yonejiro Sato, but still bubbling over with new projects and full of news of her work. We learned that in addition to her work on Buddhist temples, she undertakes large, demanding projects in the decoration of hotels and hospitals and that she is giving five days a month to lecturing at the Yomiuri Culture Center. I feel sure that her teaching and lecturing must be of great value as she is a born communicator whether visually in her art, or in her exciting and original ideas and conversation.

Again, I noted an Art Nouveau flavor in many of her images, but yet her work is still entirely up to the moment. We chatted a little about the empty rooms, piles of bricks, pickled sheep, unmade beds and tatty collages etc which pass as 'high art' at the present time but agreed that this kind of stuff was just a transient blip in the long and generally honorable history of art. One cannot but wonder how museums of the future will find lumber rooms big enough to hold all this junk.

The bookplates here illustrated are selected from the wide range of Katsue Inoue's work, some delicate and feminine and others bold and powerful, but as I have previously remarked, Japanese bookplates need to be seen in the originals perhaps more so than the plates of any other country. The choice of the paper (still made by hand in this country of mass production and robotization!) the delicate hand-coloring and the seven varieties of black can be perceived only by the human eye at quite close quarters. An illustration, even in color, can never quite do justice to the original work.

I had some difficulty in following her description of the infinite care and trouble she takes in preparing the black pigments in which she prints her work and her reasons for going to so much trouble. As I listened I was reminded forcibly of the painters of the Renaissance laboriously grinding their lapis lazuli and other mineral products to make those gorgeous colors which no modern paint manufacturer could hope to emulate. Yet this is still part and parcel of Japanese art - - the patient effort to achieve exactly what lives in the mind's eye of the artist.

Though in her active and busy artistic life bookplates can command only a small portion of her attention, I still regard her as one of the outstanding ex libris artists of the present generation.

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