The Slaby Sisters: Johnna Slaby (painter) and Reylia Slaby (photographer) are pleased to present their first joint exhibition at the Intercontinental Hotel Osaka until July 31.. The exhibition features five pieces from each of their collections, and will be shown. Reylia and Johnna Slaby, twins, were born and raised in Osaka, Japan.
From a young age theywere free to explore and play within different facets of the art world. They began to develop a strong relationship with both Japanese and Western art, inadvertently creating their own fusions within the juxtaposing styles.
Johnna Slaby is an abstract artist born and based in Osaka, Japan. Originally on the road to becoming a classical pianist, her career took a sudden turn when shediscovered urban sketching and fell in love with the rough lines, textures and the different ways of representing life. She made the transition from sketching to abstract painting from 2014. She currently experiments with incorporating physical objects and coffee (literally) into her work, creating pieces that start conversations of culture and the beauty in our everyday lives.
Reylia Slaby-Fine Art Photographer
Having been born and raised in Japan, Reylia Slaby uses the influences from her unusual upbringing as the main theme in her artwork. Her photos are a rich blend of the Japanese aesthetic, and is greatly revealing of her personal experiences and thought. Her desire is to weave all the different aspects of her life into her art. She strongly believes in an empirical body of work, and is adamant when it comes to adding an individual and unique meaning to each image. Photography entered her life as a gradient. Originally a semi-professional graphite pencil artist, Reylia made a gradual switch to photography around her teen years, and then discovered fine art photography in 2012. It instantly struck a chord, and she knew that she had finally found her ideal outlet of self-expression, and for years immersed herself in the fine art world though books, online sources, and other artist’s work that inspired and moved her.
About the space:
STRESSED patisserie is proud to present fine works of art on periodic exhibition. Having invited leading artists locally and from around the world to display their outstanding works at STRESSED, the patisserie has become a gallery of fine art with paintings and prints displayed and on sale throughout. Patrons can obtain a catalogue in the patisserie for more information about the artists and their works as well as listings of the artwork for sale.
Ian Anderson, who’s “micro art” style often involves intricate mazes and patterns painstakingly drawn by hand, evoking Op Art, Keith Haring, Escher and more is holding an art-show at the Wieden Kennedy Tokyo art gallery until October 30th. It’s worth visiting.
According the artist’s website, “Ian Anderson was born in 1991 and grew up in Antipolo, Philippines. He moved to Los Angeles in 2001 with his mother and step father. Out of high school, Ian worked as a teacher of animation and video game design for 5 years at Exceptional Minds Studio. Having no formal art training, Ian was almost entirely self taught. His signature “micro art” style was developed at an early age.
‘I’m fascinated by the energy that something handmade gives. Sure, it would be more convenient to go on a computer and create a tile of my patterns, or to make the spacing and line quality absolutely perfect. But I like things a little wrong. Everybody knows what “Right” is supposed to look like, “wrong” is more interesting to me.”
The opening reception party for the show “Make Up Your Mind” was held on October 21st, featuring a live painting performance with guest artist, dominatrix and fashion designer Lehysl. Using ropes (縛り), paint, and a cooperative model and a body stocking, the three worked together to create a living painting. There were points before, during, and after the performance that all three seemed to blend into the canvas, stepping in and out of the 2nd dimension and back into the 3rd dimension.
Lehysl and Anderson bonded over their love of lines—his are hand-drawn, hers are made out out silk or other materials and take shape as ropes. Lehysl said, “It was an honor and great fun to make temporary art from a different art, shibari, the art of rope tying. It was a liberating performance.”
There won’t be any models hanging upside down for the last few days of the exhibit but stroll by while you can. The gallery is located close to Naka-Meguro station and you can unwind at the Tsutaya Book Cafe close-by and further your study of art via some good book over decent coffee.
Here’s a question: why is it that everyone else in the world gets to wax eloquent about the virtues of their home country, but the minute a Japanese does the same thing, we get lambasted for (A) being an ultra nationalist rightist Imperialist and/or (B) having a Prime Minister who would dare visit the Yasukuni Shrine, whoever that Prime Minister happens to be at the moment.* (Editor’s note: It would help if the Prime Minister visited a different shrine, as former LDP bigwig Koga proposes and Japan stopped denying war atrocities and retracting apologies. Obviously, there is a lot Japan has to be proud of but definitely not the war. Just sayin’)
That’s okay. We’re Japanese: the most self-effacing, self-deprecating, self-loathing people on the planet. Needless to say the stress-factor involved with all this can be so damaging as to send the entire nation spinning into a black hole of depression. That depression is the driving force of the bad economy (no wonder it’s taking forever to recover) and now that the failure of Abenomics is official…oh, forget it.
Let’s turn our minds to this book: “Why the Japanese Are Beautiful,” by Shunmyou Masuno (枡野 俊明) published earlier this year by Gentousha Shinsho (幻冬舎新書). Professional Zen gardener and one of the most influential Zen masters of our time, Masuno heads the Kenkouji Temple in Yokohama. For the past 6 years, he has written extensively on Zen and how to deploy it in our daily lives, but this is the first time he has linked Zen to the Japanese national identity. “We are beautiful,” Masuno writes, “because Zen resides at the very core of the Japanese existence.”
“Why the Japanese Are Beautiful” opens with a revealing (if self-congratulatory) episode about being commissioned by Mark Shuttleworth – the Cape Town wunderkind who founded investment company HBD and later flew to the International Space Station via Soyuz. Shuttleworth was building a botanical garden on the Isle of Man and was keen to put in a Zen garden. Masuno writes about how Shuttleworth picked him up in his private jet and flew with him to the Isle to start work on the garden. “When you stop to think about it,” writes Masuno, “many iconic IT billionaires are deeply influenced by Zen.”
Among them, Masuno cites Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Oracle’s Larry Ellison, who bought a villa on the grounds of Nanzenji in Kyoto. “There must be something about Zen that speaks to super successful people,” writes Masuno, and it’s probably true. Even on this archipelago, Nikkei Business magazine has consistently promoted Zen as a way of optimising work quality and achieving serenity. Zazen sessions have become a secret boom among young OLs and salarimen. Even Shinzo Abe goes to a temple in Yanaka, Tokyo once a month for Zazen and meditation.
Zen has its roots in India. It then crossed over to Chinese Buddhism before winding up in Japan. “Ours is the only Asian country that adopted the teaching with such earnestness, merging the country’s lifestyle to Zen philosophy,” writes Masuno. That merging, according to Masuno, is what makes the Japanese so distinctive and “beautiful.”
“Zen actually resides in every facet of the Japanese mind,” writes Masuno, and the foremost example of that is seen in the way we work. “The dedication to craftsmanship and the reverence for precision and discipline is unparalleled.” He also points out the endearing peculiarities of the Japanese aesthetic, and how it revels in the flawed and incomplete. Evidence to that is seen in the imperfect, spontaneous energy of a Zen garden. Or how the Japanese refuse to throw out cracked bowls and plates, but will find a way to mend them with gold dust. Masuno writes, “Ruptures, cracks, creases and wrinkles — the Japanese will find beauty in these flaws because Zen is a philosophy that accepts and ultimately forgives everything.”
The book goes on to explain:
“Western aestheticism is about adding things. Its objective is to express and celebrate the self. Japanese aestheticism is about subtraction. The objective is to erase the self, in order to be at one with nature.”
No doubt about it – even a cursory reading will make you feel better about being Japanese, which is more than we can say about Asahi Shimbun. (Their goal seems to lie in crushing the Japanese spirit under the ghostly heel of a WWII military boot.) And Heaven knows we need this sort of boost; after all, no one else was going to stroke our egos if we didn’t do it ourselves.
Having said that, the book falls short of addressing the real and immediate problems among the Japanese today. Zen may be effective in achieving inner peace, but it’s not doing much to bridge the ever-widening generation and income gaps, the super-aging of a society where children are treated like rare and precious specimens or ruthlessly exploited, the deep and abiding discrimination against women, and so on.
The ills are still here, whether we’re beautiful or not. And on a bad day and standing in the Yamanote Line, I’m tempted to think the Japanese (including myself) are the saddest, least attractive people on the entire planet. Even if we were tapped into the beauty of a Zen garden, few of us have the time or inclination to sit on a rock to contemplate it.
Still, Masuno’s book is hugely inspiring, if only because it makes us realize the seeds of beauty are within. All we have to do is become aware of it, and from that moment something will have changed. It may be an inflection in the voice, or a change in the way one holds an umbrella, or yes – even the way one stands in the Yamanote line. Zen is the one method that beautifies the physique, as well as the way one perceives the world, free of charge.
So Mark Shuttleworth can keep his expensive Zen garden because the Japanese already have theirs – right in our own backyard. We only have to dig a little.
“There is a simple way to become buddha: When you refrain from unwholesome actions, are not attached to birth and death, and are compassionate toward all sentient beings, respectful to seniors and kind to juniors, not excluding or desiring anything, with no designing thoughts or worries, you will be called a buddha. Do not seek anything else.”
“A fool sees himself as another, but a wise man sees others as himself.”
“Treading along in this dreamlike, illusory realm,
Without looking for the traces I may have left;
A cuckoo’s song beckons me to return home;
Hearing this, I tilt my head to see
Who has told me to turn back;
But do not ask me where I am going,
As I travel in this limitless world,
Where every step I take is my home.”
The Tale Of Genji (源氏物語) is said to be the first novel ever written. It is certainly the first ancient Japanese literary classic to be turned into a pole dance and performing arts spectacle like nothing I’ve ever seen before: Genji–The Other Side of The Story.
If all Japanese literature was this sexy and fun, I’d have become a scholar not a reporter. I went expecting to be appalled but was impressed that the lighting, music, and dance actually came together so eloquently that it conveys much of the mood of the original literary work.
The author of The Tale Of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu, was a lady in waiting in the Heian era court and has the proud distinction of being Japan’s first novelist. There are some who see the novel as partly her autobiography but no one is sure. The book itself is about a relative of the Emperor, the Shining Prince Genji, and his playboy antics, romances, loves, and losses in the Royal Court.
Genji is a sort of male slut, sleeping with every woman he possibly can and occasionally even a very cute young boy. While not a sympathetic character, he does come across as an individual who slowly learns what it is to really love a woman and lose those you care about.
Lu Nagata, a performance artist, created the play based on the legends surrounding Murasaki Shikibu. Murasaki also makes an apperance in the novel; Lu the writer and choreographer of the play, also appears in the play as well.
The premise of the script is that while in unrequited love with the Emperor, Murasaki Shikibu attempts to rid herself of these feelings through her novel. Through Genji, she expresses her conflicting emotions which can not be expressed in reality. Genji represents not only her unuttered emotions, her soul, her everything but also her ideal representation of a lover. She has become so engulfed in her fantasy that the perception of reality and fantasy become indistinct. Genji springs from the pages of the book to offers her a life altering decision: will she live out her fantasies or live in reality?
Thus the stage is set for a mystical Nutcracker meets Noh plus comedy, improvisational dance, strip-tease, burlesque and the finest aerial arts and acrobatics.
Ms. Nagata plays the role of Murasaki Shikibu in some of the performances, wielding a giant writing brush with great flair and penmanship. Avoiding showy dance moves she gracefully invokes the melancholy beauty of Shikibu and her writings.
Tomonori Muraoka does a head-spinning turn as the Shining Prince, twirling and somersaulting across the stage at a frenzied pace and displaying musculature that looks like it was carved in marble. He interacts sensuously with the dancers who play his numerous lovers, never faltering in his steps and performing amazing acrobatic tricks. One scene in which Genji pours hot tea over the body of his lover recalls scenes from the motion picture classic Showgirls. Green tea has never been so sexy.
There are a number of discordant elements in the production that somehow seem to work. The homely girl in the novel who’s love for Genji is almost never returned, Suetsumuhana, who’s name literally means, “the last flower to be picked” makes an appearance. She is played by a talented transvestite with a Harpo Marx wig.
For those familiar with the book, you will find some of the more memorable chapters enacted on stage—-from the jealous ghost that attacks Genji’s lover to the melancholy farewells and meditations in the chapter Maboroshii （幻).
Of course, I’m biased in my review. The Tale of Genji is one of my favorite works of Japanese literature and Lu Nagata is an old friend and one of my favorite pole dances fitness instructors. I have no idea what most people will make of it but I found Genji: The Other Side Of the Story definitelyworth watching. Even if you know nothing about the original novel, you’ll find some things in the performances that are moving, entertaining, and linger with you. For more details click here or read below.
The show is performed every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday of November 19th 2013 until February 18th 2014.
*If you do go see the show, mention this article, say “LU” and get 1,000 yen off the door price.
Tue. and Thu. Performances
1st Open 18:00 Start 18:30
2nd Open 20:30 Start 21:00
1st Open16:00 Start 16:30
2nd Open18:30 Start 19:00
S seat：7,800 yen
A seat：5,800 yen
Moon Cat Circus Theater Japan （THE FACTORY）
EBISU FORT 1F 1-24-2 Ebisuminami Shibuyaku Tokyo 150-0022
There is a complimentary drink if you purchase tickets in advance and say ‘Pole Dance Tokyo” or ‘Lu” at the door.
*Lu Nagata will perform only on 19th, 21st Nov and 17th – 29th Dec.
This article was originally posted on 3quarksdaily and is reprinted with permission.
by Leanne Ogasawara
There was recently mention in the media of a religious extremist in Egypt calling for the destruction of the pyramids. I first heard talk of this last summer– around the time that the shrines in Timbuktu were destroyed.
Holy hoax or not, I could not help but think of Bamiyan.
I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the moment I learned that the Taliban had blown up the Buddhist statues of Bamiyan.
Sitting in the backseat of a car in Los Angeles in 2001, we were stopped at a traffic light. The radio news mentioned it, but conversation in the car continued on– I don’t think anyone noticed or was really listening.
Despite the fact that they had been firing rockets at the statues for months, still it was a shock to hear that the statues had been completely destroyed– and that these 1400 year old statues no longer existed.
How could they actually have gone through with it? I thought.
Although their destruction came as a shock, in fact the two statues had been practically tortured to death after months of rocket fire, canon fire, machine gun volleys and weeks of dynamiting.
The Japanese had been working furiously behind the scenes when the Taliban first made their intentions known to the world. Working with UNESCO and several Islamic governments, even their concentrated efforts could not stop what was to be. Years later, my Japanese friends still bring it up.
Even a thousand years ago, the statues were famous in China and Japan. So important were they in ancient times that rather than taking the direct route straight to India, the venerable Chinese Buddhist monk Xuanzang walked an extra thousand miles or so just to see them during his famous 7th century journey to India.
Xuanzang’s caravan prevailed against blizzards, mountain gods, and robbers and finally approached Bamiyan, an oasis town in the center of a long valley separating the chain of the Hindu Kush from that of the Koh-i-baba range…The first sight of the Great Buddha must have made the weary travelers gasp.– Immense cliffs of a soft pastel color and behind them indigo peaks dusted with snow, rising to a height of 22,000 feet. They saw reddish cliffs in the cold, clear air; as they came closer, they could make out two gigantic statues of the Buddha standing in niches carved in the mountain. Closer still, they saw the two colossal figures were colored and glistening with ornaments; the smaller wore blue, the larger one red, and their faces and hands were gilded.
Once painted in ultramarine and carmine, the statues were as famous for their extravagant colors as they were for their size. It must have been a spectacular sight!
The ultramarine pigment used at Bamiyan was the same blue so adored by the Renaissance painters. The pigment is painstakingly derived from the lapis lazuli rocks mined from one place in northeast Afghanistan. The mines are located not far from Bamiyan; and from there, donkeys transported the expensive pigment in rough sacks over mountain ranges East into Central Asia and West to Venice and beyond.
In Europe, the precious pigment was so valuable that it was worth more than its weight in gold, and the legendary painters of the Renaissance were often forced to wait till their patrons provided them the pigment before they could apply the heavenly blue to Mary’s robes –for ultramarine had become the color associated with the Virgin Mary by that time (For more, see my post: Sacre Bleu 瑠璃色).
Bamiyan was long famous for being a conduit between East and West. Located on the trade route between India and Persia, the art of the region has had a tremendous influence on the artistic traditions of both the East and the West. So when, for example, Ikuo Hirayama–Japan’s celebrated painter and Hiroshima survivor– visited Bamiyan in 1968, he said he was going there in order “to seek the origins of Japanese culture and follow the way Buddhism diffused.” For Bamiyan was at the very heart of things.
But the Statues are gone. So, now what?
Part of Mary Beard’s Wonders of the World Series, I highly recommend The Buddhas of Bamiyan, by Llowelyn Morgan. In addition to the historical context, Morgan goes into some detail on the destructions of the statues and what he believes to be the Al-Qa’ida connection. It is very interesting–for according to Morgan, Afghani religious scholars, as well as a delegation of religious leaders from many Muslim states, were very clear in telling the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, that the destruction of the statues could never be sanctioned or explained by Islam. The statues were no longer objects of worship–they were relics.The leader of the Taliban himself had made it clear he had no intention to do harm to the statues not months before. So this “change of heart,” says Morgan, can be traced back to Al-Qa’ida influence.
But what can be done now–at this point in time, now that the statues are gone?
In general, I favor the Japanese National Treasures system of protecting cultural properties within the context of the nation-state. By designating National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties, certain works of art become protected by law (and thus cannot ever be sold as their preservation is safeguarded by the various nation-states who lay claim to them).
Bamiyan, however, is unique in that the art works had such a profound influence both East and West to the extent that their significance utterly transcendends the current nation-state of Afghanistan. Like ancient Egyptian art, the art works are situated in a pre-Islamic culture that has little to do with the nation-state of that place today.
We are reminded by the experts not to forget that along with these Buddhas, 2000 sculptures in what was left of the Kabul Museum were also smashed. So much has been lost.
A German team was pushing for rebuilding the statues. Some think that if at least one of the statues can be pieced-back together again, they should be. It would cost something like $30 million to piece together the smaller one. UNESCO rejected this plan.
Paris-based Afghani archaeologist, Dr. Zemaryalai Tarzi has another plan. Instead of re-building what is lost, Dr. Tarzi would like to unearth a third statue (said to be 1,000 feet long), which if it exists at all, has not been recorded as having been seen by anyone other than Xuanzang over a thousand years ago! If it does exist, it would be the biggest Reclining Buddha statue on earth. The only problem is that no one has seen it in over a 1000 years. Dr. Tarzi, however, remains undaunted. “Let’s raise this new masterpiece from the earth and waive it in the face of the terrorists who destroyed our statues!” he says.
Another provocative idea was J. Otto Seibold’s 2002 New Yorker proposal. I can’t find an online reproduction of the image (here is a photo of a reproduction from Morgan’s book). Seibold had suggested that two huge Buddhas be erected in Manhattan and two miniature twin towers be created in the empty niches at Bamiyan–this perhaps illuminating the notion of “spectacle” that connected the destruction of both the twin statues and the towers? (“Dynamite and Celebrity” says Morgan about Al Qa’ida). The miniature Twin Towers would be used to house refugees, thereby silencing the complaints that everyone cares more about the statues than the human beings who are hungry and were living in their shadows.
And, finally there was one more idea concerning how to replace what was lost.
A Japanese artist, Hiro Yamagata, a few years ago set in motion a plan to “re-store” the statues through laser technology –beaming images of the statues onto a cliff using $9 million solar and wind enerated technology. The plan never received UNESCO approval.
I loved the idea myself since –in the end– the inherently ephemeral nature of a beam of light would bring home the idea that something precious and irreplaceable has been lost. And that there are some things that once gone can never be brought back again. Transience also being something appreciated by Buddism, I think it is both appropriate and poignant.