• Dr. Kelsey Ashe

Imaginary Aesthetic Territories – My Antipodean Floating World

Imaginary Aesthetic Territories – My Antipodean Floating World

(An excerpt from a chapter in my Phd where I discuss my approach to Australian Japonism by teasing out the significance of ideologies examined in relation to the fields of contemporary art and design and by reviewing how I have represented those findings through my creative practice.)

Drawing the Landscape with a Wabi-Sabi Sensitivity

Previously I have described how over millenia the Japanese cultivated an aesthetic philosophy which pervaded every aspect of life through the syncretic influence of Shinto-Buddhism. Artists depicted nature with the influence of philosophies such as wabi-sabi (the beauty of things impermanent) across all creative mediums and were emphatic in establishing connections between object and ornament. The Shinto belief in animal and tree spirits and the desire to wear or display symbolic representations of auspicious patterns were important to mark social rank and status, but also to express personality and emotional nature, as well as a profound connection with the natural environment.

A parallel in Western philosophy is discussed in the introduction to Landscape and Power (1994) by art historian W.J.T. Mitchell, where he outlines how images of landscape can be read with social and subjective identities projected into and upon it. He describes how comprehension of the landscape is drawn through the senses as well as by the meanings we give it, and he proposes the idea that landscape can be ‘deciphered as textual systems’ (1994, 1) by incorporating symbolic motifs, as opposed to the ‘pure, formal, visuality’ associated with modernism:

Natural features such as trees, stones, water, animals and dwellings can be read as symbols in religious, psychological, or political allegories, characteristic structures and forms […] can be linked with generic and narrative typologies such as the pastoral, the georgic, the exotic, the sublime, and the picturesque. (1994, 1)

Mitchell reasons that artists have deliberately used symbolic systems in landscape art to create an alternate reading of the work, inflecting social and cultural constructs of identity into the medium. For example, the ‘exotic’ landscape may depict a utopia, an ‘unspoiled paradise where the nineteenth century fantasies of [an] ideal, picturesque and romantic landscape would seem to be perfectly preserved’ (Mitchell 1994, 20), indicating a predilection for peace and harmony or a golden age gone by. An example of the exotic symbolism of landscape projected onto cloth and fashion is the Hawaiian shirt, which is typically decorated with scenes of perfect waves and idyllic tropical islands to represent a carefree lifestyle associated with living close to the ocean[1]. By wearing a Hawaiian shirt, the wearer literally embodies and projects a clear narrative of their authentic/preferred/constructed identity through the non-verbal communication of dress, an idea I return to shortly. As outlined in the Introduction, fashion and textile designers also use the symbolic nature of pattern to imprint meaningful communication about their brand identity. These resonant ideas – that Edo artists use symbolic motifs from the landscape to express specific intentions; that contemporary artists can depict the landscape as a ‘textual system’ to be read (Mitchell 1994, 1); and that textile designers can utilise print as a meaningful form of communication – are important modes of operation that fuse to inform ‘Imaginary Aesthetic Territories’. These approaches all favour a semiotic reading of the work, where an added layer of meaning is implied in addition to its formal representation.

It is my relationship with the landscape which impels me to draw and therefore create. I have located it as the activating force and centre of my practice, as I perceive it springing forth with a natural impetus rather than triggered by the necessity for income, or directed by outside influences like my textile designs, which are moulded by industry/market demand. The process of drawing the landscape or motifs such as flora and fauna from it has always been an intuitive and implicit practice that I related to an effortless mode of recreation; a form of leisure or refreshing break from the normal routines of life, where a meditative state and connection to nature could be enjoyed whilst sketching. Designing printed textiles for consumption in the high fashion industry is also a pleasant aspect of my practice; however, it is affected by the requirement to produce a desirable commodity that reflects contemporary trends, able to be sold or marketed to generate revenue.

Figure 125. Kelsey Ashe Giambazi, 2014 Moon sketch.

The process involved in this research and exegetical account has been to find ways that depictions of the Australian landscape can be used within fashionable textiles and artworks to depict identity, combining both of my practices. In Chapter One I described my perceived problem with representations of Australian motifs on clothing being perceived with negative perceptions of Australiana qualities – a reading I wished to avoid. To transcend ­associations with the 1970-80s Australiana trend, I have drawn on the timeless qualities associated with Japonism, which I outlined in Chapter Four, to reposition the reading of Australian motifs on cloth from a possible comprehension as kitsch or passé, to one of timelessness which can be defined as ‘belonging to no-time’ (Macquarie Dictionary).

The stage of my artistic inquiry that responded to Florence Broadhurst’s Japanese-inspired printed patterns helped in developing designs that represented a timelessness through Australian Japonist fusion, as did my collaboration with Akira Isogawa. By utilising knowledge gleaned from my theoretical research into Japanese aesthetics and philosophy with notions of timelessness discussed in Chapter Four, a new way of seeing and imagining emerged that organised and interwove this knowledge. By contemplating this knowledge whilst drawing, I have effectively developed my previously intuitive approach to depicting landscape into a defined methodology, which I will further extrapolate on in this chapter.

Recognising forms in nature that resonate with the graphic forms within saraca (patterns of life textiles) and katazome(stencilled patterns for kimono) has developed in tandem with my consideration of the tenets of wabi-sabi. Whilst viewing the landscape, I seek fukinsei (asymmetrical) pattern formations between objects, or position myself to draw or photograph a scene in such a way. For example, in Edo ukiyo-e kachō-ga (bird and flower prints) there are often dense clusters of leaves, blossoms or flowers in one area of the image floating within otherwise predominantly negative space. I have pursued finding these arrangements as they naturally occur, by moving within and around the landscape before committing to a drawing or sketch. For example, Caesia and Stars (Figure 126 was developed froma drawing of a Eucalytpus Caesia tree in blossom, which hangs in an asymmetrical position across the picture plane. The Caesia is endemic to Western Australia and blossoms in winter, representing the reverence and beauty of the rhythmic cycle of the coming spring that emerges from the dark of winter. The moonless night sky filled with stars provides the coupling of two motifs to suggest a particular time of year or emotive quality which was the aim of the original Edo kachō-ga artists. By creating this arrangement, the print can be read at first glance as a timeless ‘oriental’ style print; however, on closer inspection, the image reveals a distinctively Australian theme and seasonal observance.

The raw hand-drawn artworks of landscape and motif that result from my sittings in nature often become both repeating pattern and small-scale artworks in their own right (see Figures 125 and 126). The process of creating textile designs from these sketches has become a product in and of itself. In ‘Landscape, Place and Identity in Craft and Design’ (2015), textile artist and professor Kay Lawrence suggests an approach to practice where

visual, material, spatial and temporal processes of [artistic] disciplines interrogate questions of identity in relation to place and landscape. While craft and design are often thought to be primarily involved in producing “things”, they can also be understood as process – an approach, an attitude or action; a way of doing things. (Lawrence 2015, 7)

Lawrence advocates for the process of enquiry through design, making and materiality, to address themes of landscape, place and identity. The meanings that we give a landscape or place can be inflected by the dwelling, immersion and response to a place, where the experience of it is inflected by identity, and fused with social and cultural forces to create a constructed landscape image.

Figure 126. Kelsey Ashe Giambazi, Caesia and Stars. 2018.

Lawrence describes the experience of depicting the landscape en plein air – stopping, sitting, looking and recognising ‘the bodily experience of being there … in that place, at that time in all its sensory complexity’ (Lawrence 2015, 7) to record an artistic impression. Lawrence’s example of sensitivity to surroundings is in keeping with the spiritual and metaphysical basis of wabi-sabi teachings whereby ‘truth comes from the observation of nature’ (Koren 1994, 40). Wabi, in particular, pertains to the inner spiritual path and perception of the ‘inward and subjective’ (Koren 1994, 23), combining with sabi’s reference to outward material objects (such as the landscape) and the ‘temporal events’ (Koren 1994, 23) that occur within it. As opposed to drawing from secondary source material (which was my approach in relation to works influenced by Florence Broadhurst or for Akira Isogawa) I have found that the experience of depicting the landscape is not restricted to the visual alone; it is modified with bodily sensations, emotions or memories. A depiction of discomfort could be symbolised by prickly branches that seem to probe, anxiety could be shown by emphasising foreboding clouds on the horizon and so on.

The graphic forms of nature which intrude into my perceived line of sight, such as the Caesia tree described above, become selected motifs to study and draw as I visualise them as a printed textile that repeats endlessly in a reflection of nature’s cycles which are also endless. In this space of calm, I reflect on my place and connection with the landscape and consider the various phenomena for their subjective symbolism, positioning myself as a kachō-ga artist as described in Chapter Two. This entails cultivating a sensitivity to the smallest moment in nature and finding correlations to express a subjective emotion through the contemplation of natural phenomena and the aesthetic observation of its fleeting beauty. Rather than seeing a landscape motif objectively as a botanical object to simply be depicted, I seek subjective parallels to human life and connections between motifs that might communicate a narrative. Spinifex (Figure 131), for example, draws on Bruce Goold’s graphic katagami-style prints of Australian insects for inspiration, but also reflects my subjective sensations of the heat, discomfort and dryness I found almost unbearable when first arriving in Perth. The sinister-looking insect that hovers over the spinifex becomes a symbolic motif of the stinging irritation of that experience. In doing so I have taken the image from simply a being a study of nature to one that acts like a kachō-ga print capturing seasonal moments.

The sense of emptiness and negative space perceived in traditional Japanese art, which I discussed in Chapter Two also contributes to my prints. I perceive the openness (or nothingness) of unlimited space so ubiquitous in the Australian landscape as equivalent to the empty space of potentiality described by the Zen-Buddhist-Shinto tradition (Hara 2014). A void, a pause, or area of spatial emptiness, which can be discerned in most of my print designs, relates to the primordial sense of the dynamic whole of the universe, a space that is never complete or permanent, an always-changing force that is to be admired and appreciated. In the moments of reflection, whilst sitting in the environment, I detect the feeling of wonder, sensation of awe, calmness and perfection in nature which can be described aesthetically as yūgen (an awareness of the universe that triggers an emotional response too deep and powerful for words) (‘Yūgen’ n.d.).

I have put into practice Lawrence’s idea that the meanings that we give a landscape can be inflected by the dwelling, immersion and response to a place, and that the experience of it is inflected with our identity (Lawrence 2015). Whilst drawing in the Tasmanian landscape in 2014, I recalled a memory of a bushfire that surrounded our family home when I was a child. As the memories filtered through into my drawing, not only did the moment of panic and terror of being isolated with a raging fire about to consume my home become re-recorded, but also the blackened landscape and eventual return to blossoming beauty of the native habitat that follows so quickly after a bushfire was contained in the drawing (Figure 125). The image was later turned into a repeating pattern, Cruel Summer (Figure 128), which reiterated the cyclical nature of death and reformation that repeats over and over within the landscape through seasonal change and natural phenomenon such as bushfires, floods and storms. Not only does the repeating device of the print refer to this cycle, but the rising moon shape and symbolism of fire, which is at once destructive and regenerative, is found within the print, reinforcing the theme of cycles that are never complete.

All things, including the universe itself, are in constant, never ending state of becoming or dissolving. Often we arbitrarily designate moments, points along the way, as “finished” or “complete”. But when does something’s destiny finally come to fruition? Is the plant complete when it flowers? When it goes to seed? When the seeds sprout? When everything turns to compost? The notion of completion has no basis in wabi-sabi. (Koren 1994, 15)

Originally the Cruel Summer print was iki (sharp, crisp, measured) with a katagami-like (stencil) appearance printed on a smooth wallpaper length (see Figure 127) (influenced by Florence Broadhurst’s cleanly delineated designs) made specifically for an exhibition in 2014.[2] After working with Akira Isogawa and distilling his lesson on the importance of patina and character in wabi-sabi, I began to experiment with roughing the edges of the design, scratching and overlaying textures.

Figure 127. Kelsey Ashe Giambazi, It’s a Cruel Summer. 2016.

Essentially, I was degrading the image, rapidly adding age through the speed of a digital format, deliberately distressing, even erasing some areas, to reflect my patchy childhood memories of the event (Figure 129). I was introducing the idea of wabi-sabi’s aged patina of ‘impoverished rusticity’ (Richie 2007, 73) and imperfect beauty to my works.

The perception of important subjective symbols within the environment became more apparent during the final phase of the research. For example, insects and birds increasingly appeared in my prints as I frequently perceived them whilst in the landscape. The plight of the rapid disappearance of the Red Tailed Black Cockatoo from the Western Australian landscape became a theme which informed the prints Black Cockatoos and Shibori Cockatoos. Environmental concerns have an innate affinity within Japanese aesthetic philosophies derived from the Shinto-Buddhist tradition. Nature is venerated and worshipped and understood as the ultimate model; ‘we are to regard it, to learn from it … nature is our guide’ (Richie 2007, 73). My kachō-ga works become contemporary expressions of this reverence for nature, localised in this case to Western Australia.

Paradiso (Figure 136) is another Western Australian-inspired kachō-ga which depicts a landscape with native and introduced (exotic) bird and flower species in a woodblock print style, inspired by Akira Isogawa’s idea that one cloth print could communicate multiple cultures whilst retaining a sense of Australian Japonism. The repeating pattern in Paradiso merges motifs from different geographic locations within an Australian-esque landscape, arranged in a Japanese textile print formation. Cloaked in fukinsei (asymmetry) and floating in negative space, native motifs become camouflaged as Japanese patterns. For example, the design Melaleuca (Figure 134), a flower emblematic of the Australian environment (Gardner 1968), is visually similar to the chrysanthemum flower which is emblematic of Japan (Mizoguchi 1973), creating a design which oscillates between two cultures. A similar correspondence occurs between the design Waratah (Figure 84) and the Japanese chrysanthemum. The prints become a reflection of the multiculturalism evident in contemporary Australian society whilst reinforcing the cross-cultural reference points of this project.

In appraising an approach to depicting the landscape, I have utilised ideas and techniques drawn from Western scholars such as Mitchell and Lawrence, combining them with attitudes inherent to Japanese aesthetic philosophy. Both modes of perceiving and depicting the landscape become important points for cohesion and application of this knowledge, which ultimately assists in guiding ways to develop motifs that create a language for cloth that can be interpreted in my artworks.

East-West Imaginings

The title Imaginary Aesthetic Territories’ was formed at the very inception of this study in relation to the fictional dream-like perceptions of Japan that have fed the conventions of Western Japonism since the eighteenth century (Bolton 2015; Barthes 1970). At its height, European Japonism of the nineteenth century reflected the Western imagination in its depiction of a ‘fairy-land’, an enigmatic and imaginary Edo of floating pagodas and moss gardens of serenity[3](Martin and Koda 1994) which along with Egyptomania, Chinoiserie, Turquerie and other stylistic genres was part of the European fascination with the constructed exotic. As discussed in the Introduction and Chapters One and Two, these styles were products of trans-orientalism, a reciprocal East-West dialogue (Geczy 2014) where motifs, textiles and objects of all kinds were created and consumed in response to cultural interactions that criss-crossed globally through the processes of exchange, trade and hybridisation.

These styles, rather than atrophying in a distant past, continue to provide ‘a locus of infinite and unbridled creativity’ (Bolton 2015, 17) and important stimulus in contemporary fields of design and art. For example, the idea of an imaginary site for new creative practice is discussed by Andrew Bolton with reference to how contemporary couture designers such as John Galliano (then for Christian Dior), Martin Margiela, Yves Saint Laurent, Dries Van Noten and Alexander McQueen created costumes and illustrations for the Met Museum’s exhibition China Through the Looking Glass (2014) through chinoiserie, an imaginary version of China;

the designers featured in this catalogue are travelers to another country, reflecting on artistic and cultural traditions as exoticised extensions of their own. Their China is one of their own making: mythical, fictional and fantastical, it exists only in their minds. (Bolton 2015, 20)

In a similar way, albeit through Japonism, much of the work in ‘Imaginary Aesthetic Territories’ conjures a utopian site for creation that exists outside time and space, in a no-time, no-place. A utopia[4], an imagined society that possesses extremely pleasant or near perfect qualities for its citizens – and which translates from Greek οὐ (‘not’) and τόπος (‘place’) to mean ‘no-place’ (Sargent 2010) – has a direct correlation with the imagined fabrications inherent to orientalism (Martin 1994). In Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress (1994), Martin and Koda describe the European fascination for the far-off lands of the East:

The perilous voyages to Cathay and Edo and even the narrower crossing to the mysterious harems and itinerant lifestyles of North Africa and the Middle East, gave Europe a secular heaven-on-earth, a paradise undefiled by Western civilisation. The early discoverers and the traders sought a land never to inhabit, ever to see as different – a perfect “other”… vested with exotic mystery. (Martin and Koda 1994, 1)

Prints and illustrations created within my research become the material culture of an alternate other-land much like the imaginary worlds promulgated by early European perceptions of a Japan ‘located in an elsewhere of endless possibilities’ (Bolton 2015,19) during the nineteenth century craze for exoticism. My works hover in a place that could be Australia but could also be a ‘non-Australia’ or ‘other-Australia’, a fictitious fantasy land or parallel universe where cross-culturalism exists harmoniously, a stylised idyll, picturesque and hedonistic, ‘confected from the Western desire and imagination’ (Martin and Koda 1994, 11).

My first attempt at depicting my own ‘Imaginary Aesthetic Territory’ was in the print Island Nation (Figure 90) (which I described in Chapter Four) that depicts an island in a katagami (stencil) appearance that has an ambiguous similarity to the shape of the Australian continent. The landscape has been exoticised into a tropical archipelago with a variety of iconic symbols of Australia and portrayals of houses of worship to represent the island’s multicultural nature[5]across its surface. In this invented utopian Australian/Australasian/Japanese ‘place’, new representations of the contemporary hybrid cultural identity of Australia are made. The print utilises a Japanese use of pictorial space and draws on the legacy of floating world-type motifs ubiquitous in Edo Japanese arts (see Figure 44 in Chapter Two and Figure 142 below) where entire landscapes seem to float across space.

I further developed the concept of a divergent reality in my print Antipodea (Figure 144) which is also informed by the pinball machine narrative provided by Kenya Hara in Chapter Two (Figure 49). Hara (2014) described Japan as the receptacle of the world’s pinball machine, collecting influences from cultures all over the world on the way to Japan. I argued in Chapter Two that if the silk route is an undefined site of inter-cultural trade and exchange in textiles and if the pinball machine’s receptacle is pushed further South-East still, then Australia becomes the receptacle and the next station of the silk route. Antipodea imagines this continuation of influence across Asia and Australia and beyond by depicting a cross-cultural floating world of pleasure and hedonism settled in an Austral-asian-esque landscape.

The title Antipodea refers to the term ‘antipodean’, which signifies ideas of the diametrically opposed and also the southern region of the globe including Australia and New Zealand. I have turned and flipped the map of the world around, creating a new territory of islands that are reversals of our known Asia-Pacific basin, with Tasmania and Western Australia at the top of the map and Japan at the bottom[6]. Anne-Marie Willis in Illusions of identity: The Art of Nation (1993) observes that the shape of Australia in ‘its distinctiveness and relative symmetry allow it to be abstracted, stretched in all directions, appear in all colours and sizes and still be recognised as a sign of Australia’ (Willis 1993, 15).

Antipodea is also informed by East-West reciprocity and imagination by studying examples of how Japanese artists have historically depicted the West, subverting the common idea that it is the West that depicts the East by drawing inspiration from a Japanese print which depicts the West (which I will discuss shortly) and a Japanese WWII map which represents Australia (the West) through the eyes of Japan (the East). The map includes symbols such as emus, palm trees, miners, sheep, wheat, kangaroos and lyrebirds, indicating the natural resources inhabitant to Australia (Figure 140).

The use of maps with symbolic icons of ‘scattered distinctive flora and fauna, historical sites, buildings, bridges, obvious national symbols can be found in nearly all countries’ (Willis 1993, 16) where merely a minimal necessary resemblance to real artefacts stands in as ‘assumptions about appropriate symbols to represent nation’ (Willis 1993, 16)

Anne-Marie Willis reminds us that ‘the visual conventions of map-making and our culturally specific competence in reading signs’ (Willis 1993, 14) such as touristic postcards, artworks or other cultural paraphernalia are always only ever a construction of national identity often created by political or economically driven discourses. Bound within a geographic space, these symbols ‘invent nations where they do not exist’ (Anderson 1985, 15) and ‘though imaginary, the consequences of belief in the idea of nation have material effects’ (Willis 1993, 19). These material effects include providing a nation with ‘a pervasive way of making communal life meaningful beyond the immediate circle of family and beyond different social formations a subject may move through in the course of a lifetime’ (Willis 1993, 20). The idea that nation as a mythic construction can affect one’s understanding and meaningful relationship to their place in the world is captured within Antipodea by expanding ‘place’ beyond the borders of the asymmetrical land mass of Australia and merging it into the surrounding geography of the Asia-Pacific. The print depicts a landscape without borders, a region that includes places I have called home, a territory peacefully inhabited. To indicate this, I have re-drawn and re-positioned map-like symbols across the floating world within Antipodea. The print then becomes a landscape that can be read as a complex textual system of narrative typologies, an idea I presented from Mitchell (1994) at the beginning of the chapter.

In The Influence of Japanese Art on Design (2008), Hannah Sigur outlines the many ways that Japanese design influenced western arts and in return the many ways that the Japanese absorbed images, functions and mediums of Western and European arts between the eighteenth to twentieth century. An example from Sigur’s book which directly influenced the Antipodea print is shown in Figure 141. Drawn in ink by an unknown Japanese artist around 1860, The Unfinished Washington Monument and the Capitol, Washington D.C. depicts the American city seen through the eyes and artistic education of a Japanese citizen[7]. The artist would have been a delegate sent to America to record the modernisation of the West which the Japanese were desperate to catch up with after the long period of isolation in the Edo era (Sigur 2008). The depiction of the American landscape is overtly Japanese in style; it is a Japanese construction, a Japanese imagining of a Western city. The print intrigued me as it represents a reality that is neither right nor wrong; it is simply a constructed viewpoint of a landscape grounded in the conventions of Japanese artistic practice. The image stimulated rhetorical questions that helped induce further imagining of creative production for ‘Imaginary Aesthetic Territories’. For example, what if history was altered and Australia had been colonised by the Japanese instead of the English in 1788? How, then, would we, as a nation, view the landscape and our native flora and fauna? Antipodea attempts to portray the West through Eastern eyes, instead of the East through Western eyes[8]. I intend these subversions to assist in a re-imagining of the lines of global cross-cultural influence in design, toppling historical perceptions of East-West and West-East hierarchies, and re-inforcing the idea of trans-orientalism.

Moon over Indian Ocean (Tripdytch) (Figure 150) draws aesthetically from the Australian-Japonist work of A.B. Webb, a West Australian artist who chose quiet, still and moody subject matter featuring the Swan River landscapes, imbuing them with a Japanese sense of design derived from ukiyo-e prints (Gooding, 2004) (Figure 143). Webb’s desaturated images, devoid of human activity or indication of a specific time period, allude to a quietude and agelessness that resonates with my intentions for the landscape I have constructed in the image. Borrowing frameworks of what constitutes a reading of timelessness in design (as discussed in Chapter Four), such as the relegation of ‘oriental’ type prints to a categorisation of ‘classic’, is aimed for in this print to produce a sense of belonging to ‘no particular time’ and therefore possess enduring or ‘classic’ qualities. This contemporary kachō-ga multimedia print also records my early impressions of the landscape of Fremantle in Western Australia, which I perceived as strange, with its blend of Gothic Architecture, dry parched eucalyptus and vast beaches.

The Fashion Image and Ukiyo-e

I discussed in the Introduction that the desire to decorate the body is intrinsic to the human experience (Fogg 2006) and that wearing print allows an individual to embellish and express their identity and reflect it to the outside world; ‘we wear clothes, cover ourselves in codes and creations, in order for us to be seen how we truly are’ (Geczy and Karaminas 2012, 10). Prints designed for fashion can suggest strong links between the pattern motif and the body and, by extension, between the body and an individual’s preferred/projected identity. My textile prints displayed on their own can be perceived as a contemporary form of kachō-ga (bird and flower print) and be appreciated for their narrative content, rhythm, design or wabi-sabi aesthetic; however, the body is absent. I have found it useful to present my prints within contemporary ukiyo-e bijin-ga (beautiful women prints), where an emphasis on the non-verbal communication of dress can further enhance the symbolic narratives introduced in the print designs and reintroduce the fashioned body back into the works’ reading.

With the objective of moving away from my previous practice where the creation of paintings, textile designs and fashion ranges were three separate finished objects, I appreciate that this new approach of creating artworks that depict textile designs on fashion still responds to all these fields without actually producing any physical textile or fashion products. My exploration into ukiyo-e prints, which began in relation to my research into Florence Broadhurst’s work for my On the Surface exhibition (see Appendix), became more developed whilst collaborating with Akira Isogawa in terms of print placement and scale relationships, and has culminated in my final body of work as I apply the knowledge gleaned from all phases of research.

Bijin were one of the main themes in ukiyo-e; the others being kabuki actors and landscapes, which included kachō-ga (bird and flower) prints and shunga (erotica) (Harris 2012) [9]. I have adopted the bijin mode of presentation along with its traditional role which was to record popular fashion, etiquette and pastimes of beautiful women of the Edo period. The identity of females portrayed in Edo bijin[10] reflected changes in the urban society of Edo’s conception of femininity, which also had an impact on fashion. During the Edo era, depictions of females in bijin were the product of multiple influences (including the bias of the artist/publisher, the woman’s position in society, her occupation, etc.) and, therefore, multiple print designs, symbols and sometimes the use of text were used to further narrate the prints. The women in bijin were the equivalent of today’s celebrities. They were actresses from the theatres, dancers, musicians and kimono models. In the Edo period, just as in the contemporary age, both men and women were fascinated with stylised depictions of women and the fashionable and elegant life they portrayed. Bijin were intended to give their audience an insight to the ‘expensive pleasures of the Yoshiwara district’ (Harris 2012, 60) which was the centre of Edo’s floating world.

As outlined in Chapter Two, the prints were purchased ‘by the fashion conscious and pleasure seeking public of the floating world’ (Harris 2012, 62) to inform them of the latest hairstyles, fashion and interior products and textile designs, whilst symbolically providing representations of their emotional nature. The textile print, with its all important symbolic messages of identity, communicated through colour, scale and motif, were enormously important and like today’s fashion, ‘styles and patterns of clothing were constantly changing’ (Harris 2012, 63), requiring the fashionable Edo-ite to continuously update their look to stay ‘in vogue at the time’ (Harris 2012, 63).

This concept of clothing within art that can communicate identity is also supported in Western scholarship on dress and textiles by Geczy and Karaminas in Fashion and Art (2012) when they comment:

In a work of art, more of the clothed picture of humanity is literally revealed; we see clothes themselves, how they work on the body and what they signify with regard to gender, age, class, status and even cultural and sometime political affiliations. The painting or other art object is a text to be decoded; the image becomes a central fact, no longer just an illustration to a history of dress, but the text itself. (Geczy and Karaminas 2012, 180)[11]

The implications of Geczy and Karaminas’ idea that the artwork representing clothing is a ‘text to be decoded’ are revealed in the final body of work for ‘Imaginary Aesthetic Territories’. For example, High Summer (Figure 146)depicts a woman just past the days of youthfulness, which can be perceived by the ripe fruit entwined with the native and exotic flowers of her outfit and the autumnal colours that represent beauty, albeit fading. Objects within the prints become explicit signs to be read by the audience depending on their own subjectivity and the nature of humans, ‘as a species driven by a desire to make meanings’ (Peirce 1958, 302) (as discussed in Chapter Five), to decipher pattern, motif and colour by relating them to global semiotic conventions.

Another example The Cat (Figure 145) represents a young woman, comprehended by means of the bright colours of the blossoming buds of native Australian flower motifs that can be read semiotically as emblematic of spring and the tenderness of youth and its associated qualities of innocence and beauty. The inclusion of the cat, an image which appeared with some frequency in ukiyo-e bijin-ga, adds a symbolic element of playfulness, knowingness, mystery, femininity and arrogance (Jung 1964). Like all my bijin-ga, The Cat contains elements that could be modern or from another era – for example, the bob haircut alludes to 1920s hair styles but could just as easily be contemporary. The print designs and wallpaper are all intended to oscillate between time periods, possibly from one era, but possibly from another, ultimately landing in none, becoming ‘without time’ and therefore timeless. The kimono-esque garments also play a key role in placing the bijin-ga and textile designs I have produced for ‘Imaginary Aesthetic Territories’ ‘outside of time’.

It’s a Cruel Summer (Figure 130) contains three textile prints – Shibori Cockatoos, Cruel Summer and Paradiso – effectively collapsing the ideas and themes within them into one print – or considered another way, onto one body/identity, one outfit/image. A similar approach has been taken with all my bijin-ga prints, drawing influence from the artisans of the Edo period such as Kitagawa Utamaro, who mastered the art of applying intricate and multiple layers of printed textiles into a ukiyo-e print whilst maintaining an overall cohesion in the image (as discussed in Chapter Two). My contemporary bijin-ga represent a modern form of the symbolic representation of identity through a reading of textile and pattern upon worn cloth.

Figure 145. Kelsey Ashe Giambazi, The Cat. 2017. Figure 146. Kelsey Ashe Giambazi, High Summer. 2017

The Japanese kimono and yukata (light kimono) have varied in shape and style over centuries; however, its perception as an unchanging garment (Steele 1995) has resulted in it becoming a sartorial shorthand reference to Japan. The appearance of the kimono in contemporary Western fashion has been consistent since Paul Poiret first began to incorporate it into his French fashions in the early twentieth century causing dress scholars to argue that Japan has ‘had more influence on European fashion design than any other Asian nation’ (Knox 2011, 141).[12] The kimono has been re-worked in Western fashion by innumerable Western designers due to its basic structure which can be altered in uncountable ways, incarnating as smoking jacket, bathrobe, beachrobe, high fashion garments of many types from couture gown to prêt-à-porter, whilst still indicating its traditional format of structured wrapping across the body with a tie at the waist.

Items such as the bathrobe are global staples (basic/common garments) in many cultures, but in fact are a direct descendant of the kimono, although through constant use in international cultures, their earlier forms and meanings have been forgotten, buried beneath layers of history and adaption. Items such as the bathrobe have become globalised objects, signifying that the item has come to be perceived as a culturally and historically determinate/indeterminate garment. Its affiliations to Japan are firm, but its reading can easily oscillate into contemporary fashion or traditional costume, providing a reading of the simultaneously ancient and modern, never ‘out’ or ‘in’ fashion, but a timeless ‘classic’ placing it as a fitting vehicle for my textile designs[13].

To encourage the production of a body of ukiyo-e bijin-ga prints, I engaged a solo exhibition at Fremantle’s Round House in Fremantle in 2017. Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren (1994) was a useful reference text during this phase as the book attempts to break down the ‘history of obfustication’ (Koren 1994, 15) to reveal the philosophy for a Western audience by giving clear examples of wabi-sabi characteristics. Koren advises against the need for design that aligns with the logical and rational worldviews of the industrialised modern society we live in; instead he encourages contemplation of the vague subtleties of the concept, which are intentionally thwarted even in Japanese teachings. As I considered the kachō-ga and saraca patterns I had already developed, I re-worked the designs into new arrangements, keeping in mind Koren’s teachings;

Most revealing about the meaning of wabi-sabi is the fostering of the myth of inscrutability for aesthetic reasons. Some Japanese critics feel that wabi-sabi needs to maintain its mysterious and elusive – hard to define – qualities because ineffability is part of its specialness. Wabi-sabi is, they believe, a teleological benchmark – an end in itself – that can never be fully realized. From the vantage point, missing or indefinable knowledge is simply another aspect of wabi-sabi’s inherent “incompleteness”. (Koren 1994, 17)

I have applied this sense of incompletion[14] outlined by Koren into my ukiyo-e prints by cropping the picture plane even closer than that practiced by the original Edo artists. By emphasising a small glimpse of the entire body, often completely removing facial features or hints at the figure’s culture, race or gender, much is left to interpret which allows the audience to construe an identity based on the print designs and garments. By depriving the audience of the complete picture, I hint at what is incomplete and outside the frame of the image, at the periphery. Also, through partial obscuration of the textile designs, implied by erosion of the overall print in places I seek qualities of yūgenwhich were described in Chapter Two; cloudy impenetrability, obscurity, unknowability, mystery, but not utter darkness, ‘hidden in the clouds, but not entirely out of sight, for we feel its presence, its secret message being transmitted through the darkness’ (Suzuki, quoted in Tsubaki 1971, 56).

Imitating the bijin-ga of Edo Japan, which were often used to sell lifestyles or fashions, the figures in my prints are part of an imaginary (antipodean) floating world where ‘we never witness anything ugly or uncomfortable, all is charm and elegance’ (Harris 2012, 64) to cultivate a sensibility of decadence, hedonism, comfort and desire so inherent to the medium.

The sensuality and slight nuance of eroticism within the languid body language of the figures in bijin-ga and the ‘hidden meanings in the picture which would incite the imagination’ (Harris 2012, 73) can be perceived as the equivalent of the contemporary western idea that pervades much advertising content, that ‘sex sells’[15]. For example, a sake company could promote their product by commissioning a bijin-ga of a woman posing with their goods in a sophisticated setting that reflected the image the company wished to promote for itself (Harris 2012). Women posed in bijin-ga with an idle self-contained elegance reflecting the erotic ideal of Edo Japan, which was less about lewdness and obvious skin baring than a ‘flirtatious allure and a light coquettishness … untainted by any vulgar or wanton feeling’[16] (D. Bell 2002, 68). A slightly revealed wrist or ankle, peeking out from a kimono hem was much more desirable than palpable smut or crudity (D. Bell 2002).

Notions of the erotic infused much ukiyo-e of the Edo period through its relationship to the Yoshiwara or brothel quarters, although its use also had a philosophical dimension[17]. The ukiyo-e artist had to learn the art of depicting an inobvious bitai (elegant coquetry or protracted erotic tension) characterised by suggestiveness rather than consummation, in keeping with broader aesthetic ideals in Japanese philosophy that favoured a sense of potential, the subtle and suggestive and ever-incomplete. A bitai analogy could be to imagine sexual tension as a sustained wave that never breaks and crashes. Ukiyo-e bijin-ga artists continuously attempted to depict this sense of withholding by incorporating a sense of aware (the pathos of life and transcience of things) to represent moments of fleeting pleasure or unrequited love, the vanitas[18] of human passions (D. Bell 2002). These emotions could be implied by facial expressions, body language, props like love letters or other symbols such as kachō-ga couplings between animals and plants in the landscape.

This notion is described in ‘Narrative and Persuasion in Fashion Advertising’ (Phillips and McQuarrie 2010) where a discussion on the use of pathos within fashion advertisements as a means to transport the viewer into an intense form of engagement ‘that allow[s] consumers to perform a narrative’ (Phillips and McQuarrie 2010, 380) and induce a persuasive form of brand loyalty is outlined. The article describes the impact of a fashion ad on its viewer when the presentation lacked a narrative or emotional engagement, to one that incited their sense of curiosity, or provoked ideas of a poignant expression that could ‘fulfill their emotional goals’ (Phillips and MacQuarrie 2010, 385). The sense of pathos described in the latter was by far the most successful in terms of ‘positive outcomes for the brand’ (Phillips and MacQuarrie 2010, 380) and has encouraged me to depict a similar pathos or bitai (elegant coquetry or protracted erotic tension) in my works.

Perceived as an equivalent type of fashion advertisement or social media feed of the Edo era, ukiyo-e bijin-ga utilised the same psychological devices on its audience as do contemporary fashion imagery of today in its deliberate incorporation of this sense of pathos. Bijin-ga prints were cheap and easily accessible from the many market stalls that lined the streets of Edo and the Yoshiwara and were ‘enormously influential, in much the same way that today’s technology is able to disseminate popular culture far and wide at enormous speed’ (Harris 2012, 62). Bijin-ga, like allukiyo-e, were light and portable and able to be shared and transmitted amongst its highly mobile citizens. Individuals could collect ukiyo-e to decorate their homes and fulfil their fantasies for the highest fashions and pleasures of the day.

The final bijin-ga and kachō-ga ukiyo-e prints and hinagatabon (design compendium) (Figure 148) I have produced are intended to be artworks to be read as images that construct identity through trans-orientalism and Japonism, reflecting the ‘layered series of enfolded exchanges’ (Bolton 2015, 18) between my appreciation of Japanese arts and my relationship to the Australian environment. The immersive haptic quality of the hinagatabon invites a sensory appreciation of age and wonderment for an imaginary antipodean world through its textless depictions of narrative pattern and wabi-sabi aesthetic. The hinagatabon, like some of the bijin-ga prints, has a patina that appears to have been developed over time. By using the Antipodea print on the hinagatabon cover, I allude to some type of cultural record of the past; however, its contents which seem to oscillate between new and old disrupt this reading, pushing the compendium into a space of timelessness. The object is also a tacit reference to the moment of re-discovery when the Florence Broadhurst prints were first appraised by Akira Isogawa in 1999, as discussed in Chapter Five.

Exoticism, Cultural Yearning and Preservation of Diversity

In Chapter Three I reviewed the ways in which Australian artists have engaged with Japonism in the fields of art and design, and appraised their approach and the attendant implications. Artists’ reasons for engaging in Japonism were broad, ranging from an appreciation of purely aesthetic qualities or attraction to mediums such as the woodblock print, to the gratification of pleasure through decoration, a desire for qualities of Zen Buddhist reductivity and the fascination with unfamiliar cultures.

My own interest and preoccupation with Japonism encompasses all these reasons, reflecting my admiration and appreciation for the arts of Japan. However, there have been key discoveries throughout the research process, distilled through reflection on successive cycles of theory and creative production that have elucidated fresh understandings and been catalysts for new artistic inquiry and method. Two texts in particular have assisted in framing new ways of seeing and creating: In Praise of Shadows by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, originally published in 1933, and Victor Segalen’s brief but profound notes in his 1955 Essay on Exoticism: An Aesthetics of Diversity, which I introduced in Chapter One.

Although both these texts are decades old, they remain applicable in contemporary art and design due to their compelling aesthetic perceptions. Segalen’s essay was not published in English until 2002, but since then has received favourable critical attention in a range of fields from sociology, post-colonialism, literary criticism and anthropology, indicating the contemporary relevance of his ideas (Forsdick 2011). In Praise of Shadows, a short and eloquent essay on Japanese aesthetics, was translated to English in 1977 (republished in 2001 and 2017) and has been noted by numerous scholars, artists, architects and designers for its profound insights into relevant issues of modernity, culture and aesthetic contemplation (Grayling 2002

In Praise of Shadows (Tanizaki, 1977) greatly influenced my final phase of creative production as the essay articulates the clash of aesthetic traditions between East/West and ancient/modern, eloquently describing instances of Japanese beauty that Tanizaki perceived to be diminishing from his society with the onset of modernism. Without actually discussing Japanese aesthetics per se, the novel-like commentary observes many instances of a wabi-sabi aesthetic, describing items in language such as the ‘inexpressable aura of depth of mystery, of overtones partly suggested … the sheen of antiquity … dark, smoky patina and pensive lusters of shallow brilliance … empty spaces with misty films of darkness …’ (Tanizaki 1977, 20-30) and laments the rapid disappearance of what was unique about his culture. Tanizaki considers the layered tones of various kinds of shadows and their power to reflect low-sheen materials like gold embroidery, cloudy crystals and the patina of objects whilst narrating the collision between the shadows of traditional Japanese interiors and the glaring light of the modern age. A particular insight, that western paper reflects light, whilst traditional Japanese paper absorbs it (Tanazaki 1977, encouraged me to begin printing onto absorbent materials such as of linen and paper that had no sheen. I also began deepening and darkening the imagery I had developed, to elicit some of the shadowy patina Tanazaki described. I experimented with the digital speed of Photoshop software and worked back into the final print designs with mediums such as charcoal, chalk, metallic inks and paint, then aged the paper by rubbing it with abrasive textures and tinctures or folding and wrinkling it to suggest it had been salvaged from another age or time.

I also kept in mind comments by Akira Isogawa (discussed in Chapter Five) where he compared the strong differences in the quality of light between Australia and Japan. ‘What is special about Australia is this particular light that is so different from Japan. The light there is so diffused and everything appears greyer. Here the colour is so clear and I find it very inspiring’ (Isogawa, quoted in Christmass, 2012).

Figure 149. Kelsey Ashe Giambazi, Enso. 2018

In response to this, I further enhanced the opposition of clear bright colours in the prints with shadowy areas of imperceptibility to encompass notions of the diametrically opposed, of light and shadow that can be compared to the opposition of East to West, yet blended all within one composition to represent fusion. I introduced metallic objects such as jewellery to my bijin (such as Enso in Figure 147) which served the dual purpose of creating a highlight of lustre to darker areas in the print and another device to disrupt an accurate allocation to a specific time period by the audience. It was at this point, at the very end of the creative project, through reflection on qualities that Tanazaki described, that my objective to bring all aspects of my practice together crystallised through the blend of Australian landscape, fashion, textiles, semiotics of pattern, painting and Japanese aesthetics.

The second text I referred to in the final stages of the research was Segalen’s 1955 Essay on Exoticism: An Aesthetics of Diversity which helped illuminate my own preoccupation with Japonism. Segalen’s essay was an early consideration of the links between colonialism, globalisation and alterity through processes of contact between cultures. His definition of exoticism had the usual characteristics of the sensations of difference and visual pleasure, but he also recognised the ontological value in exoticism, seeing it as a way to preserve cultural diversity. Segalen recognised capitalism’s violent seizure and colonial expropriation, and the rapid globalisation and blandness that could potentially result from it. In reasoning for ways to preserve difference and ‘give the notion of exoticism an authentic meaning’ (van der Grijp 2009, 7), his essay considers the sensorial aspects of exoticism, recording his impressions and defining its qualities (Forsdick 2011). Through a series of diary entry reflections whilst visiting a variety of locations (including Paul Gauguin’s studio in Tahiti) Segalen tried to understand our interest in the ‘other’. Whilst contemptible of some of his contemporary colleagues’ judgement of indigenous populations that were characterised by arrogant ethnocentrism, he recognised that an engagement with exoticism was prone to producing poetic and artistic responses.

Segalan separated the touristic imaginings of exoticism from his version, which was less about space and place than perceptions of time and aesthetic contemplation. ‘It cannot be about such things as the tropics or coconut trees … rather it is about time. Going back: history. An escape from the contemptible and petty present. The elsewhere’s and the bygone days’, he also added, ‘it is about the perception of diversity … the knowledge that something is other than one’s self’ (Segalen, quoted in Harootunian 2002 xiii). For Segalen, exoticism was the way to understand self, by being confronted with what one is not, suggesting that contemporary depictions of the exotic can provide an understanding of self through a positioning of the artist in relationship to the ‘other’. Segalen also argued that the exotic could be a means to ‘bring the mystery once associated with an elsewhere back to one’s own time and place’ (Harootunian 2002, xiv), evoking the idea that contemporary depictions of the exotic can somehow preserve swathes of the historic past, bringing them into the future and conserving them as depictions of former ethnographic variety. In this sense, Segalen can be seen as a utopian idealist whose ideas underline my desire and yearning for cultural otherness that I first perceived as child who dreamed of distant exotic lands (as described in the Introduction).

Segalan lamented yet accepted the onslaught of globalisation; he grieved the ‘wearing down’ of diversity and the ‘mediocrity of the masses and an everyday life landlocked in repetitive routine’ (Segalan 2002, viii). ‘If the homogenous prevails … the way will be cleared for the Kingdom of the Lukewarm; that moment of viscous mush … pre-figured grotesquely by the disappearance of ethnographic diversity’ (Segalen 2002, xiv).[19] Segalen advocated ardently for hybridity as a form of preservation of diversity. Exoticism provided an escape from conformism, a means to self-discovery and a way of saving art from being crushed into a shapeless sameness. Segalen’s contribution has been to posit a mechanism for appreciating difference and recognising and preserving its aesthetic value, positing representations of the exotic as a reflection of the yearning for a pre-industrial past and a means to self-discovery. This idea is also supported by anthropologist Paul van der Grijp in Art and Exoticism (2009) who says:

To look for something we do not find in our own society … the search for the authentic, the pure, and the natural has been translated into a yearning for the exotic in numerous forms. The central idea being that it is always better elsewhere … Our Arcadia may not be simply elsewhere but it may also be located in another time, a Golden Age either in the past or in a projected future. (Van der Grijp 2009, 314)

Van der Grijp’s book positions exoticism definitively as a yearning for otherness and ‘in a more active sense, the evocation of images from faraway lands with which we are generally unfamiliar’[20] (van der Grijp 2009, 10). This definition accords with my aims for ‘Imaginary Aesthetic Territories’ to be a floating world landscape outside time and space, in a no-time, no-place of unfixed/oscillating geography and historical era. Its fictitious nature also reinforces the idea that landscape and identity are always cultural and subjective constructions, that national identity is manufactured and imagined through a combination of our environment and personal subjectivity, as outlined in Chapter One.

The key authors I have looked to in this chapter, Tanazaki and Segalen, both shared a disdain for the onslaught of the modern world’s erasure of cultural diversity. Segalen strove to provide ways to ‘protect contemporary life from the relentless banality wrought by the transformation of capitalism’ (Harootunian 2002, vii) and Tanazaki grieved the rapid disappearance of what was unique about his Japanese culture and argued for ways to preserve an exotic past. One particular statement from Tanazaki has resonated particularly strongly, which was to ‘contemplate an aesthetic arcadia in the modern ruins of the twentieth century’ (Harootunian 2002, xiii); the influence of this concept can be observed in the imaginary lands drawn in my work Antipodea (Figure 144) and Island Nation which appears completely decorative and hedonistic until closer observation of details in the print reveals polluted waterways oozing toxic sludge and leaking oil rigs floating in the ocean to reflect the problematic side of modernisation (Figure 90). Tanazaki’s vivid descriptions have elicited an aesthetic response to artistic inquiry in my work that draws on these ideas whilst simultaneously assisting in further incorporating Japanese aesthetic philosophy into my creative production. Segalen’s ideas can be seen to support concepts of trans-orientalism which accept the inevitable clash and hybridisation of cultures yet seeks new ways of imagining and depicting contemporary culture whilst preserving that which is unique about cultural difference.

Diversity and depictions of it are important to remind us of our humanity, our past and the things that make us different and unique. When Europeans first arrived in Australia, they noted the exotic difference and uniqueness of the wildlife, flowers and landscape (Willis 1993) and attempted to capture its likeness albeit in a European style of painting. Considering ideas of alternate cultural perceptions have spurred me to find new ways to imagine and depict Australian diversity, by reflecting on the unique and distinctive flora and fauna of the landscape, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and the variety of multicultural influences in contemporary Australian society.

Successive depictions of landscape in Australia reinforce that its characteristics are a complex tapestry of cultural constructions of place. I do not claim to have found a definitive way of depicting Australian cultural or fashion identity, only one that reflects my own multicultural Australasian experience and one that is anchored in notions of landscape – continuing but re-imagining this convention. As Anne-Marie Willis expressed so eloquently:

There is no single referent, no final point of reference in the “real” landscape, the images are buried and emerge in the shifting sands of cultural reference that extend well beyond the shores of this continent. (Willis 1993, 64)

The ideas and insights presented in this chapter resonate profoundly with my overall intentions for the reading of ‘Imaginary Aesthetic Territories’. The integration of knowledge derived from scholarship outlined in this chapter, particularly that of Tanizaki (1977) and Segalen (2002), has enabled a ‘filling in’ of the central convergence of influences in the Venn diagram I re-introduced at the beginning of the chapter and assisted in the methodological realisation of my creative practice for the project.

[1] This pattern has been reinterpreted by Australian designers for the surfwear industry, such as the Mambo Loud Shirts discussed in Chapter Three. [2] I exhibited the print as a wallpaper in the 2014 Perth Fashion Festival Fashion Forms Exhibition (see Appendix for additional imagery associated with this exhibition). [3] Seventeenth to nineteenth century trade in ukiyo-e prints and saraca printed kimono such as the one in Figure 44 would certainly have assisted the formation of this invented fantasy. [4] The term ‘utopia was coined from Greek by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia, describing a fictional island society in the south Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South America. These imagined ideal societies have taken many forms in historical literature and art. According to Lyman Tower Sargent, ‘there are socialist, capitalist, monarchical, democratic, anarchist, ecological, feminist, patriarchal, egalitarian, hierarchical, racist, left-wing, right-wing, reformist, Naturists/Nude Christians, free love, nuclear family, extended family, gay, lesbian, and many more utopias’ (Sargent 2010, 21). [5] Dystopia, the antonym of utopia, can portray a society in a state of collapse or disintegration, full of fear and turmoil. Although this was not my focus for the overall readings of my prints, I have introduced glimpses of dystopia within some works to hint at the reality of the modern world. For example, on closer inspection of the Island Nation print (Figure 90) leaking oil tanks in the ocean and drain pipes leaking toxic sludge into the waterways can be discerned. [6] ‘Only convention and history dictates the standard view of the world with Australia down the bottom’ (‘Down under map of the world’, http://www.chartandmapshop.com.au retrieved 1/6/18). The idea of flipping the map upside down (so that Australia or the ‘Land Downunder’ comes out on top of the world) is not new; it has appeared on tourist paraphernalia and alternative maps of Australia. [7] Around the close of the Edo era, Japanese artists were becoming more exposed to European artistic styles and began to fuse European and Japanese techniques to produce landscape ukiyo-e, which were eagerly consumed by the Japanese public. The implementation of a horizontal picture plane, the use of one- and two-point perspective and shading techniques all began to appear in early Meiji era (1868-1912) ukiyo-e. [8] Parallels to culturalised depictions of landscape can be drawn by considering the numerous references in Australian art canons to European artists such as Eugene Von Guérard and Conrad Martens who struggled to depict Australia other than in a European manner during the colonial period in the eighteenth to nineteenth century (Radford 2007). [9] The most significant bijin-ga artists of the Edo era were Kondo Kiyoharu, Okumura Masanobu, Suzuki Harunobu and Kitagawa Utamaro (Harris 2012). [10] The representation/objectification of women in art and perceptions of female beauty in ukiyo-e art are important subjects relevant to but outside the scope of this exegesis. Refer to Regarding Beauty: A View of the Late Twentieth Century by Benezra and Viso (1999) and Empire of the Senses: Beauty Prints from the Floating World 1790-1899 by Hunter (2014). [11] Geczy and Karaminas set a hierarchy here between what constitutes a ‘work of art’ compared to ‘just an illustration’. The term ‘illustration’ became inadequate and I adopted the term ‘multi-media’ artist, rather than ‘textile designer’ or ‘illustrator’, as my preference for the perception of my prints is that they are interpreted as artworks. [12] The kimono was also adopted by men and women as a garment of leisure during the obsession for Japonism in Europe in the nineteenth century (Snodin and Howard 1996). [13] The wearing of kimono, even in a subtly referential form such as a bathrobe-type garment, can elicit ‘the ludic role of dress as a performative act, enabling the wearer to encompass a temporary identity of self-staged cultural/exotic other’ (Bolton 2015, 19), a playful game of ‘dress-up’ that can be imagined when wearing kimono-type garments. The online quarterly Kyoto Journal discusses how the wearing of kimono by both contemporary Japanese and ‘foreigners’ affects ‘the body posture, the gait and the stare’ (Raz 2011) and often produces a certain withdrawal and stillness. The kimono and philosophies of wearing kimono are vast topics outside the scope of this exegesis. For more information, see Milhaupt’s (2014) Kimono: A Modern History. [14] Incorporated into the philosophical system of wabi-sabi, three lessons are paramount: 1. All things are impermanent (e.g. the inclination toward nothingness is unrelenting, even solid things like rocks, planets and stars are nothing more than an illusion of permanence and will one day blow away into dust). 2. All things are imperfect (e.g. on close inspection even the sharpest blade when magnified is a series of micro-pits, chips and variations). 3. All things are incomplete (e.g. everything is in a state of becoming or dissolving) (Koren 1994). [15] ‘Sex sells’ refers to the use of sex appeal in advertising to help sell a particular product or service. Sexually appealing imagery may or may not pertain to the product or service in question. See: psychologyformarketers.com, retrieved 22/5/18. [16] In Chock’s (2014) 0 Shunga: Stages of Desire, it is pointed out that although erotic connotations can be perceived in some bijin-ga, this is not the equivalent of today’s pornography. Neither were the Shunga (erotic prints) of the day an exact equivalent of contemporary versions of pornography, despite their explicit and theatrical depictions of sexual acts. In any case, the subject of sexuality in Edo Japan is a complex topic that is outside the scope of this exegesis. [17] Ukiyo-e, as a descendant of early Buddhist and Shinto devotional prints, ‘retained something of the spiritual pre-occupation of these early precursors’ across all mediums, including bijin-ga (beautiful women prints) and shunga (erotica) prints (Harris 2012, 118). [18] ‘A vanitas is a symbolic work of art showing the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death, often contrasting symbols of wealth and symbols of ephemerality and death. Best-known are vanitas still lifes, a common genre in Netherlandish art of the 16th and 17th centuries; they have also been created at other times and in other media and genres’. See: ‘Vanitas’, https://www.harvardartmuseums.org/?q=vanitas, retrieved 22/5/18. [19] This idea that art and design could be reduced to bland homogenisation foresaw the issue Australian designers (who I discussed in Chapter One) faced when being accused of bland internationalism in the early 1990s, as designers reacted to the exuberance of Australiana, reducing their cultural production to ‘classic’ and bland styles bereft of any cultural signifiers. [20] Van der Grijp also provides a warning about the negative sides of exoticism: ‘Exoticism can slip into ethnocentrism if accompanied by a devalourising attitude, and into racism when it produces rejection and hostility’ (van der Grijp 2009, 10).

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