24th Sesshu International Art Society Exhibition

250 works showcasing the best of Japanese art across schools and disciplines, with free admission? Mac, Founder and Lead Guide of Maction Planet, describes a wonderful day at 2017’s Sesshu International Art Society Exhibition, running until 24th December 2017 in the heart of The World’s Greatest Metropolis!  

I was honoured to be invited to the opening reception of the 24th Sesshu International Art Society Exhibition, held on 13th December 2017 at the National Art Centre in Nogizaka.

The Sesshu International Art Society was founded in 1994. The society is named after the painter-monk Sesshu who lived from 1420-1506 during the Muromachi period (1336-1573).

As a young boy Sesshu entered Hofuku-ji Temple. Legend tells that Sesshu was tied to a pillar as punishment for rebelling (he was disappointed at having to become a Rinzai Zen Buddhist Priest) and, with his toes, drew a rat that looked almost real from the tears that had fallen to the floor. However, he continued his studies, and at the same time learnt painting from Tensho Shubun, the most renowned ink painter (suibokuga) of the day. Little is known about him until he began going by the name Sesshu in his mid-40s. He travelled to Southern China in 1468, where he stayed until 1469.  He went on to produce numerous works and become the most prominent master of ink and wash paintings from the mid-Muromachi period. He established a following of painters who are now referred to as the Unkoku-rin school after him (Sesshu is also known as Tōyō, Unkoku, or Bikeisai!)Several works by Sesshu are on display at the show

The goal of the society that bears Sesshu’s name is to bring “Oriental Art to the world at large” – to continue his spirit, to freely exhibit creative compositions, and to give birth to new art from the formation of artistic connections that go beyond the conventional framework of factions and the rigidity of the teacher-apprentice dynamic. As well as their flagship annual exhibition, now in its 24th year, they have held overseas exhibitions in France, Turkey and China, commemorating the fact that Sesshu was one of the first Japanese artists to travel beyond his homeland.

The society has three fundamental principles:

  • Create based on traditions, but looking one step ahead
  • Do not imitate; freely express a manifestation of your own spirit
  • Advance the internationalization of sho-ga calligraphy and painting works through active overseas development

As you tour this year’s exhibition, this can clearly see these concepts in the works on display. 250 pieces are on show in this cornucopia of art, celebration the different schools of Japanese art – Nihonga, Shodo and Suibokuga – and the diversity of expression within them. Highlights of the exhibition can be found in the companion post here.

As well as the Japanese artists, one Chinese ink painter has his work displayed – Shun Wang. Readers of our blog may remember Shun from his Mac on Tokyo interview which we conducted before his first Tokyo solo exhibition “The Impression of Jiangnan” held in October. In that interview he mentioned that a very special piece would be shown in December at the Sesshu exhibition, and I was very pleased to see Valley and Rivers (秋壑清泉図) on display. Congratulations to Shun on this outstanding achievement.  

After viewing the art, it was time for the reception. There were a number a speakers, including Kazuo Noguchi, CEO of REIJINSHA and Chief Director of the Society. He was joined by art critic Sakae Hasegawa and Ataru Nakano. The Kanpai toast was given by ink painter Taiko Ohara, who celebrated turning 90 years old this year.

The reception ended with a talk show with three featured artists, one from each of the main schools of Japanese painting. Taiko Ohara displayed his ink painting “Mt. Fuji from Lakeside (湖畔の富士)” at the exhibition this year. Calligrapher Seiha Sakai talked about her featured calligraphy piece, a poem written by Chinese Tan Dynasty poet Linghu Chu. Izumi Fujisaki, a Nihonga artist, originally painted flowers, but is now focussed on her ‘Flowers and the Universe’ project which she discussed.

Huge thanks to all involved for the kind invitation to this amazing exhibition and reception and a great day of art.

The 24th Sesshu International Art Society Exhibition is on show at the National Art Centre, Nogizaka, in Salons 1C and 1D from 13th December to 24th December 2017. Admission is free.

Maction Planet’s Tokyo Art Tours encompass the major exhibitions, street art, murals, sculpture, gallery showings and events which make up the rich cultural landscape of the city. The sheer scope of events can be difficult for visitors to navigate, and often these events do not have any English language support.

Our Tokyo Art Tours can be fully-customised around any Tokyo Private Tour experience. A large part of the Maction Planet manifesto is that we don’t believe in ‘compartmentalisation of tourism’. Just because guests contact us for an art tour, we don’t stop there – we help them understand the history, architecture and curiosities of the areas they are in, and make sure the whole adventure is a food tour too!

Whatever your interests, contact us at info@mactionplanet.com to begin your journey to your perfect, personalised time in The World’s Greatest Metropolis.

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