Entrevista a / Interview to Aideen Barry (English version)

Una edición más, participo en Mujeres Mirando Mujeres en el apartado de entrevistas. En esta ocasión he elegido una artista irlandesa que tiene mucho que decir: Aideen Barry (Cork, 1980).

Once again, I participate in Mujeres Mirando Mujeres project with an interview to a woman artist. This time is an Irish artist who has much to tell us through her art and words: Aideen Barry (Cork, 1980)

Aideen Barry: breaking taboos through humour and grotesque

Aideen Barry: Not to be Known, 2015. Performative Film. Single Channel Video with Sound. 5min. 30sec. Courtesy: the artist Aideen Barry (c) and The Arts & Heritage Trust UK for The Gallery of Wonder.

Despite the development of artistic and audiovisual techniques that could help in this, it is still not easy to talk about abstract concepts such as feelings, deep thoughts, mental illnesses, the issues of all kind derived from our current way of life or to tell a complex story of an ethnographic or immaterial heritage. And more in a way that normalises it and brings it into a therapeutical terrain that causes it to lose its fear or bring something lost back to the present day. Aideen Barry does all this with an enormous naturalness through drawing, sculpture and installation, video or performance.

A total artist trained in a country, Ireland, which still suffers the consequences of staunch Catholicism in all areas of society and which is evident not only in her work, but also in her active feminism. A member of the Aosdána and the Royal Hibernian Academy, she has taught classes and workshops in the United States, South Africa and several European countries. She is also involved in numerous choral projects, both artistic and activist.

Through the grotesque, humour and Freudian unheimliche, she breaks down taboos relating to women, historical customs and everything that is linked to our daily lives both in the past and in our present and immediate future. Every historical event or process has causes and consequences that often mark societies, cultures and countries in themselves.

Aideen creates in a universal language in which every woman can feel identified in one way or another in her work, whether she is Irish, Spanish, American or Australian. The problems of one are the problems of all of us and she teaches us to look them in the face, to lose our fear of them, to finally face them and come out.

In this interview, which can also be read partially in Spanish at Mujeres Mirando Mujeres project, she tells us a little about who she is, where she comes from and what she does, but the best way to get to know her is through her work.

Aideen Barry: Self Portrait, 2021. Performative Film. 9 channel video with 18 channel sound. Courtesy: the artist Aideen Barry (c) and Studio Aideen Barry.

The current most renown performers are women and so some of the best video artists in contemporary art history, but everyone has role models, who are yours?

There are nearly too many to mention for such a question but the ones I feel right now that are the most important role models are Ana Mendieta, Carol Rama, Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, Hito Steyerl, Francesca Woodman, Cindy Sherman, and writers like Audre Lorde, Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Bowen, Ursula Le Guin and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 

Aideen Barry: Strange Terrain, 2014. 40 short Films with 2 Channel Sound each, between 15- 38 Seconds in duration.

Video, performance, sculpture, drawing, installation, etc. you use almost all the existing media in arts to create your works, which of them do you prefer, or you think you can express yourself best?

I am not sure I have a preference that is constant. It just depends what medium I feel I can have the most power with to shape a conversation at that moment. At this right moment I think It is film and performative film, that is moving image work that consists of me being present in front of and behind the camera often at times simultaneously and sometimes what is interesting is the struggle to be in two places at the one time. In a way that kind of magnifies how I feel about the roles I seem to occupy as a result of my gender. 

Aideen Barry on set both directing and performing.

Just having a look to your work one can realise that it has a very studied aesthetics, and every element has a meaning, how are your creating processes?

There is not any one sequence to what I produce but there are sometimes trains of thought that inform different pieces. I often start with a drawing which is nearly always after reading a text, novel, short story or looking at a historical piece of art on a subject I am interested in. From there the sketch can become something else such as a sculptural object, an animated moving image work with sound, and then an installation. Sometimes the process requires the participation of other people through collaboration or social engaged practices to realise it further. Currently I am making architectural structures and considering how moving image works can be presented in a post-pandemic public space or a piece of wearable furniture so I am very involved in considering the manifestation of a work and the context to which it is going to be iterated. That is describing a kind of trajectory, from initial concept to experiential manifestation but honestly everything is nearly always evolving and metamorphosing into something else.

Aideen Barrry on set

You talk about monachopsis as one of the most important topics of your work, a word that many people ignore that exists, but that perfectly defines the feeling of many of us. How did you find this expression and how do you deal with monachopsis through art? 

I came across the word Monachopsis in a dictionary of obscure terms and I felt it perfectly captured the field of not quite fitting, or that feeling of at odds or “othered” in the world. I guess what I try to do is to provoke conversation about this feeling because its root is often as a result of inequality, so rather that hitting people over the head with heavy subject matter that would, of course would make them feel quite upset or alienated, I used humour as a way of making fun of the really darker things I feel. It is truly the best thing to do, to make somebody laugh out loud at grimness, I think really I sucker punch them with hilarity and horror. Of course I also try to use myself and my body when I make these works and there is something really ridiculous of trying to be in two places at the same time, in-front of and behind the camera, sometimes simultaneously. So by that very displacement of the self I am talking about being dismembered or out of place of course that says so much about not quite being “all there”.

Aideen Barry: Drawing from Monachopsis Series, 2020. 29×36 cm. Courtesy: the artist Aideen Barry (c) and Studio Aideen Barry.

Besides monachopsis, mental health is also a main topic of your work. How do you think art can help to raise awareness of its importance?

I think we are all being pinched by our mental health while we live through this great age of anxiety, of course with the pandemic, but also even before that with our ridiculous workloads and the over-businesses of our lives, the cost of living, the growing inequality. Its been a very challenging time, a time of endless stresses and yet the pressure to present face-tuned perfection and positivity on our social media avatars, our alternative selves, has led us all to be quite miserable. 

I think Art has a great ability, through the very uniqueness of its language to speak to these things. It is of course a completely different lingualism, it reaches beyond words and for many of us it can provide enormous well being. I like to think that Art contributes vastly to our cultural and civic welfare. It has been amazing to see how many people have turned to it as a moment of great distraction through the current world wide epidemic. Making Art about anxiety and the turmoils of trauma not only normalises the conversations about mental health but It also offers us new ways of thinking about illness that have often been considered taboo. Making work and seeing work that skirts or considers these topics also can be quite restorative to people going through great strife. It’s not that art’s role is to be a treatment for these maladies, but artists that work this way often present these ideas through the prism of experience and recuperation which can only be a good thing.

Aideen Barry: Possession, 2011. Performative Film. Single channel video with sound. 6min. 30sec. Courtesy: the artist Aideen Barry (c) and Studio Aideen Barry.

You also talk through your works about gender issues, such as mental load, is female mental sickness still mythologized in some way?

I think unfortunately there are still huge sweeping generalisations about women and mental illness rather than tackling what could really be at the root cause of why so many women feel unwell in their lives. I think also, in this great age of anxiety that all humans are facing unrelenting pressure and as a result mental health issues are common place but it is women’s mental health that is still the source of ridicule, misdiagnosis  and ill treatment. Women artists are being abused by the patriarchy and it manifests in the way we sometimes make work and yes sometimes that gets brandished as “hysteria” instead of seeing that the illness is society itself. The illness is “otherness and othering”, its one dominant view imbuing pressure on anything that doesn’t fit into the monochromatic, homogenous and misogynistic view of gender and gender roles and its clearing being evidenced yet again by the inequality and regression presented by the pandemic. In a way I try to poke fun at these serious topics in the work to take away the power of the dominant view and present it  for what it is a visual fiction and an alternative fact. 

Aideen Barry: Possession, 2011. Performative Film. Single channel video with sound. 6min. 30sec. Courtesy: the artist Aideen Barry (c) and Studio Aideen Barry.

Ireland is still a very conservative country in several aspects, especially about women rights, does this have an effect in culture and arts?

Yes Ireland has, and still does treat women appallingly. It was largely because of the hold the Roman Catholic Church has over the State. Our constitution has been corrupted by patriarchal doctrines that limited women’s ability to be free thinking independent humans, and were othered, objectified and mistreated in all aspects of Irish life as a result. The atrocities carried out on women and their children are really only now coming to light, due to a series of international scandals that for years were covered up by the Vatican, The Church and the Irish Government. 

The censorship and abuse women faced here has left an indelible mark on our visual culture. A lot of really great artists were deliberately censored, works were removed, their careers threatened. In a lot of cases our really great artists fled Ireland to seek freedom of expression in other European countries and elsewhere in the world. Books were banned, art was vandalised, it was a claustrophobic regressive, and ignorant country and it held back its own progress in the world. 

Aideen Barry: “Lickie Lickie”, Monachopsis Drawing No. 2, 2020. 29×36 cm. Courtesy: the artist Aideen Barry (c) and Studio Aideen Barry.

There have been some seismic changes of late which gives us hope for the future. During the recent movement to Repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution (that put the lives of women on a par with the unborn), it was artists who lead the vocal and visual movement to change this country for the better. The Artists Campaign to Repeal the 8th was an organisation that was founded by artists who made remarkable public artworks, processions, videos and public interventions that captured and galvanised the Irish public into action and ultimately led to a huge constitutional change that finally started to give women reproductive choice and independent decisions over their health. It was artists like Áine Philips, Alice Maher, Eithne Jordan, Cecily Brennan, Rachel Fallon, Sarah Lundy, Breda Mayock  and the thousands of other artists, like myself, who joined the movement that visualised these traumas with powerful effigies, banners, public drawings and murals, songs, dance movements. It was a massive cohort that put this issue at centre stage and stated that we were not going to stand for this anymore. In the past five years we have seen radical changes in our country, The Marriage Equality Law, the removal of Blasphemy as a punishable offence and Repeal,  and in all cases these issues have been brought to the  public conscious by artists. This has been remarkable to be both witness too and part of and is a sign that we will not be censored anymore and that Ireland is finally changing, a long way to go yet, but on the right track.

As an artist that has grown up in a country were I was treated so very differently by the “unfortunate” nature of my gender, that claustrophobia permeates my bones. Currently in the Irish Constitution Article 41.2 states that “A woman’s place is in the home”, and as a result of this enshrined and gendered role access to pensions and equality still falls far short as does women’s progress and emancipation. When you are decreed to be always within a domestic object, or within the constant role of “career” by the state, that takes on a huge gravity that can eclipse all aspects of your life. So it has become important to me to consider the relationship to the home, the relationship to been within and part of an object, the das-unheimliche,( un-home-liness according to Freud), and to use that in the work. A long shadow is cast by our dark and recent past, it is something that just does not disappear over night and that long reach of objectification and control still leaves its touch on us artists here, its just nice to slap it back once in a while with sucker punch and that is exactly what I try to do.

Aideen Barry: Self Portrait, 2021. Performative Film. 9 channel video with 18 channel sound. Courtesy: the artist Aideen Barry (c) and Studio Aideen Barry.

Do you think that, thanks to the work made by the prior generations, young female artists have a more optimism horizon in art? Which are the challenges they will have to face?

Yes I think largely to the great work by artists, curators, writers, critic and cultural producers of prior generations have definitely made great strides to change and amend things for the better but we have a long long way to go. Even this week I have seen organisations in the UK leading a series of talks on “How not to exclude artist mothers” which is features the Director, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh a Curator of Whitechapel Gallery, London and chaired by art critic Hettie Judah consider the experience of artist mothers in the art world today. These conversations are being finally led by institutions (albeit UK institutions) which is really refreshing to see that finally challenges that are being faced and have largely held women artists back are finally being taken seriously and are now leading to policy shift and hopefully implementation changes. This again is a small step in the right direction, but being slightly pessimistic I still feel we have a such an uphill battle, especially as so many women artists who are mothers  and/or carers ( say of elder parents and relatives) are now finding their creative time eroded or banished entirely during this current pandemic and so much roll back is happening to them right now. So some drastic changes are needed. I feel really to meet “equal opportunity employment obligations” all publicly funded museums, galleries and institutions should be publishing statistics on their websites as to how they are addressing the inequality of representation of women, trans artists, BPOC, ethnic minorities and artists or cultural producers will disabilities in their programming and in their collections. Why not set a task for them to have equal representation by the end of this decade. It would make enormous strides to address the imbalance and misrepresented and distorted canon that is presented. The onus is on us as a community and operators in the industry to demand this, but it is also on every tax payer to also demand fairness and equality standards represented in state and nationally funded organisations also addressed and adhered too. It will hopefully go a long way too at putting some kind of “regulation”, certainly some influence, on the art market which is so exclusionary and prohibitive to women and “othered” groups and yet really relies on big institutions such as museums to keep it afloat. 

Aideen Barry: Spray Grenade. SG09/2.7#08, 2010. Edition of 10. Aluminum, Brass, Steel. From the Weapons of Mass Consumption Series. 21×8 cm. Courtesy: Aideen Barry.

Thank you for answering my questions, Aideen, and I know that these pandemic times are very hard for artists, museums and galleries, but I could not finish this interview without asking you about your last projects and when and where to visit them.

Aideen Barry: Klostės (translated as Pleats or Folds), 2022. Currently in production. Feature Film 4K 5.1 surround sound. 9 channel video with 18 channel sound. Courtesy: the Artist Aideen Barry & Kaunas 2022 The European Capital of Culture.

I am currently working on a film with the citizens of Kaunas in Lithuania. Its a Feature film currently in production and it will debut next year as one of the main commissions for Kaunas 2022 The European Capital of Culture. The film is called Klostés, which means Fold or Pleats. Its a metaphor for how time is bended and folded to create illusions. The film is entirely stopmotion animation, so it literally is playing with time and we are still filming though limited by the pandemic, shooting is still ongoing. The film is focused on Interwar Modernism but importantly about the hidden histories and lived experiences of some of the extraordinary people who occupied this beautiful architectural wunderkammer of a city. Further details of this can be seen on www.klostes.com and www.kaunas2022.eu

Aideen Barry: ᖃᐅᔨᒪᔭᐅᔪᓐᓃᖅᑐᑦ OBLIVION SEACHMALLTACHT. 2021 currently in production. Sound & multichannel video installation, performance and Vinyl Record. Courtesy: the Artist Aideen Barry for the ITMA & Music Network. Bunting Commission Award.

I am also working on a huge collaborative work called  ᖃᐅᔨᒪᔭᐅᔪᓐᓃᖅᑐᑦ ( Inuit Translation) OBLIVION ( English translation)  SEACHMALLTACHT ( Irish Gaeilge Translation). Its a massive video, audio and multimedia work made in collaboration with Irish Harpist Aisling Lyons, Inuit Electronic Artists RIIT, and conceptual designer Margaret O Connor. It was commissioned by the Irish Traditional Music Archives and Music Network Ireland for the Bunting Award. I am making a work that is taking some of the historic Bunting Harp scores and turning them into an electro-pop sound score with Inuit Electric pop artist RIIT, merging ancient Irish and Inuit cultures in a never before hear sound and visual experience that asks What is the role of Art & Artists at a time when we are face Oblivion? What if we are the last generation of artists left to live on the planet and if environmental apocalypse and epidemics threaten the very existence of humanity what do we do?  The work is apocalyptical, because I feel we are living through a great apocalyptical age and its inspired by Edward Bunting who saved the Irish Harp from Oblivion in the 17th Century but writing down and recording all the airs and lits he could before it was gone forever.  This work will debut in Ireland in 2021 and will travel to Paris in 2022 to the Centre Cultural Irelandais and the Canada Council and beyond to the US in 2023. 

Aideen Barry: “No, No,No”, Monachopsis Drawing No. 10, 2020. 29×36 cm. Courtesy: the artist Aideen Barry (c) and Studio Aideen Barry.

I will have some work in The Drawing Room in London in the Spring of this year, I will also be showing new work in a touring international solo show that will be going from Ireland to France to Germany, Denmark and the UK in the next 24 month sand details about these shows will be announced on my site and instagram and through my gallery in Spain Galeria Isabel Hurley. 

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Shōzan Gen’yo: Apuntes de ‘Mujeres artistas japonesas antes de IIGM’ (y VI)

Por fin, y con disculpas por el retraso de varios meses, aquí está la última de las artistas japonesas de las que hablé en Librería Gil el año pasado.

Shozan Gen'yo ret(r)azos maircase

Shozan Gen’yo. Autorretrato. Fte. Wikimedia Commons

Akenomiya Teruko (Mitsuko) (1634-1727) fue princesa imperial, la octava hija del emperador Go-Mizunoo. Como tal, fue instruida en artes y destacó en poesía, caligrafía –costumbre china que quedó muy arraigada en Japón hasta nuestros días- y pintura, posiblemente por su madre adoptiva, Tōfukumon’in, también de gran talento y maestros como Kanō Yasunobu o Takuhō Dōshuu, cercanos a uno de los grandes pintores de la época, Kanō Tan’yuu (tío-abuelo de Kiyohara Yukinobu).

Shozan Gen'yo. emperador Go-mizuno, ret(r)azos, maircase

Shozan Gen’yo. Retrato del emperador retirado Go-mizuno. Fte. FISTER, Patricia: Buddhist Paintings. Templo Manpukuji, Uji.

Además, no solo cultivó las artes, sino que tuvo una gran labor como mecenas ordenando la construcción de templos y encargos a los grandes artistas de la época. Al morir su padre y permanecer soltera, siguiendo la costumbre de la época se ordenó monja y, unos años más tarde fundó el templo Rinkyō-ji en los mismos terrenos del palacio de retiro de su padre, el palacio Shūgakuin, en las inmediaciones de Kyōto, donde fue abadesa hasta su fallecimiento. Es en este momento cuando adquiere el nombre monacal por el que fue conocida como artista: Shōzan Gen’yō. Este templo y otros como el Hōkyō-ji, que aún permanece en actividad en nuestros días, era para monjas y allí iban las princesas imperiales que, como Teruko, quedaban solteras. Estos templos tenían como particularidad que las mujeres que allí vivían cultivaban las artes con total libertad, de hecho, muchos de los elementos decorativos y plásticos que hoy se conservan en los conventos y templos están realizados por las propias monjas. Como nota curiosa, en estos templos de monjas budistas se pueden encontrar extraordinarias colecciones de muñecas Hina que llevaban con ellas y se aumentaban con regalos. En el caso del Hōkyō-ji, el número y calidad es tal que recibe el nombre de Ningyō-ji.

La gran mayoría de las obras de Teruko se conservan en templos budistas, tanto femeninos como masculinos, de los alrededores de Kyōto y son en su mayoría de temática religiosa. Se habla de más de mil pinturas y varios miles de esculturas votivas.  Destacan las representaciones de una deidad budista femenina; Merofu Kannon, cuyas figuras solían integradas en una especie de tríptico-altar. Asimismo, Teruko realizaba con shikimi pequeñas estatuas votivas tanto de Kannon, como de Buddha, con un gran detalle. Debido al paso del tiempo, algunas de estas piezas se han degradado, pero aún se ve la delicadeza de las formas. No solo realizó pinturas de temas budistas, sino que también fue una gran retratista, destacando los que hizo de su padre u otros monjes, pero, sin duda, llama la atención su propio autorretrato ya tonsurada, ya que no es muy común el autorretrato en el arte clásico japonés.

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Teruko no fue la única mujer de su familia que tuvo un papel fuera de lo común: su madre adoptiva, como se ha mencionado, fue también artista; su hermana Richu fue abadesa del templo budista Hōkyō-ji; su sobrina (hija del emperador Go-Sai) también abadesa de Hōkyō-ji y reputada artista, y su media hermana, nada menos que la emperatriz Meishō (1629-1643).

Además de en los diferentes templos y colecciones privadas del área de Kyōto y Shiga, los museos nacionales japoneses albergan en sus colecciones obra de Shōzan Gen’yō.

Ver también:

I – Uemura Shoen

II- Kiyohara Yukinobu

III – Okuhara Seiko

IV – Ike Gyokuran

V – Noguchi Shohin

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Noguchi Shōhin: Apuntes de ‘Mujeres artistas japonesas antes de IIGM’ (V)

Noguchi shohin-retrato

Retrato de Noguchi Shohin. Autor desconocido.

Noguchi Shōhin – 野口小蘋 (25 febrero 1847- 17 febrero 1917) será recordada como la primera mujer artista al servicio del Emperador. Nacida en Osaka bajo el nombre de Matsumura Chikako, pronto comenzó su interés hacia la pintura, comenzando sus estudios a los cuatro años, siendo más tarde discípula en Kyōto de Hine Taizan. Con ella se culmina la figura de la mujer en el arte en Kyōto, comenzado en el siglo XVIII con la Escuela Nanga. Como bunjin, o artista ilustrada, consigue su propio éxito sin necesidad de estar instruida por artistas de su familia directa ni de ser de clase alta. Su relevancia fue tal que uno de sus paisajes fue expuesto en la Exposición Universal de Chicago en 1893 como una de las principales piezas del pabellón de Japón. Gran amiga de Okuhara Seiko, de la que se hablará a continuación, realizó numerosas obras colaborativas con ella y compartieron muchos de sus mecenas, entre los que se encontraban destacadas figuras políticas de la Restauración Meiji. Junto a Seiko y el político Kido Takayoshi, quien además era uno de esos mecenas, realizaron numerosas piezas en conjunto en las que unían poesía y pintura denominadas gassaku.

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Fue una de las figuras más destacadas del arte de finales del s. XIX y principios del XX, llegando a ser profesora de la prestigiosa Gakkushuin para mujeres, vinculada directamente con la familia imperial. En sus últimos años, sobre todo desde 1900, y con más de medio siglo de carrera a sus espaldas, fue pintora imperial y jurado en numerosas exposiciones nacionales de arte de la época.

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Entre sus obras, destaca este biombo, que fue una de las obras principales de la exposición póstuma que su hija Iku, también artista, organizó en su honor en 1929. Hay que señalar que, mientras el anverso representa una escena ambientada en un episodio histórico -el festival de purificación de primavera del año 353-, el reverso es un paisaje. Sin embargo, mientras que en un lado está realizado en oro, su paralelo está pintado en plata, simbolizando también los colores de la primavera el otoño y cada uno pintado con un estilo formal e informal al otro lado.

Noguchi Shohin 08Bunjin

Noguchi Shohin: Bunjin. 1897. Wikimedia Commons/Museo de la Universidad Kansai.

Muchas de sus obras, de las que no he podido encontrar más ejemplos que el que ilustra el párrafo, reflejan una intencionalidad de mostrar la sensibilidad e independencia artística femenina de la época y los círculos de literatos -sobre todo concnetrado en Kyōto y después en Tōkyō- representando mujeres cultivando diversas artes, como la música, la pintura o la caligrafía, lo que se ha querido ver como una demostración de que se veía en igualdad de condiciones de destreza que sus homólogos masculinos. No obstante, este aspecto no es muy común en otras artistas de la época, ya que se ceñían a los temas que se practicaban en sus escuelas, lo cual hace que la creatividad de Shōhin se interprete como un paso más allá en el arte japonés.

Ver también:

I – Uemura Shoen

II – Kiyohara Yukinobu

III – Okuhara Seiko

IV – Ike Gyokuran

VI – Shozan Gen’yo


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Ike Gyokuran: Apuntes de ‘Mujeres artistas japonesas antes de IIGM’ (IV)

De Ike (de soltera Tokuyama Machi) Gyokuran -池玉瀾 – (1727-1784) podría decirse que tiene una historia semejante a otras que hemos visto en Occidente, sobre todo en el s. XX: la pareja de artistas que retroalimentan su creatividad con la actividad artística del otro (como, por ejemplo, Nikki de Saint Phalle y Jean Tinguely).

Portrait of Taiga&Gyokuran by Tomioka Tessai, early 20th century

Tomioka Tessai: Retrato de Taiga y Gyokuran. Principios del s. XX.

La formación original de Gyokyuran fue la poesía, tanto su madre como su abuela eran conocidas poetisas en Kyōto. Su padre, como sirviente del shogunato, vivía largas temporadas en Edo, por lo que la familia se ganaba la vida regentando una casa de té, muy popular entre los literatos de la ciudad. Fue uno de aquellos clientes habituales, Yanagisawa Kien, quien vio su potencial siendo aún niña y se convirtió en su primer profesor de pintura. De hecho, es más que probable que fuera quien diera a la joven Machi su nombre artístico: Gyokuran. También era el maestro de Ike Taiga y quien presentó a la pareja.

Gyokuran 03 waka

Su marido Taiga fue uno de los más destacados artistas de Kyōto y uno de los fundadores de la Escuela Nanga, además de su maestro, su compañero de taller y ella, a su vez, le introdujo a él en el mundo del waka o poema de estilo japonés en el que destacaba especialmente. La pareja era conocida en la época por pasar las horas escribiendo, tocando música, dibujando y pintando en su desordenado taller, teniendo ambos un gran renombre y respeto por parte de la comunidad creativa. Eran visitados por otros artistas y se rodeaban de las figuras más destacadas de la literatura de la época. Las sinergias surgidas de la convivencia y la enseñanza mutua hacen que, en ocasiones, no se distingan las pinturas de una y otro, o se confudan sus estilos en la redacción de los waka. Una pareja extraordinariamente moderna para el Japón del s. XVIII que, sin embargo, la historia ha centrado su atención en Taiga y no tanto en Gyokuran, como también hemos visto en muchos otros casos de parejas de grandes artistas. Sin embargo, la obra pictórica de Gyokuran (obviando la poética) está al mismo nivel que la de su marido, cosa que queda patente a simple vista.

Gyokuran 08

Paisaje otoñal con cascada. Metropolitan Museum of Art


La obra de Gyokuran se centra, sobre todo, en paisaje -como es común en la Escuela Nanga-, que suele combinar con waka. También es muy característico de su obra la decoración de abanicos, en los que, solo empleando tinta negra, realiza esquemáticos paisajes reales con un trazo rápido. Como ejemplo, al dibujar barcas, en un primer momento es fácil identificar los elementos básicos e, incluso, al navegante. Sin embargo, al acercarse, se pueden ver que algunas incluso están hechas de un solo trazo con la destreza de los grandes calígrafos. Son piezas que destilan tranquilidad y refinamiento.


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Hay que señalar que la escuela Nanga o Bunjinga, especializada en paisaje y flores, se integraba por artistas profesionales que aspiraban a ser intelectuales influenciados por la cultura china de la época. Además de estas aspiraciones, se diferenciaba de otras escuelas del periodo Tokugawa por aceptar mujeres en sus círculos, ya que consideraban a la mujer semejante al hombre y tampoco tenían en cuenta el trasfondo social. Toda mujer con inquietudes y aptitudes creativas (caligrafía, pintura, poesía…) era bienvenida en los círculos Nanga. Gracias a estos círculos de intelectuales y literatos, nombres como el de Gyokuran aparecen en el listado de artistas más importantes de Kyōto llamado Heian jinbutsu shi o “¿Quién es quién en Kyōto?”, una publicación anual en forma de lo que hoy en día podríamos llamar ranking y que constituye uno de los documentos principales para conocer e identificar nombres de artistas de entre finales del s. XVII y las primeras tres décadas del XIX. Es más, tal fue el número de mujeres bunjin, que se dedicó un listado de 160 mujeres artistas en el Heian jinbutsu shi.


Gyokuran 02_Orquideas

Orquideas. Philadelphia Museum of Art

Ver también:

I – Uemura Shoen

II – Kiyohara Yukinobu

III – Okuhara Seiko

V – Noguchi Shohin

VI – Shozan Gen’yo

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Okuhara Seiko: Apuntes de ‘Mujeres artistas japonesas antes de IIGM’ (III)

Okuhara Seiko_retrato

Anónimo. Retrato de Okuhara Seiko. Archive.fo

Okuhara Seiko –奥原 晴湖 (14 septiembre 1837 – 28 julio 1913) es, sin duda, una de las artistas más peculiares de la historia del arte de Japón. Nacida de una familia samurái de alto rango, decidió formarse en artes de forma privada, ya que no se permitía que las mujeres fueran aprendices en los talleres tradicionales (la escuela Nanga de Kyoto supuso una excepción), aprendiendo las técnicas tanto de la tradición china como de la japonesa. Fuera de cualquiera convención social, se cortó el cabello, tomó las ropas masculinas, practicaba artes marciales y cambió su nombre Setsuko por Seiko, que no da indicación de género, cuando se fue a buscar fortuna a la capital, Edo (actual Tokyo). Su caligrafía y pintura, por su temática y características, también fue catalogada como masculina. Vivió sola gran parte de su vida y su casa-taller, fue lugar de reunión de los círculos artísticos y literarios de Edo. A pesar de tenerlo todo en su contra en la capital, logró hacerse un nombre cuando no tenía una vinculación familiar con el mundo cultural de la antigua Tokyo con grandes mecenas, llegando incluso tener el honor de ser la primera mujer artista en tener una audiencia con la Emperatriz.

Una de las mayores aportaciones de Okuhara fue la creación en 1870 de una escuela de arte femenina, para que pudieran aprender fuera del hogar y las que tuvieran aptitudes pudieran desarrollarlas. Entre sus alumnas, que llegaron a casi 300 y casi todas de clase alta, se encontraban numerosas geisha.

En 1891 decidió retirarse de la capital y se trasladó al campo, viviendo en una cabaña de la aldea de Kumagaya, en la prefectura de Saitama (centro de Japón) con su pupila y compañera Watanabe Seiran, quien la ayudaba tanto en las tareas de enseñanza como de creación. Sin embargo, continuó su actividad creativa hasta un año antes de morir, gracias al continuo apoyo de sus mecenas, entre los que se encontraba Kido Takayoshi, una de las mayores figuras de la Restauración Meiji, quien también patrocinaba a Noguchi Shouhin, también artista, y gran amiga. Se cuenta que un día colgó un cartel delante de su casa anunciando que no volvería a aceptar encargos. A los pocos meses, falleció.

Okuhara seiko-Brodell

Ria Brodell. Okuhara Seiko & Watanabe Seiran. 2013. Davis Museum en el Wellesley College

Muchas de sus piezas tienen un aire siniestro y misterioso, sin embargo, los paisajes, realizados con su pincelada característica de trazos intermitentes como si de puntillismo se tratara, ofrecen un contraste entre minuciosidad de la línea fina de los detalles, la mancha de tinta y el trazo rápido de los elementos naturales, lo cual le otorga de gran fuerza. En su etapa en Kumagaya predominaría el detallismo en detrimento de la mancha y la pincelada rápida, como se puede ver en estas últimas obras, ya que datan entre 1900 y 1912, año en el que deja de pintar.

Ver también:

I – Uemura Shoen

II – Kiyohara Yukinobu

IV – Ike Gyokuran

V – Noguchi Shohin

VI – Shozan Gen’yo

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