Since ancient times, the human race has developed rich spirituality inspired by the natural world. Spiritual aspects of nature and the gods have also been important themes in the arts. In Japan, the people have lived in an intimate relationship with the natural world since ancient times, and when one studies the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters, ca. 711-12 AD) and the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan, ca. 720 AD), they reveal Susanoo as the representative deity symbolizing the relationship between humankind and nature.
Susanoo traditionally has an image as a savage god (Araburu Kami) but is also a god associated with sublime aesthetic sensitivities that made him the originator of waka poetry, and as one that creates new culture by returning things to their original state. With the power to evoke the essence of things, the power to initiate reversals in the existing state of things and the power to inspire artists, Susanoo has long been an important source of ideas and inspiration in times of transition.
In this exhibition, we explore Susanoo-inspired artistic expression that provides renewed visions of the deep spiritual realm that lies between human beings and that which transcends nature and the intellect, in search of new understanding of art as it exists today.
The exhibition begins with earthenware figures from Japan's prehistoric Jomon Period and proceeds to historical materials concerning images of the gods, materials concerning the literary art of figures like Matsuo Basho and the priest Enku, as well as the work of great scholars of the past such as Hirata Atsutane, Tanaka Shozo, Minakata Kumagusu and Orikuchi Shinobu (illustrations from studies concerning the spirit world and ghosts, etc., books of color illustrations of botanical specimens and other writings). Finally, it goes on to works of contemporary artists such as Taro Okamoto, Isamu Wakabayashi and others who sought to explore and reveal the spirit of Susanoo,
In addition, the entire museum, including exhibits in the permanent collection galleries, will be used to offer a broad range of references to the spiritual world of the East and West in hopes of inspiring new insights and deepened understanding of works of art.
From the Kawamura DIC collection:
The natural world and mythology have long been important themes in Western art as well, as we can see from works of art in our museum's collection. Works like Aristide Maillol's Venus(and Bourdelle's Fruits take a goddess of Roman mythology as their subject, while the subject of Chagall's King David's Dream is a Jewish king from the Old Testament. Also, Kandinsky is an artist whose work is strongly influenced by the world of mythology and spiritualist thought. Marc Rothko is another artist whose studies of mythology and symbols in ancient art became the inspiration for many of his early works and later contributed to his development of a unique artistic world.
The exhibition “The Coming of Susanoo – The Life, Anger and Prayer” has been planned to include displays of works from the museum's collection. As part of this, a special exhibit of the representative sculptural work of Isamu Wakabayashi, Oscillating Scale (Kawamura DIC collection) will be on view this time. We hope this exhibition will offer new insights regarding the art works in the collection when viewed in terms of differing forms of expression in Eastern and Western art.