October 1, 2023

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Japanese Garden’s Circle of Artwork

7 min read
From Kenji Ide’s “A Poem of Perception” at the Portland Japanese Backyard garden. Photograph: Brian Libby

Even though most men and women are acquainted with Japanese haiku, the short-type poetry with its 5-7-5 syllable pattern, possibly significantly less recognized exterior Japan is the standard jisei, or death poem, published just prior to one’s passing as a variety of farewell.

A jisei can be either dim or hopeful, depending on the writer’s mood in these final moments, but ordinarily, offered its roots in Zen Buddhism, there is an factor of acceptance, generally enabled by acknowledging nature’s transcendent elegance. Here’s one example, by 18th century poet Seiju:

Shibaraku mo
nokoru mono nashi
kigi no iro

Not even for a second
Do matters stand still—witness
Color in the trees

A further, by the early 19th century poet Senryu:

Hasu no ha no
tsuyu to kieyuku
wagarni kana

Like dewdrops
On a lotus leaf
I vanish

This is not a story about poetry. Nevertheless provided the title of Kanagawa-dependent artist Kenji Ide’s exhibit continuing by Feb. 19 at the Portland Japanese Garden’s Calvin and Mayho Tanabe Gallery, A Poem of Notion, that includes a collection of modest-scale sculptures that invite interpretation—coupled with the unforeseen passing late past yr of the show’s guest curator, Matt Jay—viewing these little sculptures tends to make for a form of visible jisei-like knowledge.

Stamp-sized piece hanging by wire. Picture: Kenji Ide, courtesy Portland Japanese Back garden.

The exhibit’s two principal wood sculptures at 1st glance seem like evocations of Japanese gardens on their own, with slender, flat perpendicularly-positioned pieces carved with basic geometric patterns, and a handful of very small balls sitting down atop the horizontal parts, contacting to intellect the Zen back garden which is component of Portland’s and most all Japanese gardens. Just one of the sculptures involves on its vertical part a pair of tiny stamp-sized parts hanging from it by wire, which right away brought to intellect my pay a visit to practically 20 yrs in the past to the Jishu Jinja shrine in Kyoto, 1 of a lot of in the place where by readers write their wishes, presumed to be sent to the gods, on tiny ema plaques still left to cling at the shrine.

Even so, it could be a slip-up to ascribe direct representational that means to the artworks in “A Poem of Perception,” specifically its tiniest parts, these as a curled piece of wire or different wood carvings, which could be stated to resemble shrunken lamp posts or catapults or Scrabble letters. Most likely the giveaway comes from the show’s title alone. Each and every of these works can conjure other points, but it’s the delicacy of their placement and proportions, and their collective assemblage, that provides the do the job its immediacy.

From Jun Kaneko’s “Garden of resonance.” Photo: Friderike Heuer

A Poem of Perception is the modest accompaniment to the Japanese Garden’s more substantial aspect show, Back garden of Resonance: The Art of Jun Kaneko (reviewed by ArtsWatch’s Frederike Heuer last Oct), featuring this world-renowned Japanese-American artist whose is effective are currently section of everlasting collections at key institutions like the Los Angeles County Museum of Artwork and the Smithsonian. Right here, Kaneko’s will work have been positioned all through the Japanese Backyard garden grounds as very well as its galleries. And they’re challenging to miss, be it the beautiful Bullseye Wall, a grid of glazed ceramic panels designed in 2001 and highlighted prominently in the Kengo Kuma-created Cultural Crossing making, or an untitled pair of striped, anatomic, glazed-ceramic 2002 sculptures from his “Heads” series, positioned in the courtyard struggling with just about every other like interviewer and issue.

In the shadow forged by Kaneko’s substantial-scale, shiny, labored-above ceramic pieces, Kenji Ide’s artworks seem notably diminutive, having up 1 exhibit case with seemingly a lot of room to spare. The items, which ended up developed (as opposed to Kaneko’s works) specially for this show, have been designed from identified objects, be it scraps of wood and wire, or a sequence of vintage postcards. Relocating from Kaneko’s functions to Ide’s feels just about like relocating past a huge-scale, warehouse-filling Richard Serra steel sculpture to watch a classic doll household in a scaled-down adjacent room. However which is element of what can make “A Poem of Perception” so impressive. With apologies to a learn like Kaneko, Ide wins on delicacy and subtlety.

The artist Kenji Ide. Photo courtesy Portland Japanese Yard.
Curator Matt Jay, center, at the Golden Crane reception for the opening of “Garden of Resonance: The Artwork of Jun Kaneko.” Photograph: Nina Johnson, courtesy of Portland Japanese Yard.

When I final communicated with Matt Jay, he was fired up not just about the Kenji Ide clearly show but the future it represented, supplied how the Portland Japanese Back garden is growing to a complete new locale, the previous Salvation Army White Defend campus (about 3.6 miles absent in Northwest Portland beside Forest Park), as component of its burgeoning Japan Institute, with expanded educational and cultural offerings.

 “Ide is a young artist at the forefront of Tokyo’s revolutionary artwork scene, and for this exhibition he has produced a sequence of wonderfully poetic sculptures and installations.,” Jay wrote in an October 2022 electronic mail. This “Poem of Perception” exhibit, he additional, “is a bit of a teaser I come to feel, for the additional in-depth modern day artwork programming and determination to artwork that Japan Institute will consider on. I have been in talks to add wherever I can to the new firm as properly, so I’m incredibly a great deal searching forward to that.”


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Picture: Kenji Ide, courtesy Portland Japanese Back garden.

Over the past several yrs, Matt Jay had come into his possess as a curator, founding the Finish of Summer months software that every single August brought a handful of younger Japanese up to date artists to Portland. Stop of Summer time was exceptional in contrast to most artist residencies in that the artists were not pressured to make and show artwork so significantly as to recharge and uncover inspiration, in Oregon’s pure wonders and in Portland. That the Japanese Backyard garden is commencing to embrace a new technology of Japanese artists has to be regarded an Stop of Summer biproduct.

Even right before his curatorial operate obtained discover, Matt Jay was a organic curator, with a keen eye nonetheless also a modest presence: not one particular to allow his ego get in the way. “Graceful and catlike – no fanfare or prosper — but quiet and unassuming,” wrote Jay’s buddy Matt Edlen in an on the web tribute. “You detect Matt regularly observing — be it by a lens or crouched on the arm of the couch — through his stillness his eye was fastened on the environment all over him. He absorbed it all. He listened initial before he spoke. Text mattered to him. When he spoke it was with intention.”

For “A Poem of Notion,” Jay did not just act as curator, but also as Ide’s in-person eyes and ears. Mainly because Ide didn’t travel to Portland for the show, Jay placed these objects in the exhibit scenarios. And for an show like this, placement was critical.

“He was incredibly talented and was equipped to have an understanding of and seize the delicate and abstract,” Ide wrote of Jay in a December 1 Instagram write-up, just following Jay’s passing. “Everything he did in our Portland exhibit was flawless and precise. He took my obscure views and had a abundant dialogue with me to convey them to lifetime. And my ambiguous views took form via the dialogue with him. One of the parts, “Would you take a night walk” was taken from the tune ‘Would you consider a evening walk’ by Kiyoshiro Imawano. When I instructed Matt that I was ashamed by the romanticism of the title, he reported that he could have an understanding of it due to the fact he is a romantic himself.”

 “A Poem of Perception” invites us to cease and ponder not just nature’s miracles, but the inherent lyricism in our everyday objects, even (or most likely specifically) that which we may possibly discard. Ide’s display, like the genius of Japanese garden layout, is a get in touch with to be vitally present: to realize that daily life and our everyday realities are generally more fleeting and ephemeral than we anticipate, still all the far more wondrously persuasive as a final result.

Picture: Brian Libby

The act of viewing Ide’s artworks whilst mourning Matt Jay reminds me of something that legendary Japanese architect Arata Isozaki (who also passed absent late last yr) stated about how different cultures perceive time. In the west, Isozaki explained, we see time as linear, which can be noticed in the reverence we give to historical ruins like The Acropolis in Athens. In the east, however, societies see time as circular, evidenced by Japan’s Ise Grand Shrine, which is ritually rebuilt each and every 20 decades.

“A Poem of Perception” was entirely fashioned and a good deal meaningful on its very own, ahead of tragedy struck. Now, unwittingly imbued with grim circumstance, Ide’s work shows it is malleable in how we see it, for while the show only runs via February 20, its memory and that of its curator is a single I will constantly return to: a usually means of coming entire-circle. “A Poem of Perception” is, to those that don’t know the backstory, is a enjoyment act of assemblage. Yet it has also come to be an invocation, a visible jisei, even: a pleasant if tearful farewell.

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