A Feast From The East

JAPONISME is once again in vogue reports PENNY McCORMICK

Should you pop over to Amsterdam for the weekend, an exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum, which runs until June 24, charts the artist’s fascination with Japanese printmaking. A close inspection of Van Gogh’s famous self-portrait, with bandaged ear, will reveal a Japanese print in the background. He became an enthusiastic collector of these which acted as a catalyst, teaching him a new way of looking at the world. Dublin-based collector Chester Beatty was equally enamoured, amassing 350 surimono or printed objects, and 450 ukiyo-e or floating worlds dating from the 17th century in his lifetime. Yoshiko Ushioda’s lively memoir spanning 50 years – Caring for Japanese Arts at the Chester Beatty Library – is an invaluable insight to this collection.

How appropriate. If we honed our Scandinavian vocabulary last year, five months into 2018, I am fluent in Japanese lifestyle trends. It turns out I’ve been wabi sabi without realising. While I embrace flaws in inanimate objects, (rather than my body), it is the bold patterns, colours and elaborate detail which have drawn me to Japonisme over many years. So named by French artists, the term refers to the application of motifs such as flowers, birds, dragons and waves usually seen on kimonos or obis, which were central to the expansion of Orientalism into fashion, and very much of the moment. I source vintage ones from A Store is Born (34 Clarendon Street, Dublin 2) and Jean Cronin (in the Powerscourt Centre), and recommend Peter Lindbergh’s recent short film Culture of the Kimono for anyone immune to the beauty of this garment. Indeed I could quite happily invest in American designer Adam Lippes’ entire SS18 collection – an East-West mash-up with the sakura or cherry blossom motif a key detail, which has long been referenced by designers from Giorgio Armani to Zuhair Murad. A stand-out example was the Dior Couture SS07, designed by John Galliano and inspired by the opera Madame Butterfly. Models sported gowns, tied together with origami folding techniques, in geisha makeup. One wonders if he could have got away with this today? Karlie Kloss was photographed as a geisha for a US Vogue editorial on diversity last year which proved controversial.

In interiors, the Japonisme trend is also strong, though there is a fine line between tasteful and kitsch, as I know from personal experience. It will take a lottery win to add a coveted panel of de Gournay’s Salon Vert or Plum Blossom wallpaper (from £1,009) to my ideal home. Perhaps more beneficial is a visit to Ueno Onshi Park, Tokyo to view the mass blossoms. The term for such floral appreciation is hanami.

Penny McCormick

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