Japanese mobile exhibition in Vilnius marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relationships

  • 2011-09-28
  • By Linas Jegelevicius

NOBUAKI SHIGEKI: The beauty with a cup of tea.

KLAIPEDA - On Oct. 10, the 20th anniversary the recreation of diplomatic relationships between Japan and Lithuania will be celebrated solemnly throughout the country. In the framework of commemoration, an array of Japanese cultural events marking the anniversary has already taken place, is under way or culminates on Oct. 10.
The Japan Foundation’s traveling exhibition “Handicrafts: Traditions and Excellence,” shown in Vilnius Picture Gallery until Oct. 4, is part of the marathon of celebratory events in the Lithuanian capital.

The Japan Foundation, the only organization in Japan engaged in international cultural exchange in every region of the world, strives to promote dialogue and interaction between Japanese and other nations worldwide through the medium of culture. The foundation collaborates with over 130 countries worldwide through its 22 overseas offices in 21 countries, and is engaged in a wide range of cultural programs across the globe. Participating in international art exhibitions, like Venice and San Paul Biennales, organizing and supporting various traditional and contemporary art projects, the Japan Foundation strives to acquaint folks across the globe with Japanese art, and exhibit culture of other countries in Japan.

Japanese mobile art exhibitions aimed to introduce the world to Japanese cultural heritage, contemporary arts within the framework of the cultural exchange program are being shown in over 100 museums worldwide.
Before arriving in Lithuania on Sept. 2, the exhibition had traveled to 24 countries, presenting Japanese handicraft traditions, forms and techniques.

The new mobile exhibition “Handicrafts: Traditions and Excellence” in Vilnius exposes various handicrafts – artworks of ceramics, textile, metal, wood, bamboo and paper, which are used in Japanese daily life.
The traditional items and techniques, rooted in the climate and landscape of every region of Japan, and created by seasoned Japanese artisans, are works richly imbued with the creativity of craft artists.
Craftsmen and artists have always influenced each other significantly in Japan. This mutual influence has contributed to the depth and high quality of Japanese crafts as a whole.

Representative objects designated as “Traditional Craft Objects” under the Japanese government’s Traditional Manufactured Goods Law form the core of the exhibition, supplemented by works of craft artists.
Applicability of the Japanese artworks, irrespective of whether they are made from clay, metal scraps, wood and paper, is a prevailing characteristic of the exhibition, as well as the ability of the Japanese handcraft to withstand the challenges of time.
Following the industrial revolution in the West, Japan also saw the modernization of production during the Meiji era (1868- 1912). Through the introduction of machines, most of the craft objects that until then had been made by hand were replaced by mass-produced industrially manufactured goods. However, alongside the mechanized production that occurred from the beginning of the Meiji era, production of hand-made craft objects continued on a smaller scale in independent regional workshops throughout Japan. While this system fostered superior artisans, among those workshop artisans it also promoted individualistic, idiosyncratic craft artists.

Even a decade or so ago it would have been accurate to say that there was more handicraft activity in Japan than in any of the developed countries. Though today the Japanese economy is very different than it was ten years ago, Japan is still considered to be a repository of continental Asian craft techniques, many of which have disappeared long ago on the continent.
The exhibition in Vilnius, a part of the commemorative events, was preceded by other Lithuanian-Japanese cultural events that have drawn big attention of the public.

Thus, public institution Bonsai Studio, alongside Japanese Jazz artist Keiko McNamara, in order to commemorate the twentieth anniversary, organized the 2nd Japanese Culture festival and the 6th international bonsai and suiseki exhibition in Lithuania in July. Artists from twenty countries participated in the events, as twenty branches of Japanese art, including bonsai, suiseki, kimono, calligraphy, sumi-e, haiku poetry, tea ceremony, photography, ceramics, Nishikigoi fish, ikebana, echizen urushi, Japanese jazz and some others were exposed. The program of the festival included not only exhibitions, but also different demonstrations, lectures, workshops and different training, like Bonsai, performed by famed Bonsai artist Kestutis Ptakauskas. He has been one of the best known promoters of Japanese culture in Lithuania.

Bonsai is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in containers. Similar practices exist in other cultures, including the Chinese tradition of penjing from which the art originated. The Japanese tradition dates back over a thousand years, and has evolved its own unique aesthetics and terminology.

Kestutis Ptakauskas’ interests in bonsai and Japanese gardens started 1988. In 2003 he established the Public Institution Bonsai Studio. During the period of existence of the Bonsai Studio he has organized 15 international bonsai training seminars and 12 training seminars where he himself ran the training.

Those who are interested in Japanese handicrafts, like painting traditional Japanese motives on a sheet of rice paper using ink technique, or folding paper artworks in the Japanese way, are welcome to join the ongoing training in Vilnius Picture Gallery, which is open from Tuesday till Friday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.