Sōtatsu: Making Waves

Ivy Vines, Bridges, and Floating Fans

Ivy Vines, Bridges, and Floating FansThis pair of screens employs a method of compositional abstraction found in other works attributed to Sōtatsu. The artist has constructed an abstract pictorial space from concrete, recognizable motifs. This is a way of looking that relates closely to the decorated paper designs Sōtatsu produced in the first half of his career and represents an effort to transfer smaller-scale decorative abstraction onto grander formats. Gold and silver foil and malachite green divide each screen into three main sections. An evergreen tree beyond a rolling hill, flowing waters with floating fans, and a bridge and boat’s prow are distinct parts within an abstract whole—a remarkable yet puzzling viewing experience.

Ivy Vines, Bridges, and Floating Fans
Painter unknown
Japan, early 17th century
Pair of six-panel folding screens
Ink, colors, gold, and silver on paper
Freer Gallery of Art, Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1902.102-103

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