Sōtatsu: Making Waves


PassageThis scene captures the beauty in a moment of summer domesticity as mother, daughter, and dog parade under parasols, somehow fresh in the heat of the day. The origin of the image is less than obvious. The artist was inspired by an image in China’s famed Longmen Caves (circa sixth century CE) that depicts a passionate young acolyte engaged in the Buddhist practice of achieving an “empty” mind (Japanese: mushin). Although knowing that this work refers to Buddhist iconography enhances one’s appreciation, the viewer still is left to wonder about the three figures. Ogura painted this work in 1966, at a time of increased Japanese interest in Buddhism in Asia and the Silk Road.

Her approach to painting was rooted in her study of early twentieth-century modernists, including Picasso, Braque, and Matisse. She also admired Sōtatsu and once called him, Matisse, and the monk-calligrapher Ryōkan (1758–1813) the three most important artists in her personal pantheon: “They are the best, and there is warmth and ease there. They are not stiff, but full of joy.”

Ogura Yuki (1895–2000)
Japan, 1966
Painting on board
Tokyo University of the Arts

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