Art@Site www.artatsite.com Masayuki Hashimoto Orchard: Sunlight Penetrating Fruit, Fruit in Sunlight Filtering Through Leaves
Artist:

Masayuki Hashimoto

Title:

Orchard: Sunlight Penetrating Fruit, Fruit in Sunlight Filtering Through Leaves

Year:
1989
Adress:
The National Museum of Modern Art
Website:
www.japantimes.co.jp:
A large bronze work by Masayuki Hashimoto, “Orchard: Sunlight Penetrating Fruit, Fruit in Sunlight Filtering Through Leaves ” (1978-88), is a case in point. Ten years in the making, “Orchard” has pride of place at the exhibition because it is a perfect example of Karasawa’s central concept: The perfect cross-border raider, it neither offers a craft-like function nor an art-like concept.

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This is one of a series of works that Hashimoto has been producing since 1985 based on the idea of proliferating and growing in concert with the plants and trees in the surroundings just as plants grow by extending their vines and shooting out branches and leaves. It was acquired by the museum in 1996 and installed in the shrubbery in front of the restaurant. Through two later proliferative operations, it became more than double its original size and the form has changed significantly, too. It is amazing that a sculpture like this can be produced employing the metal hammering technique, in which metal is beaten and enlarged with a hammer and put into shape. The former shape is transformed or turned inside out, which helps in achieving a complex structure. If the weather is fine, move up close and take a look inside. You may be able to come across a lucky instant when the sun filtered through the branches of the trees pours into the big and small holes and produces a twinkling inner world like the interior of a womb.
In 1972, Hashimoto left the graduate program of the metal hammering course at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music without taking a degree. In 1978, he began a series entitled Orchard: Sunlight Penetrating Fruit, Fruit in Sunlight Filtering through Leaves. At the Tsukuba International Environmental Art Symposium held in 1985, he attached his work to a tree for the first time and this proved the beginning of his sculptures which proliferate in correspondence to the surrounding plants. In 1995, he won The Museum of Modern Art, Saitama Prize at the Exhibition of Contemporary Japanese Sculpture.

New works ask 'What's art and what's craft?'
by C.B. Liddell.
How valid is the distinction between crafts and arts? A number of recent exhibitions, most notably “Roppongi Crossing” at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum and “Space for Your Future” at the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Tokyo, have confronted us with this question, one that is of great relevance to Japanese art.
Back in the late 19th century, when Japan first encountered Western styles of art, the nation’s artistic and intellectual elite cheerfully embraced a division between the two categories of creativity. But nowadays the hierarchy that once placed artists comfortably above craftsmen is starting to look shaky, with curators constantly blurring the lines between the two classes, almost as if they were jubilantly overturning a cruel system of aesthetic apartheid.
Encouraged by this curatorial trend, the Crafts Gallery of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, is the latest to challenge the dichotomy with “The Power of Crafts — Outlook for the 21st Century,” the second of a two-part exhibition of crafts commemorating the 30th anniversary of its foundation. While the first part chronicled the gallery’s history, the current exhibition, which runs till Feb. 17, attempts to set an agenda for the future, positing a borderless world where creators move effortlessly between the old categories.
In the exhibition’s catalog, curator Masahiro Karasawa seems almost to be penning a manifesto. “A byproduct of that concept (the differentiation between art and craft) is the arts’ snobbish sense of superiority over the crafts, which we must recognize once again as the purely alien, Western phenomenon it is,” he writes, adding a strain of national assertiveness to an international debate.
The exhibition then is an attempt to embody a philosophy of aesthetic creation that emphasizes materials and working methods over the ideas, visions, or concepts of form that have traditionally dominated Western notions of art. “Our work is less based on form (meaning the artistic will). Rather, it evolves from the very physiology of the clay, and the processes by which the object is constructed,” said the founder of the Sodeisha group, potter Kazuo Yagi (1918-1979), whom Karasawa sees as a forefather of this philosophy. Some of the works in the exhibition bear out this hands-on or materials approach more obviously than others. Oni Hagi (Devil Hagi), a late-career approach to Hagi-ware pottery by 98-year-old Miwa Jusetsu that blends various clays with coarse materials such as sand and a mottled white glaze, gives off the warmth that down-to-earth, handmade objects have. Aki Rusu’s “Latent Heat Effect” (2003), a sculpture of partially melted and twisted sheets of metal has a similar rawness — but without any of the warmth or beauty.
A different aspect — that of precision production — can be seen in Takashi Ikura’s pristine porcelain carvings with their graceful Art Deco-style curves, or Yoshiaki Taguchi’s lacquered ornamental boxes with their rich, stylized designs. Here, rawness, accident and the chances of human touch have gradually been pared away by timeless techniques to create objects that, for all their beauty, are in accord with the age of the machine and quality control.
To understand what all these diverse works have in common, it is necessary to revisit the history of Europe’s division of the arts and crafts. Before the Renaissance, European artists were regarded as mere craftsmen; through the religious content of their works and some skillful PR from self-aggrandizers such as Giorgio Vasari, though, they succeeded in raising their status. They did this by identifying themselves with the spiritual side of a Christian dualism that emphasized the difference between body and mind, flesh and soul. It is for this reason that Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael, the great artists of the high Renaissance, and most great artists since, have been regarded as almost demigods.
This association with the mind and the “spiritual” faculties of thought, vision and conceptualization, which later took on a secular aspect, is what underpins the division between the arts and crafts in the West. This is what was awkwardly transplanted to Japan, a country whose animist tendencies still rebel at the idea of separating spirit from body or dividing artistic vision from the materials shaping it.
While art has typically been guided by a vision or message, craft remains close to function. Though it’s unlikely that you would use Miwa’s Oni Hagi tea bowls for actual tea, or Taguchi’s ornamental boxes for storing CDs, they nevertheless draw strength and beauty from the mere suggestion of utility; in fact, they celebrate touch instead of sight, the characteristics of the blind.
What unites the objects at this exhibition is Karasawa’s notion of creativity without the intrusive vision of the artist. Just as such visions or messages provide the DNA of art, decorative or utilitarian functions and manufacturing traditions provide the genetics of crafts. Without such DNA — such limitations — to guide them, both art and crafts become self-indulgent and can lose themselves in an amorphous, almost cancerous wilderness. A large bronze work by Masayuki Hashimoto, “Orchard: Sunlight Penetrating Fruit, Fruit in Sunlight Filtering Through Leaves ” (1978-88), is a case in point. Ten years in the making, “Orchard” has pride of place at the exhibition because it is a perfect example of Karasawa’s central concept: The perfect cross-border raider, it neither offers a craft-like function nor an art-like concept.
As if it were some great monster, “Orchard” emerges from its materials to the accompaniment of a million unthinking blows that effectively reduce the artist to an unthinking slave to its creation. The piece represents the very antithesis of art as the willful or inspired communication from the human mind; the technique of the artist — hammering almost incessantly — and the resistance of the material — the plates of bronze — meet in a deep dark place where organic metallic forms slowly arise from a titanic, blind struggle that lacks any kind of vision.
In a contemporary art scene more focused on producing “product” than giving physical expression to spiritual or mental capabilities, an attention- grabbing piece like “Orchard” may have its worth. But the picture it presents of an artist dehumanized — no longer thinking, seeing or projecting, but existing as a mere tool of the materials — hardly inspires.