Debate brewing over Western taste in traditional Japanese tea bowl

By William Hollingworth

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Ever since Meiji, Western-style art has been influencing Japanese art, and vice-versa. It's been a pretty fruitful two-way flow of ideas, but now we hear claims of "cultural appropriation" being raised.

The doubters quoted in the article are all Westerners. I would have liked to have heard the opinions of a few Japanese artists.

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All art feeds of of each other, outside influences mixing with native traditions have lead to some of the greatest art produced by the human species. People shouldn’t be so precious about it. Cultural appropriation is arrant nonsense, each society throughout history has learned from, adapted and adopted ideas from those it was in contact with for the betterment of mankind. If you preserve a culture in aspic, it withers and dies.

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I think in the West it's simply known as a bowl. All the exhibitions I've been to, if it has no handles it's a bowl. The French of course drink their beverages from a bowl, which they call, une tasse

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What's the problem. Prior to the introduction of western painting, Japanese artists didn't make use of perspective in their work, that changed during the mid 19th century. There were many great Japanese artists using western watercolors, then oils and finally acrylics. Many with great talents. Some changed to a more western style while others incorporated it into their personal Japanese style arts.

Japanese Nihonga painting is something I have loved since before I was a young art student. There are painters who adhere to the strict rules and principles, previously set, while others have broken out of that school of art, and made Nihonga painting something like western style painting.

The very famous Nihonga painter, Higashiyama Kaii was one who allowed the west to influence his work. He worked mostly in Nagano, and in Nagano City is the Higashiyama Kaii Art Museum, well worth a visit when you go there.

One major problem, difficult to overcome is to be an artist means having to study with a master and following his rules 100%, even asking permission for holding an exhibition. All very controlled.

Some have moved away from most traditions but progress within the Japanese art world is slow, causing many to flee to other countries.

Japan culture, has taken many aspects from other cultures, especially the Chinese and made it into their own.

The Japanese tea bowl used during the tea ceremony is something of a treasure and something to be admired in its own right, even to the point of it being a sacred object of worship. Not to be treated lightly. Not to be mass produced in a factory but created by a master of great skill and depth of life and soul.

Do I think there are non Japanese who can create those beautiful tea bowls, of course I do.

Just as I know Japanese artist can make a beautiful western tea pot.

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