Thursday, 4 October 2012



Many of our customers may already be familiar with the French Impressionist painter Jean Pierre Dubord as a selection of his works are offered for sale on the Japanese Tex-style website.

Born in Rouen in 1949, he has lived all his life in Normandy. Whilst very well known in France he has also made successful inroads into the American and Japanese art markets. Japan has had a particular influence on his life from his very first visit. Prior to this Jean Pierre knew little about this country and it's rich heritage. Of course he was aware of the influence of Japanese culture and woodblock prints on the early French Impressionists. Claude Monet was a collector, he painted Camille Monet in Japanese Costume (La Japonaise) in 1876. Edgar Degas and Eduard Manet also had a fascination with this oriental style.

Jean Pierre's first trip to Japan was in July and August 1996 when he was invited to attend three exhibitions of his own works and those of other French artists. The first was in Nara ( The House of Exhibitions) and then to Kyushu with shows in Nobeoka and Akata. These exhibitions were very successful and led to over thirty more shows in the following years. He travelled extensively to Kobe, Osaka and Tokyo. There were two shows in Sapporo and one in Otaru. Here in Hokkaido his translator was asked by many Japanese people if he was Russian which he found very amusing.


With shows in Hiroshima, at the university, he visited the Peace Museum and the famous Miyajima Torii gate which is often captured in his paintings. The gate is situated close to the famous Itsukushima shrine (a Shinto shrine residing on the island of Itsukushima popularly known as Miyajima in the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima prefecture)

The view of the gate in front of the island's mount Misen is classified as one of the three famous views of Japan (the other two being Matsushima bay in Miyagi prefecture and Amanohashidate, a sandbar located in Kyoto) all three have been depicted by Hiroshige in his famous views of the sixty provinces.

The gate is made of painted camphor wood which is decay resistant. Whilst it only appears to be floating at high tide, when the tide is low, it is approachable by foot. It is common practice for visitors to place coins in the cracks of the legs and to make a wish. It is ideally suited for impressionist paintings since the vivid reds reflect in the water and a free standing architectural structure of this kind is quite unusual.  


During his trips Jean Pierre discovered Japanese history and the helpful staff at the Enatsu Gallery explained the stories of Yoshitsune, the 47 Ronin and the Soga Brothers. He found the spirit and the arts of the samurai very interesting, although it was difficult reading and his Japanese at this time was rudimentary, now sixteen years on, it would be more than satisfactory. I think in talking with him, the Tale of the 47 Ronin (Chushingura) is his favourite. He has many books and woodblock prints on this subject. Jean Pierre is an avid collector of Japanese prints, illustrated books, Japanese art, swords, helmets and armour. He is particularly interested in antique Japanese dolls and also kimono, obi and jinbaori. Japanese furniture (from the shops in Kyoto) and even a large stone lantern have made their way by boat to his home in Normandy. On his trips to Japan he has had the opportunity to paint, one of his favourite places in Kyoto is the famous Kiyomizu temple, often featured in his work.

Jean Pierre tells me, this summer in Brittany there have been many exhibitions about Japanese woodblock prints and their influence on French Impressionists, for example Henri Riviere and Mathurin Meheut. One gallery in Paimpol is interested in showcasing Jean Pierre's work including those inspired by his various travels around Japan.


News just in : "Dreams of Japan" two exhibitions showing simultaneously on two sites in the Pinacotheque de Paris comparing the work of Vincent Van Gogh to that of Hiroshige, 3rd of Oct 2012 - 17th March 2013

"I envy the Japanese for the enormous clarity that pervades their work. It is never dull and never seems  to have been made in haste. Their work is as simple as breathing and they draw a figure with a few chosen lines with the same ease, as effortless as buttoning up one's waistcoat"    Vincent Van Gogh


Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Lone Wolf and Cub Film Rights

Kamala films have bought the rights to Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima's celebrated samurai manga: Lone Wolf and Cub. Director Justin Lin (helmer of the last three Fast and Furious movies and the vastly underrated Christopher Guest style mockumentary Finishing The Game, about a film company looking for the next Bruce Lee after his untimely death, the film pokes fun at Asian stereotypes and Bruceploitation movies featuring such characters as Breeze Loo and a Caucasian Lee wannabe)

So will the film makers deliver a homage to Tomisaburo Wakayama? If so it's going to be a short list - Brendan Gleeson, Ray Stevenson, er Gerard Depardieu? (a long shot) In the manga Ogami Itto is quite a tall and slender chap. Wakayama brought his incredible swordplay skills into play despite his burliness. It really humanizes the character in a way. His world weary and depressed facial features didn't hurt either. Lord Retsudo will be easier to cast. After his role in Thor I present Sir Anthony Hopkins...

What else do we know about the project? David and Janet Peoples have been hired to write the script. Both were responsible for Twelve Monkeys and David wrote or rather rewrote Hampton Fancher's Blade Runner script as well as Unforgiven so it looks as though this could be a high profile, big budget movie. It's interesting that Peoples can handle science fiction but was nominated for an Oscar for Unforgiven. Does this tell us that Lone Wolf and Cub will be a post apocalyptic western? There has been a "remixed" comic book version of Lone Wolf and Cub 2100 by Mike Kennedy. In that version little Daigoro became Daisy Ogami - daughter of a renowned scientist and Itto was her father's bodyguard and subsequent protector who must attempt an escape from the Cygnat Owari Corporation's schemes.  We've also had the Road To Perdition graphic novel (and film) whose author Max Allan Collins declared "an unabashed homage to Lone Wolf and Cub" I can't help but agree with J Hoberman's review of the film version when he describes it as "grim but sappy" something you could never accuse the six 1970's film versions of LW and C.
The story has a transgressive nature - little Daigoro must witness numerous acts of carnage because it is the violence of the nation in uncensored form. Every time Daigoro picks up a puppy or tries to play with other children events usually spiral out of control, reminding him that his innocence has gone and he must face the reality of the situation. There's nothing sappy about it. There's no internal monologue explaining his inner thoughts and feelings (Re: Shogun Assassin) it's just the way things are - unspoken, elegiac, poetic. I hope the Peoples are able to keep some of the cinemagic in this new incarnation of a great archetypal story.

Meanwhile you can watch the whole LW and C TV series (with Eng subtitles) on you tube courtesy of japaneseclassics' channel. It is a faithful adaptation of the manga starring Kinnosuke Yorozuya.

Sunday, 5 February 2012


Last week I visited a local gallery in Uehonmachi, Osaka. The Soho Gallery usually holds exhibitions of paintings and photographs by foreign and local artists but on this occassion it housed an Ainu textile delight. Mamiya-San is part of a group who has been awarded a grant, by the Japanese goverment, to keep Ainu culture alive, teaching not only Japanese people but to a worldwide audience. My mother and I are fascinated by this dying culture for a number of reasons. The Ainu people were very similar historically to Native North American Indians, both were hunter gatherers and had a great respect for their environment, adapting to difficult climates with ingenuity. Both utilised these skills to produce everyday essentials and more complex handicrafts associated with their beliefs.

I learnt today that each Ainu family has a specific symbology used to decorate their clothing and household textiles. The designs and their meaning have been past on orally through the generations. The areas on the garments which are heavily decorated are to protect important parts of the body, such as the lungs, thigh and back. Cuffs are for the protection of the hands and headbands for the head.

The pointed aspects of the design are to repel evil spirits, the curved spiral- like designs are labyrinths where evil loses its way. Most of these swirls occur at points on the human body where the lymph nodes lie. I found this particularly interesting considering there were no scientists to enlighten them in those times. Intially garments were made of woven plant fibres but as soon as the Ainu started trading with Japanese from Northern Honshu, cotton was most often used. The examples exhibited today at the Soho Gallery are modern as most of the orginals or antiques belong to Russia or are housed in one of the museums in Hokkaido and need a special environment to preserve them. One coat took about six months to create if it was worked on full-time but usually it was twelve months as there were other jobs to do. Only women made the garments, their men would hunt, note that the designs on their clothing were in areas perhaps prone to injury whilst hunting. The samurai, a very different creature had a long elegant bow, however the Ainu had a small compact bow to manoeuvre quickly and easily.

Unfortunately, as with most indigenous peoples, the story of the Ainu is rather sad. With the annexation of Hokkaido, by the Japanese government, in the mid nineteenth century, the Ainu were forced to give up their culture and be Japanese. When Mamiya-san was asked what is a typical Ainu name, she said we were told not to use our Ainu names and take a Japanese one. But the Ainu language still exists although it is rarely spoken as there are only about 100 pure blood Ainu today. Ainu parents encouraged their children to marry Japanese so their life would not be as harsh. Finally in 1997 the law pertaining to the banning of Ainu culture was rescinded and the Ainu were encouraged to enjoy their culture and traditions once more.

I found the hours spent at the exhibition most enjoyable and my favourite items were the shin protectors and headbands and of course watching Mamiya-san's deft fingers as she produced a magical design. One of the things my mother and I do have in common is we like to rescue items from the past, give them a future. The human race seems to spend most of the time destroying things then later spending a great deal of energy trying to preserve them. Textiles are fragile, but full of stories, meaning, history and beauty and we will carry on the battle to save them.

Louise Kate Young

Osaka, Japan