SHIBUSA Paintings 2012

Also exhibited as 'Patterns of Shadows - Pip Dickens' at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation London in 2012

2012 catalogue (24 pages) © Pip Dickens

“…we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.” Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows.

Patterns of Shadows is an exhibition of oil paintings derived from research in Kyoto in 2011 which I undertook as part of a Leverhulme Trust Award Artist in Residence project within the Music Department of the University of Huddersfield and collaboration with composer Professor Monty Adkins

The paintings (oil on canvas) draw upon colour, pattern, rhythm and vibration, associated with kimono fabrics and katagami stencils, and frequently juxtapose these with quieter, understated greys, shadows and subtle interplays of light. These extractive works observe distinctions within Japanese visual culture – sometimes celebratory, playful and exuberant, at other times subtle, introspective and reflective. 

Composition #7, oil on hand-dyed and washed canvas, 2012, © Pip Dickens

The works are produced using bespoke tools, combs and ‘dysfunctional’ brushes to produce intriguing oscillating effects set against quieter, meditative, colour fields.

Composition #8, oil on hand-dyed and washed canvas, 2012, © Pip Dickens

The project took, as its starting point the analysis of Japanese katagami stencils (finely cut paper stencils used to create repeating pattern on kimonos and the potential synergies between music and painting resulting from this study. Notions of pattern, rhythm, colour and vibration within music, visual art and craft became key components of the collaboration. 

A katagami stencil from my collection.  The rigour and control required in fine and precise cutting out is astonishing © Pip Dickens

These identified crossovers between disciplines (music and painting) facilitated further scrutiny into Japanese aesthetic culture and also the notion of the integrity of developing skills in one’s craft – whatever that may be. The eloquent observations of life, art and objects by Jun'ichirĊ Tanizaki in his book In Praise of Shadows was a significant reference for me, personally.

Composition #3, oil on hand-dyed and washed canvas, 2012, © Pip Dickens
Another important, reference was Richard Sennett’s book The Craftsman - the first of his three volumes on material culture considers ‘the skill of making things well’. He refers to many areas of craftsmanship including that of the arts and crafts and also music, architecture, social use of buildings and psychology and interaction within the workplace.

Dusk - Vibration of Air, oil on hand-dyed and washed canvas, 2012, © Pip Dickens

Aspects of rhythm and spatiality also included natural phenomena such as dust and shadow (these are themes that have re-occurred throughout my practice over many years). Thus reiteration or repetitive movements or strokes are contrasted with floating individual particulates.  

The Offing, oil on hand-dyed and washed canvas, 2012, © Pip Dickens

The activity of producing these paintings created individual choreographies through repeated movement of hand and brush which accorded so well with Monty's approach to creating sound compositions.  These compositions are hauntingly beautiful and remind me, very much, of the structural regularity of Bach's preludes and fugues from The Well Tempered Clavier and, like, Bach's compositions, they belie an incredible complexity.

Monty Adkin's resultant CD 'Four Shibusa'

You can listen to Monty's compositions here at Audiobulb

An earlier collaboration based on the 'Fabrications' series of paintings are included on Monty's other album Fragile.Flicker.Fragment.

You can listen to Monty's compositions from Fragile.Flicker.Fragment here at Audiobulb
His personal website is at
Composition 'Memory Box' from this album relates to the painting 'Miss Havisham II' from the 'Fabrications series.  (A blog about this series is forthcoming).


If you are interested in all things Japanese you cannot find a better, or more informative resource than Haikugirl's blog

My website: 

No comments:

Post a Comment