For those who have never painted in earnest, its joy can sometimes be felt vicariously through a truly great work of art. This ink painting by Tani Buncho contains a similar undiluted, fluid pleasure to what a modern viewer can find in the masterful brushstrokes of Helen Frankenthaler. Both painters explore the tactile variety of their medium, the way it drips, drags, and stains across paper or unprimed canvas, and in doing so allow viewers to share in the pleasure of their making.
The calligraphy on this painting tells us that Buncho painted this image of a rock after contemplating the ancient Chinese painting technique called Kayo-shuhou. This technique was established in the 10th century by Togen. It was mainly used to express contrast between light and shadow in mountains and rocks with lines that imitated the veins of hasu (lotus) leaves.
At first glance, the painting appears to imitate Chinese masterworks. However, a closer examination of Buncho's Rock gradually reveals a fundamental difference between the two. In Buncho's painting, the air around the rock, and the very spirit of the rock, seem to invite us to immerse ourselves in the pleasure of the painting rather than to derive the philosophical meaning of the rock in our mind, as is generally the purpose of Chinese painting. Like many other artists in Japan, Tani Buncho studied Chinese painting closely. But as shown here, Buncho fully digested his understanding, mastering the technique of Chinese paintings only to produce his own works with painterly soulfulness and a richness of truly Japanese essence.
About this Artist:
Tani, Buncho (1763 - 1841) was a son of a poet and samurai Tani, Rokkoku (1729 -1809). With Maruyama Okyo and Kano Tanyu, he is considered one of the “three masters” of the Edo period.